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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Romans 11



Verses 1-10

Romans 11:1-10. λέγω οὖν: the οὖν intimates that it is with the conclusion reached in chap. 10 before his mind that Paul puts the following question: the unbelief of Israel naturally suggested it. μὴ ἀπώσατο θεὸς τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ; For the words, cf. Psalms 94:14 (93 LXX), 1 Samuel 12:22. In both places the promise is given οὐκ ἀπώσεται κ. τ. λ. αὐτοῦ, and the familiar words give the effect of asking, Has God broken His express and repeated promise? μὴ suggests the negative answer, which is expressed more passionately in μὴ γένοιτο. Cf. Romans 3:6, Romans 9:14. Israel may be faithless to Him, but He abides faithful. καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ ἰσραηλίτης εἰμί: This is often read as if it were an argument in favour of the negative answer; as if Paul meant, God has not cast off His people, I myself am a living proof to the contrary. But this is hardly conciliatory, to say the least; and it is better to take the words as explaining why Paul puts the question with μή (suggesting the negative answer), and why he then gives the denial with such vehemence. “I, too, am an Israelite, to whom the very idea of God’s rejection of His people is an impious and incredible idea, to be repelled with horror.” ἐκ σπέρ. ἀβραάμ: no proselyte. φυλῆς βενιαμείν: the one tribe which with Judah mainly represented the post-exilic theocratic people.

Verse 2

Romans 11:2 f. οὐκ ἀπώσατο: formal denial of what the heart has indignantly protested against in Romans 11:1. ὃν προέγνω must contain a reason which makes the rejection incredible or impossible. This excludes the interpretation of Weiss, who thinks that Paul means to say that God knew what Israel was before He chose it, and therefore cannot cast it off as if its unbelief had disappointed Him; He knew from the first what it would be. To plead thus for God is too paltry. We must take προέγνω as in Romans 8:29 : the meaning is, Israel stood before God’s eyes from eternity as His people, and in the immutableness of the sovereign love with which He made it His lies the impossibility of its rejection. The idea is the same as in Romans 11:29 below. οὐκ οἴδατε: this is the alternative. He who says, God has cast off Israel, must be ignorant of what Scripture says ἐν ἠλίᾳ in the passage which gives the history of Elijah. The sections of the Bible were designated, not as now by chapter and verse, but by some descriptive phrase: cf ἐπὶ τῆς βάτου, Mark 12:26 : and in Philo ἐν ταῖς ἀραῖς = Genesis 3:15. Many references are made in this form by Hebrew writers. For ἐντυγχάνειν κατὰ cf. 1 Maccabees 8:32 : it means to plead (not intercede) with God against Israel. τὰ θυσιαστήρια is one of the indications that in Elijah’s time there was no law requiring only one altar for Jehovah. The words are quoted from 1 Kings 19 Romans 11:10 or 14. In Elijah’s mood, Paul might have said something similar of his own time, for their circumstances were not alike. The Apostle, like the prophet, was lonely and persecuted, and Israel as a whole seemed to have abandoned God or been abandoned by Him. But he understands God’s way (and His faithfulness) better.

Verse 4

Romans 11:4. χρηματισμός: the word is related to χρηματίζω (Matthew 2:12; Matthew 2:22, Acts 10:22, Hebrews 8:5) as χρησμὸς to χράω: it means the oracle, or answer of God. Here only in N.T., but see 2 Maccabees 2:4; 2 Maccabees 11:17. The quotation is from 1 Kings 19:18 with ἐμαυτῷ added, by which Paul suggests God’s interest in this remnant, and the fact that He has a purpose of His own identified with them. God has reserved the seven thousand; He has reserved them for Himself; it is on this the proof depends that He has not cast off His people. The seven thousand are Israel to Him. Yet His unchanging faithfulness in keeping a people is not represented as a merely unconditional decree, having no relation to anything but His own will, for the seven thousand are described by their character: οἵτινες οὐκ ἔκαμψαν γόνυ τῇ βάαλ. οἵτινες is qualitative: such were those whom God reserved for Himself, men who never bowed knee to Baal. βάαλ takes the fem. art(3) because it was often replaced in reading by בּשֶׁת (LXX αἰσχύνη).

Verse 5

Romans 11:5. Application of the principle of Romans 11:4 to the present. νῦν καιρὸς is the present regarded not merely as a date, but as in some sense a crisis. λεῖμμα γέγονεν: a remnant has come to be—this is the fact which has emerged from the general unbelief of Israel. κατʼ ἐκλογὴν χάριτος: on these words the emphasis lies. The existence of the remnant is due to an election of grace, a choice on the part of God the motive of which is to be sought in His unmerited love alone. The idea is the same as in chap. Romans 9:6-13 : but cf. note on Romans 11:4.

Verse 6

Romans 11:6. Expansion of χάριτος in Romans 11:5 : grace and works are mutually exclusive. Nothing a man can do gives him a claim as of right against God to be included in the remnant. ἐπεὶ: otherwise. Cf. Romans 11:22, Romans 3:6. Gratia nisi gratis sit gratia non est. Aug(4) The fact that there is a remnant, and one owing its existence to God’s grace, is the proof that (in spite of the wholesale defection of Israel) God has not cast off His people.

