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ROMANS 11:1-11:36
Last updated 01/01/01

I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father's sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.


Introduction

Chapter 11 brings to a head the topic of Israel's current rebellious status and reveals a related "gentile problem" that was rearing its head in the congregation. Some gentiles were tempted to believe that because most of Israel had rejected he Gospel, God had rejected Israel and replaced them with a new people, and a faith not patterned after the Torah.

Paul not only dismisses this thought, he also issues a stern warning to those thinking along these lines. Some of the language used in this chapter is reminiscent of the letter to the Ephesians, who were also reminded of the Torah-based Hebrew roots of their faith. (Our Revelation study will deal with this in detail when discussing the congregation at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2.)


1-2  I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew ...

Paul answers the question twice here and again later in this chapter -- the Jewish people remain His chosen, as well as the faith He instituted through them. A key point here, is that if God had not kept His word to Israel, how could any gentile be certain of the promises they were being told that God was now making them?

Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias?

Elijah the prophet thought briefly that God had given up on his people when he believed himself to be the last faithful person and soon to die. Paul uses this to show that even when the majority of Israel is in sin, God does not change or break His promises to them (i.e., Romans 3:4).

5  Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

God has always kept a remnant of people faithful to Him as determined through the Torah-based faith He gave. It is the perfect Torah of liberty that God gave as the means to examine ourselves:

James 1:25 - But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

7-8  What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. According as it is written ...

Paul distinguishes between the faithful remnant of Israel and those whose hearts are hardened. In verses 7-10, Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 29:10, and Psalm 69:22-23, to show that what is happening is all according to God's perfect plan. (According as it is written ...")

Verses 11-36

Key here is Paul's ministry itself. The "battle" (within the Jewish community), is over "who has the true message." For Paul to convince his Jewish brethren that his message of Yeshua being the Messiah is from God, the eschatalogical expectations from Torah that they hold, must be fulfilled.

Of critical importance to this is the role of gentiles, for if Paul's teachings are true, then gentiles will come in great numbers to put their trust in the God of Israel. This includes a respect for Torah, and desire to learn and practice more of it, on the part of the gentiles (Acts 15:21). When this occurs, it will give credibility to his message of Yeshua. Paul hopes his ministry will make unbelieving Israel jealous, so that some more of them may be saved.

If the result of Paul's ministry is nothing more than gentiles practicing some new Torah-less religion, then his message of Yeshua being the promised Messiah is a false one. Thus, gentile "obedience to the faith," is a critical part of this process. (See notes to Romans 1-17)

The fact that gentiles are coming to the God and faith of Israel though Paul's ministry (and not that of the established Jewish leadership and evangelizing efforts), bears witness against those Jews who reject Yeshua. It shows they are the ones suffering from the eschatalogical curse, as per the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 6:9-10 - And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Because of this importance of gentile "obedience to the faith," for the sake of unbelieving Israel, Paul now turns to those gentiles in the congregation who had mistakenly grown arrogant toward the stumbling of Israel, as though they had supplanted them in God's plan.

The gentiles in this congregation are told several things by Paul, including:

  • they are wild olive grafted in due to the stumbling of some of Israel
  • they are not to be arrogant about this fact and are to support unbelieving Israel
  • the mystery of God’s commitment to Israel as shown in the Tenakh, supersedes appearances to the contrary
  • the Jews who do not yet believe in Yeshua, may appear to be their "enemies," but are actually suffering in the service of their (gentile's) salvation

Israel's stumbling and failure are linked to gentile salvation. (See Paul's view of salvation history in the Romans Introduction.) Paul will reiterate this in Romans 15:15-18, where he expresses the hope and expectation that the stumbling of Israel will see gentiles calling on the name of the Lord:, and obedient to Torah:

Romans 15:15-18 - Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,

11-12  I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

The Jews who do not yet accept Yeshua, have not permanently fallen, according to Paul, but are "stumbling." They are still considering Paul's message about Yeshua, but wavering. Their faith is "weak" in that they are missing the "goal" of Torah (Romans 10:4), by not accepting Yeshua. (See notes on Abraham's "strong faith" in chapter 4.) This idea of "weak" versus "strong" faith will be important in understanding chapters 12-15.

The fate of the gentiles is intertwined with Israel’s. Paul explains how current unbelief has come to pass as part of a merciful God's plan of using the hardening of some of Israel, in order to bring salvation to the gentiles, which in turn should lead more of Israel into accepting Yeshua.

Paul states that even though blessings come to the world from this acceptance of Yeshua on the part of but a portion of Israel, there will be even greater blessings when more of Israel comes to faith. Therefore, the gentiles' goal ought to be consideration of and help toward those of Israel who do not yet believe.

13-14  For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

Paul makes it clear that his ministry is within the context of the faith of Israel and concerns for the Jewish community. The "jealousy" and "emulation" he speaks of, is not of Jews being jealous of the salvation of gentiles, but of his ministry.

This is so because:

  • There is no reason that the Jews would be jealous of any faith ("conversion") issues outside of the Torah-based faith of Israel
  • It would suggest Jews are no longer people of God unless they convert to a new (gentile) religion
  • It would not reflect the view of Jewish eschatalogical promises being fulfilled and therefore not achieve Paul's intended goal for his Jewish brethren

What Paul is hoping for is that these Jews will be jealous of his ministry bringing gentiles in great numbers into the faith of Israel, as foretold by the prophets.

