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IV. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THIS SALVATION, AND THE HISTORICAL ORDER OF ITS APPLICATION.
The gospel is God’s power unto salvation, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile (chap. Romans 1:16): The unbelief of the Jews seemed to invalidate the Apostle’s statement respecting the universality of this salvation, and he therefore discusses the question which lay so close to his own heart. This of itself would account for these chapters; but it is also true that every one of his readers, irrespective of any supposed conflict between Jewish and Gentile Christians, would be profoundly interested in the matter. Ever since Christian people have been interested in it, both as belonging to the historical course of the development of the kingdom of God, and as one of the darkest mysteries of God’s dealings with men. So long as the mass of the Jews reject the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, the mystery will remain unsolved, except as, these chapters present a solution. It seems idle, therefore, to build up a baseless theory about the internal condition of the Roman congregation, to account for this portion of the Epistle (comp. Introduction).
On the other hand, this natural view of the passage helps the reader to avoid the false notion, that the Apostle here treats of Divine sovereignty in an abstract manner. He writes, not in a cold, metaphysical tone, but with a pathos at times almost tragical (comp. chap. Romans 9:3). Luther, therefore, well says of these chapters as related to what precedes: ‘Who hath not known passion, cross, and travail of death, cannot treat of foreknowledge (election of grace), without injury and inward enmity toward God. Wherefore take heed that thou drink not wine, while thou art yet a sucking babe. Each several doctrine hath its own season, and measure, and age.’
ANALYSIS: 1. Chap. Romans 9:1-29: GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY: His promise is not void.
I. Expression of deep sorrow at the fact of the exclusion of so many of his people, God’s covenant people, from salvation in Christ, chap. Romans 9:1-5.
II. But this does not render God's promise void; chap. Romans 9:6-29. For (a.) that promise was made of free grace, only to the chosen ones, as illustrated in the case of Isaac and Jacob (Romans 9:6-13); (b.) In this election God is not unjust, for He has a right to choose, being sovereign (Romans 9:14-29).
2. Chaps. Romans 9:30 to Romans 10:21: MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY: The Jews were excluded on the ground of their own unbelief.
I. The fact that the Jews rejected the way of faith: chap. Romans 9:30-33.
II. The proof that this was the one way of salvation; hence the unbelieving Jews themselves responsible; chap. Romans 10:1-21.
3. Chap. 11: THE PROSPECTIVE SOLUTION: But God has not cast off His people forever.
I. The rejection of Israel is not total; a remnant, elected of grace, will be saved (Romans 11:1-10).
II. It is not final; the unbelief and fall of Israel turns out for the salvation and reviving of the Gentiles, who, however, should not boast (Romans 11:11-24); since the rejection is only temporary, ultimately Israel will be saved (Romans 11:25-32).
Romans 11:1. I say then. ‘Then’ introduces the question as a plausible, but incorrect, inference from the entire previous discussion; especially, however, from the Scriptural proof of Romans 11:19-21.
Did God cast off his people? ‘Cast off’ is preferable to ‘cast away;’ comp. Psalms 94:14. ‘The divine act of casting off from Himself is not viewed as the cause (against this is chap. Romans 10:21), but as the penal consequence, of the disdaining God’s loving will’ (Meyer). ‘His people’ refers to the Jewish nation, and the phrase itself ‘contains the reason for the denial’ (Bengel). Some however find here, as in Romans 11:2, an exclusive reference to the elect among the Jews. So Hodge: ‘The rejection of the Jews as a nation was consistent with all that God had promised to their fathers. Those promises did not secure the salvation of all Jews, or of the Jews as a nation,’ This view is objectionable on many accounts: it removes the discussion from the historical point of view to a strictly theological one; it proposes a less natural inference; it uses ‘people’ in a different sense from that of the preceding verse, and is less suited to the entire discussion than the other view. See further on Romans 11:2.
For I also, etc. The indignant denial is followed by this proof from the Apostle’s descent. But what is the nature of this proof? Three views are held: ( 1 .) He is one among many examples (‘also’) that God had not entirely rejected His people. This is the common one. ( 2 .) His patriotic feeling leads him to deny this indignantly; the proof of his denial follows in Romans 11:2, etc. This is favored by the detailed reference to his descent. ( 3 .) The restoration of Israel as a nation is so prominent, that ‘if such a hypothesis were to be conceded, it would exclude from God’s kingdom the writer himself as an Israelite’ (Alford). But this, however well suited to the thought of the next section, does not suit the immediate context. As between ( 1 .) and ( 2 .), the latter is tenable, if the theocratic idea is included, but the former is on the whole preferable. Weizsacker well suggests that such an argument proves that the Roman congregation included no large Jewish element.
Of the seed of Abraham; to whom the covenant promise was first made.
Of the tribe of Benjamin; comp. Philippians 3:5; this tribe with Judah made up the nation of Israel after the captivity. This does not exclude the patriotic feeling, which has appeared throughout the whole discussion.
1. The Rejection of Israel is not Total.
This section opens with the question (‘Did God cast off His people?’), which the whole chapter answers in the negative, and which Paul discusses with a feeling both patriotic and religious (Romans 11:1). The historical fact in the days of Elijah (Romans 11:2-4) shows that, now as then, when all seem to have rejected Jehovah, He still has a remnant according to the election of grace (Romans 11:5), not of works (Romans 11:6). At the same time the many were rejected (Romans 11:7), in accordance with the predictions of Isaiah (Romans 11:8) and David (Romans 11:9-10).
Romans 11:2. His people whom he foreknew. Here, too, the reference is to the nation, and not to the spiritual remnant, the elect. If the latter part of the chapter were wanting, this might be the sense. The phrase ‘which He foreknew’ need not be taken in its individual reference, as in chap. Romans 8:36, where a plural pronoun is joined with the verb. To limit it to those elected is not only contrary to the sweep of the argument, but to the historical position of the theocratic nation: a foreknowledge resulting in such theocratic privilege is as consistent with the tenor of Scripture as the more individual reference.
Or know ye not. ‘Or’ introduces a new answer to the question (comp. chaps. Romans 6:3; Romans 9:21), namely, the historical case from the Scripture.
