An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 28 December 2010; Revised 14 October 2016
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of used in this chapter commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. Unless otherwise indicated other Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of this chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Links to other ancient Jewish literature may be found at EarlyJewishWritings.com.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). The meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB," found online at BibleHub.com. Explanation of Greek grammatical forms and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance reference numbers are identified with "SH" for Hebrew and "SG" for Greek.
Methodology: For an explanation of abbreviations, acronyms, terminology, spelling conventions, and other information on organization of the commentary see my Commentary Writing Philosophy. Click here for a Study Questions for small group learning or self-study.
Israelology: God’s Covenant Faithfulness, 9:1–11:36 (cont.)
The Status of Israel, 11:1-16
The Olive Tree Analogy, 11:17–32
Paul’s doxology of praise, 11:33-36
The Status of Israel, 11:1-16
1 I say, then, did God not reject His people? Never may it be! For I am also an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
I say: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, enjoin, order, say, speak, tell, told, refer to, talk about. then: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which may (1) indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, 'so, therefore, consequently, then;' (2) indicate that one takes account of something in the narrative immediately preceding, 'then;' or (3) simply indicate a stage in the narrative, 'so, then.' The first meaning fits here. Paul responds to quotation from Isaiah at the end of the previous chapter, by posing a rhetorical question from his fictive opponent.
did God: Grk. theos. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. As with many other Greek words the LXX infused all of the Jewish understanding of God's nature into theos. The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6, 14, 18, 21; 46:9).
not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, subjective in nature, involving will and thought; not. reject: Grk. apōtheō, aor. mid., to push or thrust away from, frequently with the connotation of force; reject, discard. His: Grk. autos, pers. pron., used of God. people: Grk. laos, a group of people, generally understood geographically or ethnically, and in Scripture often viewed in contrast with the ruling class. In the LXX laos translates Heb. am, people, nation, first in Genesis 14:16. In this case laos is a group of people associated with God, namely Israel. Paul repeats the objection originally raised in 9:30-31 that the Gentiles have replaced Israel as God's people because of failure to discern God's purpose accomplished in the death and resurrection of Yeshua (Shulam).
"His people" should not be restricted to the remnant here as suggested by Harrison. Such a statement would be a non sequitur. The issue of rejection has to those who did not accept Yeshua as Messiah, not those who did. Never: Grk. mē. may it be: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. opt., to transfer from one state to another, and here means come to be, become, take place, happen, occur. The optative mood expresses a wish and in Hebrew is the most intense wish for negation. Paul may well have had in mind Psalm 94:14, "For ADONAI will not forsake His people. He will never abandon His inheritance" (TLV). "His people" in the opening question probably summarizes the synonymous parallelism (people = inheritance) of the Psalm. God could not reject Israel without also canceling all the advantages of Israel that Paul has already asserted to be present benefits (9:4-5).
Over and over in the Tanakh God promised that He would never forsake Israel and Paul affirms the fact in this letter (11:1-2). In fact, God declared that there is a better chance of the universe blowing up than that He would renege on His promises to Israel (Jer 33:25-26). Yet, for centuries Christianity worshipped a promise-breaking God, claiming that God had permanently rejected Israel in spite of biblical evidence to the contrary. The promise-keeping God of Israel is the God to whom Paul prays earnestly for Israel.
For: Grk. gar, conj., is generally accepted as a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that." Gar often functions to connect statements in narratives with preceding statements and is normally translated "for." I: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. am: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). an Israelite: Grk. Israēlitēs. a transliteration of Heb. Yisrael, which means El perseveres, (BDB 975). Paul proceeds to recapitulate the argument of 9:4. An Israelite is a biological descendant of the great patriarch Jacob through one of his twelve sons. Paul is not ashamed to associate with his ancestor Jacob.
of the seed: Grk. sperma, a singular noun, and may refer either to the source (e.g. seed, semen) or the product of propagation (e.g., posterity, descendant). In the LXX sperma renders Heb. zera, sowing, seed or offspring (BDB 282). Paul uses the term sperma to graphically emphasize his biological descent. of Abraham: Grk. Abraam, which transliterates the Heb. Avraham. The first Hebrew patriarch became the prime example of faithfulness. He was the son of Terah, a descendant of Noah's son, Shem (Gen 11:27). He grew up in Ur of the Chaldees, a prominent Sumerian city. He was known at the beginning as Abram ("father is exalted," Gen 11:26), but his name was changed subsequently to Abraham (“father of a multitude,” Gen 17:5). For more information on the great patriarch see my web article The Story of Abraham. It was very important for all Jews to be able to say that their lineage could be traced back to Abraham (cf. Matt 3:9; John 8:39).
of the tribe: Grk. phulē, a grouping based more narrowly on blood kinship and is often used in Scripture to refer to the tribes of Israel. of Benjamin: Grk. Beniamein, a transliteration of Heb. Binyamin, which means “son of the right hand” (BDB 122). Benjamin was the last son born to Jacob and the hard labor brought about the death of his mother Rachel (Gen 35:16-20). While Benjamin was the second most beloved son of Jacob (Gen 42:4, 36), Jacob’s prophecy reveals none of it: "Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the spoil" (Gen 49:27). The word picture Jacob painted portended a history of warfare, as well as descendants who would be ferocious, courageous, zealous and daring. The "who’s who" of the tribe of Benjamin began with the left-handed Ehud, who delivered Israel from Moabite oppression by personally and boldly killing the King of Moab in his private quarters, giving Israel 80 years of peace (Judg 3:15-31).
