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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Romans 11

 

 

Verses 1-3

Romans 11:1-3. I say then, &c. — As if he had said, We have just seen how the perverseness of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles have been foretold; but do I say then that God hath entirely cast off his whole people, so as to have mercy on none of them? God forbid — In no wise; for I should then pronounce a sentence of reprobation upon myself; for I also am an Israelite — As it is well known; of the seed of Abraham, &c. — To whom, through the tribe of Benjamin, I can trace my genealogy; yet I am not cast off; I am still one of God’s people, by believing in Christ. God hath not cast off that part of his people whom he foreknew, as repenting and believing. The apostle speaks after the manner of men. For in fact, knowing and foreknowing are the same thing with God, who knows or sees all things at once, from everlasting to everlasting. Wot ye not — Know ye not, that in a parallel case, amid a general apostacy, when Elijah thought the whole nation was fallen into idolatry, God knew there was a remnant of true worshippers. How he maketh intercession — Or complaineth, as the verb ενυγχανει, here used, evidently signifies, Acts 25:24, where Festus says, The Jews, ενετυχον μοι, complained to me concerning Paul; against Israel — The ten tribes, who had generally revolted to idolatry; saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets — See note on 1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:14; and digged down thine altars — Built upon extraordinary occasions by special dispensation, and with the authority of the Lord’s prophets; altars which pious people attended who could not go up to Jerusalem, and would not worship the calves, nor Baal; these separate altars, though breaking in upon the unity of the church, yet being erected and attended by those that sincerely aimed at the glory of God, and served him faithfully, God was pleased to own for his altars, as well as that at Jerusalem; and the pulling of them down is mentioned and charged upon Israel by Elijah as a heinous sin. And I am left alone — Of all thy prophets who boldly and publicly plead thy cause; and they seek my life — Send murderers in pursuit of me from place to place.


Verses 4-6

Romans 11:4-6. But what saith the answer — Recollect the answer which God gave to this doleful complaint; I have reserved to myself — To maintain my honour and true worship, I have preserved by my providence and grace not fewer than seven thousand; who have not bowed the knee to Baal — Nor to the golden calves, nor complied with any of those idolatrous rites which have been established by iniquitous laws. Even so at this present time — As it was then, so it is now; bad as this generation of Israelites is, there is a remnant who continue faithful to God; according to the election of grace — According to that gracious purpose of God, whereby he hath chosen those, whether Jews or Gentiles, for his people, that break off their sins by repentance, and believe on Jesus, as the true Messiah and Saviour of the world, with their hearts unto righteousness. Among those who thus repented and believed, in the first age of Christianity, were many thousands of Jews. Of the election here spoken of, see notes on Romans 8:28-30. And if by grace, then it is no more of works — That is, of the merit of works, whether ceremonial or moral; whether of the Mosaic or any other law, except that of faith. In other words, it is no more an election according to any covenant of justice, like that made with our first parents before the fall, which required unsinning obedience, but according to the covenant of grace, made with man since the fall, which makes provision for pardoning his past sins, and renewing his fallen nature, and by which alone a sinful creature can be saved: otherwise grace is no more grace — The very nature of grace is lost. But if it be of the merit of works, then it is no more grace, otherwise work is no more work — No longer deserving the name, or is no longer meritorious, but the very nature of it is destroyed. There is something so absolutely inconsistent between the being justified by grace, and the being justified by the merit of works, that if you suppose either, you of necessity exclude the other. For what is given to works is the payment of a debt; whereas grace implies an unmerited favour. So that the same benefit cannot, in the very nature of things, be derived from both.


