Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ROMANS - Chapter 11

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Romans 11

Supplemental Commentary:

1, 18 -- 11, 36 (continued)

5.  The Problem of the Rejection of Israel  9, 1 -- 11, 36 (continued)

11, 1-36:  St. Paul has shown that God is completely free in the distribution of His gifts.  He has demonstrated that Israel's reprobation was due to their own wilful obstinacy and blindness.  But now, lest this contention irritate and repel the Jews, he shows that in their rejection God's gracious purpose and providence were at work.

11, 1-6:  A Remnant of the Jews Will Be Saved.    1.  The question is rhetorical.  Three times in the Old Testament God had promised "not to reject His people" (1 Kgs. 12, 22; Pss. 93, 14; 94, 4 [Greek]).  Paul's own call is proof that the promise has been kept.    2.  The same answer, negatively for emphasis.  Whom he foreknew: the practical knowledge which implies His favor and loving kindness.  The account of Elias: the story of Elias is found in 3 Kgs. 17 -- 4 Kgs. 2; this event is in 3 Kgs. 19.    3 f.  The text is cited more as an illustration than a proof of the fact that God reserves a faithful few for Himself.    5 f.  The word left is not in the Greek.  If there are a few out of Israel faithful to Christ, it is owing to the call of grace and not to the merit of works.

11, 7-10:  Witness of the Scriptures.  This is the conclusion to vv.1-6.    7.  Was seeking: the Greek reads in the present, "seeks," for Israel is still seeking the justice of God through the Law.    8.  The citation is probably a fusion of Deut. 29, 4; Isa. 6, 9; 29, 10.  It describes the way in which God deals with persistent sinners.  So it has happened to the Jews.    9 f.  The citation from Ps. 68, 23 f, is to the same effect.  In punishment for their pride and hypocrisy, the light of grace was not granted the Jews; and the very Law which was their privilege and joy became their bondage.

11, 11-12:  Israel's Fall the Gentiles' Salvation.    11.  Stumbled as to fall: fall in such a way as to be unable to rise.  Offense: in Greek their "false step" or "failure."  How their fall brought about the conversion of the Gentiles is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, especially in the account of St. Paul's missionary journeys.  May be jealous: through seeing the divine blessings enjoyed by the Gentiles be made to desire them, and thus be brought to Christ.  Riches: in this way the world and the Gentiles were enriched with divine blessings.  Their full number: the final conversion of the Jews.  If the evil which befell the Jews was of such utility to the world, of how much greater utility will the good of their conversion be!

11, 13-22:  The Gentiles Must Be Humble.    13 f.  Since the major part of his readers would be Gentiles, this seems to be an apology for his having devoted so much attention to the Jews.  As long as: better, "inasmuch as."  Apostle of the Gentiles: cf. Acts 9, 15; 22, 21.  I will honor, etc.: the Greek reads, "I honor."  The sense is: I devote myself to it with zeal.  The more success he has the sooner will come the jealousy spoken of in 11 f.    15.  Cf. 11.  Reconciliation: before their conversion the Gentiles were enemies of God.  The reception: receiving them back into the Messianic kingdom.  Life from the dead: either great spiritual blessings, or more probably, the resurrection to glory at the end of the world.  We cannot conclude from this that the end of the world will follow immediately upon the conversion of the Jews.

16.  By these two analogies it is shown that in spite of its temporary lapse, Israel continues to be the chosen people of God.  The first handful of dough: offered to God as a token from each new batch according to Num. 15, 19-21.  Root . . . branches: the patriarchs were holy, and their posterity also.    17 f.  The latter analogy suggests another, that of grafting a branch from a wild olive tree onto a cultivated tree.  The Jews for centuries were nurtured by God; the Gentiles in a sense left to themselves.  The figure is a warning to Gentile converts, inclined to despise all Jews, not to forget the source of their Christian blessings: they do not support the stem, the stem rather supports them.    19 f.  The objection is true, but the warning in 17 f still holds.  In any case their election was an unmerited gift, that of faith.    21.  A further and more serious warning.    22.  Two attributes of God, evident in the case of the Jews and Gentiles, make the warning more pointed.  If thou abidest in goodness: continue in the faith, doing what is worthy of God's goodness to man (Chrysostom).

11, 23-24:  Israel Can Yet Be Saved.  Continuing the analogy, Paul asserts a truth implied in the above warning, and in line with his purpose in this chapter.  The analogy is not perfect, nor strictly according to nature, but the lesson is made clear by means of it.

11, 25-29:  Israel's Final Conversion.  Vv.23 f. dealt with the possibility of conversion.  Paul now makes the formal prediction that after the conversion of the Gentiles all Israel will be saved.    25.  I would not, etc.: what he is about to say is of no slight importance.  This mystery: this being in the future and known only to God and to those to whom He reveals it.  Wise . . . in conceits: in their pride condemning the Jews.  The mystery consists in the termination of Israel's partial blindness when the full number, i.e., the Gentiles in general, have entered the Messianic kingdom.    26 f.  All Israel: i.e., Israel in general, not necessarily each individual Israelite.  Proof of this is adduced from Isaias (59, 20; 27, 9).  From Jacob: i.e., from the Israelites.  Neither text indicates the time of fulfillment.    28.  In view of the gospel: i.e., to facilitate its spread.  They are enemies: they resist the Son of God.  In view of the divine choice: the election of Israel as God's chosen people.  The fathers: the patriarchs.  The gifts: enumerated in 9, 4.