The next notable Benjamites were King Saul who subdued surrounding kingdoms (1Sam 14:47), his son Jonathan who successfully attacked the Philistines (1Sam 14:1-15) and his cousin Abner, the commander of Saul’s army. While a few Benjamites rebelled against David, most of the tribe followed Jonathan’s example and supported the tribe of Judah, even after the northern kingdom separated. The best Benjamites in Scripture are Esther who saved the Jews from the murderous scheme of Haman (Esth 7:9) and the apostle Paul (Php 3:5ff) whose zeal sought to "devour the prey as a persecutor, but, in the evening, divided the spoil as a preacher" (Henry 93). Paul was proud of his tribal heritage (Php 3:5), although Benjamin was one of the smallest among the twelve tribes. (See my article The Twelve Tribes of Israel.)
Paul may have been using Hillel's hermeneutic rule called Kelal u-Pera, Pera u-kelal: ("General and particular, particular and general"), or definition of the general by the particular, and of the particular by the general. In other words, God has not rejected Israel because God did not reject Paul after all the terrible things he did to disciples of Yeshua. Indeed, one could say that God directed the good news of the Kingdom to be given especially to the worst of sinners beginning in Jerusalem, those involved in the wrongful execution of Yeshua (Acts 2:23; 7:52) and then to the man who terrorized the early disciples. A great sinner once transformed by the power of God becomes a trophy for the Messiah, as Paul expressed, "God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world" (1Cor 4:9 NASB). If Paul could be saved, there is hope for the rest of Israel.
2 God has not rejected His people whom he foreknew; or do you not know what Elijah says in the Scripture, how he appeals to God with regard to Israel?
God: Grk. theos. See the previous verse. has not: Grk. ou, adv., a negative particle that makes an emphatic denial of fact. rejected: Grk. apōtheō, aor. mid. See the previous verse. His: Grk. autos, pers. pron. people: Grk. laos. See the previous verse. whom: Grk. hos, relative pron. He foreknew: Grk. proginōskō, aor., may mean (1) know before about a matter of moment; or (2) have in mind as part of a long-standing plan. The second meaning applies here. Foreknowledge is not knowledge from education, but personal experiential knowledge. Foreknowledge is a manifestation of God's omniscience as Scripture says, "His understanding is infinite" (Ps 147:5) and "God is greater than our heart and knows all things" (1Jn 3:20). Indeed, he knows the secrets of every heart (Ps 44:21). God told Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" (Jer 1:5) and it is this kind of knowledge by which God knew the patriarchs and the nation of Israel.
Christian theologians argue over the theoretical problem of how God's knowledge interacts with human freedom. Does man's choice condition God's choice or vice versa? Many Christians opt for the preeminence of man's "free will" thereby reducing the sovereignty of God. However, we cannot begin to comprehend or appreciate the knowledge of the Creator of the universe, who is a "will-ing being" (a term coined by Otto Rank, a Jewish psychiatrist), and whose choices are truly free. Man's choices are influenced by many factors and forces, not the least of which is the inclination toward selfishness and sin. God is not a prisoner of what man might do.
The people God foreknew was the nation that He brought out of Egypt and gathered at Sinai to receive his covenant and instruction. This nation included people who obeyed God and people who did not obey God. Nevertheless, unfaithfulness of many Israelites did not negate the faithfulness of God. Even in the days of impending judgment on the Kingdom of Judah non-Jews were saying that God had rejected his people. Paul's categorical assertion of God's faithfulness is rooted in God's word, first spoken to Moses:
"Yet, in spite of all that, I will not reject them when they are in the lands of their enemies, nor will I loathe them to the point of utterly destroying them and thus break my covenant with them, because I am ADONAI their God. 45 Rather, for their sakes, I will remember the covenant of their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt – with the nations watching – so that I might be their God; I am ADONAI.'" (Lev 26:44-45 CJB)
And, then to Jeremiah twice in response to this slander of God's integrity:
"This is what ADONAI says, who gives the sun as light for the day, who ordained the laws for the moon and stars to provide light for the night, who stirs up the sea until its waves roar – ADONAI-Tzva'ot is his name: 36 "If these laws leave my presence," says ADONAI, "then the offspring of Isra'el will stop being a nation in my presence forever." 37 This is what ADONAI says: "If the sky above can be measured and the foundations of the earth be fathomed, then I will reject all the offspring of Isra'el for all that they have done," says ADONAI." (Jer 31:35-37 CJB)
"This word of ADONAI came to Yirmeyahu: 24 "Haven't you noticed that these people are saying, 'ADONAI has rejected the two families he chose'? Hence they despise my people and no longer look at them as a nation. 25 Here is what ADONAI says: 'If I have not established my covenant with day and night and fixed the laws for sky and earth, 26 then I will also reject the descendants of Ya'akov and of my servant David, not choosing from his descendants people to rule over the descendants of Avraham, Yis'chak and Ya'akov. For I will cause their captives to come back, and I will show them compassion.'" (Jer 33:23-26 CJB)
God's election of Israel, the people descended from the patriarchs, is as solid as the laws that govern the universe. Unfortunately, Christianity down through the centuries has denied the straightforward pronouncements of Jeremiah and Paul. Historic Christian antisemitism based its abuse and discrimination of Jews on the premise of God rejecting Israel in retaliation for Israel rejecting Yeshua, even though the apostles makes it crystal clear that Israel did not reject Yeshua nor did God reject Israel. It should be remembered that it was Israel's leadership who rejected Yeshua, not the citizens of the nation. Paul is unambiguous. GOD. HAS. NOT. REJECTED. HIS. PEOPLE. Anyone who says otherwise speaks with the voice of Satan.
or: Grk. ē, a particle involving options, here to introduce an different question. do you not: Grk. ou, adv. know: Grk. oida, perf., to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The perfect tense refers to action completed in the past with continuing results in the present. The verb "know" is used for experiential knowledge, whether (1) to know about someone; (2) to be intimately acquainted with someone; (3) to understand how to do something; and (4) to remember (BAG). In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (e.g., Num 11:16; Deut 1:39; Josh 2:4; 2Sam 19:6), which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning (DNTT 2:395).
what: Grk. tís, interrogative pron., who, which, what. Elijah: Grk. Ēlias, which represents the Heb. Eliyah ("My God is Yah"), the ninth century B.C. prophet from Tishbe of Gilead in the Northern Kingdom. The prophet's name first occurs in 1 Kings 17:1 as Eliyahu and thereafter 62 times, but also as Eliyah (first in 2Kgs 1:3 and thereafter 4 times) (BDB 45). Known for his unorthodox dress and lifestyle, Elijah prophesied during the reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah. Elijah's achievements included performing seven miracles, perhaps most notably the defeat of 850 pagan prophets on Mt. Carmel. He also conducted a school of prophets (2Kgs 2:3-7) and trained Elisha to be his successor (1Kgs 19:16-19). Elijah did not die, but was taken to heaven in a whirlwind, not a chariot as commonly supposed (2Kgs 2:11).