Verses 7-10

Romans 11:7-10. What then — What is the conclusion from the whole? It is this, that Israel, in general, hath not obtained that which he seeketh — Namely, justification, acceptance with God, and the blessings consequent thereon. But the election — Those of them only who repent and believe, and therefore are chosen of God to be his people; have obtained it, and the rest were blinded — By their own wilful prejudice, arising from their worldly spirit, which caused them to reject Jesus on account of his poverty, mean appearance, and state of suffering. The word επωρωθησαν, here rendered, were blinded, signifies properly, were hardened, being a metaphorical expression taken from the skin of the hand, made hard by labour. In general it denotes, in Scripture, both hardness of heart, and blindness of understanding. “The apostle’s meaning is, that the unbelieving Jews, through the influence of their own evil dispositions, were so blinded, that they did not discern the force of the evidence by which God confirmed the mission of his Son, and so were excluded from his covenant and church.” — Macknight. According as it is written — Here the apostle refers to two passages of Isaiah, chap. Isaiah 29:10; Romans 6:9, &c. God hath given them the spirit of slumber — Or deep sleep, as the word κατανυξεως signifies, being used with an allusion to the stupifying potions which were sometimes given to persons who were to suffer torture or death, to render them insensible. The meaning here is, God hath at length withdrawn his Spirit, and for their wilful impenitence, unbelief, and obstinacy, hath given them up to a state of blindness and insensibility, whereby they slumber, as it were, on the brink of ruin, and are careless about their salvation; while the wrath of God hangs over theft heads, and the divine judgments are ready to break forth upon them, in a most awful manner. Eyes that they should not see — Here the apostle alludes to Deuteronomy 29:4, where see the note. As if the apostle had said, Being forsaken of God, they are like to a man bereft of his senses: or he has given them up to such stupidity of mind, that though they have eyes yet they see not. Unto this day — So it was then, and so it is still. And — To show the causes and consequences of that spiritual blindness; David saith — Speaking prophetically of the Messiah’s enemies; Let their table be made a snare — Or, as the words may be rendered, Their table shall be for a snare to them, &c. That is, the plentiful provision God has made for the supply of their wants, ghostly or bodily, being abused, shall become an occasion of sin and mischief to them; and their blessings shall be turned into curses, by reason of their depravity. The metaphors of a snare and a trap are taken from birds and beasts, which are allured into snares and traps to their destruction, by meat laid in their way. Stumbling-blocks occasion falls, which sometimes wound to death. And a recompense — A punishment as a recompense of their preceding wickedness. Thus sin is punished by sin; and thus the gospel, which should have fed and strengthened their souls, becomes a means of destroying them. Let their eyes, &c. — As if he had said, And in them the following words are also fulfilled: Their eyes shall be darkened — Not the eyes of their bodies, (for in that sense the prediction was neither fulfilled in David’s nor in Christ’s enemies,) but of their minds, so that they will not discern God’s truth nor their own duty, nor the way of peace and salvation. And bow down their back alway — Under a perpetual weight of sorrows, which they will not be able to support, and which will be a just punishment upon them for their having rejected so easy a yoke. The darkening of the eyes, and the bowing down of the back, denote the greatest affliction. For grief is said to make the eyes dim, Lamentations 5:17; and a most miserable slavery is represented by walking with the back bowed down, as under a yoke or heavy burden, Psalms 146:8. They loved darkness rather than light, and therefore were permitted by the righteous judgment of God to go on in darkness, while the blind led the blind. And such still continues to be the state of the Jews, notwithstanding the intolerable load of wo which in all ages, since their rejection of the Messiah, has bowed down their backs to the earth. By quoting these prophecies, the apostle showed the Jews that their rejection and punishment for crucifying the Messiah, was long ago foretold in their own Scriptures. It is justly observed by Macknight here, that “God’s ancient Israel, given up to deep sleep, to blind eyes, and deaf ears, and with the back bowed down continually, is an example which ought to terrify all who enjoy the gospel, lest by abusing it they bring themselves into the like miserable condition.”