Verse 7

Romans 11:7. τί οὖν; What then? How are we to describe the present situation, if not in the painful language of Romans 11:1? Thus: ἐπιζητεῖ ἰσραὴλ κ. τ. λ. What Israel is in quest of is δικαιοσύνη: the present conveys more sympathetically than the impft. of some MSS. the Apostle’s sense of the seaseless and noble (though misdirected) efforts of his countrymen. ἐπέτυχεν: James 4:2, Hebrews 6:15. δὲ ἐκλογή = οἱ ἐκλεκτοί = τὸ λεῖμμα. ἐπωρώθησαν: were hardened, 2 Corinthians 3:14, John 12:40, Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17. Paul does not say how they were hardened or by whom: there is the same indefiniteness here as in κατηρτισμένα εἰς ἀπώλειαν in Romans 9:22. It may be quite possible to give a true sense to the assertion that they were hardened by God (cf. the following verse), although the hardening in this case is always regarded as a punishment for sin, that is, as a confirming in an obduracy which originally was not of God, but their own; as if the idea were, first they would not, and then, in God’s just reaction against their sin, they could not; but it is a mistake to import into the text a definiteness which does not belong to it. It is rather essential to Paul’s argument that he should not be bound down to one-sided interpretations of what he has intentionally left vague.

Verse 8

Romans 11:8 ff. This hardening (at the present day Romans 11:5) agrees with God’s action toward Israel in the past, as exhibited in Scripture. The words from the O.T. can hardly be called a quotation; Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 29:10, Isaiah 6:9-10, all contributed something to them. The πνεῦμα κατανύξεως is from Isaiah 29:10, and answers to the Heb. רוּחַ תַּרְדֵּמָה, a spirit of deep sleep or torpor. Virtually it is defined by what follows—unseeing eyes, unhearing ears: a spirit which produces a condition of insensibility, to which every appeal is vain. κατάνυξις only occurs in LXX, Isaiah 29:10, Psalms 59:4 ( οἶνον κατανύξεως); but the verb κατανύσσομαι is used by Theod. in Daniel 10:15 to translate נִרְדַּם (cognate to תַּרְדֵּמָה), and in other places of any overpowering emotion: see Fritzsche ad loc(5) Winer, p. 117. It is God Who sends this spirit of stupor, but He does not send it arbitrarily nor at random: it is always a judgment. ἕως τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας: in Deuteronomy 29:4 ἕως τῆς . ταύτης. The change emphasises the fact that what Israel had been from the beginning it was when Paul wrote, and that God had acted toward it from the beginning on the same principle on which He was acting then. Cf. Acts 7:51 f. καὶ δαυεὶδ λέγει: another proof of ἐπωρώθησαν, though strictly speaking a wish or an imprecation cannot prove anything, unless it be assumed that it has been fulfilled, and so can be taken as the description of a fact. Paul takes it for granted that the doom invoked in these words has come upon the Jews. γενηθήτω τράπεζα αὐτῶν κ. τ. λ. Their table in the psalm is that in which they delight, and it is this which is to prove their ruin. παγίς, θήρα, and σκάνδαλον are all variations of the same idea, that of snare or trap—i.e., sudden destruction. What the Jews delighted in was the law, and the law misunderstood proved their ruin. In seeking a righteousness of their own based upon it they missed and forfeited the righteousness of God which is given to faith in Christ. καὶ εἰς ἀνταπόδομα αὐτοῖς: this does not exactly reproduce either the Heb. or the LXX, but it involves the idea that the fate of the Jews is the recompense of their sin—not a result to be simply referred to a decree of God. Their perverse attitude to the law is avenged in their incapacity to understand and receive the Gospel. τοῦ μὴ βλέπειν: for this Gen(6) both in Romans 11:8 and Romans 11:10, see Buttmann, Gram. of N.T. Greek, p. 267 (. tr.). τὸν νῶτον αὐτῶν διὰ παντὸς σύγκαμψον: keep them continually in spiritual bondage, stooping under a load too heavy to be borne: cf. Acts 15:10.

This is the condition in which by God’s act, requiting their own sins, and especially their self-righteous adherence to the law as a way of salvation, the Jews find themselves. It is a condition so grievous, and so remote from what one anticipates for a people chosen by God, that it confronts Paul again with the difficulty of Romans 11:1, and obliges him to state it once more—this time in a way which mitigates its severity, and hints that the fall of Israel is not the last thing concerning them to be taken into account. What if God’s purpose includes and uses their fall? What if it is not final? It is with new ideas of this sort, introduced to take the edge from the stern utterances of Romans 11:8-10, that Paul deals in Romans 11:11-24.

