The eleventh chapter may be divided into three sections; still dealing with the rejection of Israel, and containing (1) Romans 11:1-10, limitations and qualifications to this; (2) Romans 11:11-24, compensations; (3) Romans 11:25-32, consolations; the whole being closed with a doxology.
I also.—This appeal to his own descent from Abraham seems to be called forth by the Apostle’s patriotic sympathy with his people, and not merely by the thought that he would be included in their rejection. This last explanation, which is that usually given, is less accordant with the generous chivalry of his nature, and does not agree so well with Romans 9:3.
Of the tribe of Benjamin.—And therefore of the purest blood, because the tribes of Judah and Benjamin alone kept up the theocratic continuity of the race after the Exile. (Comp. Philippians 3:5.)
Of Elias.—Literally, in Elias—i.e., in the section which contains the history of Elias. So in Mark 12:26; Luke 20:37; “in the bush” and “at the bush,” mean, in the paragraph relating to the bush.
The Apostle reverts somewhat parenthetically, and because his mind is full of the thought, to his idea of Romans 9:11-16. We have here also a break in the train of argument. After establishing the fact that there is this remnant, the Apostle inquires how there came to be one. The reason was because the mass of the people trusted to their own works instead of relying upon grace; therefore grace deserted them, and they were left to a judicial blindness.
The preservation of the remnant cannot be due to grace and works at the same time; it must be due to one or the other.
Were blinded.—An erroneous translation, arising from a confusion of two similar words. The correct rendering, “were hardened,” is given in the margin. So, too, “were blinded,” in 2 Corinthians 3:14, and “blindness,” in Romans 11:25 of this chapter and Ephesians 4:18, should be changed to “were hardened,” “hardness.” The corresponding words in the Gospels are rightly translated. The term is one used in medicine for the forming of chalkstone, &c.
The quotation is a free combination of two passages of the LXX. (Isaiah 29:10, and Deuteronomy 29:4), no doubt put together by the Apostle from memory.
St. Paul is quoting freely from the LXX. In the original of Psalms 69 these verses refer to the fate invoked by the psalmist upon his persecutors; here they are applied by St. Paul to the fiat of the Almighty which had been pronounced against the unbelieving people of Israel.
Let their table . . .—In the very moment of their feasting, let them be caught in a stratagem of their enemies.
And a trap.—These words are not found either in the Hebrew or in the LXX., and appear to be added by St. Paul. Translate rather, Let them be for a chase—i.e., instead of feasting, let them be hunted and persecuted.
And a recompence unto them.—Similarly the LXX. The Hebrew is, “When they are in peace, let it be a trap” (“that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap”—A.V.)—i.e., when they are eating and drinking securely, let them be caught as in a trap; let their security itself deceive them. By “recompence unto them” the Apostle means, Let their prosperity bring upon them retaliation for what they have done—namely, for their rejection of Christ.
(11) The Jews did, indeed, stumble at the stumbling-block mentioned in Romans 9:32-33. Many were offended at Christ. But did their stumbling involve their utter and final ruin? It had a far more beneficent purpose than that. It brought salvation to the Gentiles, and it did this only to react as an incentive upon the Jews.
For to provoke them to jealousy.—The reason why salvation had been extended to the Gentiles was to stir up them (the Jews) to emulation. Their privileges had made them negligent and apathetic. The sight of others stepping into those privileges was to rouse them from their apathy
Diminishing . . . fulness.—It is, perhaps, difficult to suggest a better translation. The Apostle seems to have in view not only the supersession of the Jews by the Gentiles, but also, under the figure of a defeat in battle, the reduction of their numbers to a small remnant. And, on the other hand, he looks forward to their full and complete restoration, when every Jew shall be a member of the Messianic kingdom, and there shall not be one missing. The full “complement,” as it were, of the nation is what is meant by “fulness;” its temporary reduction and degradation is expressed by “diminishing.”
(13) For I speak to you Gentiles.—The connecting particles in this verse must be altered according to an amended reading. “For” should be omitted, a full stop placed after “Gentiles,” and “then” inserted after “inasmuch.” “I speak to you Gentiles”—spoken with something of a pause. “Inasmuch then” (or, in so far then) “as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles, I seek to do honour to my office. But not without an arrière-pensée. My motive is at least partly to win over my own countrymen.”