Verse 11-12

Romans 11:11-12. Have they stumbled that, as a nation, they should fall — Totally and finally? No: though they have taken such offence at Christ and the gospel that they are rejected by God at present, yet they are not fallen into irrecoverable ruin, so as never more to be owned by God as his people: but rather, through their fall, salvation, that is, the gospel, which is the means of salvation, is come unto the Gentiles — Not but that salvation might have come to the Gentiles if they had stood, but it was the divine appointment that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, upon its being rejected by the Jews. Thus in the parable, Matthew 22:8-9, they that were bidden were not worthy; Go ye therefore into the highways, &c. See also Luke 14:21; and so the apostles acted. It was necessary, said St. Paul, Acts 13:46, that the word of God should first be spoken to you, Jews: but seeing that you put it from you, lo! we turn to the Gentiles. See also Acts 18:6. Add to this, that the persecution of the Christians in Judea drove them into other countries, into which, whether private Christians or public teachers, they carried the gospel with them, and by conversation or preaching, communicated the knowledge of it to such as they found willing to receive it. See Acts 8:4. To provoke them to jealousy — That is, to excite them to a holy emulation of sharing the blessings to be expected from their own Messiah, when they shall see so many heathen nations enjoying them. For the word παραζηλοω is evidently to be taken here in a good sense, and signifies, to excite others to emulate those who enjoy advantages which they themselves do not possess. “The admission of the Gentiles into the church erected by Christ, was a very proper means of exciting the Jews to emulation; because, when they saw the Gentiles endued with the gifts of the Spirit, and with miraculous powers, and observed the holiness of their lives, and the favour which God showed them; in short, when they found all the blessings and privileges of the people of God bestowed on the Gentiles, they would naturally conclude that the Christian was now the only church of God, and be excited to imitate the Gentiles by entering into it, that they might share with them in these privileges, Romans 11:14; as it is probable a number of them actually did, especially after the destruction of Jerusalem.” — Macknight. Thus, as the rejection of the Jews became an occasion of the calling of the Gentiles, so this calling of the Gentiles will prove an occasion of the restoration of the Jews. For, if the fall of them — That is, their rejecting the gospel, and so falling from the honour and happiness of being God’s people, be the riches of the world — The occasion of God’s spreading the light of his truth and the riches of his grace over all the world. And the diminishing of them — Greek, το ηττημα, the diminution or the lessening of them, by stripping them of their privileges; the riches of the Gentiles — The occasion of his manifesting his abundant mercy in pardoning and saving the heathen; how much more their fulness — That Isaiah , 1 st, The general conversion of them, which the word πληρωμα, here rendered fulness, undoubtedly implies; since the general conversion of the Gentiles is expressed by the same word, Romans 11:25. 2d, The restoring them to their forfeited privileges, and thereby raising them even to more than their former greatness, which is fifty called their fulness, because it will render both themselves and the Christian church complete. For the word πληρωμα, fulness, is properly that which, being added to another thing, makes it complete. Thus Matthew 9:16, the patch with which a torn garment is mended, or made complete, has this name given it: and in this sense the church is called, Ephesians 1:23, το πληρωμα, the fulness of him who filleth all in all; because without the church, which is his body, Christ would not be complete. “The apostle’s meaning is, that a general conversion of the Jews will take place before the end of the world, and will afford to the Gentiles the completest evidence of the truth of the gospel, by showing them that it is the finishing of a grand scheme, which God has been carrying on for the salvation of mankind, by means of his dispensation toward the Jews.” Indeed so many prophecies refer to this grand event, that it is surprising any Christian should doubt of it. And these are greatly confirmed by the wonderful preservation of the Jews, as a distinct people, to this day. When it is accomplished, it will be so strong a demonstration both of the Old and New Testament revelation, as will doubtless convince many thousands of Deists, in countries professedly Christian; of whom, under such corrupt establishments as generally prevail, there will, of course, be increasing multitudes among merely nominal Christians. And this will be a means of swiftly propagating the gospel among Mohammedans and Pagans; who would probably have received it long ago, had they conversed only with real Christians.


Verse 13-14

Romans 11:13-14. For, or now, I speak to you Gentiles — You believing Romans, and thus make known to you the present rejection of the Jews, and the happiness of the Gentiles in their future restoration, for your caution as well as comfort; inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles — By a special designation of divine providence and grace, and am accordingly under an indispensable obligation to communicate to them whatever will be for their profit; I magnify my office — Far from being ashamed of ministering to them, I glory therein, and esteem it the most signal honour of my life to be so employed. And the rather, if by any means — Especially by converting the Gentiles; I may provoke to emulation — To a striving to partake of the privileges of the gospel, as well as the Gentiles; them which are my flesh — My kinsmen; and might save some of them — Might bring them to believe in Jesus, and so to be saved. Here, by a most popular and affectionate turn, the apostle represents himself as zealous in converting the Gentiles, from his great love to the Jews.