Verse 11

Romans 11:11. λέγω οὖν: I say then, taking up the problem again. μὴ ἔπταισαν ἵνα πέσωσιν; surely they did not stumble so as to fall? The subject is the mass of the Jewish nation, all but the elect remnant. The contrast here between stumbling and falling shows that the latter is meant of an irremediable fall, from which there is no rising. This is one of the cases in which ἵνα is loosely used; it cannot possibly be translated “in order that”. For similar examples cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 1 Corinthians 7:29, Galatians 5:17. ἀλλὰ: on the contrary, by their (moral) fall salvation has come to the Gentiles to provoke them (the unbelieving Israelites) to jealousy. The fact stated here is illustrated at every point in Paul’s own ministry; he turned to the Gentiles because the Jews would not hear him. See Acts 13:46 ff; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:25-28. The end in view in it (cf. Romans 10:19) is his proof that the stumbling of the Jews is not to be interpreted in the sense of a final fall. A recovery is in prospect.

Verse 12

Romans 11:12. Both ἥττημα and πλήρωμα are difficult words, but it is not necessary to suppose that they answer mathematically to one another, though Wetstein explains them by - and +. ἥττημα may mean (as in Isaiah 31:8) defeat, or (as in 1 Corinthians 6:7) loss; it can hardly mean diminutio eorum, or paucitas Judœorum credentium; τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῶν must mean the making up of them to their full numbers. There is an exhaustive study of the word πλήρωμα by Prof. J. Armitage Robinson in The Expositor, April, 1898. His paraphrase of this verse is very good. “If the Gentiles have been enriched in a sense through the very miscarriage and disaster of Israel, what wealth is in store for them in the great Return, when all Israel shall be saved—‘when God hath made the pile complete!’ ” The enrichment referred to is in both cases that which comes through participating in the blessings of the Gospel.

Verse 13

Romans 11:13 f. ὑμῖν δὲ λέγω τοῖς ἔθνεσιν. Paul does not here address a new class of readers. He has been speaking all along to a Gentile church, and speaking to it in that character (see above, pp. 561 ff.); and he feels it necessary to show the relevance, in such circumstances, of bestowing so much attention on the condition and prospects of the Jews. His mission to the Gentiles has an indirect bearing on his own countrymen; the more successful he can make it, the greater is the prospect that some of the Jews also may be provoked to jealousy and saved. Every Jew, again, who is saved, goes to make up the πλήρωμα of Romans 11:12, and so to bring on a time of unimaginable blessing for the Gentile world. ἐφʼ ὅσον Matthew 25:40. μὲν οὖν is printed in all the critical editions, but Sanday and Headlam would read μενοῦν as one word, and discount the restrictive force of the μέν, which suggests that apostleship to Gentiles was but one part of Paul’s mission. ἐγὼ: the pronoun expresses not merely a noble consciousness of vocation, but Paul’s feeling that in his particular case at all events a mission to the Gentiles could not but include this ulterior reference to the Jews. His devotion, accordingly, to his Gentile ministry, never let them fall out of view. “As far then as apostleship to Gentiles is represented by me (as no doubt it is) I glorify my ministry (by faithful discharge of it), if by any means I may save some of the Jews.” For the interpretation of δοξάζω see 2 Thessalonians 3:1, John 17:4. For εἴ πως see Buttmann, p. 255 f. τινὰς ἐξ αὐτῶν: disenchanting experience taught him to speak thus. cf. 1 Corinthians 9:22.

Verse 15

Romans 11:15 f. From the personal explanation of Romans 11:13 f., which interrupts the argument, Paul reverts to the ideas of Romans 11:12. To save any Jew was a great object, even with an apostle of the Gentiles: εἰ γὰρ ἀποβολὴ αὐτῶν κ. τ. λ. Their ἀποβολὴ is their rejection by God on the ground of unbelief. καταλλαγὴ κόσμου: a world’s reconciliation. In 2 Corinthians 5:19 the world’s reconciliation is the act of God in Christ; but it was an act which for the mass of mankind only took effect when Jewish unbelief diverted the Gospel to the Gentiles, πρόσλημψις: the assumption of the Jews into God’s favour. ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν. Modern expositors almost all find in these words a reference to the resurrection; the restoration of the Jews at once brings on the end; the dead are raised, and the Messiah’s kingdom is set up, glorious and incorruptible. It is quite true that in Jewish apocalyptic literature the resurrection introduces the new era, and that Paul shared in the apocalyptic ideas current in his time; but it does not follow that he was thinking of the resurrection here. ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν would certainly be a singular way to describe it, and it is not enough to say with Weiss that Paul used this expression instead of ἀνάστασις in order to carry the mind beyond the fact of resurrection to the state which it introduced. It seems better to leave it undefined (cf. ἄπειρα ἀγαθά Theophyl.), and to regard it as an ordinary English reader regards “life from the dead,” as a description of unimaginable blessing. This is more impressive than to bind the original and daring speculation of a passage like this by reference to apocalyptic ideas, with which Paul was no doubt familiar, but which are not suggested here, and could least of all control his thoughts when they were working on a line so entirely his own. “Words fail him, and he employs the strongest he can find, thinking rather of their general force than of their precise signification” (Jowett). εἰ δὲ ἀπαρχὴ ἁγία, καὶ τὸ φύραμα. This explains Paul’s assurance that Israel has a future. For ἀπ. and φύρ. see Numbers 15:19-21. By the offering of the first fruits the whole mass, and the whole produce of the land, were consecrated. Both this figure, and that of the root and the branches, signify the same thing. As the application in Romans 11:28 proves, what is presented in both is the relation of the patriarchs to the people as a whole. As chosen by God, the fathers were ἅγιοι, i.e., God’s people, and this standing (in spite of the arguments in chap. 9, and in spite of the hard facts of the situation when Paul wrote) belongs inalienably to their children. They are God’s, and it will yet become apparent that they are.

