Ro 11:1-36. Same Subject
Continued and Concluded—The
Ultimate Inbringing of All Israel, to Be, with the Gentiles,
One Kingdom of God on the Earth.
1. I say then, Hath—"Did"
God cast away his people? God
forbid—Our Lord did indeed announce that "the kingdom of God
should be taken from Israel" (Mt 21:41); and when asked by the Eleven, after
His resurrection, if He would at that time "restore the kingdom
to Israel," His reply is a virtual admission that Israel was in some
sense already out of covenant (Ac 1:9). Yet here the apostle teaches that, in
two respects, Israel was not "cast away"; First, Not
totally; Second, Not finally. First, Israel is not wholly cast away.
for I also am an Israelite—See Php 3:5, and so a living witness to the
of the seed of Abraham—of pure descent
from the father of the faithful.
of the tribe of Benjamin—(Php 3:5), that tribe which, on the revolt of the
ten tribes, constituted, with Judah, the one faithful kingdom of God
12:21), and after the
captivity was, along with Judah, the kernel of the Jewish nation (Ezr 4:1;
2-4. God hath—"did"
not cast away his people—that is,
which he foreknew—On the word
"foreknew," see on Ro 8:29.
Wot—that is, "Know"
ye not that the scripture saith
of—literally, "in," that is, in the section which relates
Elias? how he maketh
against Israel—(The word "saying,"
which follows, as also the particle "and" before "digged down," should
be omitted, as without manuscript authority).
3. and I am left alone—"I only am
4. seven thousand, that have not bowed the knee to
Baal—not "the image of Baal," according to the supplement of
5. Even so at this present time—"in this
present season"; this period of Israel's rejection. (See Ac 1:7, Greek).
there is—"there obtains," or "hath
a remnant according to the election of
grace—"As in Elijah's time the apostasy of Israel was not so
universal as it seemed to be, and as he in his despondency concluded it
to be, so now, the rejection of Christ by Israel is not so appalling in
extent as one would be apt to think: There is now, as there was then, a
faithful remnant; not however of persons naturally better than the
unbelieving mass, but of persons graciously chosen to salvation." (See
4:7; 2Th 2:13). This
establishes our view of the argument on Election in Ro 9:1-29, as not being an election of Gentiles in
the place of Jews, and merely to religious advantages, but a sovereign
choice of some of Israel itself, from among others, to believe and be
saved. (See on Ro 9:6.)
6. And, &c.—better, "Now if it (the
election) be by grace, it is no more of works; for [then] grace becomes
no more grace: but if it be of works," &c. (The authority of
ancient manuscripts against this latter clause, as superfluous and not
originally in the text, though strong, is not sufficient, we think, to
justify its exclusion. Such seeming redundancies are not unusual with
our apostle). The general position here laid down is of vital
importance: That there are but two possible sources of
salvation—men's works, and God's grace; and that these are so
essentially distinct and opposite, that salvation cannot be of any
combination or mixture of both, but must be wholly either of the one or
of the other. (See on Ro 4:3, Note 3.)
7-10. What then?—How stands the
Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh
for—better, "What Israel is in search of (that is,
Justification, or acceptance with God—see on Ro
9:31); this he found not; but the election (the elect remnant of
Israel) found it, and the rest were hardened," or judicially given over
to the "hardness of their own hearts."
8. as it is written—(Isa 29:10; De
God hath given—"gave"
them the spirit of
unto this day—"this present day."
9. And David saith—(Ps 69:23), which in such a Messianic psalm must
be meant of the rejecters of Christ.
Let their table, &c.—that is, Let
their very blessings prove a curse to them, and their enjoyments only
sting and take vengeance on them.
10. Let their eyes be darkened … and bow
down their back alway—expressive either of the
decrepitude, or of the servile condition, to come on the
nation through the just judgment of God. The apostle's object in making
these quotations is to show that what he had been compelled to say of
the then condition and prospects of his nation was more than borne out
by their own Scriptures. But, Secondly,
God has not cast away His people finally. The illustration of
this point extends, Ro 11:11-31.
11. I say then, Have they stumbled—"Did
that they should fall? God forbid;
but—the supplement "rather" is better omitted.
through their fall—literally,
"trespass," but here best rendered "false step" [De Wette]; not "fall," as in our version.
salvation is come to the Gentiles, to provoke
them to jealousy—Here, as also in Ro 10:19 (quoted from De 32:21), we see that emulation is a legitimate
stimulus to what is good.