The LXX transliterates the name uniformly as Ēlias, and thus this form is followed in the Greek text of the Besekh. The English spelling "Elijah" was introduced by John Wesley in his 1755 translation of the New Testament. The KJV-1768 version retained "Elias," but "Elijah" endured and was incorporated by succeeding English versions. According to Malachi 4:5 Elijah would come before the great Day of the LORD. Yeshua stated that Yochanan the Immerser was not Elijah reincarnated, but did come in the spirit of Elijah for those willing to accept it (Matt 11:10, 14; 17:10).
says: Grk. legō, pres. See the previous verse. in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, "in" or "within." the Scripture: Grk. graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context meaning the sacred Hebrew Bible (24 books) referred to as the Tanakh, corresponding to the Protestant Old Testament (39 books) and its translation into Greek, the Septuagint. The term "Scripture," which occurs over 50 times in the Besekh, summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired, infallible, inerrant words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi. how: Grk. hōs, adv. derived from the relative pronoun hos, generally used in a comparison ("as"). The adverb is used here to introduce a confirmatory illustration of what precedes; even as, how.
he appeals: Grk. entugchanō, pres., describes an approach to an authority with a request or plea in mind; approach, appeal. to God: Grk. theos. with regard to: Grk. kata, prep. denoting motion or diffusion or direction from the higher to the lower. With the noun following in the genitive case kata properly means "down upon," and can have the figurative sense of "against," which is how most versions translate the preposition. However, Thayer notes that many scholars take kata as equivalent to "with regard to," which seems appropriate when we consider the nature of Elijah's appeal.
Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975). The noun occurs 68 times in the Besekh, sometimes referring to the covenant name of the chosen people and sometimes as a corporate reference to the biological descendants of Jacob through the twelve tribes (Gen 32:28). The name first appears in Genesis 32:28 where the heavenly being with whom Jacob struggled said, "From now on, you will no longer be called Ya'akov, but Isra'el; because you have shown your strength to both God and men and have prevailed" (CJB). In the context of Elijah the name "Israel" applied to the Northern Kingdom, the ten tribes that separated from the Kingdom of Judah. Elijah's pleading was specifically against the priests of Ba'al installed by Jezebel.
3 "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I have been left alone, and they are seeking my life."
Paul proceeds to quote Elijah from 1 Kings 19:10 (also repeated in 19:14). Lord: Grk. kurios, voc. case, may mean either (1) one in control through possession, and therefore owner or master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, the great majority to translate Heb. words for God, principally the name YHVH (DNTT 2:511). Paul uses the vocative case of direct address. However, in neither the Hebrew text nor in the LXX does Elijah address God in this manner, but simply responds to God's message.
They have killed: Grk. apokteinō, aor., 3p-pl., put an end by force to existence of someone; kill. In the LXX apokteinō renders Heb. harag, to kill or slay (BDB 246). The Heb. verb is used of willful murder (first in Gen 4:8), as well as ruthless violence, the planned massacre of Jews by Haman (Esth 3:13; 7:14), wholesale slaughter after battle (Num 31:7), God's slaying in judgment (Gen 20:4) and rarely of judicial execution (Ex 32:27). your: Grk. su, 1p-sing. possessive pron.
prophets: pl. of Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). In Scripture the term refers to one who spoke on God's behalf, whether in foretelling or forth-telling. The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of Hebrew prophets. The Hebrew prophets were a diverse group with different personalities, vocations and manner of ministry, but they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21).
In the case of Elijah the prophets to whom he referred were those killed by order of Jezebel, although the number of martyrs is not recorded (1Kgs 18:4, 13). The assertion of Elijah may have been a bit of hyperbole since God later reminds him that there were 7,000 who had not bowed to Ba'al (1Kgs 19:18). they have demolished: Grk. kataskaptō, aor., 3p-pl., raze to the ground, demolish. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Acts 15:16). your: Grk. su. altars: pl. of Grk. thusiastērion, a place or structure designed for the purpose of slaying and burning animals for sacrifice. The phrase "torn down your altars" may be an idiomatic expression of eliminating the worship of Adonai and substituting the worship of Ba'al. It is not clear from the Kings narrative what altars of Adonai Jezebel had torn down, but Elijah did restore one such altar on Mt. Carmel (1Kgs 18:30).
There are a few differences between Paul's quotation and the MT and LXX.
TLV: "I have been very zealous for Adonai-Tzva’ot," he said, "for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and slain Your prophets with the sword—and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it!"
ABP (LXX): "And Elijah said, Being zealous, I am zealous for the LORD Almighty, for the sons of Israel have abandoned you, they razed your altar, and they killed your prophets by the broadsword, and I alone am left and they seek my life to take it."