Verse 17

Romans 11:17. A Gentile Christian might feel that the very fact that Jews were rejected and Gentiles accepted qualified the assurance with which Paul had just spoken of the future of Israel. It is the disposition to think so, and to presume on one’s own favoured position, which the Apostle rebukes in μὴ κατακαυχῶ τῶν κλάδων. εἰ δέ τινες τῶν κ. ἐξεκλάσθησαν: τινες puts the case mildly: cf. Romans 3:3. ἐξεκλάσθησαν, sc., as fruitless. σὺ δὲ ἀγριέλαιος ὤν: σὺ is the presumptuous individual before the Apostle’s mind, not the Gentile Church collectively. The ἀγριέλαιος is the olive in its natural uncultivated state. ἐνεκεντρίσθης ἐν αὐτοῖς, sc., among the native branches of the cultivated olive. The process here supposed is one that in horticulture is never performed. The cultivated branch is always engrafted upon the wild stock, and not vice versâ. This Paul knew quite well (see παρὰ φύσιν, Romans 11:24), and the force of his reproof to the presuming Gentile turns on the fact that the process was an unnatural one. [Ordine commutato res magis causis quam causas rebus aptavit (Origen).] It gave the Gentile no room to boast over the rejected Jews. συνκοινωνὸς τῆς ῥίζης τῆς πιότ. τῆς ἐλαίας: there is an argument in συν. At the best, the Gentile only shares with Jews in the virtues of a root which is not Gentile, but Jewish: he has his part in the consecration of the patriarchs, the one historical root of the people of God, and in the blessings God attached to it. For πιότης cf. Judges 9:7. The accumulation of genitives is apparently an imitation of such Hebrew constructions as Isaiah 28:1; Isaiah 28:16 : the meaning is, a partaker in the root of the fat olive tree.

Verses 17-24

Romans 11:17-24. In these verses, which in a sense are a long parenthesis, Paul anticipates an objection which Gentile readers might take to his use of the last figure, the root and the branches; and he draws from it two special lessons—one, of humility, for the objectors; the other, of hope, for Israel.

Verse 18

Romans 11:18. μὴ κατακαυχῶ τῶν κλάδων: for the genitive see Buttm., 185. Between “if thou boastest,” and “thou bearest not the root,” there is no formal connection: for such breviloquence, which requires us to supply “consider” or “remember,” see Winer, p. 773. The sense is, You owe all you are proud of to an (artificially formed) relation to the race you would despise.

Verse 19

Romans 11:19. ἐρεῖς οὖν: the presumptuous Gentile persists. “It is not to the root I compare myself, but branches were broken off that I might be engrafted: that surely involves some superiority in me.”

Verse 20

Romans 11:20. καλῶς: “a form of partial and often ironical assent” (Gifford). Paul does not think it worth while to dispute the assertion of Romans 11:19, though as it stands it is by no means indisputable; he prefers to point out what it overlooks—the moral conditions of being broken off and of standing secure—and to urge them on the conscience. τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ: an account of unbelief, cf. Galatians 6:12, Winer, p. 270. τῇ πίστει ἕστκας: the security of the Gentiles depended on faith, and it is the most elementary principle of a religion of faith (Romans 3:27) that it excludes boasting. μὴ ὑψηλὰ φρόνει: cf. Romans 12:16. 1 Timothy 6:17 has μὴ ὑψηλοφρονεῖν. Neither is classical. φοβοῦ: consistent with πίστις. Timor opponitur non fiduciæ sed supercilio et securitati (Bengel).

Verse 21

Romans 11:21. As far as comparisons can be made at all in such things, the Jews had been more securely invested in the kingdom than the Gentiles. They were, in the language of the figure, not artificially grafted, but native branches, on the tree of God’s people; yet even that did not prevent Him from cutting off those who did not believe. And if He did not spare them, He will not spare Gentiles either, if in pride they fall from faith. On εἰοὐκ ἐφείσατο see Winer, 599 f. The true reading of the last word is φείσεται (not φείσηται), but Weiss would retain μήπως (see crit. note) even with this future, and supply the missing link of thought from φοβοῦ: one may fear that he will not, etc. The ironical reserve of this (though the future makes the thing to be feared as certain as possible) is quite Pauline, and the μήπως ((7) (8) (9) (10)) may be genuine.