Verse 15

Romans 11:15. For — As if he had said, Their general conversion ought to be desired, because of the admirable benefit which will come to mankind thereby: for if the casting away of them — Their rejection, as signified above; be the reconciling of the world — An occasion of sending the gospel to the Gentiles in all parts of the world, and so bringing them to faith in Christ, whereby they obtain the pardon of their sins, and reconciliation with God; what shall the receiving of them into God’s favour and into his church be, but life from the dead — A miraculous work, and productive of the greatest joy to the converted Gentiles; a joy like that which one would feel on receiving a beloved friend back from the dead. As, in the following verse, the apostle speaks of God’s church under the emblem of a tree, Dr. Macknight thinks, in using the words η αποβολη, the casting away, “he may perhaps allude to the practice of gardeners, who cut off from vines and olive-trees such branches as are barren or withered, and cast them away. According to this notion of casting away, the reconciling of the world, or Gentiles, is the same thing with the ingrafting of them, mentioned Romans 11:17. In this passage the unbelief and rejection of the Jews is justly represented as the means of the reception of the Gentiles. For, although the unbelief of the Jews may seem to have been an obstacle to the conversion of the Gentiles, it hath greatly contributed to that event. Besides the reason mentioned in a preceding note, it is to be considered, that the rejection of the Jews was the punishment of their unbelief, and that both events were foretold by Moses and by Christ. Wherefore these events, as the fulfilment of prophecy, have strengthened the evidences of the gospel, and thereby contributed to the conversion of the Gentiles.” Add to this, there are many other predictions in the Old Testament, which demonstrate the truth of the gospel, but which derive their strength from their being in the possession of the Jews, in whose hands they have continued from the beginning, and who have preserved them with the greatest care, carrying them with them in all their dispersions, wherever they go. In all countries, therefore, the Jews are living witnesses to the antiquity and genuineness of the whole of the prophecies by which the gospel is confirmed. And their testimony, which is always at hand, cannot be called in question; because, having shown themselves from the beginning bitter enemies of Christ and of his gospel, no suspicion can be entertained that they have either forged these prophecies, or altered them to favour us. As little can it be suspected that we have forged or altered these prophecies. For if any of us had been disposed so to do, it would have served no purpose while our enemies, the Jews, maintained the integrity of their copies.


Verse 16-17

Romans 11:16-17. And their conversion will surely be effected, For if the first- fruit of them, the patriarchs, be holy — He alludes to the waved sheaf, which was said to be holy, because it was accepted of God, in token of his giving the appointed weeks of the harvest: and by the first-fruit, he either means the patriarchs, who were called and separated to the service of God from all the people of the earth; or, as many commentators understand him, the first converts to Christianity from among the Jews, teaching that they were most acceptable to God, as being the first members of the newly- erected Christian church. The lump is also holy — The lump, φυραμα, (which was the meal tempered with water, and kneaded for baking,) here denotes the mass of which the two wave-loaves were made, mentioned Leviticus 23:17. And as these were offered at the conclusion of the harvest, seven weeks after the offering of the first-fruits, they represented the whole fruits of the earth newly gathered in, as sanctified through that offering for the people’s use, during the following year. By this latter similitude, therefore, the apostle intends the whole mass, or body of the nation, to be hereafter converted, and rendered acceptable to God, as members of his true church. And if the root of them, namely, Abraham, was holy and beloved of God, so are the branches still beloved for the father’s sake, and so will be once more, in his good time, admitted to his favour. There seems here to be an allusion to Jeremiah 2:16, where the Jewish nation, made the visible church of God by virtue of the covenant at Sinai, are represented under the figure of a green olive-tree, of which Abraham was the root, and his descendants by Isaac the branches. Hence the thrusting the Jews out of the covenant of God, is here represented by the breaking off of the branches; and the admission of the Gentiles into that covenant, so as to make them members of God’s church, is set forth under the idea of their being ingrafted into the stock of the green olive-tree; and the advantages which they enjoyed thereby, are expressed by their partaking of the root and fatness of the olive-tree. The expression, a wild olive-tree, means here, a branch of a wild olive-tree, for branches only are ingrafted. The Gentiles are called a wild olive, because God had not cultivated them as he did the Jews, who on that account were called, Romans 11:24, the good or garden olive.