11, 30-32:  Ultimate Triumph of God's Mercy.    30.  Did not believe: the Greek reads, "Did not obey."  St. Paul has in mind their condition as described in 1, 18-32.  Their emergence from that state is described as "obtaining mercy."    31.  Have not now believed: in the Greek, "have not now obeyed."  That they too may obtain mercy: God's purpose in permitting both Jews and Gentiles to lapse into a state of rebellion and sinfulness was to manifest His mercy.  Mercy: having as object the helpless, the miserable.    32.  God has shut up, etc.: has imprisoned all in their own disobedience (as the Greek reads).  In this state they are helpless.

11, 33-36:  God's Ways Unsearchable.    33.  The Greek reads: "and of the wisdom."  Depth: immensity, the unfathomable profundity of these three divine attributes.  Riches: the divine treasures of goodness and grace.  Wisdom: the infinite prudence of God in disposing and directing all things.  Knowledge: the knowledge of all things.  Judgments: His merciful decrees dispensing grace, and His condemnation and punishment of men for their disobedience.  Ways: His manner of dealing with His creatures.    34.  The citation from Isaias (40, 13) repeats the thought of 33.    35.  Job 41, 2: God being infinitely rich cannot be enriched by anyone.    36.  All things derive from him, they continue in existence through him, they are destined and ordered unto him.

Confraternity Bible:

A Remnant of the Jews Will Be Saved  1 I say then: Has God cast off his people?  By no means!  For I also am an Israelite of the posterity of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  2 God has not cast off his people whom he foreknew.  Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the account of Elias, how he lodges complaint with God against Israel?
3* "Lord, they have slain thy prophets, they have razed thy altars; and I only am left,

And they are seeking my life." 
4* But what does the divine answer say to him? 
"I have left for myself seven thousand men,

Who have not bowed their knees to Baal." 
5 Even so, then, at the present time there is a remnant left, selected out of grace.  6 And if out of grace, then not in virtue of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.

Witness of the Scriptures  7 What then?  What Israel was seeking after, that it has not obtained; but the chosen have obtained it, and the rest have been blinded, 8* as it is written,
"God has given them a spirit of stupor until this present day,

Eyes that they may not see,

And ears that they may not hear." 
9* And David says,
"Let their table become a snare and a trap and a stumbling-block and a recompense unto them;

10* Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and let them bow their backs always."
Israel's Fall the Gentiles' Salvation  11* I say then: have they so stumbled as to fall?  By no means!  But by their offense salvation has come to the Gentiles, that they may be jealous of them.  12 Now if their offense is the riches of the world, and their decline the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their full number!

The Gentiles Must Be Humble  13 For I say to you Gentiles: As long, indeed, as I am an apostle of the Gentiles, I will honor my ministry, 14 in the hope that I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh, and may save some of them.  15 For if the rejection of them is the reconciliation of the world, what will the reception of them be but life from the dead?  16 Now if the first handful of the dough is holy, so also is the lump of dough; and if the root is holy, so also are the branches.  17 But if some of the branches have been broken off, and if thou, being a wild olive, art grafted in their place, and hast become a partaker of the stem and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches.  But if thou dost boast, still it is not thou that supportest the stem, but the stem thee.  19 Thou wilt say, then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in."  20 True, but they were broken off because of unbelief, whereas thou by faith standest.  Be not high-minded, but fear.  21 For if God has not spared the natural branches, perhaps he may not spare thee either.  22 See, then, the goodness and severity of God: his severity towards those who have fallen, but the goodness of God towards thee if thou abides in his goodness; otherwise thou also wilt be cut off.

Israel Can Yet Be Saved  23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them back.  24 For if thou hast been cut off from the wild olive tree which is natural to thee, and contrary to nature, hast been grafted into the cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

Israel's Final Conversion  25 For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits, that a partial blindness only has befallen Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles should enter, 26* and thus all Israel shall be saved, as it is written,
"There will come out of Sion the deliverer and he will turn away impiety from Jacob;

27* And this is my covenant with them, when I shall take away their sins." 
28 In view of the gospel, they are enemies for your sake; but in view of the divine choice, they are most dear for the sake of the fathers.  29* For the gifts and the call of God are without repentance.

Ultimate Triumph of God's Mercy  30 For as you also at one time did not believe God, but now have obtained mercy by reason of their unbelief, 31 so they too have not now believed by reason of the mercy shown you, that they too may obtain mercy.  32 For God has shut up all in unbelief, that he may have mercy upon all.

God's Ways Unsearchable  33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!  How incomprehensible are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!  34* For
"Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor? 

35* Or who has first given to him, that recompense should be made him?" 
36 For from him and through him and unto him are all things.  To him be the glory forever, amen.


3: 3 Kgs. 19, 10.  Just as in the time of Elias there was a small remnant who persevered in their fidelity to God, so likewise when St. Paul wrote this Epistle, although the Jewish nation as a whole had refused to believe, there were not a few converts to Christianity.  St. Paul insists, however, that their call to the faith was due to the free choice of God, and not to the merit of their works.

4: 3 Kgs. 19, 18.

8: Isa. 29, 10.  God has given them, etc.: i.e., by permitting them, in punishment of their pride and hypocrisy, to be blinded to the truth of the Christian revelation.

9-10: Ps. 68, 22-23.

11: Jealous: must be understood here in a good sense.

26-27: Isa. 59, 20-21.

29: The gifts and the call of God are without repentance: this statement must be understood, in the light of the context, of the gifts mentioned in 9, 4, especially of the gift of being the chosen people.  The Jews remain the people of God's predilection, and will eventually be converted and saved.

34-35: Isa. 40, 13-14.