Verse 22

Romans 11:22. Behold then God’s goodness and severity, sc., in the case of the Gentiles and Jews as now before us. ἀποτομία: here only in N.T. The moral idea is that of peremptoriness, inexorableness; in Greek writers it is contrasted with ἡμερότης, τὸ ἐπιεικές, πρᾳότης. Cf. 2 Corinthians 13:10. ἐὰν ἐπιμένῃς τῇ χρηστότητι: if you remain on in the goodness, i.e., continue to be indebted to it, and to it alone, for your religious position. This excludes presumption, and in general all such temper as is be trayed in taking an attitude of superiority to the Jews. The Jews lost their standing because they had come to believe that it was indefectible, and independent of moral conditions; and if the Gentiles commit the same mistake they will incur the same doom. It is not to Israel only God may say, The kingdom is taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. ἐπεὶ, otherwise: see Romans 11:6.

Verse 23

Romans 11:23. κἀκεῖνοι δέ: and they too, they on the other hand, viz., the un-believing Jews. ἐὰν μὴ κ. τ. λ., unless they remain on in their unbelief. It is assumed that they need not do this. The hardening spoken of in Romans 11:7-10, though it is a judgment upon sin, and may seem from the nature of the case to be irremediable, is not to be so absolutely taken. Even in the most hardened rejector of the Gospel we are not to limit either the resources of God’s power, or the possibilities of change in a self-conscious, self-determining creature. All things are possible to him that believeth, and we are not to say that in this man or that, Jew or Gentile, unbelief is final, and belief an impossibility. If the Jews give up their unbelief ἐγκεντρισθήσονται they will be incorporated again in the true people of God. δυνατὸς γάρ ἐστιν θεός κ. τ. λ. The phrase implies not only the possibility but the difficulty of the operation. Cf. Romans 14:4. With man it is impossible, but not with God. Nothing less than the thought of God could keep Paul from despairing of the future of Israel.

Verse 24

Romans 11:24. God’s power to engraft the Jews again into the stock of His people proved a fortiori by comparison with what He has done for the Gentiles. To restore His own is more natural, conceivable, and one may even say easy, than to call those who are not His own. The Gentile Christian (1) was cut ἐκ τῆς κατὰ φύσιν ἀγριελαίου, from what is in its own nature an uncultivated olive, with no suitableness for the uses which the olive is intended to subserve, and (2) παρὰ φύσιν in violation of nature was engrafted into a good olive; in comparison with this doubly unnatural process one may well argue πόσῳ μᾶλλον κ. τ. λ. how much more shall these, the Jews who κατὰ φύσιν (in their own nature) belong to the good tree, have their connection with it re-established? Weiss takes ἐγκεντρισθήσονται as a logical future, and it may be so; but Paul believes in his logic, and has probably in view in the word that actual restoration of the Jews of which he now proceeds to speak.

Verse 25

Romans 11:25. οὐ γὰρ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν: cf. Romans 1:13, 1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1, 2 Corinthians 1:8, but especially 1 Thessalonians 4:13, where as here it is used to introduce a revelation. An often-repeated phrase tends to be formal, but the thing of which Paul would not have his readers ignorant is usually important. As the phrase is invariably followed by ἀδελφοί, the latter also tends to be formal: it is at least a mistake to see anything of peculiar intimacy or affection in it in such connections. As Romans 11:28 and Romans 11:30 prove, in which they are contrasted with the Jews, the ἀδελφοί are Gentiles, and they are practically identical with the Roman Church. τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο: the word μυστήριον only occurs once in the Synoptical Gospels (Mark 4:11 and parallels) and not at all in John; but Paul uses it often (twenty-one times, including two in 1 Tim.). It always refers to something which though once hidden, or in its nature a secret, is now revealed. In some passages it is applied to the Christian revelation as a whole (e.g., in Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:1, Ephesians 1:9, Colossians 2:2 : in the last it is identified simpliciter with Christ). In others it is applied to the Christian revelation as a whole, but with some special aspect of it in view: thus in Ephesians 3:3 the special aspect of “revelation” or “mystery”—for it is all one—in the Gospel is the destined inclusion of the Gentiles among the people of God, while in Colossians 1:26 f. it is the indwelling Christ, as the pledge of immortality. In others, again, any particular element in the great revelation is called a “mystery”. Thus in 1 Corinthians 15:51 the truth communicated about those who live to see the second advent is described by this name, and it might have been used in the similar passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, where Paul says instead that he speaks ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου. This is merely to claim for his words the authority of revelation in another way. The passage before us comes under this last head. It is a piece of revelation—something which has been communicated to Paul ἐν ἀποκαλύψει for the good of the Church—that hardening in part has come upon Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in. The new ideas in this revelation are the limits in extent ( ἀπὸ μέρους) and in time ( ἄχρι οὗ). ἵνα μὴ ἦτε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς φρόνιμοι: it would tend to self-conceit if the Gentiles in ignorance of this Divine appointment concluded off-hand that the Jews could never be converted as a whole, and that they themselves therefore were in a place of permanent and exclusive privilege. For ἐν ἑαυτοῖς ((11) (12)) πορʼ ἑαυτοῖς is found in (13) (14) (15) (16), etc. Both occur in LXX but the former is much more likely to have been changed. τὸ πλήρωμα τῶν ἐθνῶν = the full number, totality, of the Gentiles. It does not mean a number pre-determined beforehand, which has to be made up, whether to answer to the blanks in Israel or to the demands of a Divine decree, but the Gentiles in their full strength. When the Gentiles in their full strength have come in, the power which is to provoke Israel to jealousy will be fully felt, with the result described in Romans 11:26.