12. Now if the fall of them—"But if
their trespass," or "false step"
be the riches of the—Gentile
world—as being the occasion of their
accession to Christ.
and the diminishing of them—that is,
the reduction of the true Israel to so small a remnant.
the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their
fulness!—that is, their full recovery (see on Ro 11:26); that is, "If an event so untoward as Israel's
fall was the occasion of such unspeakable good to the Gentile world, of
how much greater good may we expect an event so blessed as their full
recovery to be productive?"
13, 14. I speak—"am speaking"
to you Gentiles—another proof that
this Epistle was addressed to Gentile believers. (See on Ro 1:13).
mine office—The clause beginning with
"inasmuch" should be read as a parenthesis.
14. If … I may provoke, &c. (See on
my flesh—Compare Isa 58:7.
15. For if the casting away of them—The
apostle had denied that they were east away (Ro 11:1); here he affirms it. But both are true;
they were cast away, though neither totally nor finally, and it
is of this partial and temporary rejection that the apostle here
be the reconciling of the—Gentile
world, what shall the receiving of them be, but
life from the dead?—The reception of the whole family of
Israel, scattered as they are among all nations under heaven, and the
most inveterate enemies of the Lord Jesus, will be such a stupendous
manifestation of the power of God upon the spirits of men, and of His
glorious presence with the heralds of the Cross, as will not only
kindle devout astonishment far and wide, but so change the dominant
mode of thinking and feeling on all spiritual things as to seem like a
resurrection from the dead.
if the first-fruit be holy, the lump is also
holy; and if the root … so the branches—The Israelites
were required to offer to God the first-fruits of the earth—both
in their raw state, in a sheaf of newly reaped grain (Le 23:10, 11), and in their prepared state,
made into cakes of dough (Nu 15:19-21)—by which the whole produce of
that season was regarded as hallowed. It is probable that the
latter of these offerings is here intended, as to it the word "lump"
best applies; and the argument of the apostle is, that as the
separation unto God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from the rest of
mankind, as the parent stem of their race, was as real an offering of
first-fruits as that which hallowed the produce of the earth, so, in
the divine estimation, it was as real a separation of the mass or
"lump" of that nation in all time to God. The figure of the "root" and
its "branches" is of like import—the consecration of the one of
them extending to the other.
17, 18. And if—rather, "But if"; that
is, "If notwithstanding this consecration of Abraham's race to God.
some of the branches—The mass of the
unbelieving and rejected Israelites are here called "some," not, as
before, to meet Jewish prejudice (see on Ro 3:3,
and on "not all" in Ro 10:16),
but with the opposite view of checking Gentile pride.
and thou, being a wild olive,
grafted in among them—Though it is
more usual to graft the superior cutting upon the inferior stem, the
opposite method, which is intended here, is not without example.
and with them partakest—"wast made
partaker," along with the branches left, the believing remnant.
of the root and fatness of the olive
tree—the rich grace secured by covenant to the true seed of
18. Boast not against the—rejected
branches. But if thou—"do"
thou bearest not—"it is not thou that
the root, but the root thee—"If the
branches may not boast over the root that bears them, then may not the
Gentile boast over the seed of Abraham; for what is thy standing, O
Gentile, in relation to Israel, but that of a branch in relation to the
root? From Israel hath come all that thou art and hast in the family of
God; for "salvation is of the Jews" (Joh 4:22).
19-21. Thou wilt say then—as a plea for
The branches were broken off, that I might be
20. Well—"Be it so, but remember
because of unbelief they were broken off, and
thou standest—not as a Gentile, but solely
by faith—But as faith cannot live in
those "whose soul is lifted up" (Hab 2:4).
Be not high-minded, but fear—(Pr
28:14; Php 2:12):
21. For if God spared not the natural
branches—sprung from the parent stem.
take heed lest he also spare not
thee—a mere wild graft. The former might, beforehand, have
been thought very improbable; but, after that, no one can wonder at the
22, 23. Behold therefore the goodness and severity
of God: on them that fell, severity—in rejecting the chosen
but toward thee, goodness—"God's
goodness" is the true reading, that is, His sovereign goodness in
admitting thee to a covenant standing who before wert a "stranger to
the covenants of promise" (Eph 2:12-20).
if thou continue in his goodness—in
believing dependence on that pure goodness which made thee what thou
23. And they also—"Yea, and they"
if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be
grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again—This
appeal to the power of God to effect the recovery of His ancient
people implies the vast difficulty of it—which all who have ever
labored for the conversion of the Jews are made depressingly to feel.