First, Paul omits an important assertion of Elijah that Israel had forsaken God's covenant. Next, Paul reverses the order of the clauses referring to "prophets" and "altars." Finally he retains the plural "altars" of the Hebrew text instead of using the singular form of "altar" found in the LXX. Such differences may indicate that Paul is quoting from a variant LXX text or even providing his own Greek translation of the Hebrew text, either of which is certainly possible.
and I: Grk. kagō, conj. formed from combining kai and egō and serves to link in parallel a personal affirmation by way of addition to or confirmation of a preceding statement. have been left: Grk. hupoleipō, aor. pass., leave remaining, used by Elijah meaning being left as as a survivor out of a large group. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Rom 9:27). alone: Grk. monos, adj., signifying the exclusion of any other entity; alone, only.
and: Grk. kai, conj., conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of Jewish Greek. See my web article The Jewish New Testament.
they are seeking: Grk. zēteō, pres., may mean (1) be on the search for in order to find someone or something one has difficulty in locating; seek, look for; (2) search for ways to satisfy an interest; deliberate, discuss; (3) have an interest in; desire, seek; or (4) press for; expect, demand. The first meaning has application here. my: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. life: Grk. psuchē, may mean (1) a quality without which a body is physically dead; life; (2) that which possesses vital being; person; or (3) that which is integral to being a person beyond physical function; life (inner) self, soul. In the LXX psuchē renders Heb. nephesh, which has the same range of meaning. The phrasing is the same in both the Hebrew text and the LXX. This amazing confession of Elijah follows the astounding victory at Mt. Carmel over the pagan priests. The sense of aloneness expressed by Elijah resonates with Paul who probably felt alone much of the time even though he was surrounded by fellow disciples.
4 But what is the divine answer spoken to him? "I have kept to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal."
But: Grk. alla, conj. used adverbially suggesting other matter or varying viewpoint for consideration. The nuance of contrast may be expressed with "but, on the other hand, yet, nevertheless, indeed or certainly." what: Grk. tís, interrogative pron. is the divine answer: Grk. chrēmatismos may mean (1) to give an oracular information, impart a divine message; be revealed, prophesied; or (2) take or bear a name or title. The first meaning applies here. spoken: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above. to him: Grk. autos, 3p-sing. pers. pron. Paul challenges his fictive opponent to actually read what the Scripture says and consider what God said to Elijah in response to his lament. Paul proceeds to quote from 1 Kings 19:18.
I have kept: Grk. kataleipō, aor., may mean (1) to leave behind either through withdrawal or things left in place; or (2) cause to be left over; retain. The second meaning applies here. In contrast with the LXX, which has the verb in the future tense ("I shall leave"), Paul gives the verb as past tense. Either Paul was quoting from a variant Greek text of the LXX or he changed the verb to more accurately reflect the Hebrew tense. to myself: Grk. emautou, reflexive first person pronoun, myself. The words "to myself" do not occur in the LXX or the MT. Paul also inexplicably leaves out "in Israel," but probably only quotes the words he considers relevant to his point.
seven thousand: pl. of Grk. heptakischilioi, the numerical quantity of 7,000, from heptakis, seven and chilioi, thousand, lit. "seven thousands." men: Grk. anēr, (Heb. adam), an adult man without regard to marital status. In the LXX anēr renders several Heb. words: (1) ish, man; (2) enosh, men, people; (3) ba'al, lord, husband, head of a household; (4) gibbor, hero, warrior; (5) zaqen, elder; (6) nasi, prince; and (7) adôn, lord (DNTT 2:562). In the MT "seven thousand" is a masculine noun, but the LXX makes it explicit with "seven thousand men." There is no reason not to take the number literally, but there could well have been more. As typical of census statistics in Scripture the number likely included households of the men.
who: Grk. hostis, relative pron., a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb; anyone, who, whoever. have not: Grk. ou, adv. bowed: Grk. kamptō, aor., to bend, usually in reference to a gesture of worship. The word occurs only four times in the Besekh (Rom 14:11; Eph 3:14; Php 2:10), all in reference to bending the body part mentioned here. the knee: Grk. gonu, the body part of the knee. To fall to ones knees represents submission to the authority receiving the homage. The men of whom God spoke and their households were still faithful to the God of Israel.
to Baal: Grk. Baal, for Heb. Ba'al (pronounced Bah-ahl, not Bayl). Ba'al was the chief male deity of the Phoenicians and the Canaanites (Num 22:41). "Ba'al" means lord or master. The word could be used as a title for any person who owned something or any god considered to be a lord or master. Ba'al also appears in passages as a word for "husband." As a deity Ba'al symbolized the productive forces of nature and worship of Ba'al involved much sensuality (Num 22:41; Jdg 2:13; 1Kgs 16:31-32).
5 So then also in the present time there has been a remnant, according to the election of grace.
So: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. then: Grk. oun, conj. also: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. the present: Grk. nun, adv. of time in the present, 'now' or more emphatically 'right now.' time: Grk. kairos may refer to (1) an appropriate or set temporal segment of time; or (2) a period, definite or approximate, in which an event tales place; time, period. Kairos could also mean a God-appointed or predestined time (e.g., Rom 5:6; Eph 1:10; 2Th 2:6; 1Tim 2:6). In this context Paul contrasts current conditions with what has happened in the history of Israel.
there has been: Grk. ginomai, perf., to transfer from one state to another, and here means come to be, become, take place, happen, occur. The perfect tense indicates completed action in the past with continuing results into the present. a remnant: Grk. hupoleimma, a small portion surviving out of a larger number; in Israelite usage, of a relatively small proportion of persons left over for realization of benefits not to be enjoyed by the majority. God has always preserved a faithful portion of Israel. The existence of the remnant proved that the true Israel continued regardless of outward circumstances. Tens of thousands of Jews had accepted Yeshua as Messiah by the time Paul wrote this letter (Acts 21:20). according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 2 above. With the noun following kata in the accusative case and denoting agreement or conformity to a standard, the meaning is "according to."
the election: Grk. eklogē, which refers to the act of making a choice or selection; especially used of God making his unique independent choice. The choice began with selecting Jacob over Esau. of grace: Grk. charis (derived from chairō, to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance) is a disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient; thus, grace, gracefulness, graciousness, favor, thanks or gratitude. In the LXX charis occurs about 190 times of which only about 75 have a Hebrew equivalent, of which 61 are for Heb. hên (favor) (DNTT 2:116). Charis is also equivalent to Heb. hesed (loyal love or loving-kindness) and rachamim ("mercy") (Stern 156).