Verses 25-32

Romans 11:25-32. In this concluding section Paul abandons the ground of argument for that of revelation. He has discussed the problems arising out of the rejection of Israel and the calling of the Gentiles, when taken in connection with the promises of God to His people; and he has tried to make it clear that in all His dealings with His people, God has acted righteously, that for all that has befallen them the Jews have full responsibility, and that a Divine purpose, with blessing in it to both Jew and Gentile, has indirectly been getting itself carried into effect through this perplexing history. The rejection of the Jews has led to the calling of the Gentiles, and the calling of the Gentiles, by provoking the Jews to jealousy, is eventually to lead to their conversion too. All this, it may be said, is matter of argument; it is more or less convincing as the argument appeals with less or greater force to our minds. It is Paul’s construction and interpretation of the facts before him, and his anticipation of the result in which they are likely to issue; but it has no greater authority than the reasoning by which he supports it, or the motives which suggest one line of reasoning upon the facts rather than another. We can understand how patriotism, and religious faith in God’s promise, and insight into the psychological influences which determine human conduct, all contribute some weight to his argument; but he is not content to rest upon argument alone the central truth he has been expounding—that the hardening of Israel is temporary as well as partial, and that when “the fulness of the Gentiles” has come in the hardening will cease, and all Israel be saved. He expressly puts this truth forward as a revelation ( μυστήριον, Romans 11:25). What this means psychologically we cannot tell, but it is clear that for Paul it was an essential part of the true religion, so far as he could make out the manner of its working in the world. He might try to lead the mind up to it along various lines of argument, or to confirm it by considerations of various kinds; but for him it had a Divine authority, antecedent to argument and independent of it. He sought arguments to make it credible and intelligible, not for his own sake, but for the sake of others. How much a revelation of this kind will weigh with the modern reader depends on the extent to which on general grounds he can recognise in Paul an inspired interpreter of Christianity. History, it must be admitted, throws no light on his words. The Gentiles are not fully gathered in; the time to say whether Israel as a whole is to have any distinct or decisive place in the final fulfilment of God’s gracious purpose is therefore not yet. One feels as if the nationalism of the passage fell short of Paul’s great word, There is neither Greek nor Jew; but there the Jews are, a problem to unbelief as well as to faith; think what we will of it, it is of them salvation comes; and it is at least as credible as the reverse (without considering Paul’s arguments at all) that Providence is not preserving them for nothing, and that in some such way as is here indicated there is a close connection between their salvation and the salvation of the world.

Verse 26

Romans 11:26. καὶ οὕτως = and thus; not merely temporal, but = under the influence of the jealousy so excited—under the impression produced on the Jews by the sight of the Gentiles in their fulness peopling the kingdom—all Israel shall be saved. This is an independent sentence. For πᾶς ἰσραὴλ see 1 Kings 12:1, 2 Chronicles 12:1. It means Israel as a whole. Paul is thinking of the historical people, as the contrast with Gentiles shows, but he is not thinking of them one by one. Israel a Christian nation, Israel as a nation a part of the Messianic kingdom, is the content of his thought. To make πᾶς ἰσραὴλ refer to a “spiritual” Israel, or to the elect, is to miss the mark: it foretells a “conversion of the Jews so universal that the separation into an ‘elect remnant’ and ‘the rest who were hardened’ shall disappear” (Gifford). καθὼς γέγραπται Isaiah 59:20 f., but the last words ὅταν ἀφέλωμαι κ. τ. λ. from Isaiah 27:9. The prophet says ἕνεκεν σίων Paul’s ἐκ σιὼν is probably a lapse of memory, due to the impression of passages like Ps. 14:7, 53:7, Isaiah 2:3, though Philippi thinks it intentional—the object being to emphasise the title of the Jews, as against the Gentiles, to a share in the kingdom. It is then as if he said: Salvation is of the Jews, and surely therefore for them. It is impossible to say that ἥξει refers to the first or to the second advent: the distinction is not present to Paul’s mind as he writes; all he is concerned with is the fact that in prophetic scripture language is used which implies that Israel as a people is to inherit the Messianic salvation. ῥυόμενος, Hebrew גֹּאֵל is the Messiah. ἀποστρέψει ἀσεβείας. Cf. Baruch 3:7, 1 Maccabees 4:58.

Verse 27

Romans 11:27. καὶ αὕτη κ. τ. λ. This is My covenant with them = this is the constitution which I give them to live under. Weiss interprets this by what follows, making the αὕτη prospective, but this is somewhat forced. The διαθήκη is not equivalent to the removal of sins, though it is based upon it: it covers the whole condition introduced by that removal. Cf. Jeremiah 31:31 ff. The deliverance referred to in Romans 11:26-27, though promised to Israel as a whole, is a religious and ethical one. It has no political significance, and nothing to do with any assumed restoration of the Jews to Canaan. This is obvious even apart from the argument of Weiss that the deliverance in question is to be immediately followed by the resurrection; an argument which depends on a doubtful interpretation of ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν Romans 11:15.