That intelligent expositors should think that this was meant of
individual Jews, reintroduced from time to time into the family
of God on their believing on the Lord Jesus, is surprising; and yet
those who deny the national recovery of Israel must and do so
interpret the apostle. But this is to confound the two things which the
apostle carefully distinguishes. Individual Jews have been at all times
admissible, and have been admitted, to the Church through the gate of
faith in the Lord Jesus. This is the "remnant, even at this present
time, according to the election of grace," of which the apostle, in
the first part of the chapter, had cited himself as one. But here he
manifestly speaks of something not then existing, but to be
looked forward to as a great future event in the economy of God, the
reingrafting of the nation as such, when they "abide not in
unbelief." And though this is here spoken of merely as a supposition
(if their unbelief shall cease)—in order to set it over against
the other supposition, of what will happen to the Gentiles if they
shall not abide in the faith—the supposition is turned into an
explicit prediction in the verses following.
24. For if thou wert cut—"wert cut
from the olive tree, which is wild by nature,
and wast grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much
more shall these, &c.—This is just the converse of Ro 11:21: "As the excision of the merely
engrafted Gentiles through unbelief is a thing much more to be
expected than was the excision of the natural Israel, before it
happened; so the restoration of Israel, when they shall be brought to
believe in Jesus, is a thing far more in the line of what we should
expect, than the admission of the Gentiles to a standing which they
never before enjoyed."
25. For I would not … that ye should be
ignorant of this mystery—The word "mystery," so often used by
our apostle, does not mean (as with us) something incomprehensible, but
"something before kept secret, either wholly or for the most part, and
now only fully disclosed" (compare Ro 16:25;
1Co 2:7-10; Eph 1:9, 10; 3:3-6, 9, 10).
lest ye should be wise in your own
conceits—as if ye alone were in all time coming to be the
family of God.
in part is happened to—"hath come
Israel—that is, hath come partially,
or upon a portion of Israel.
until the fulness of the Gentiles
come in—that is, not the general
conversion of the world to Christ, as many take it; for this would seem
to contradict the latter part of this chapter, and throw the national
recovery of Israel too far into the future: besides, in Ro 11:15, the apostle seems to speak of the
receiving of Israel, not as following, but as contributing largely to
bring about the general conversion of the world—but, "until the
Gentiles have had their full time of the visible Church all to
themselves while the Jews are out, which the Jews had till the Gentiles
were brought in." (See Lu 21:24).
26, 27. And so all Israel shall be
saved—To understand this great statement, as some still do,
merely of such a gradual inbringing of individual Jews, that
there shall at length remain none in unbelief, is to do manifest
violence both to it and to the whole context. It can only mean the
ultimate ingathering of Israel as a nation, in contrast with the
present "remnant." (So Tholuck, Meyer, De
Wette, Philippi, Alford, Hodge). Three
confirmations of this now follow: two from the prophets, and a third
from the Abrahamic covenant itself. First, as it is written,
There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and
shall—or, according to what seems the
true reading, without the "and"—"He shall"
turn away ungodliness from Jacob—The
apostle, having drawn his illustrations of man's sinfulness
chiefly from Ps 14:1-7 and Isa 59:1-21, now seems to combine the language of
the same two places regarding Israel's salvation from it [Bengel]. In the one place the Psalmist longs
to see the "salvation of Israel coming out of Zion" (Ps 14:7); in the other, the prophet
announces that "the Redeemer (or, 'Deliverer') shall come to (or
'for') Zion" (Isa 59:20).
But as all the glorious manifestations of Israel's God were regarded as
issuing out of Zion, as the seat of His manifested glory (Ps 20:2;
110:2; Isa 31:9), the turn
which the apostle gives to the words merely adds to them that familiar
idea. And whereas the prophet announces that He "shall come to
(or, 'for') them that turn from transgression in Jacob," while
the apostle makes Him say that He shall come "to turn away ungodliness
from Jacob," this is taken from the Septuagint version,
and seems to indicate a different reading of the original text. The
sense, however, is substantially the same in both. Second,
27. For—rather, "and" (again);
introducing a new quotation.
this is my covenant with
them—literally, "this is the covenant from me unto them."
when I shall take away their
sins—This, we believe, is rather a brief summary of Jer
31:31-34 than the express
words of any prediction, Those who believe that there are no
predictions regarding the literal Israel in the Old Testament, that
stretch beyond the end of the Jewish economy, are obliged to view these
quotations by the apostle as mere adaptations of Old Testament language
to express his own predictions [Alexander on Isaiah, &c.]. But how forced this
is, we shall presently see.