In the story of Elijah; lit, in Elijah ;’ comp. Mark 12:26: ‘at the Bush,’ the passage treating of that occurrence. ‘Of Elias’ (E. V.) is inaccurate. This method of reference is common in Philo and in Rabbinical authors; some instances occur in the classics. The occasion was after the fast of the prophet at Horeb (1 Kings 19:0).
How he pleadeth with God against Israel . This is the object of ‘do ye not know,’ ‘Pleading against’ is equivalent to complaining of. ‘Saying’ is an unnecessary addition, supported by few authorities.
Romans 11:3. Lord, they have killed, etc. This verse is freely cited from the LXX.; 1 Kings 19:10 (Romans 11:14 is a repetition of Romans 11:10). The two clauses are transposed.
They have digged down. ‘And’ is poorly supported.
Thine altars. The p lural points to the altars as the high places in the kingdom of Israel where Elijah lived. Although it was originally forbidden to erect such altars, they became the only places in Israel where Jehovah was publicly worshipped. Hence in the time of Elijah neglect of these was really neglect of worship.
I am left alone, or, ‘the only one.’ The latter rendering corresponds better with the LXX., but is somewhat stronger than Paul’s citation. The language of Elijah meant that he was the only prophet left; while the transposition of the clauses suggests here the further notion: I am the only true worshipper of Jehovah. It is not necessary to suppose that the Apostle has departed from the original sense.
They seek my life. See 1 Kings 19:1-2.
Romans 11:4. But what saith the divine response. The word answering to ‘divine response’ occurs only here in the New Testament. But in a number of cases (see marginal references) the cognate verb occurs, and is usually rendered ‘warned of God.’ The meaning here is obvious; but the noun first had the sense of ‘business,’ the formal audience given to an ambassador, then a response from an oracle; this was not the classical sense, but occurs in Malachi 2:4; Malachi 2:4; 2Ma 11:17 .
I have left remaining, etc. The citation is from 1 Kings 19:18, and varies, though not materially, from both the Hebrew and the LXX. The mistake of the latter in reading the verb is corrected by the Apostle. ‘Reserved’ is inexact; ‘left’ is bald; ‘left remaining’ brings out the thought that these had not been ‘killed’ (Romans 11:3).
To myself; this addition of the Apostle fairly presents the sense of the original: ‘as my possession and for my service, over against the idolatrous abomination’ (Meyer).
Seven thousand men. Probably a definite expression for an indefinite number; ‘seven’ need not be regarded as significant.
Who; of such a kind as, emphasizing the faithful character of the men; the Hebrew shows that these were all that remained faithful.
Never bowed the knee; on any occasion.
To Baal. The feminine article is used by Paul, while the LXX. has the masculine article. Explanations: ( 1 .) An ellipsis, hence the rendering ‘to the image of Baal.’ The fact that the LXX. sometimes uses the feminine article with the name of the false deity, renders this improbable, and this sense would require a second article with Baal. ( 2 .) This heathen deity was conceived of as of both sexes (androgynous). This is quite probable, but not historically proven. It should be observed, however, that Astarte (Ashtaroth), the Phoenician goddess, is distinguished from the feminine Baal. ( 3 .) Some regard the feminine as an expression of contempt; but this is the least probable explanation. ‘Baal’ (signifying lord, ruler) was the sun-god, representing the active generative principle in nature. The greatest idolatrous apostasy among the Israelites was to the worship of this Phoenician deity, and the name occurs in the Old Testament history from the time of Moses to that of Jeremiah.
Romans 11:5. Even so then, or, ‘thus therefore;’ in accordance with this historical fact which indicates (‘ therefore’) a permanent principle, in this present time also, as well as in the similar ancient times, there is (more exactly , ‘has become,’ and still exists) a remnant, a small number out of the mass; and this ‘remnant’ has become and remains such, according to the election of grace. This phrase is to be joined, not with the noun, but with the verb (as above indicated). Here the reference is not national, but individual, as in chap. 9 . This view is further sustained by Romans 11:6, and by the obvious opposition to Jewish pride of works: the election has its source in God’s grace, not in man’s merit.
Romans 11:6. Now if it is by grace. ‘Now’ is preferable to ‘and,’ or ‘but.’ ‘If’ takes up the assertion of Romans 11:5, as if to say: ‘since the remnant exists by grace, let us understand what this involves, negatively,’ namely: it is no longer of works. Here the individual reference is clear. ‘No longer’ is logical, not temporal; ‘works’ are entirely excluded in this matter of the remnant existing according to the election of grace.
Otherwise; ‘since in that case,’ in case it were of works, grace no longer becometh Grace. ‘Becometh’ is not only more literal than ‘is,’ but suggests as the more exact sense that in such a case grace would fail to show itself as what it is; ‘positively expressed: it becomes what according to its essence it is not; it gives up its specific character’ (Meyer). The emphasis placed at this point on the doctrine of free grace is doubtless to prepare for what follows: the reference to the many rejected (Romans 11:7-10), as well as the statement of the final solution (Romans 11:11-32), are based on the sovereignty of God in His dealings.
The latter half of the verse is found in but one of the more ancient manuscripts (B), though it is added by a late corrector in the Sinaitic Codex. Critical judgment has recently become more decidedly against the genuineness of the passage. In addition to the authorities which omit it, the variations of those containing it oppose its retention. If retained it must be regarded as an antithetical repetition of the same thought, since the attempts to discover an additional argument have been futile (comp. the far-fetched views of Lange, Wordsworth, and others).
Romans 11:7. What then? The inference from Romans 11:5-6, is introduced by this question.
That which Israel (as a mass) is seeking for, now as formerly; chaps. Romans 9:31; Romans 10:3 show that ‘righteousness’ is the object sought. Zealous searching is not necessarily indicated here.
He obtained not; did not attain unto; the idea of not finding is not suggested. The connection with Romans 11:5-6 shows that this took place, because the mass of the nation sought the end ‘as of works’ (chap. Romans 9:32), a method opposed to ‘grace.’
But the election (‘the remnant,’ abstractly and vivaciously termed ‘the election,’ rather than ‘the elect’) obtained it .