Verse 28

Romans 11:28. κατὰ μὲν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον. In both clauses κατὰ defines the rule by which God’s relation to Israel is determined. When He looks at the Gospel, which they have rejected, they are ἐχθροὶ, objects of His hostility, and that διʼ ὑμᾶς, for the sake of the Gentiles, to whom the Gospel in this way comes; when He looks at the ἐκλογὴ, the choice which He made of Israel to be His people, they are ἀγαπητοὶ, objects of His love, and that διὰ τοὺς πατέρας, on account of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with whom He made an everlasting covenant (cf. Genesis 17:19, Luke 1:54 f.). The passive meaning of ἐχθροὶ is fixed by the contrast with ἀγαπητοὶ, as well as by the logic of the passage: cf. Romans 5:10.

Verse 29

Romans 11:29. Proof that the Israelites, in virtue of their relation to the fathers, are objects of God’s love. ἀμεταμέλητα cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10 : it may mean either what is not or what cannot be repented of: here the latter. God’s gifts of grace, and His calling, are things upon which there is no going back. The χαρίσματα are not the moral and intellectual qualifications with which Israel was endowed for its mission in the world (Godet), but the privileges of grace enumerated in chap. Romans 9:4 f. Neither is the κλῆσις of God a “calling” in the modern sense of a vocation or career assigned to any one by Him; it is His authoritative invitation to a part in the Messianic kingdom. From Israel these things can never be withdrawn.

Verses 30-32

Romans 11:30-32. There is the less need, too, that they should be withdrawn, because God makes the very misuse of them contribute to the working out of His universal purpose of redemption. The past unbelief of the Gentiles and the mercy they presently enjoy, the present unbelief of the Jews and the mercy they are destined to enjoy in the future—these things not only correspond to each other, but they are interwoven with each other; they are parts of a system which God controls, and in which every element conditions and is conditioned by all the rest: there is a Divine necessity pervading and controlling all the freedom of men—a Divine purpose mastering all the random activity of human wills; a purpose which is read out by the Apostle in Romans 11:32 : God shut them all up into disobedience that He might have mercy upon them all. Romans 11:30. ποτὲ: once, in the past, chap. Romans 1:18-32. τῇ τούτων ἀπειθείᾳ = owing to their disobedience. Cf. Romans 11:11; Romans 11:15. Romans 11:31. τῷ ὑμετέρῳ ἐλέει is to be construed with ἵνα καὶ αὐτοὶ νῦν ἐλεηθῶσιν. For the order cf. Galatians 2:10, 2 Corinthians 12:7. It seems pedantic to make the construction strictly parallel to τῇ τούτων ἀπειθίᾳ, and to translate: “that owing to the mercy shown to you—i.e., owing to the jealousy to which the Jews would be stirred at seeing the Gentiles the objects of Divine mercy—they also may obtain mercy”; the simpler construction is to take the dative as explanatory of the verb, and to translate: “that they may be made the objects of the very same mercy which has been shown to you”. This is really the point which the Apostle wishes to be at; though the idea brought out in the former rendering is essential in the passage, it is not essential, nor obvious, in these particular words. The second νῦν (wanting in (17) (18) (19) (20)) is probably genuine ((21) (22)), but cannot be forced to mean more than “now in their turn”. The imminence of the result is not in view. Romans 11:32. συνέκλεισεν γὰρ θεὸς τοὺς πάντας εἰς ἀπειθιαν: this is the nearest approach made in the N.T. to putting the sin of man into a direct and positive relation to the act and purpose of God. But it would be a mistake to draw inferences from the concrete historical problem before the Apostle—viz., God’s dealings with Jew and Gentile, and the mutual relations and influence of Jew and Gentile in the evolution of God’s purpose—and to apply them to the general abstract question of the relation of the human will to the Divine. Paul is not thinking of this question at all, and his authority could not be claimed for such inferences. Salvation, he sees, as he looks at the world before him, is to come to Jew and Gentile alike by the way of free grace; and it answers to this, that in the providence of God, Jew and Gentile alike have been made to feel the need of grace by being shut up under disobedience. It is within Paul’s thought to say that the sin of Jews and Gentiles, to whom he preached the Gospel, did not lie outside the control, or outside the redeeming purpose, of God; but it does not seem to me to be within his thought to say that God ordains sin in general for the sake of, or with a view to, redemption. This is a fancy question which an apostle would hardly discuss. God subordinates sin to His purpose, but it is not a subordinate element in His purpose. The same order of considerations ought to guide us in the interpretation of τοὺς πάντας. “Them all” certainly refers in the first instance to Jews and Gentiles. It is not the same as τοὺς ἀμφοτέρους, “both parties”; but it differs from it in its present connection only by giving emphasis to the fact that both parties consist of numbers, to all of whom the truth here stated applies. To find here a doctrine of universal salvation—a dogmatic assertion that every man will at last receive mercy—is simply to desert the ground on which the Apostle is standing. It is to leave off thinking about the concrete problem before his mind, and to start thinking about something quite different. It is gratuitous to contrast, as, e.g., is done by Lipsius, this passage with others in which Paul speaks of ἀπολλύμενοι as well as σωζόμενοι, and to say that they represent irreconcilable view-points—the Apostle speaking in the present instance from the standpoint of Divine teleology; in the other, from that of actual experience. The truth is, as Weiss puts it, there is not a word here to show how far, when the history of man has reached its term, Paul conceived God’s saving purpose to be realised. συνέκλεισεν answering to הִסְגִּיר is frequent in LXX: the συν does not refer to the fact that Jews and Gentiles are shut up together, but indicates that those who are shut up are shut up on all sides, so that they cannot escape: cf. con-cludo and examples in Galatians 3:22, Psalms 30:9 LXX, ἐλεήσῃ: “to have mercy upon” means “to make partakers of that ‘common salvation’ (Judges 1:3) which is emphatically a dispensation of mercy” (Gifford).