Verse 18

Romans 11:18. Boast not against the branches — Attribute not thy being ingrafted into the good olive to thy own merits, as if thou wert worthy of the blessing. But if thou boast — To humble thy pride, consider, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee — The Jewish church is not ingrafted into the Gentile, but the Gentile into the Jewish; the members thereof being by faith made children of Abraham, who was constituted by God’s covenant the father of all believers, receiving on their behalf the promises. The apostle’s meaning is, that Abraham and his posterity derived no advantage from any covenant which God made with any of the Gentile nations: but the Gentiles have derived many benefits from the covenants which God made with Abraham and the Jews. “Because the converted Gentiles began very early to despise and hate the unbelieving Jews, on account of their opposition to the gospel, and because the apostle foresaw that in after-times the Jews would be treated with great cruelty and contempt by Christians of all denominations, he wrote this passage; in which, by mentioning the great obligations which the Gentiles are under to the Jews, he shows it to be injustice, ingratitude, and impiety, to despise and hate this people; and much more to plunder, persecute, and kill them. They were the original church and people of God. They preserved the knowledge of God when all the world was sunk in idolatry. To them we owe the Scriptures of the New Testament, as well as those of the Old; for the holy and honourable fellowship of the prophets and apostles were Jews. Of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ, the Saviour of the world, came. All the knowledge of religion, therefore, which we enjoy, is derived from them. And surely something of kindness and gratitude is due for such obligations.” — Macknight.


Verses 19-21

Romans 11:19-21. Thou wilt say — Thou wilt object; The branches were broken off — For their infidelity and rejection of Jesus and his gospel; that I might be graffed in — And therefore we may glory over them as they once did over us. Well; take this thought at least along with thee, Because of unbelief they were broken off — It was not undeservedly, by an act of absolute sovereignty and prerogative, but because of unbelief: by which it appears, it is possible for whole churches, as well as individuals, that have long stood by faith, to fall into such a state of infidelity as may prove their ruin. Now thou art liable to the same infirmity and corruption that they fell by. For thou standest — Hast a place in God’s favour and family; by faith — A grace which, in the very nature of it, implies dependance on God, and is itself the free, undeserved gift of God. Thou dost not stand in or by any strength of thy own, of which thou mightest be confident: thou art only what the free grace of God makes thee; and his grace is his own, which he gives or withholds at pleasure. Therefore be not high-minded, but fear — Be not too confident of thy own strength. A holy fear is an excellent preservative against high-mindedness; happy is the man that thus feareth always. We need not fear lest God should not be true to his word; all the danger is, lest we should be false to our own: let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left, to persevering believers, of entering into his rest, we should come short of it, through not continuing in the faith, grounded and settled; but being moved therefrom, and from the hope of the gospel, Colossians 1:23. If God spared not the natural branches — Of the good olive-tree, namely, the Jews, so called because they sprang from Abraham, the root of that tree, and consequently by their descent from him were naturally members of the Jewish Church; if God proceeded with so much severity against them, take heed lest he spare not thee — Or, as the Syriac translates the clause, perhaps neither will he spare thee. They, observe, were natural branches, and as such had a peculiar interest in Abraham’s covenant, and in the promises, being descended from his loins; and yet, when they sunk into unbelief, neither prescription, nor long usage, nor the faithfulness of their ancestors, could secure them, but God cast them off. Take heed, therefore, lest thy unbelief and barrenness expose thee, who art not a natural branch, but a scion from a foreign stock, to the punishment of excision, after all the great obligations which he hath laid thee under by his unparalleled goodness.