And the rest were hardened. ‘Blinded’ is incorrect. The word denotes in its primary meaning: ‘to deprive an organ of its natural sensibility; in the moral: to take from the heart the faculty of being touched by what is good or divine, from the intelligence the faculty of discerning between the true and the false, the good and the evil. The context will explain how it is possible that a similar effect can be attributed to divine agency’ (Godet). Comp. on chap. Romans 9:18. God’s agency is undoubtedly indicated here (comp. Romans 11:8-10), but nowhere is this spoken of in a way that implies a lessening of human responsibility. The parenthesis of the E. V. is unnecessary. It is designed to connect this clause with the last one of Romans 11:8.
Romans 11:8. According as it is written. The Scripture passages are cited here, because they set forth the principle of divine action, underlying the statement of Romans 11:7: ‘the rest were hardened,’ what had occurred in Old Testament times was not only analogous, but pointed to this punishment of the Jews, the agreement being ‘that of prophecy and fulfilment according to the divine theology’ (Meyer).
He gave them a spirit of stupor. The citation is made freely from Isaiah 29:10 (LXX.). ‘Stupor’ (a word found only here) meant first the numbness produced by stupefying wine, the corresponding verb being applied to the paralyzing from astonishment or grief.
Eyes that they should not see, etc. This part of the verse is from Deuteronomy 29:4, freely cited, and joined by the Apostle to the preceding as an explanation; the connection in the original passage being also with ‘He gave.’ Others find here a further combination with Isaiah 6:9, but this is less likely. The clauses ‘that they should not see,’ ‘that they should not hear,’ express the purpose of the giving.
Unto this present day is a strengthening of the words of Deuteronomy 29:24, and should be joined with what immediately precedes. The fact that Isaiah repeats substantially what Moses previously said, justifies the application of this principle to the attitude of the mass of the Jews in the Apostle’s day. Clearly then God punishes men by giving them over to spiritual insensibility.
Romans 11:9. And David saith. The citation is from Psalms 69:22-23, which is attributed to David, in the heading as well as by Paul. Many argue that some parts of the Psalm point to a date after the captivity. But the references to the house of God (Romans 11:9), the description of the opposers (Romans 11:8), and other passages, seem to prove that the date was much earlier. The Psalm is a portrayal of the sufferings of the Servant of Jehovah at the hands of spiritual foes, rather than of the sorrows of the exiled Jews. The latter reference gives to the imprecations a national and personal character which seems revolting. The former points to a Messianic fulfilment, and justifies the Apostle’s application of the passage. The imprecations of the Psalm ‘are to be considered as the language of an ideal person, representing the whole class of righteous sufferers, and particularly Him who, though He prayed for His murderers while dying (Luke 23:34), had before applied the words of this very passage to the unbelieving Jews (Matthew 23:38), as Paul did afterwards’ (J. A. Alexander).
Let their table. In the Psalm the ‘table’ represents the material enjoyments of life; here it is referred by some to the law, or to the presumptuous confidence the Jews had in it; but it is not necessary to define it so closely.
Become a snare; be turned into this.
And a trap. ‘The word more usually signified “a hunt,” or the act of taking or catching, but here a net, the instrument of capture. It is not in the Hebrew nor in the Septuagint, and is perhaps inserted by the Apostle to give emphasis by the accumulation of synonymes’ (Alford).
And a stumbling block. This phrase follows the next one in the LXX. The reference to hunting probably led to the transposition.
A recompense unto them. Here the Apostle varies slightly from the form of the LXX, which preserves the sense, but not the figure of the Hebrew. In fact this phrase is an interpretation of the entire verse. ‘While they think they are consuming the spoils of their earthly sense, they become themselves a spoil to every form of retribution’ (Lange).
Romans 11:10. Let their eyes be darkened, etc. The reference is not to old age, but to some more sudden blinding. This verse explains the ‘recompense’ of Romans 11:9. Spiritual blindness is one form of the punishment
Their back do thou bow down alway. The Hebrew means: ‘make their loins to waver,’ but the LXX., here followed closely, presents the same thought under another figure. Present loss of strength is meant, representing spiritual servitude, under the yoke of legalism, rather than that of Roman conquerors.
Meyer thinks the retribution is for want of faith in Christ; Godet, with more reason, says: ‘the rejection of Jesus by the Jews was the effect, not the cause of the hardening. The cause Paul has said clearly enough (chap. Romans 9:31-33) was the obstinacy of their own righteousness.’
Romans 11:11. I say then. Comp. Romans 11:1. This introduces a possible, but incorrect, inference from Romans 11:7 (‘the rest were hardened’).
Did they stumble that they should fall . The form of the question points to a negative answer. The fact of stumbling is not, however, denied, since that has been affirmed in chap. Romans 11:32-33, nor yet the existence of a divine purpose (‘that’ = in order that) in connection with that fact, but as the con text shows, the Apostle denies that this purpose was the final fall ( i.e., eternal destruction) of the nation. The first ‘they’ refers to the unbelieving mass of the nation, but the second evidently applies to them as representing the nation as a whole. As individuals they both stumbled and fell, but the design was not that the nation should fall. This view alone accords with the close of the chapter.
But by their trespass. The word ‘fall’ suggests a correspondence with the verb ‘should fall,’ whereas the reference is to ‘stumble.’ At the same time ‘trespass’ is not quite satisfactory.
Salvation, etc. This was the historical fact, and this fact had as its purpose: to provoke them to emulation (as in Romans 11:14). The salvation of the Gentiles was therefore the immediate purpose, but there was a further design, namely, bringing about the final salvation of the Jews by stirring them up to emulation, or, zeal (‘jealousy’ has a bad sense not implied in the original). This twofold purpose forms the theme of the whole section.
2. The Rejection of Israel is not Final.
In this section is presented the prospective solution of the great historical problem, discussed in this part of the Epistle. Here Paul becomes a prophet; revealing that the rejection of Israel is not final, since the chosen people will be restored.