Verse 33

Romans 11:33. βάθος πλούτου κ. τ. λ. In Romans 11:32 the content of the chapter is no doubt condensed, but it is more natural to regard the doxology as prompted by the view of God’s Providence which pervades the whole discussion than by the one sentence in which it is summed up. βάθος: a universal figure for what is immeasurable or incalculable: cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10, Revelation 2:24, Ephesians 3:18. The genitives πλούτου, σοφίας and γνώσεως are most simply construed as co-ordinate. For πλοῦτος used thus absolutely see Ephesians 3:8, Philippians 4:19. Perhaps the key to the meaning here is to be found in Romans 10:12 : what Paul adores is the unsearchable wealth of love that enables God to meet and far more than meet the appalling necessities of the world; love less deep would soon be bankrupt at the task. In σοφία and γνῶσις the intellectual resources are brought into view with which God has ordered, disposed and controlled all the forces of the world and of man’s history so as to make them subservient to His love. The world, with its conflict of races, religions, passions and even vices, may seem to be a realm of chaos; but when we see it in the light of God as Paul did, we see the signs of wisdom and knowledge, of a conscious purpose transcending human thought, and calling forth adoring praise. For the distinction of σοφία and γνῶσις, which especially in relation to God is to be felt rather than defined, see Trench, N.T. Synonyms, § lxxv. τὰ κρίματα αὐτοῦ: except 1 Corinthians 6:7 which is different, this is the only example of κρίματα (plural) in the N.T. It is probably used not in the narrower sense (which would be illustrated by reference, e.g., to the “hardening” of Israel), but in the wider sense of the Hebrew מִשְׁפָטִים, to which it often answers in the LXX. In Psalms 36:6 we have τὰ κρίματά σου ἄβυσσος πολλή: where Cheyne’s note is, “Thy judgments—in their various effects of destruction and salvation”. This is Paul’s thought; hence τὰ κρίματα αὐτοῦ and αἱ ὁδοὶ αὐτοῦ are practically the same. As Moses says (Deuteronomy 32:4), All His ways are judgment.

Verse 34

Romans 11:34. Proof from Scripture of the unsearchableness of God’s ways: He has had no confidant. Isaiah 40:13, 1 Corinthians 2:16. It is mere pedantry to refer half the verse to σοφία and the other half to γνῶσις.

Verse 35

Romans 11:35. τίς προέδωκεν αὐτῷ, καὶ ἀνταποδοθήσεται αὐτῷ; see Job 41:11 (A.V.). The translation of Job 41:3, Hebrew, is perhaps Paul’s own, as the LXX is entirely different and wrong. The point of the quotation has been variously explained. If it continues the proof of Romans 11:33, the underlying assumption is that God’s ways would be finite and comprehensible if they were determined by what men had done, so as merely to requite that. It seems better, however, to read the words in the largest sense, and then they express the fundamental truth of religion as Paul understood it—viz., that the initiative in religion belongs to God; or as he puts it elsewhere, that we have nothing we did not receive, and that boasting is excluded. The relation of man to God in these conditions is one which naturally expresses itself in doxology.

Verse 36

Romans 11:36. ὅτι ἐξ αὐτοῦ κ. τ. λ. Strictly speaking, the ὅτι confirms the last truth—man’s absolute dependence on God—by making it part of a wider generalisation. ἐξ αὐτοῦ: from Him, as their source; διʼ αὐτοῦ: through Him, as the power by whose continuous energy the world is sustained and ruled; εἰς αὐτὸν: unto Him, as their goal, for whose glory they exist. A reference of any kind to the Trinity is out of the question. It is a question, however, whether τὰ πάντα means “all things” in the sense of the universe (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 2:10) or whether it is not limited by the article to all the things which have just been in contemplation, the whole marvellous action of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge, as interpreted by the Apostle in regard to the work of redemption (for an example of τὰ πάντα in this sense see 2 Corinthians 5:18). I incline to the last view. The universe of grace, with all that goes on in it for the common salvation of Jew and Gentile, is of God and through God and to God. To Him be the glory which such a display of wisdom and love demands.


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 11:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

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