When used of God hēn denotes granting special favor to an individual or causing nonbelievers to grant favor to God's people (e.g., Gen 39:21; Ex 3:21; 11:3). Hên especially denotes God's unilateral gift of favor toward selected individuals, such as Noah (Gen 6:8), Abraham (Gen 18:3), Lot (Gen 19:19), Moses (Ex 33:12-13; 34:9), and Israel (Ex 33:16). Both Grk. charis and Heb. hên refer to God freely extending Himself (His favor, grace), reaching or inclining to people because He is disposed to bless (be near) them. The core idea of favor-grace is "extension-towards" (HELPS, Biblos). Paul's point should not be missed. The election of Israel has always been on the basis of grace not performance of works.
6 Moreover if by grace, it is no longer from works; otherwise no longer grace would be grace.
Moreover: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). In this verse the conjunction continues the thought of the previous verse, but introduces a new element. if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker normally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. by grace: Grk. charis. See the previous verse. In context "grace" refers to God's election of Israel. Grace was manifested by God's deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and establishment of a covenant relationship in fulfillment of promises made to the patriarchs. In that respect grace was unearned.
However, grace did not mean that deliverance cost the Israelites nothing. God expected Israel to obey his covenantal commandments. Far too many Christians seems to think that grace means God accepts them unconditionally without any expectations and all the sacrifice is on God's side. Many Christians are not too different from most non-believers in wanting something for nothing. it is no longer: Grk. ouketi, neg. adv. of cessation of an activity or condition, no longer, no more. from: Grk. ek, prep. denoting origin; from, from out of. works: pl. of Grk. ergon generally means a tangible deed, action or accomplishment that may be observed, and often reflects a consistent moral character. The noun is used to mean (1) a task or assignment; (2) a deed or action; (3) the passive result of actions; and (4) a thing or matter.
In the LXX ergon first renders Heb. malakah (SH-4399), occupation, work, used of God's creative work (Gen 2:2), and then several other Heb. words that mean "deed" or "work," often in relation to accomplishments of God in His covenant faithfulness (DNTT 3:1148). In this verse "works" probably has a neutral or positive meaning in reference to good works of righteousness ordained by God in the Torah (cf. Eph 2:10). Paul makes a simple but powerful argument that the election of Israel was purely on the basis of grace not performance of works. After all the election occurred before the commandments were even given. Stern comments that "works that please God must follow election by him, not precede it."
otherwise: Grk. epei, conj. used in a causal sense; since, inasmuch. because, otherwise. no longer: Grk. ouketi. grace: Grk. charis. would be: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid. See verse 1 above. grace: Paul states a logical consequence if "works" were allowed to determine the terms for election. Rienecker comments on this principle: "Grace ceases to show itself as that which according to its nature it is. It becomes what according to its essence it is not; it give up its specific character."
7 What then? What Israel is seeking, this has not been obtained, but the elect obtained it, and the rest were hardened,
What: Grk. tís, interrogative pron. then: Grk. oun, conj. Shulam suggests that due to the similarity of the question with 9:30 ("what then shall we say), then verses 7-10 form a question and the answer begins in verse 11. However, a straight forward reading indicates that Paul is offering historical analysis in these verses. What: Grk. hos, relative pron. Israel: Grk. Israēl. See verse 2 above. is seeking: Grk. epizēteō, pres., may mean (1) try to find something; look for; search for; or (2) show strong interest in; seek, want. The second meaning applies here. The present tense denotes current activity, which corresponds to the "present time" of verse 5 above. The statement may allude to the practice of seeking to establish one's own righteousness by means of a few select good works, such as almsgiving.
In verse 2 above Israel was the northern Kingdom of Israel, but more precisely the idolatrous religious leadership of the nation. So, too, here Paul is likely using Israel as a substitute for the ruling authorities in Jerusalem. this: Grk. touto, neut. demonstrative pron. has not: Grk. ou, adv. been obtained: Grk. epitugchanō, aor. pass., to have success in gaining something; obtain, secure. Many versions translate the phrase as "What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained" (or words to that effect), inferring "it" refers to Israel. Rather the point is that the thing Israel's leaders sought was not obtained. but: Grk. de, conj. the elect: Grk. eklogē. See verse 5 above. The use of "elect," who were part of Israel, demonstrates that Paul uses "Israel" in a contrasting sense, most likely its leadership.
obtained it: Grk. epitugchanō, aor. and: Grk. de, conj. the rest: Grk. loipos, the remaining or what's left of a group. were hardened: Grk. pōroō, aor. pass., to cause imperviousness to effort at stimulating reception of a message, to harden or petrify. Rienecker says that in the literal sense the verb means to cover with a thick skin. The verb is derived from pōros, porous stone, and means to harden, to form a callus (when broken bones heal), and thus to petrify, to become hard (DNTT 2:153). The verb was also applied to bony formations on the joints, called ossification (HELPS). The resulting fig. meaning is unperceptive as a rock, having a calloused attitude, completely lacking sensitivity or spiritual perception. Stern comments that Paul's statement here is an allusion to Ezekiel 36:26, but the Greek word in the LXX text is lithinos, which referred to any kind of rock.
The verb pōroō occurs only once in the LXX, for Heb. tsel (SH-6738), 'shadow,' in Job 17:7, where Job complains that his eyes have been made "calloused" or dim, because of grief. In the Besekh the verb occurs five times (Mark 6:52; 8:17; John 12:40; 2Cor 3:14). Of interest is that in the Synoptic passages Yeshua uses the verb of his disciples. In the epistles Paul uses the verb historically of unbelieving and rebellious Israelites. Christian theologies differ significantly on the meaning of these words. In Hebrew thought character is viewed as a result and not merely as the means. God's unilateral choice made it possible for the remnant to believe and trust. The unbelieving disobedient Israelites are considered hardened because they set their hearts against the will of God and God did not force them to change.