Verse 22-23

Romans 11:22-23. Behold, therefore — In this dispensation; the goodness and severity of God — Consider them maturely, and lay them deeply to heart: on them which fell — The unbelieving Jews, who took offence at the mean appearance of Jesus, and so fell into unbelief, and were cut off for it; severity — Or the exercise of strict justice; for God laid righteousness to the line, and judgment to the plummet, and dealt with them according to their sins, after many ages of astonishing patience and long-suffering exercised toward them. Observe, reader, God is most severe toward those who have been most distinguished by advantages on the one hand, and the abuse of them on the other. Divine patience, and privileges abused, turn to the greatest wrath. The word αποτομια, here rendered severity, literally means, a cutting off; the effect being put for severity, the cause. But toward thee — Who art called to faith in Christ, without any merit in thyself; goodness — Benignity and gentleness, as χρηστοτης signifies; if thou continue in his goodness — That is, walk worthy of this privilege, into which thou art brought by God’s goodness: or, if thou be careful to maintain thine interest in God’s favour by continuing to depend upon, and comply with the design of his free grace, and endeavouring to please him continually: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off — From communion with God and his people. And they also — The Jewish nation; if they abide not in unbelief — And thereby continue to reject Christ; shall be grafted in — Restored to union with Christ and his church; for God is able to graft them in again — And willing also, as the word δυνατος is frequently taken: (see Romans 4:21; Romans 14:4; Hebrews 2:18 :) for it was to no purpose to mention God’s ability to graft in the Jews, unless it had been accompanied with willingness. Locke says, “This grafting in again seems to import, that the Jews shall be a flourishing nation again, professing Christianity in the land of promise; for that is to be reinstated again in the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This Paul might, for good reasons, be withheld from speaking out here. But in the prophets there are very plain intimations of it.”


Verse 24

Romans 11:24. For, &c. — As if he had said, And it appears that he will do it, because he has done that which was more unlikely, as being contrary to nature: if thou wert cut out of the tree wild by nature, &c. — If thou wert admitted into the family of God, though descended from parents that were strangers and enemies, how much more shall they who were children of the covenant, to whom the promises originally belonged, be taken into covenant with him. In other words, God will not seem to do so wonderful a thing, in restoring them to what might appear the privilege of their birthright, and in saving the seed of Abraham his friend, as he hath done in calling you sinners of the Gentiles, to participate the blessings of which you had not the least notion, and to which you cannot be supposed to have had any imaginable claim. This reasoning is certainly very just; the conversion of the Jews, though it hath not yet happened, appearing much more probable than did the conversion of the Gentiles, before that event took place. Some understand the expression, grafted contrary to nature, as signifying contrary to the usual way of ingrafting; which is, not to insert a wild scion into a good stock, but a good scion into a wild stock, to which it communicates its changing efficacy, causing it to bear good fruit. But that circumstance appears not to have been at all regarded by the apostle; nor was it necessary, as Doddridge justly observes, that the simile taken from ingrafting should hold in all its particulars: and certainly the engagement to humility arises, in a considerable degree, from the circumstances of the ingrafting here supposed being the reverse of that commonly used. Indeed, had the scion been nobler than the stock into which it was inserted, its dependance on it for life and nourishment would have rendered it unreasonable that it should boast against it; how much more when the case was the reverse of that in use, and the wild olive was ingrafted on the good.