28, 29. As concerning the Gospel they are enemies
for your sakes—that is, they are regarded and treated as
enemies (in a state of exclusion through unbelief, from the family of
God) for the benefit of you Gentiles; in the sense of Ro 11:11, 15.
but as touching, the election—of
Abraham and his seed.
they are beloved—even in their
state of exclusion for the fathers' sakes.
29. For the gifts and calling—"and the
of God are without repentance—"not to
be," or "cannot be repented of." By the "calling of God," in
this case, is meant that sovereign act by which God, in the exercise of
His free choice, "called" Abraham to be the father of a peculiar
people; while "the gifts of God" here denote the articles of the
covenant which God made with Abraham, and which constituted the real
distinction between his and all other families of the earth. Both
these, says the apostle, are irrevocable; and as the point for which he
refers to this at all is the final destiny of the Israelitish
nation, it is clear that the perpetuity through all time of the
Abrahamic covenant is the thing here affirmed. And lest any should
say that though Israel, as a nation, has no destiny at all under
the Gospel, but as a people disappeared from the stage when the middle
wall of partition was broken down, yet the Abrahamic covenant still
endures in the spiritual seed of Abraham, made up of Jews and
Gentiles in one undistinguished mass of redeemed men under the
Gospel—the apostle, as if to preclude that supposition, expressly
states that the very Israel who, as concerning the Gospel, are regarded
as "enemies for the Gentiles' sakes," are "beloved for the fathers'
sakes"; and it is in proof of this that he adds, "For the gifts and
the calling of God are without repentance." But in what sense are the
now unbelieving and excluded children of Israel "beloved for the
fathers' sakes?" Not merely from ancestral recollections, as one
looks with fond interest on the child of a dear friend for that
friend's sake [Dr. Arnold]—a beautiful thought, and not foreign
to Scripture, in this very matter (see 2Ch 20:7; Isa 41:8)—but it is from ancestral
connections and obligations, or their lineal descent from
and oneness in covenant with the fathers with whom God originally
established it. In other words, the natural Israel—not "the
remnant of them according to the election of grace," but THE NATION, sprung from Abraham according to
the flesh—are still an elect people, and as such, "beloved." The
very same love which chose the fathers, and rested on the fathers as a
parent stem of the nation, still rests on their descendants at large,
and will yet recover them from unbelief, and reinstate them in the
family of God.
30, 31. For as ye in times past have not
God—that is, yielded not to God "the
obedience of faith," while strangers to Christ.
yet now have obtained mercy through—by
their unbelief—(See on Ro 11:11; Ro 11:15; Ro 11:28).
31. Even so have these—the Jews.
now not believed—or, "now been
that through your mercy—the mercy
shown to you.
they also may obtain mercy—Here is an
entirely new idea. The apostle has hitherto dwelt upon the unbelief of
the Jews as making way for the faith of the Gentiles—the
exclusion of the one occasioning the reception of the other; a truth
yielding to generous, believing Gentiles but mingled satisfaction. Now,
opening a more cheering prospect, he speaks of the mercy shown to the
Gentiles as a means of Israel's recovery; which seems to mean that it
will be by the instrumentality of believing Gentiles that Israel as a
nation is at length to "look on Him whom they have pierced and mourn
for Him," and so to "obtain mercy." (See 2Co 3:15, 16).
32. For God hath concluded them all in
unbelief—"hath shut them all up to unbelief"
that he might have mercy upon all—that
is, those "all" of whom he had been discoursing; the Gentiles first,
and after them the Jews [Fritzsche,
Tholuck, Olshausen, De Wette,
Philippi, Stuart, Hodge].
Certainly it is not "all mankind individually" [Meyer, Alford]; for
the apostle is not here dealing with individuals, but with those great
divisions of mankind, Jew and Gentile. And what he here says is that
God's purpose was to shut each of these divisions of men to the
experience first of an humbled, condemned state, without Christ, and
then to the experience of His mercy in Christ.
