And shall not God
The emphasis is on God. In the Greek order, “andGod, shall he not,” etc.
Though he bear long with them
A very difficult passage, and interpretations vary greatly.
(1.) The verb μακροθυμέω means to be long-suffering, or to endure patiently. Such is its usual rendering in the New Testament.
(2.) Them ( αὐτοῖς ) refers not to the persecutors of God's elect, but to the elect themselves. The Rev. cuts the knot by the most literal of renderings: “and he is long-suffering over ( ἐπι ) them.”
(3.) The secondary meaning of restraining or delaying may fairly be deduced from the verb, and explained either (a) of delaying punishment, or (b) of delaying sympathy or help.
The Am. Rev. adopts the former, and throws the sentence into the form of a question: “And is he slow to punish on their behalf” ( ἐπ ' αὐτοῖς )? I venture to suggest the following: Καὶ not infrequently has the sense of yet, or and yet. So Euripides' “Thou art Jove-born, and yet ( καὶ ) thy utterance is unjust “(“Helena,” 1147). Aristophanes: “O crown, depart, and joy go with thee: yet ( καὶ ) I part from thee unwillingly” (“Knights,” 1249). So John 9:30: “Ye know not from whence he is, and yet ( καὶ ) he hath opened my eyes.” John 16:32: “Ye shall leave me alone, and yet ( καὶ ) I am not alone,” etc. Render, then, “Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry unto him day and night; yet he delayeth help on their behalf,” even as the unjust judge delayed to avenge the widow? Surely he will, and that ere long. This rendering, instead of contrasting God with the judge, carries out the parallel. The judge delays through indifference. God delays also, or seems to delay, in order to try his children's faith, or because his purpose is not ripe; but he, too, will do justice to the suppliant. Tynd., Yea, though he defer them.
“He hides himself so wondrously,
As though there were no God;
He is least seen when all the powers
Of ill are most abroad.
O there is less to try our faith,
In our mysterious creed,
Than in the godless look of earth
In these our hours of need.
It is not so, but so it looks;
And we lose courage then;
And doubts will come if God hath kept
His promises to men.”