The section naturally falls into four paragraphs: (1.) The present hardening of so many of the Jews will not result in the final rejection of the nation, but will accomplish two ends: first, the conversion of the Gentiles, and secondly their own restoration, to be ‘life from the dead’; Romans 11:11-15. (2.) In view of this the Gentiles should not exalt themselves over the Jews, since the restoration of the latter to spiritual blessings is an event both desirable and probable; Romans 11:16-24. (3.) The Apostle makes known, by revelation, the final conversion of Israel, showing that this is in accordance with prophecy, and with the general principles which underlie God’s dealings with men; Romans 11:25-32. (4.) The thought of Romans 11:32 leads to a doxology, which forms the climax of the Epistle; Romans 11:33-36. This doxology forms an appropriate conclusion, first to this section, then to the discussion of chaps. 9-11, and, finally, to the entire doctrinal part of the Epistle.
Romans 11:12. Now if their trespass is, etc. ‘If’ is logical, not conditional; Romans 11:11 has stated the fact here assumed.
Their diminishing. The word rendered ‘ diminishing’ means, becoming inferior, suffering defeat. It has here a numerical sense: the reduction in number of the Jewish people, ‘inasmuch, namely, as the unbelieving portion by its unbelief practically seceded from the people of God’ (Meyer). But the idea of a defeat is not necessarily suggested. The contrast with ‘fulness’ opposes the sense of ‘impoverishment,’ or ‘degradation;’ while the common explanation: ‘the minority of them,’ is objectionable on both lexical and grammatical grounds. The fact that the nation, regarded as the people of God, had been thus reduced proved to be the riches of the Gentiles, i.e., thus the Gentile nations were enriched through the Gospel preached to them. This is parallel to the previous phrase, ‘the riches of the world.’
How much more their fulness. ‘Fulness’ has three senses: ( 1 .) that with which anything is filled; ( 2 .) that which is filled, the state of fulness; ( 3 .) the act of filling. The first sense is most common, and is to be accepted here in the numerical sense (comp. Romans 11:25): that which fills up the nation to completeness. If the diminution of Israel through unbelief had such a blessed result, how much more their full number when they as a nation become believers. Some find here their full restoration or blessedness, contrasted with their impoverishment (‘diminishing’). But this leaves out of view the numerical sense, giving to both the contrasted terms a less obvious meaning, and identifies the thought of this verse with that of Romans 11:15. The reference to the filling up of the number of the elect is far-fetched. Many fanciful views of the verse have been presented.
Romans 11:13. But I am sneaking to you Gentiles. ‘But’ is better supported than ‘for.’ The clause implies the preponderance of Gentile Christians in the congregation at Rome. We do not regard Romans 11:13-14 as parenthetical, but as meeting a thought which might arise in the minds of the Gentile readers, namely, that his ministry, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, had no reference to the Jews. He shows that the blessed results to the Jews formed a part of the purpose of his labors (Romans 11:14). Others think the implied objection relates to the prominence given to the Gentiles in God’s purpose respecting the Jews. But it is unlikely that the Gentiles would raise such an objection. Godet differs from both views, and finds in these verses a proof that the Apostle was laboring for the ultimate benefit of the Gentiles by seeking the conversion of the Jews, since the latter would result in ‘ life from the dead’ (Romans 11:15), and thus bring blessing to the Gentiles. But the first view is to be preferred.
Inasmuch then, etc. ‘Then’ is well supported, and disconnects the clause from what precedes. We separate the clauses by a colon; others explain:’ I say to you Gentiles, inasmuch,’ etc. But ‘then’ opposes this view.
I am, etc. ‘I’ is emphatic here.
I glorify my ministry; i.e., his ministry to the Gentiles. ‘Glorify’ is not = praise, or, magnify; the meaning is, by faithfully discharging the duties of this specific ministry he could do honor to it. The original suggests that there is another phase of the subject, which is stated (though not in exact correlation) in the next verse.
Romans 11:14. If haply. Comp. chap. Romans 1:10. The faithful discharge of his duty to the Gentiles had this as its attempted result
My own flesh; comp. chap. Romans 9:3.
Save some of them, i.e., of the Jews. Notice the modesty of the expression, which, however, recalls Paul’s ill-success among his own countrymen. This tone opposes the view that he is here apologizing for the mention of the Gentiles.
Romans 11:15. For introduces the reason for Romans 11:13-14; his labor was in view of the more blessed results indicated in the close of this verse.
The casting away of them, i.e. , the exclusion of the Jews through their unbelief, analogous to, but not precisely identical with, ‘diminishing’(Romans 11:12).
Is the reconciliation of the world. Their unbelief occasioned the preaching of ‘reconciliation’ (comp. chap. Romans 5:11) to the Gentiles; many Gentiles were actually reconciled to God, and this was the token of the design and adaptation of the Gospel for the whole world.
What shall the receiving of them be. The reception to salvation of the Jewish nation as a whole; comp. Romans 11:12, where the numerical phase of the comparison is brought out. That they would be thus received, is the leading thought of the entire chapter.
But (lit., ‘if not’) life from the dead. Evidently the Apostle has in mind something beyond ‘the reconciliation of the world,’ some greater blessing than the gradual conversion of the Gentiles through the gospel, and this he terms ‘life from the dead.’ Explanations: ( 1 .) The literal view: the resurrection from the dead will follow the conversion of Israel. This view has been held by many commentators, both ancient and modern, but with various modifications. Some add to this view speculations of which the Apostle, here at least, gives no hint whatever. Objections: (a.) The use of ‘life’ not ‘resurrection;’ the former word often having a wide significance; (b.) the absence of the article before ‘life,’ which is strange if Paul meant to indicate an event, to which he so often refers; (c.) the lack of evidence from other passages of Scripture that the resurrection will immediately follow the conversion of the Jews. The latter event may be closely connected with the final acts of the present dispensation, but prophecy seems to point to other events as intervening. Meyer and others meet some of these objections by including the life which follows the resurrection as its blessed consequence. ( 2 .) The figurative explanation refers the phrase to a new spiritual life which will be introduced by the conversion of the Jews. To this it may be objected, (a.) that it presents no further thought than the previous ‘reconciliation;’ (b.) that the language of the remainder of the verse is literal; (c.) that the upholders of this view are not agreed as to what the new and surprising spiritual blessing is, which thus surpasses the present effects of the gospel. These objections, however, do not seem to us so weighty as those to the preceding view. New Testament prophecy does not as yet demand specific interpretation. That a figurative expression might occur here scarcely needs proof. Godet, in accordance with his view of Romans 11:13, applies this phrase to the blessedness of Gentile Christendom in consequence of the conversion of Israel, while others limit it to the Jews themselves. We prefer the wide reference to the entire body of believers. To combine the two views seems improper, as Meyer affirms, yet his own explanation scarcely differs from a combination of the literal and figurative interpretations.