33. Oh, the depth, &c.—The apostle
now yields himself up to the admiring contemplation of the grandeur of
that divine plan which he had sketched out.
of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge
of God—Many able expositors render this, "of the riches and
wisdom and knowledge," &c. [Erasmus,
Grotius, Bengel, Meyer, De Wette, Tholuck, Olshausen,
Fritzsche, Philippi, Alford,
Revised Version]. The words will certainly bear this sense, "the
depth of God's riches." But "the riches of God" is a much rarer
expression with our apostle than the riches of this or that perfection
of God; and the words immediately following limit our attention to the
unsearchableness of God's "judgments," which probably means His
decrees or plans (Ps 119:75),
and of "His ways," or the method by which He carries these into
effect. (So Luther, Calvin, Beza, Hodge, &c.). Besides, all that follows to
the end of the chapter seems to show that while the Grace of God
to guilty men in Christ Jesus is presupposed to be the whole theme of
this chapter, that which called forth the special admiration of the
apostle, after sketching at some length the divine purposes and methods
in the bestowment of this grace, was "the depth of the riches of God's
wisdom and knowledge" in these purposes and methods. The
"knowledge," then, points probably to the vast sweep of divine
comprehension herein displayed; the "wisdom" to that fitness to
accomplish the ends intended, which is stamped on all this
34, 35. For who hath known the mind of the
Lord?—See Job 15:8; Jer 23:18.
or who hath been his counsellor—See
35. Or who hath first given to him, and it shall
be recompensed to him—"and shall have recompense made to
again—see Job 35:7;
41:11. These questions, it
will thus be seen, are just quotations from the Old Testament, as if to
show how familiar to God's ancient people was the great truth which the
apostle himself had just uttered, that God's plans and methods in the
dispensation of His Grace have a reach of comprehension and wisdom
stamped upon them which finite mortals cannot fathom, much less could
ever have imagined, before they were disclosed.
36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are
all things: to whom—"to Him"
be glory for ever. Amen—Thus
worthily—with a brevity only equalled by its sublimity—does
the apostle here sum up this whole matter. "Of Him are all things," as their eternal Source:
"THROUGH Him are all things," inasmuch
as He brings all to pass which in His eternal counsels He purposed: "To
Him are all things," as being His own last End; the manifestation of
the glory of His own perfections being the ultimate, because the
highest possible, design of all His procedure from first to last.
On this rich chapter, Note, (1) It is an
unspeakable consolation to know that in times of deepest religious
declension and most extensive defection from the truth, the lamp of God
has never been permitted to go out, and that a faithful remnant has
ever existed—a remnant larger than their own drooping spirits
could easily believe (Ro 11:1-5).
(2) The preservation of this remnant, even as their separation at the
first, is all of mere grace (Ro 11:5, 6). (3) When individuals and communities,
after many fruitless warnings, are abandoned of God, they go from bad
to worse (Ro 11:7-10). (4) God has so ordered His dealings
with the great divisions of mankind, "that no flesh should glory in His
presence." Gentile and Jew have each in turn been "shut up to
unbelief," that each in turn may experience the "mercy" which saves the
chief of sinners (Ro 11:11-32). (5) As we are "justified by faith," so
are we "kept by the power of God through faith"—faith
alone—unto salvation (Ro 11:20-32). (6) God's covenant with Abraham and
his natural seed is a perpetual covenant, in equal force under the
Gospel as before it. Therefore it is, that the Jews as a nation still
survive, in spite of all the laws which, in similar circumstances, have
either extinguished or destroyed the identity of other nations. And
therefore it is that the Jews as a nation will yet be restored to the
family of God, through the subjection of their proud hearts to Him whom
they have pierced. And as believing Gentiles will be honored to be the
instruments of this stupendous change, so shall the vast Gentile world
reap such benefit from it, that it shall be like the communication of
life to them from the dead. (7) Thus has the Christian Church the
highest motive to the establishment and vigorous prosecution of
missions to the Jews; God having not only promised that there
shall be a remnant of them gathered in every age, but pledged Himself
to the final ingathering of the whole nation assigned the honor of that
ingathering to the Gentile Church, and assured them that the event,
when it does arrive, shall have a life-giving effect upon the whole
world (Ro 11:12-16, 26-31). (8) Those who think that in all the
evangelical prophecies of the Old Testament the terms "Jacob,"
"Israel," &c., are to be understood solely of the Christian
Church, would appear to read the Old Testament differently from the
apostle, who, from the use of those very terms in Old Testament
prophecy, draws arguments to prove that God has mercy in store for
the natural Israel (Ro 11:26, 27). (9) Mere intellectual investigations
into divine truth in general, and the sense of the living oracles in
particular, as they have a hardening effect, so they are a great
contrast to the spirit of our apostle, whose lengthened sketch of God's
majestic procedure towards men in Christ Jesus ends here in a burst of
admiration, which loses itself in the still loftier frame of
adoration (Ro 11:33-36).