Life from the dead.—The reconversion of the Jews will be a signal to inaugurate that reign of eternal life which will be ushered in by the resurrection from the dead.
The firstfruit . . . the lump.—The allusion here is to the custom, described in Numbers 15:19-21, of dedicating a portion of the dough to God. The portion thus taken was to be a “heave-offering”—i.e., it was to be “waved,” or “heaved,” before the Lord, and was then given to the priest.
(17) And.—Rather, but.
Among them—i.e., among the branches of the olive-tree generally, both those which are broken off and those which are suffered to remain. This seems on the whole the more probable view; it would be possible to translate the words, in place of them (the branches broken off).
Partakest of the root and fatness.—The meaning of this is sufficiently obvious as it stands. If, as perhaps is probable, we ought to drop the second “and,” reading, “of the root of the fatness,” the sense is that the rich flow of sap in which the wild olive par-takes does not belong to the wild olive itself, but is all drawn from the root.
The evidence for the omission of the second “and” is that of the Vatican, Sinaitic, and rescript Paris manuscript—a strong combination.
(25) Mystery.—The word always means throughout St. Paul’s writings something which, though not to be known or fully comprehended by unassisted human reason, has been made known by direct divine revelation. It is therefore not to be taken in this passage in its usual sense, of something hidden and concealed from all except a few, but rather of all such truths as though previously hidden, had been made manifest by the gospel.
It is thus applied to the whole or any part of the Christian system. To the whole, as in Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 1:26-27; Colossians 2:2; 1 Timothy 3:9; 1 Timothy 3:16. To any part, as (a) the admission of the Gentiles, Ephesians 3:3 et seq., and partly here; (b) the mystical union of Christ and His Church which is typified in marriage, Ephesians 5:32; (c) the transformation of the “quick” at the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:51; and (d) the opposition of Antichrist to the gospel, 2 Thessalonians 2:7.
Here the reference is to the whole of the divine purpose as shown in the dealings with Jew and Gentile, and especially in the present exclusion and future re-admission of the former. This last point the Apostle goes on to prove.
Blindness.—Rather, as in the margin, hardness, a hardening of the heart so that the gospel could not find entrance into it.
In part.—These words qualify “Israel.” The hardness extends over some, but not over all. There were Jewish as well as Gentile converts in Rome itself.
The fulness of the Gentiles.—As above, the complete number; the full complement of the Gentiles.
There shall come . . .—This prophecy is peculiarly appropriate, as it refers to the exiles who had apostatised in Babylon. Then, as now, a part of the nation had remained true, and those who had not would come back to their obedience.
Out of Sion.—There is a curious variation here from the original, which is rather, to Sion. The LXX. has “for Sion”—i.e., in the cause of Sion. The Apostle appears to be quoting from memory, and is influenced by a reminiscence of other passages. Zion is the centre and capital of the theocracy, but the Messiah must first take up His abode there before He can issue from it.
For God hath concluded them all in unbelief.—A weighty sentence embracing the whole course of human history, and summing up the divine philosophy of the whole matter. We might almost take these profound words of St. Paul as a motto for the theological side of the theory of evolution. Severe and rigorous as that doctrine may seem, its goal is perfection, the absolute harmony of all things working in accordance with the divine will. And if an objection is taken on the ground of the waste of individual life, this may be subject to we know not what beneficent rectifications in a sphere removed from that of the senses. We are able to see only a “part of God’s ways,” and the drift and tendency of visible things makes it not difficult for us to believe that “all things work together for good,” even where the process by which they do so is not to be traced by the human eye.
(33) Riches.—The two substantives which follow may be taken as dependent upon “riches.” This is the construction adopted in the Authorised version, and is expressed by the use of the word “both.” Or all three substantives may be independent, O the depth of the riches, and of the wisdom and knowledge of God! In either case, “riches” means “inexhaustible resources,” implying either that the wisdom and knowledge of God are inexhaustible, or that the materials at their command are inexhaustible. By means of these infinite resources God is able to bring good even out of evil.
Judgments.—Decisions, such as that by which Israel was excluded and the Gentiles admitted.