By making the point Paul does not mean that God would have refused grace if the "hardened ones" wanted to repent. Rather, God simply does not overrule the Law of Inertia (things in motion tend to stay in motion). Indeed, God made repeated appeals to Israel through his prophets. However, "hardening" means that God did not prevent them from sinning or spare them the consequences of their sinning. He hardened his position toward them and thus they were hardened. Those who accepted the good news of salvation through Yeshua were considered "worthy" and those who didn't "unworthy" (cf. Acts 13:46-48).
8 just as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes not to see and ears not to hear, unto this very day."
just as: Grk. kathōs, conj. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe, generally in reference to a document. In the LXX graphō appears about 300 times and translates Heb. kathab (SH-3789), to write. The first use of graphō in the LXX is Exodus 24:4, "And Moses wrote all the words of ADONAI." The first use of kathab in the Tanakh is Exodus 17:14, "ADONAI said to Moses, 'Write [LXX katagraphō, "write down"] this for a memorial in the book and rehearse it in the hearing of Joshua" (TLV). The phrase "it has been written" is the standard formula in the apostolic writings for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, followed by a quote from the Tanakh. This is the tenth time the formula is used in the letter.
Paul then conflates Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4. Isaiah 29:10 says, "For ADONAI has poured out on you the spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes, the prophets, and he has covered your heads, the seers " (mine). Deuteronomy 29:4 says, "yet ADONAI has not given to you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, to this day" (mine). God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. gave: Grk. didōmi, aor., to give, used in both literal and figurative senses, whether the focus is on generosity or some other rationale. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan, to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41). them: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. a spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement (Luke 8:55). The spirit of man is that which man has in common with God who is Spirit (Gen 1:2; John 4:24). Pneuma is used frequently for transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Holy Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). of stupor: Grk. katanuxis, an insensibility to divine outreach. The noun comes from katanussō, to gouge, stab or pierce, which occurs in Acts 2:37 to refer to having one's conscience convicted. The point is that the rebels were no longer sensitive to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. eyes: pl. of Grk. ophthalmos may refer to (1) the physical organ of sight; eyes; or (2) fig. of moral or spiritual understanding or perception. The term has a fig. meaning here. not: Grk. mē, adv. to see: Grk. blepō, pres. inf., may mean (1) possess the physical ability to see; (2) use one's eyes to take note of an object; (3) be looking in a certain direction; or (4) to have inward or mental sight. The fourth meaning applies here. Paul omits any mention of the prophets and seers, but that does not mean that this aspect of the verse in Isaiah is ignored.
and ears: pl. of Grk. ous, may refer to (1) the physical organ of hearing or (2) the faculty of understanding or perception. not: Grk. mē, adv. to hear: Grk. akouō, pres. inf., properly to hear aurally and in Scripture with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend with the ears, but also to accept and to act upon what has been heard (DNTT 2:173).
The phrase "eyes … and ears" comes from the Deuteronomy passage, and it is significant that this message was given in Moab. Moses recounts the mighty miracles that God did on Israel's behalf and lamented "you just don't get it." In their wilderness wanderings the people quickly forgot the miracles in Egypt and the daily miracles that ensured their survival. Instead, the people continued to find things to complain about. They didn't understand the covenantal loyalty of God that motivated His actions and they took the miracles as their due, but it was never enough. I'm afraid there is too much of that attitude still with us.
unto: Grk. heōs, prep., a temporal marker of limitation, here of time. this very: Grk. sēmeron, today, as within the daylight hours of this very day, or perhaps in a more collective sense expressing a very short time. day: Grk. hēmera may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The fourth meaning would have application here. The time reference occurs in the Torah quote, but Paul likely had his own time in mind, as well. The lack of understanding still persisted.
9 And David says, "Let their table be changed into a snare and into a trap, and into a stumbling block and into a retribution to them;
And: Grk. kai, conj. David: Grk. David, a transliteration of Heb. David ("dah-veed"), a personal name meaning "favorite" or "beloved" (HBD). David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears in 1 Samuel 16:13 when God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as the next king. At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capital and solidified central authority.
Perhaps most important is his accomplishments in the religious sphere. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2Sam 23:2). God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14).
Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; 1Chr 7:11, 14; 2Chr 7:18; 13:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 23:5-6; 33:21). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy of David's life: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).
says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above. Paul definitely affirms David as the author of the portion of Psalm 69 (verses 22-23 in the Hebrew text; Psalm 68:23-24 in the LXX) that he is about to quote, even though many modern scholars deny Davidic authorship for those psalms bearing a superscription with his name. Paul then offers a Greek translation of Psalm 69:22 that in his typical manner does not coincide exactly with the LXX. Let their: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. table: Grk. trapeza, a surface on which something can be placed, often used of a table used for food service. The LXX has "let their table before them," which Paul may have regarded as a tautology and thus did not repeat it.
be changed: Grk. ginomai, aor. pass. imp. See the note on "become" in verse 1 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to a direction toward a goal or place and consequent arrival; lit. "into." a snare: Grk. pagis, a capturing device, a trap or snare, here used figuratively. and: Grk. kai. into: Grk. eis. a trap: Grk. thēra, a device used in a hunt or chase; a net or trap. This word does not occur in the LXX, but the Hebrew text does contain the word moqesh, "trap." and: Grk. kai. into: Grk. eis. a stumbling block: Grk. skandalon, something that impedes movement, either as a trap that catches or as a stone that causes a stumble. This word actually ends the verse in the LXX, but Paul reverses the order of the last two metaphors, neither of which are found in the Hebrew text.
and: Grk. kai. into: Grk. eis. a retribution: Grk. antapodoma, repayment, recompense or reward. to them: pl. Grk. autos. David's request may seem strange as if he were praying that his enemies would get food poisoning. The petition follows the report of what he experienced in verse 21, being served gall and vinegar, which is treated in the apostolic writings as a Messianic prophecy (cf. Matt 27:34). David is speaking metaphorically, asking God to provide the proportional justice (lex talionis) decreed by the Torah (Lev 24:20); i.e., that the enemy would receive in punishment according to what he inflicted on David.