The turning of gentiles from paganism to the faith of Israel would be cause for celebration, as this would be a Messianic fulfillment of prophecy:

Zechariah 8:23 - Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

Isaiah 54:2-3 - Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.

Paul's letter becomes very focused toward the gentiles in the congregation from this point forward. The above verse is overlooked when people speak of "Paul being the apostle to the gentiles." Here, Paul makes clear that he regards his ministry to the gentiles to be in the service of Israel's salvation. Israel is still the chief goal of God's will to salvation. The underlying message is that the gentiles should view their "mission" in a similar fashion.

15  For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

The "casting away" is temporary, as Scripture teaches. "Life from the dead," may refer to Paul's belief that when Israel accepts her Messiah, this will bring on the resurrection of the dead and the Kingdom of God.

16-18  For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

Paul uses a metaphor of an olive tree to make his point:

  • The firstfruit is the faith of Israel established through Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, etc. (re: verse 28)
  • The lump/root are the same and represent the restored faithful remnant in Yeshua, and/or Yeshua Himself
  • The unbroken branches consist of natural followers of Yeshua (Jews), and those grafted into the faith of Israel via Yeshua (gentiles)
  • The broken branches are those of Israel, who are still "hardened" and not accepting of Yeshua as Messiah

These "broken branches" are separated unto the Lord and in service to the gentiles, vicariously suffering for the gentiles, who are supported by the "root" (and not the other way around). This suffering may be compared to Psalm 44 which speaks of exiled Israel's suffering, not as punishment, but as suffering for the sake of God's name.

The "root" is also a reference to the "Root of Jesse," the ruler and hope of the gentiles in the Congregation of Israel among whom they worship, as Paul brings this up later in the letter:

Romans 15:12 - And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.

Paul calls the unsaved gentiles a wild olive tree as:

  • Wild olive trees were unproductive and bore no fruit (i.e., Ephesians 2:10-13)
  • The olive tree was a powerful symbol in the Greek/Roman culture of these gentiles
  • Paul stands up for Israel (i.e. Romans 10:2), by showing the cultivated tree as the community rooted in Judaism

Some gentiles incorrectly believed Israel had rejected its restoration through Yeshua, and therefore has been rejected herself by God. Paul makes it clear, beginning in verse 18 and forward, that they are and on treading on sacred ground.

19-22  Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

This warning (thou shall be cut off), is the same issued by Yeshua to the assembly of Ephesus in Revelation, chapter 2 -- If gentiles pursue a "faith" outside of the extablished faith of Israel, they are risking their salvation.

Note: Our Revelation study contains advanced concepts that are explained in the nearly 50 background articles we present before approaching the text. The student is advised to complete our Matthew and Romans studies before moving on to Revelation.

23-24  And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

This is a kal v'chomer argument (from" light to heavy") which is typical of Paul's Pharisaic style. (See The Seven Rules of Hillel.) A kal v'chomer shows that if something in the lesser case is true, "how much more then," is it true in the greater case?

25  For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

The word for "blindness" here is porosis, reflecting "hardness" (of their hearts).

The term "fulness of the gentiles," is a specific Hebrew idiom that goes back to Jacob's blessing over Joseph's children in Genesis chapter 48. At this event, Jacob deliberately switches what would be their normal order of blessing. He gives the younger son, Ephraim, the "higher" blessing of the older son. In Genesis 48:19, Jacob prophecies that Ephraim's descendants would be among the nations. The term he uses is m'loh ha goyim, or "fullness of the gentiles."

It would thus seem that Paul is referring to the return of the exiled ten tribes in the Millennium, when all Israel will "look upon Him who they pierced (Zechariah 12:10) and their blindness will end. This would support what he said in verse 15 regarding "life from the dead."

26  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

Paul's message (the "mystery" of verse 25), is not the fact that all Israel will be saved -- it is how all Israel will be saved.

The term "all Israel," does not mean every single Jew that ever lived. (Paul has already made the distinction between the faithful remnant and those who are hardened to God's revelation.) Rather, "all Israel" is an idiom for corporate Israel, even if not every individual is present (i.e., 1 Samuel 25:1; 1 Kings 12:1; 2 Chronicles 12:1; Daniel 9:11).

Support for Paul's statement, "out of Sion the Deliverer," is found in the Tenakh: Isaiah 2:3; 27:9; 59:20; Micah 4:2; Jeremiah 31:34.

27-29  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father's sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

The phrase "they are beloved for the father's sake," is in the present tense, and impacts how gentiles should behave -- even though these Jews appear to be "enemies" of the Gospel. This will be elaborated on by Paul in chapters 12-15.

The gifts of Israel (Torah) and calling of Israel are irrevocable and eternal. They don't go away with the coming of Yeshua, nor are nullified or made obsolete (Matthew 5:17-21; Romans 3:31). This is the same Torah-based faith that gentiles are called to (Ephesians 2:10-13).

30-31  For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

The gentiles at Rome were benefiting from the "unbelief" of these Jews, yet (as we will see), condemning them because they (the gentiles) did not see God's unfathomable ways (re: verse 33). Both the Jewish disobedience and God's mercy are in present tense. Mercy is shown to the Jews through gentile inclusion in the faith of Israel. The present stumbling of these Jews is a blessing, not a curse (in God's deep wisdom) as it brings salvation to gentiles and provokes unbelieving Israel to reconsider.

33-36  O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

This closing statement offers insight into God as we can understand Him, and includes some very deep hidden meanings. These will be addressed in our Revelation study.


1. As cited in the Jewish New Testament Commentary, David Stern, 1995, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, MD, p.395.


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