Romans 11:16. Moreover, lit, ‘but,’ not, ‘for.’ This suggests a reason for expecting this ‘receiving’ of the Jews, namely, the consecrated character impressed on this people, when they were separated from other nations. This moral necessity for the restoration of the Jews becomes the theme of the remainder of the chapter, both in its warning to the Gentiles (Romans 11:17-24) and in the positive statements respecting the future of Israel (Romans 11:25-32). We therefore begin a paragraph here.
The firstfruit is holy. This is assumed, the reference being to the portion of dough taken as a peace-offering, so that the whole lump (of kneaded dough) from which it was taken was thereby consecrated; see marginal references. The firstfruits of the field are not meant. The ‘firstfruit,’ it is generally agreed, refers to the patriarchs (some limit the application to Abraham), with whom the covenant was made by which Israel became the theocratic people. ‘Holy’ here means ‘consecrated’ (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:14), and the underlying argument resembles that of Romans 11:1-2.
If the root, etc. The parallelism leads us to find here the same thought as in the previous clause, but under another figure, which admits, as the other did not, of an application to the conversion of the Gentiles (so Godet). The attempts to explain the two clauses differently have not been successful ( e. g., Christ, the firstfruit; the patriarchs, the root; or Christ, both firstfruit and root; the firstfruit, the believing Jews, and the ‘lump’ the mass of unbelievers). ‘God, in selecting the Hebrew patriarchs, and setting them apart for His service, had reference to their descendants, as well as to themselves; and designed that the Jews, as a people, should, to the latest generations, be specially devoted to Himself. They stand now, therefore, and ever have stood, in a relation to God which no other nation ever has sustained; and in consequence of this relation, their restoration to the divine favor is an event in itself probable, and one which Paul afterwards teaches (Romans 11:25) God has determined to accomplish’ (Hodge).
Romans 11:17. But if some of the branches were broken off. This was the fact, and the Gentiles are warned against a wrong inference from it. ‘Some’ does not of itself indicate whether there were many or few; it was, however, probably chosen ‘in order not to promote Gentile-Christian self-exaltation; Romans 11:18 ’ (Meyer). The term ‘broken off’ is that used of the removing of barren twigs.
And thou, emphatic and addressed to the individual Gentile believer, being, although thou art, a wild olive, i.e., a branch of the wild olive tree, since the word here used may be regarded as an adjective. The reference to the ‘tree’ is objectionable, for the Gentiles are addressed not as a whole, but as individuals.
Wast grafted in among them, or, ‘n their place.’ Either view is grammatically admissible, but the former is preferable, especially because of the word ‘fellow partaker’ which follows, and because, ‘them’ points to ‘the branches,’ referring to the Jews in general. It is quite improbable that Paul alludes to the custom of renewing the fertility of olive trees by grafting upon them shoots of the wild olive. There is no evidence that he knew of this custom; nor is the illustration furthered by the thought thus suggested. The Gentile scion was to receive, not to impart, fertility. Moreover Romans 11:24 shows that the Apostle conceives of the matter as taking place through grace and contrary to nature.
And became fellow partaker, i.e., in common with the natural branches, of the root of the fatness of the olive tree. Some of our best manuscripts omit ‘and,’ thus giving the sense as above; but the other reading is also well supported. The former presents the ‘root’ as the source of the ‘fatness,’ the vitality and fertility; the latter indicates that the graft is partaker of both. The ideas are substantially identical. As regards the application: it is historically true that the Roman and Greek civilization, already decaying in Paul’s time, was preserved during the succeeding centuries mainly by the new religious life from the patriarchal root. The unity of the church in both dispensations is plainly asserted, and this overthrows all the assumptions of an antagonism between Paul and the Twelve, in regard to the relative position of the Jewish and Gentile Christians.
Romans 11:18. Boast not against, or, ‘exult not over,’ the branches, i.e., the people of Israel, not the branches which had been broken off. In Romans 11:19 the latter are specifically indicated. The warning has never been without an application to us Gentile Christians.
But if thou boast; the verb is the same as before, and is unusual. We may supply in thought ‘against them.’
Thou bearest not the root, etc. This is the fact which should prevent this disdainful attitude to the Jews. ‘The Gentiles had been brought into fellowship with the patriarchs, not the patriarchs with them. Salvation was from the Jews’ (Hodge).
Romans 11:19. Thou wilt say then; despite the last consideration, ‘although we are borne by the root of the patriarchs, yet natural branches have been taken away, and their place is now ours.’ This has been the presumptuous attitude of too many during all the Christian centuries.
Branches were broken off, etc. The article is omitted by the best authorities; the reference is to ‘some of the branches’ (Romans 11:17).
I is emphatic.
Romans 11:20. Well. Not necessarily ironical; but an admission of both the fact and the purpose of the breaking off of the branches. The Apostle, however, passes immediately to the cause of this state of things, ‘as one which must prevent haughtiness, and inspire fear and anxiety respecting the duration of the state of grace; assigning the reason in Romans 11:21 ’ (Meyer).
By their unbelief. The form is the same as in the other phrase by thy faith; the Greek article in each case being equivalent to the possessive pronoun, though both terms may be used abstractly. ‘Thou’ is emphatic, while standest refers to the position as a branch, rather than to standing as opposed to falling.
Be not highminded: be not haughty. A few older manuscripts give a slightly different form (answering to that in chap. Romans 12:16), which, however must be taken in the same sense.
But fear. ‘Fear is oppposed, not to faith, but to superciliousness and security’ (Bengel). The reason is added in Romans 11:21, with which these clauses should be joined.
Romans 11:21. For if God spared not, as had been the case , the natural (lit, ‘according to nature’) branches, i.e., the Jews who were not ingrafted but original branches of the patriarchal tree, he will also not spare thee. The more ancient authorities omit the word rendered ‘lest’ which made it necessary to supply ‘take heed,’ or, ‘it is to be feared’ (Meyer). Internal grounds may be urged in favor of the longer reading, but the manuscript authority is decisive against it. ‘Spare’ implies such an attitude in the person addressed as merits condemnation, so that nothing need be supplied.