Verses 25-27

Romans 11:25-27. For, &c. — And this I now declare, because I would not have you ignorant of this mystery — Of the mysterious dispensation under consideration, which, on the first view of it, may appear very unaccountable; lest you should be wise in your own conceits — Should have too high an opinion of yourselves, on account of your being made the people of God in place of the Jews. The apostle calls the rejection of the Jews for a time, and their restoration after the conversion of the Gentiles is completed, a mystery; because it was a matter of the greatest importance to mankind, and because it had hitherto been kept a secret, like the doctrine of the mysteries among the Greeks, which was discovered to none but the initiated. See on Ephesians 1:9. That blindness in part — That is, as to the greatest part of them, a remnant only being now brought to the faith; is happened to Israel — For a certain time, for Israel is neither totally nor finally rejected; until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in — Here the Christian Church is represented as a great temple, erected for all nations to worship in. And the coming of the Gentiles into this temple, or church, to worship, signifies their conversion to Christianity; a conversion which has hitherto only taken place in a small degree. For, as Whitby observes, (Appen. to Romans xi,) “If the known regions of the world be divided into thirty parts, the Christian part is only as five, the Mohammedan as six, and the idolatrous as nineteen.” And, alas! of the part said to be Christian, how few are Scriptural Christians, possessed of the Spirit of Christ, without which we are none of his! And so all Israel shall be saved — Shall be brought to believe in Jesus as the true Messiah, and so shall be put into the way of obtaining salvation, being convinced of the truth by the coming in of the Gentiles. As it is written, Isaiah 59:20, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer — Being the son of David, he is said, by the apostle, to come out of Sion, the city of David, and the seat of his kingdom, rather than ενεκεν σιων, for the sake of Sion, the words used by the LXX.; whose translation of this passage, in other respects, the apostle adopts. It differs, however, in some degree, from the Hebrew original, both in this and the next clause; for that is, the Redeemer shall come to Sion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, which, no doubt, was the exact sense of the prophet’s words. But since the coming of Christ as a deliverer to the Jews was all that the apostle’s argument required, he quotes the passage merely to prove that point, and does not notice the variation of the Greek translation from the original Hebrew. It being certain, however, that the general tenor of God’s covenant with Israel gave no hope of their deliverance and restoration, after rejection and chastisement, but in a way of repentance and reformation, the apostle properly observes, that when the deliverer came, he should turn away ungodliness from Jacob — Which, as it was not done by Christ at his first coming, will doubtless be accomplished in some future period by an extraordinary display of his mercy and grace. For this is my covenant unto — Or rather with them, when I shall take away their sins — That is, when their sins, as a nation, are remitted, it shall be to bring them again into covenant with myself.


Verse 28-29

Romans 11:28-29. As concerning the gospel — That is, in reference to the gospel; they are enemies for your sakes — They reject it with the greater hatred, because you embrace it, or rather, (for they generally rejected the gospel before the Gentiles were called,) they reject the gospel, and thereby show that they are enemies to it, to God, and to themselves, which God permits for your sakes, and which turns to your advantage: (see on Romans 11:11; Romans 11:19; Romans 11:30 :) but as touching the election, that part of them who believe, and therefore are chosen of God to be his people along with the believing Gentiles; they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes — God’s gracious regard to the memory of their pious ancestors, engages him peculiarly to love and favour them. Or, the election here spoken of may be that national election, whereby the Jews were made the church and people of God. See on chap, Romans 9:11. In respect of that election, the Jews, though unbelieving, and enemies in respect of the gospel, as is said in the former clause, are still beloved with a love of compassion and goodwill, for the special love God bore to Abraham and the rest of the patriarchs, from whom they are descended: and, in consequence of the promises made to their fathers, they shall, as a people, in some future period, become the people of God, by believing the gospel. It is justly observed by Whitby, that there is a two-fold election of the Jews spoken of in this chapter; one whereby they were made the people of God, through their natural descent from the fathers, and which Moses has described, Deuteronomy 7:6-8. The other, whereby such of them as believed on Christ, were made the people of God under the gospel dispensation. This election is mentioned Romans 11:7. For the gifts and calling of God, &c. — “The blessings which God freely bestowed on Abraham and his seed, and his calling, or making them his people, God will never repent of; but will restore to his natural seed the honour of being his people, after the Redeemer hath turned away their ungodliness of unbelief, Ezekiel 16:60-62.” — Macknight.


Verses 30-32

Romans 11:30-32. For as ye — Believing Gentiles; in times past — Before Christ was preached to you; have not believed God — Did not believe in the living and true God: or rather, as the words ποτε ηπειθησατε τω θεω signify, were once disobedient to God, and were buried in ignorance and superstition; but now have obtained mercy — Namely, to be converted and pardoned; through their unbelief τη τουτων απειθεια, through, or on occasion of, their disobedience. The apostle does not mean that the Gentiles would not have been admitted into the covenant and church of God, by having the gospel preached to them, if the whole Jewish nation had embraced the gospel, the title of the Gentiles to all the blessings of the covenant with Abraham being established by the covenant itself. But his meaning is, as is explained in the note on Romans 11:11. Even so have these