In contrast to David, Yeshua prayed that the Father would forgive those who executed him, probably focused strictly on the Roman soldiers who actually carried out the execution. Only of the soldiers could it be said "they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34). Yeshua had already prophesied God's vengeance on the temple and the city because of the unbelief of the nation's leaders (Matt 24:2; Luke 19:37-44; 21:20-24). While the death of Yeshua as an atoning sacrifice may have been God's foreordained plan, the Sanhedrin committed a monstrous crime (cf. Acts 2:22-23, 36; 4:10-11; 7:51-53). To the great shame of Christianity the crime of the Jewish leaders was imputed to all their descendants and for centuries used as justification for retribution. Such was the consequence of misunderstanding Paul's line of thought here.
10 let their eyes be darkened not to see, and bend their backs through all."
Paul finishes the rhetorical question with Psalm 69:23, which reproduces the LXX text exactly. let their: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. eyes: pl. of Grk. ophthalmos. See verse 8 above. be darkened: Grk. skotizō, aor. pass. imp., may mean (1) undergo darkness as a natural phenomena or (2) undergo inward darkness, of ignorance or benightedness in moral or spiritual matters. The second meaning fits best here. not: Grk. mē, adv. to see: Grk. blepō, pres. inf. See verse 8 above. The petition, repeated from verse 8, admits the ability of spiritual awareness, but requests divine intervention to prevent knowledge. Given what the adversaries have done they don't deserve the majesty of God's knowledge, lest they blaspheme and incur a worse penalty.
and bend: Grk. sugkamptō, aor. imp., cause to bend with implication of a burden. their: pl. of Grk. autos. backs: pl. of Grk. nōtos, the anatomical body part of the back. The phrase "bend their backs" is a word picture of captives whose backs were bent under burdens (Robertson). The Hebrew text says "make their loins continually to shake." through: Grk. dia, prep. The root meaning of dia is "two" and in composition generally means either "between" or "through." all: Grk. pas, adj., extensive in scope, all, every. The last two words seem to be a temporal reference so Bible versions translate the words "through all" variously as "always," "continually," "constantly" or "forever."
The use of this psalm quote may seem harsh. In context David complains to God about his enemies who hate him and seek his destruction. He engages in hyperbole saying his enemies outnumber the hairs on his head (Ps 69:4). David does not specify his enemies, but they could have been neighboring nations, but more likely the opposition came from political enemies since 69:21 implies an attempted assassination. ("Gall," Heb. rôshe, can mean poison). In any event, David calls down God's wrath on his adversaries as deserving the severest judgment. That Paul would use David's language of imprecation is shocking to Christian theology and too often commentators have misconstrued Paul's intention.
In responding to his fictive opponent Paul has quoted three of Israel’s major figures writing in the three main sections of the Tanakh (Moses in the Torah; Isaiah in the Prophets; and David in the Writings), all of whom bear witness to Israel’s dullness, blindness and deafness to God, and consequent bondage. The implication for the fictive opponent is that Israel has ruined her relationship with God beyond redemption. Furthermore, God has put the seal on rebellion by hardening their hearts to prevent their repentance. This erroneous conclusion Paul strongly rebuts in the next verse.
11 I say then, did they not stumble in order that they might fall? May it never be! But their transgression is salvation to the nations, to incite jealousy in them.
I say: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above. then: Grk. oun, conj. As in the first verse above Paul responds to the rhetorical question he just asked with a declarative statement in the form of a question. did they not: Grk. mē, adv., negative particle but used here for interrogative effect. stumble: Grk. ptaiō, aor., 3p-pl., to lose one's footing, used here figuratively of a moral mishap or sin. in order that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that, so that, that. they might fall: Grk. piptō, aor. subj., to drop from a relatively higher position to a lower. The point of the question was whether Israel is beyond redemption due to a change in status. May it never: Grk. mē. be: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. opt. See verse 1 above. Paul flatly denies the rhetorical proposition. God has not rejected Israel in favor of the Gentiles! But: Grk. alla, conj. their: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. transgression: Grk. paraptōma, violation or trespass. Rienecker defines as a false step, transgression, a falling along side. The "transgression" may refer to the crime of the illegal arrest, trial and execution of Yeshua. Paul focuses on an act, not a state of being. The stumbling did not cause Israel to fall out of God's favor, but in reality served the purposes of God.
is salvation: Grk. sōtēria, a freeing from real or threatening harm or loss; rescue, deliverance or salvation. In the LXX sōtēria occurs over 100 times and translates six different Hebrew words (DNTT 3:206), four of which are formations derived from the root verb yasha (SH-3467, save, deliver), especially yeshu'ah (SH-3444, salvation), the meaning of our Lord's name, and teshu'ah (SH-8668, salvation, victory, help). In the Tanakh deliverance is normally accomplished by God (e.g., Ex 15:2), and the deliverance is from physical harm or from oppression within a human context. Often the deliverance has a spiritual component.