Romans 11:22. Behold therefore. The exhortation of Romans 11:20 (‘Be not high-minded, but fear’) is virtually repeated in Romans 11:22-24, but now as an inference (‘therefore’) from Romans 11:21.
The goodness and severity of God. The former word is rendered ‘kindness’ in Ephesians 2:7 and elsewhere; the latter is the inflexible rigor of justice; both refer to the manifestations of God’s attributes, rather than to the attributes themselves.
On them that fell; the unbelieving Jews, the figure of the branches being dropped for the moment.
Severity. This word is in the nominative, according to the weightier authorities, and we may supply ‘there is.’
But on thee; the preposition is the same as before; ‘toward’ might be used in both cases, but ‘on’ is somewhat closer to the original.
God’s goodness; the nominative is the correct form here also, and the word ‘God’s’ is abundantly supported.
If thou continue, etc. This is the common language of warning to Christians; the passage should not be used for or against the doctrines of perseverance, irresistible grace, etc. Moreover the warning is addressed to the Gentiles as individualized, not to an individual Gentile.
Otherwise, or, ‘seeing that otherwise? the last word being implied, not expressed.
Thou also shalt be out off. The word is a strong one, as if the branch were taken off with a sudden stroke of the axe. The warning is for every one of us Gentile Christians, and the wider application seems more appropriate than ever. Should judgment come on what is termed Christendom for its failure to abide in God’s goodness, the cutting off will be final; no promise remains as in the case of the Jewish nation; see next verse.
Romans 11:23. And they also, i.e., the unbelieving Jews, who are like wild olive branches. The verse should not be joined too closely with Romans 11:22, since it presents a further thought.
Continue; the same word as in Romans 11:22.
Their unbelief; as in Romans 11:20.
For God is able, etc. When unbelief ceases, His power will be manifested. It is implied that even when broken off it is easy for God to graft them in again, as it was to graft in the wild olive branches. The next verse shows that such a result is more to be expected, not that it is easier for God to do this.
Romans 11:24. For introduces the entire verse as a proof of the probability that the Jews will ultimately be grafted in again, not of the statement that God is able to graft them in (against Godet). If God’s power is in question, it is needless to prove that he could more easily do one thing than another.
If thou wast, etc. The fact in the case of the Gentiles is stated under the same figure; contrary to nature suggesting, not the greater difficulty, but the antecedent improbability of the fact, All notions of additional life imparted by the grafts are here shown to be foreign to the Apostle’s thought.
How much more shall these the natural branches (the phrase above rendered ‘by nature’), those who sprang from the original patriarchal root. ‘In the former case, that of the Gentile, the fact of natural growth is set against that of engrafted growth: whereas in the latter, the fact of congruity of nature (“their own olive tree”) is set against incongruity, as making the re-engrafting more probable’ (Alford). The tree is not merely ‘their own’ but it is God’s; He remembers His covenant. What is here shown by a figure to be probable, the Apostle next declares will certainly take place.
Romans 11:25. For I would not, brethren, have yea ignorant. The Apostle thus introduces something important; see marginal references. ‘Brethren’ is addressed to the whole body of Christians, who were, however, mostly Gentiles (see Introd., in the Romans Book Comments). The decisive proof (‘for’) that the Jews shall be grafted in again (Romans 11:23-24) is found in the prophetic announcement now made by the Apostle (Romans 11:25-32).
Of this mystery. On the New Testament use of the word ‘mystery,’ see notes on Ephesians 1:9. It does not have the classical sense, but usually refers to a matter of fact, undiscovered by men themselves, which is made known to them by revelation from God. ‘Thus it frequently denotes with Paul the divine counsel of redemption through Christ, as a whole, or in particular parts of it, because it was veiled from men before God revealed it (Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; Ephesians 3:3-5). Whether the contents of a mystery have already become known through the preaching of the gospel, may be gathered from the scope of the particular passages’ (Meyer). Here the event revealed is future, hence Paul speaks prophetically, assuming that the contents of the mystery were as yet unknown to his readers. He regarded the revealed fact as a very important one, and as standing in intimate relations to the greatest mystery of all: the Personal Christ
Lest ye may be wise in your own conceits; they were in danger of cherishing their own incorrect views in regard to the future of Israel; the Apostle would prevent this by telling them the truth revealed to him. (There is a variation of reading here which does not alter the sense.)
That hardening hath happened (lit., ‘hath become’) in part to Israel. ‘That’ introduces the contents of the mystery (extending to the word ‘saved’ in Romans 11:26). ‘Hardening’ (not ‘blindness,’ comp. Romans 11:7) is preferable to ‘hard-ness,’ since the process rather than the state is indicated. ‘In part’ is to be joined with the verb, not with ‘hardening,’ or ‘Israel.’ The ‘hardening’ has been spoken of in Romans 11:7, but the extent of it is here revealed. This thought would check the pride of the Gentiles.
Until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. This is the second fact revealed, namely, that this hardening (‘in part’) will continue until another event occurs. No other explanation is grammatical; comp. Luke 21:24. Most modern commentators, though differing as to the exact sense of the word ‘fulness,’ agree in referring the phrase, ‘the fulness of the Gentiles.’ to the totality of the Gentiles, not including every individual, but the nations as a whole. It is more than ‘a great multitude,’ denoting rather the great majority. Some refer it to the ‘ complement ’ from the Gentiles to take the place of the rejected Jews, but this seems unnatural. ‘Come in’ points to their entrance among the people of God, conceived of throughout as one.
Romans 11:26. And thus; in this manner and after this event. This is connected with Romans 11:25, and is the third and crowning fact of the ‘mystery.’