As if he had said, As you obtained mercy after a long time of disobedience, so shall the Jews, who now, since the preaching of the gospel, have not believed, ηπειθησαν, have disobeyed; that through your mercy — The mercy shown to you in the conversion of so many of you, being provoked to emulation, Romans 11:11; they also may obtain mercy — May be brought to believe in Christ, and so partake of mercy. “The disobedience of the Jews consisted in their rejecting the gospel, notwithstanding it was preached to them, as the fulfilment of the prophecies contained in their own sacred records. And by obtaining mercy, is meant the being admitted into the covenant and church of God, which is called mercy, because it proceeded entirely from the mercy of God, Romans 9:15.” For God hath concluded them all in unbelief — Suffered the main body both of the Jews and Gentiles, successively, for some time, to continue under the power of their unbelief, or disobedience rather, that, in his own time, he might fulfil the great counsel of his goodness, in showing undeserved mercy both to Jews and Gentiles. See John 12:32. First, God suffered the Gentiles, in the early ages of the world, to revolt from him, and took the family of Abraham, as a peculiar seed, to himself: afterward he permitted them to fall through unbelief, disobedience, idolatry, and, at last, the rejection of their own Messiah, and took the believing Gentiles for his people. And he did even this to provoke the Jews to emulation, and so bring them also, in the end, to faith in, and obedience to, the gospel. This was truly a mystery in the divine conduct, which the apostle adores with such holy astonishment.


Verses 33-36

Romans 11:33-36. O the depth — The unsearchable, inconceivable abundance; of the riches, &c. — In the ninth chapter, Paul had sailed but in a narrow sea, now he is in the immense ocean: of the wisdom and knowledge of God — The depth of his knowledge is described in the latter part of this verse; the depth of wisdom in Romans 11:34. Wisdom directs all things to the best end; knowledge sees that end, and the way that leads to it. Or, the divine wisdom was exercised in contriving and ordering these dispensations, and knowledge in foreseeing the effects which they would produce. By applying the word depth to the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, the apostle represents those perfections as forming a vast ocean. How unsearchable are his judgments — With regard to unbelievers; and his ways — With regard to believers; are past finding out — Or being traced. The word ανεξιχνιαστοι comes from ιχνιον, which signifies the mark of a foot. The metaphor is taken from animals which pursue and find out their prey by tracing their footsteps. By judgments here, Macknight understands God’s determinations, or “methods of directing and governing all things, both generally and particularly. Agreeably to which interpretation of κριματα, judgments, the apostle adds, and his ways are past finding out. Men are not capable of penetrating into the depths of the divine wisdom, because revelation hath made known only what God hath willed, and said, and done, without disclosing the reasons either of his general or his particular conduct. The knowledge of whatever is above our present childish conceptions is to be sought for, not here, but in the future state.” The apostle, in this part of the conclusion of his discourse, as Locke observes, “had an especial regard to the Jews, whom, in an elegant but inoffensive manner, he rebuked for their presumption in finding fault with the divine dispensations; as if God had done them an injury in admitting the Gentiles into his covenant and church.” For who hath known the mind of the Lord — Before, or any further than he has revealed it; or who hath known what he intends to do, or hath comprehended all the reasons of his determinations or proceedings, so as to be able to judge of them? Or who hath been his counsellor? — Who hath given him advice respecting either the planning or managing of the affairs of the universe? Or, who hath first given to him either wisdom or power, or any thing, or conferred any obligation upon him? Let him show the obligation, and make out the claim, and we may answer for it that it shall be exactly repaid him again. “The apostle here very properly asks the Jews, if God was in their debt for any obligation they had conferred on him? Or, if he was, let them say for what, and they should have an ample remuneration made to them.” For of him — As the Creator; through him — As the Preserver; to him — As the ultimate end, are all things: to whom be η δοξα, the glory, of his power, knowledge, wisdom, and of the effects thereof, the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, and the redemption and salvation of mankind, for ever. Amen — A concluding word, in which the affection of the apostle, when it is come to the height, shuts up all.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 11:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/romans-11.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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