All Israel shall be saved. This statement has been narrowed in many ways (see Lange, Romans, p. 370), and on the other hand the obvious sense has been loaded down with notions to which Paul does not allude, here or elsewhere. The view now generally adopted is: that the ancient people of God (so marvellously preserved in their distinctive life, as if in earnest of this) shall be restored, as a nation, to God’s favor. As in Romans 11:25, it is not implied that every individual Jew will be converted; but probably the proportion will be greater than in the case of the Gentiles, since ‘all’ is more definite. We must also place in connection with this statement, the argument of Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15. But respecting the details of this restoration of the Jews as a body little has been revealed. The picture is everywhere drawn, only in broad outline. The attempt to fill it out has always produced a reaction, which has opposed even the obvious literal sense of the clause. Luther, Calvin, and others of the reformers denied the reference to the Jewish nation, mainly on dogmatic grounds. Whether Paul expected this to occur sooner or later does not affect the points revealed; chronological and prophetical nearness are not necessarily identical. The lengthening term of Israel’s unbelief presents cumulative evidence that Israel’s preservation is to the end that ‘all Israel shall be saved.’
As it is written. There has been much discussion as to the passage or passages here cited, since similar expressions are not infrequent in the Old Testament. The simplest explanation is that the Apostle freely cites from Isaiah 59:20-21, appending a clause from Isaiah 27:9 (‘when I shall take away their sins’). The variations are not greater than in many other citations. The view that the Apostle merely gives the general sense of many predictions is very objectionable.
The prophecies are introduced to confirm the last statement: ‘and thus all Israel shall be saved.’ But that prediction is made by the Apostle himself, who here presents a warrant for it, not its ground (so Tholuck and others).
There shall come out of Zion. The Hebrew reads: ‘And (or, then) shall come for Zion a Redeemer, and for those turning from apostacy in Jacob.’ The LXX. has ‘on account of Zion,’ which the Apostle changes into ‘out of Zion.’ The reason for this change is not obvious, but it seems to express more fully the thought so common in Isaiah, that the Redeemer should spring out of Israel. ‘The Redeemer’ is evidently the Messiah. ‘And,’ which occurs in the LXX., is omitted here by the best authorities. The second clause refers to the work of the Redeemer, which results in the conversion of Israel.
Romans 11:27. And this, i.e., what follows, is my covenant (the covenant from me) unto them. From the same passage in Isaiah, but the second clause is from Isaiah 27:9.
When I shall take away their sins. Meyer rightly explains the verse thus: ‘And when I shall have forgiven their sins, this (this remission of sins conferred by me) will be my covenant to them ( i.e., they will therein have from me the execution of my covenant).’ This reference to the taking away of sin was more appropriate to the Apostle’s purpose than the promise of the Spirit which follows in Isaiah 59:21.
Romans 11:28. This verse sums up the previous discussion.
As touching the gospel. The two clauses correspond; ‘as touching’ is more literally ‘according to,’ i.e., according to the relation of the gospel to believers and unbelievers, offering salvation to them who believe, and proving those who reject it as under the Divine wrath, they (the unbelieving Jews, at that time including the mass of the nation) are enemies. Not his enemies, nor yet enemies of the gospel, but the objects of God’s wrath; comp. chap. Romans 5:10.
For your sakes; as explained in the previous discussion, see Romans 11:11.
But as touching the election. As regards the fact that Israel was the chosen nation. This is simpler than to take ‘the election’ as referring to the elect remnant among them, or, to the whole elect church. The former view fails to establish the very point of the contrast, and the latter improperly introduces the Gentiles.
Beloved, i.e., of God, for the fathers’ sakes. This is another statement of what has been indicated throughout; ‘they are still regarded with peculiar favor, because descended from those patriarchs to whom and to whose seed the promises were made’ (Hodge).
Romans 11:29. For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance; not subject to recall. The adjective rendered ‘without repentance’ occurs elsewhere in the New Testament, only in 2 Corinthians 7:10. This general principle of God’s dealings is the basis of the latter half of Romans 11:28. The fact that God had once bestowed His gifts upon Israel, and called them to become His people, proves, on this principle, that they are still beloved for the sake of their fathers. The principle is universal, but here the application is national, hence both ‘gifts’ and ‘calling’ are not to be limited to spiritual gifts to individuals, and to effectual calling, or to election. Still less should the former be referred to the Jews, and the latter to the Gentiles. The Jewish nation had special endowments from God, chief among these, or rather the cause of all these, was the calling of the nation as the theocratic people to whom the Messiah was promised. All was in accordance with God’s covenant, hence the irrevocableness. In what way this spiritual restoration of the Jews will affect their national life is not stated. God’s faithfulness to His covenant is the truth of most practical value.
Romans 11:30. For introduces statements (Romans 11:30-32) showing how the course of God’s dealings as a whole, to Gentiles and Jews, will establish the principle there announced.
Ye, Gentiles, were once disobedient to God. That this disobedience was the result of unbelief has been clearly established by the Apostle (chap. Romans 1:18, etc.), but ‘have not believed’ is not the sense of the original. ‘Once’ points, as usual, to the time before conversion.
Now, since they became Christians; comp. Ephesians 2:8.
Obtained mercy; all their blessings as Christians are summed up as the result of the mercy of Him to whom they had been disobedient.
By the disobedience of these, i.e., the unbelieving Jews. Their ‘unbelief’ is however characterized here as ‘disobedience.’ How their disobedience became the occasion of the Gentiles obtaining mercy has already been shown.
Romans 11:31. So also; the cases are parallel.
Have these (Jews) now, since the gospel of Christ was preached, been disobedient; lit., ‘were disobedient,’ as in Romans 11:30, but ‘now’ compels us to render ‘have been disobedient.’
That, in order that, by the mercy shown to you (lit. ‘your mercy;’ in emphatic position in the original) they also may now obtain mercy. The leading thought of the section (Romans 11:11) is here repeated, in the final summing up. This view is so natural and accords so entirely with the parallelism as to forbid the explanations of the Vulgate, Luther, and others; ‘they have not believed in the mercy shown to you,’ or, ‘were disobedient through the mercy shown to you.’
Romans 11:32. For. This introduces another general principle of God’s dealings. It serves to establish Romans 11:30-31, especially the latter, which is but a restatement of the entire discussion since Romans 11:11. ‘Thus Romans 11:32 is at once the grand summary and the glorious key-stone impelling once more to the praise of God (Romans 11:33 ff.) of the whole preceding section of the Epistle’ (Meyer), i.e., of chaps. 9-11
God shut up all; not, ‘hath concluded them all.’ The verb means ‘to shut up’ as in a prison (not necessarily ‘shut up together’); ‘hath’ is unnecessary, and ‘them’ is improperly supplied, as if the Jews only were meant. ‘All’ refers, however, to persons; comp. Galatians 3:22, where ‘all things ’ occurs.
Unto disobedience; comp. Romans 11:30-31. This shutting up of all unto disobedience is an effective, not simply a declarative or permissive, activity of God. In the development and punishment of sin not in its origin
He orders all things so that this result occurs with the further purpose, that he might have mercy upon all. This gracious design has already been indicated in Romans 11:30-31. ‘All’ here refers to persons, and is to be interpreted in the light of other passages, particularly Galatians 3:22. To ex plain it as meaning ‘all nations’ is to weaken it; to limit it to the ‘elect’ is contrary to the parallel, and to the fact that the showing of mercy here on the earth seems to be indicated (so Godet). To refer it to the ultimate salvation of all individuals without exception, is contrary to Galatians 3:22 (where ‘all’ is qualified by ‘them that believe’), to many other passages, and introduces a mechanical and fatalistic theory of Divine operations. The verse, however, sheds light on the profound mystery of sin. It will be overruled through the more profound and exalted plan for general blessing. The universality of sin is overborne by the universality of Divine grace; comp. chap. Romans 5:12 ff.; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. Here this universality is presented mainly with reference to the proffering of mercy, not its efficiency. God makes to every one (how we may not always perceive) this proffer, but it is nowhere stated that all men are actually redeemed. Belief and unbelief are antithetical, and only through the former is grace accepted. Redemption is not a matter of force, but of freedom; of freedom on God’s part as well as man’s. And the Apostle by the doxology which follows teaches us to leave what we cannot understand in this matter to the wisdom of this Free Being. We have learned Paul’s meaning only when we can join in this ascription of praise.
Romans 11:33. O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God. With Chrysostom and most modern commentators, we prefer this view of the passage to that followed in the E. V. Either is grammatical, but the former is not only more natural, but agrees better with what follows. ‘The depth of the riches’ may refer to the fullness of God’s grace, as shown in the preceding discussion, or be taken in a wider sense, as if to say: ‘How superabundantly rich is God!’ (Meyer). The depth of God’s ‘wisdom’ is in his wise ordering of all the means for his own gracious ends; the depth of His ‘knowledge,’ in His all inclusive fore-knowledge of ends and means. These constitute an ocean, the depths of which we should ever explore, but can never fathom. In these three words Origen found an allusion to the Trinity (as in Romans 11:36), but however applicable the terms might be to the attributes of Jehovah manifested by the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, it is not proper to assert that the Apostle intended to make any such distinction in this verse.
How unsearchable, etc. The discrimination between ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ seems to be implied here; judgments are the decisions (not exclusively judicial) of God’s wisdom, according to which He acts; these are ‘unsearchable.’
His ways, the general modes of procedure, in accordance with His infinite knowledge, are ‘untraceable;’ the adjective, from the word meaning ‘foot-print,’ is aptly used with ‘ways.’ Precisely because this is true, God is an inexhaustible object for our minds as well as our hearts.
Romans 11:34. For who, etc. The Apostle here uses, almost exactly the language of Isaiah 40:13; but, by adding ‘for,’ he makes it the confirmation of what precedes. The first question may be referred to God’s ‘knowledge’ and ‘His ways,’ since no one hath known the mind of the Lord; the second to His ‘wisdom,’ and ‘judgments,’ since in forming His decision no one hath been His counsellor.
Romans 11:35. Or who hath first given, etc. This is from Job 41:11, but follows the Hebrew, not the mistranslation of the LXX. This question refers to the depth of God’s riches. No gift can recompense God; nothing can be purchased of Him. How appropriate to the entire discussion. The gospel is all of grace; the plan respecting Jews and Gentiles is all of grace. Nothing of merit or recompense; all freely bestowed out of the ocean depths of riches in God Himself.
Romans 11:36. For. What was negatively expressed in Romans 11:35, is now positively stated in language which is as simple as it is sublime.
Of him, as the original Source, Author, Creator; and through him, as our Preserver and Governor and Bountiful Benefactor, as superior to nature which He created, controlling and directing it, and that for His own ends, since the Apostle adds: and unto him are all things. All things (not simply all persons) will carry out His will, will contribute to His glory. Human thought can rise no higher than this. Attempts have been made to refer the three phrases respectively to the three Persons of the Trinity, but the second and third prepositions do not seem distinctively applicable to the Son and the Holy Spirit. Nor does the train of thought demand such an explanation.
To him be the glory forever (Gr., ‘unto the ages’). Amen. The glory befitting such a God is here ascribed to Him; ‘unto the ages ‘is, as usual, equivalent to ‘forever;’ and the doxology properly closes with the solemn ‘Amen;’ comp. chaps. Romans 1:25; Romans 9:5.
This doxology is ‘the sublimest apostrophe existing even in the pages of Inspiration itself’ (Alford). Yet how logical its arrangement, how apt its argument. It forms a conclusion to the section, and not less appropriately to the whole discussion in chaps. 9-11, in fact, to the whole doctrinal part of the Epistle. The greatest treatise on God’s dealings with men ends not only with praise to Him, but with a confession of His sovereignty. This which so exalts God does indeed humble us. But it is through this humility that we too are exalted. The gospel of grace would be no real gospel were it not the message of the sovereign God whom the Apostle thus adores. He only has practically solved the mystery of God’s sovereignty and our free will who can join in this doxology. It is our privilege, in regard to the great mysteries of humanity as well as in the personal perplexities which meet us, it is our privilege to trust and praise God, when we can no longer trace His purposes. As Godet well remarks, ‘in chap. 11 are traced the grand outlines of the philosophy of History,’ but Paul’s philosophy of history ends in this conception of God, which is as essential for our every day needs as for the solution of the problem of man’s origin, history, and destiny. Rightly then the Apostolic ‘therefore’ the practical inference, is at once added. Unless Paul’s theism is acknowledged, and his praise repeated, his ethics are powerless.
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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 11". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29