In the Besekh sōtēria is used of deliverance from physical harm (Acts 7:25) or from oppression (Luke 1:71), but the primary use of the term is in relation to divine deliverance from sin and wrath through the mediatorial work of the Messiah. Divine deliverance is described in two important ways: (1) safety of the soul in the present resulting from the receipt of God's mercy (Luke 1:77; Acts 4:12; Rom 10:10) and (2) final redemption over all earthly ills and victory over the Adversary accomplished in the Second Coming, as well as deliverance from God's judgment on the wicked (Rom 13:11; 1Th 5:9; Heb 9:28; Rev 12:10). Ultimately, we are saved, not by anything we do, including trusting in God, but by God's choice to be faithful to His promises. As Paul said, "But because of Him you are in Messiah Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and holiness and redemption" (1Cor 1:30 TLV).
to the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans as a people group. Mounce gives the root meaning as multitude or company. The term has a variety of applications: (1) a group of diverse population that would include descendants of Jacob as residents or citizens (Matt 12:21; 24:14; Acts 17:26; Rom 1:5; 16:26; Gal 2:9; 1Tim 3:16); (2) a group defined both ethnically and geographically, such as Samaritan Jews (Acts 8:9), Judean Jews (Acts 10:22) or other people of Israelite descent (Acts 24:10, 17; 26:4; 1Cor 10:18); or (3) people of non-Israelite traditions, "Gentiles," often viewed in contradistinction to Jews and Israel (e.g., Matt 5:47; Acts 2:27; 21:21; 26:17; Rom 3:29; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:14-15). In the LXX ethnos renders Hebrew goy (pl. goyim) and is used for people groups defined by language and culture, including descendants of Isaac and Jacob and the nation of Israel (cf. Gen 10:5; 12:2; 17:4; 18:18; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1; 42:1, 6; Jer 5:15; Ezek 4:13; 36:13-14; Mic 4:2-3). The word does not have a particular religious meaning.
to incite jealousy: Grk. parazēloō, incite to jealousy. Mounce defines the verb to mean provoke to jealousy, to excite to emulation, or to provoke to indignation. The verb is formed from para, to come alongside, and zēloō, to have a passionate interest in something. Jealousy may be expressed in two different ways: (1) to be envious of someone, or resentful against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage; (2) being zealous for something, a vigilance in maintaining or guarding something; a fervor for a person, cause, or object.
In the LXX parazēloō renders Heb. qana, which spans a range of emotional reaction from envy, to jealousy, to zealousness and to jealous anger (BDB 888). This term is attributed to Yeshua when he cleansed the temple (John 2:17). The translation of "jealous" may lead the reader to assume that God intended to foster an attitude of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, but that does not seem to be the Paul's point. God always wanted Jacob (Israel) to be a company of nations (Gen 28:3) and that Israel would take the light of the knowledge of God to the nations (Isa 2:3; 42:6). God's message of salvation was for the whole world and not just the Jews. Christian commentators, therefore, interpret Paul's words to mean that God would use the acceptance of the Messiah by Gentiles to provoke the rebellious Jews to envy so that they might repent. The reason this would happen is because the Gentiles embraced the faith of Abraham (Rom 4:1-12; Gal 3:29).
Nobody asks the relevant question. Did the Jews become jealous? Have the Jews ever become jealous? There's no evidence that Jews are envious because Gentiles believe in their God and Yeshua. There is simply no historical evidence of Jews accepting the Messiah out of envy of believing Gentiles. The tens of thousands of Jews in the first century who responded favorably to the Messianic message (Acts 21:20) did so out of expectation and longing for the fulfillment of promises made to the patriarchs. Rather than jealousy, the great majority of Jews historically have been provoked to anger and resentment because of ill-treatment, discrimination and violent persecution meted about by zealous "Christians." David Stern offers this indictment that is well worth considering:
"Throughout most of the last two thousand years, the Church, to its great shame, not only has not provoked Jews to jealousy but has engendered repugnance and fear; so that Jewish people, instead of being drawn to love the Jewish Messiah Yeshua, have usually come to hate or ignore him, remaining convinced that their non-Messianic Judaism or secularism or agnosticism is superior to Christianity.
"If this seems a harsh judgment, then let us hear of which Christians Jews are expected to be jealous. Of the "Christians" who trapped Jews in their synagogues and burned them alive (which happened when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, as well as in several European cities)? Of the "Christians" who forced Jews to hear conversionary sermons against their will and expelled from the country those who did not respond (which took place for centuries during the Middle Ages and the Inquisition)? Of the "Christians" who invented the "blood libel" that Jews murder a Christian child and use his blood in their Passover matzah? Of the cross-carrying "Christian" priests leading murderous mobs in pogroms?
"Of the "Christians" who remained silent while six million Jews perished in the Holocaust? Or perhaps of the "Christians" who murdered them—including Hitler himself, who was never excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church? Of "Christian" members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white "Christian" supremacy gangs and their brutish demonstrations? Of "Christians" that support Palestinian organizations whose terrorists kill and maim Israeli Jewish children? Of Greek Orthodox Archbishop Capucci, convicted of gun-running for those same Palestinian terrorist organizations? Of which of these "Christians" are we Jews supposed to be jealous? After such a recital, it is kinder not to dwell on what these people provoke us to—but jealousy it is not.
"The Jews' pain would have been the same regardless of whether these people called themselves Christians; and the name “Christian” is not copyrighted, so that anyone who chooses can apply it to himself, whether his behavior entitles him or not. But the Church’s shame is not only in not having taken a stand consistently repudiating every one of these and other horrors committed against the Jews, but in having actually authorized and encouraged some of them. There is no way of silencing every individual who misuses the name of the Messiah, falsely claiming his authority for their evil deeds. But there is a way for a community to withdraw its approval and fellowship from such people and condemn them publicly; instead, through much of its history, the Church did exactly the opposite. Of this Jews are to be jealous?" (408-409)
If Christians had ever embraced the roots of their faith in Judaism and lived by Torah, then they probably could have made the Jews envious. The Jews would have been shamed that a people not chosen had embraced the faith of their fathers. So the conventional interpretation is inadequate to understand Paul's point. On the other hand, Paul is saying that the message of salvation going to the nations will incite a reaction of zeal for orthodoxy on the part of Jewish leaders. Initially Sanhedrin members were willing to maintain the status quo (cf. Acts 5:34-39), but the outspoken ministry of Paul beginning in Damascus made unbelieving Jewish leaders more zealous for defending their traditions. Moreover, Judean leaders not only spurned the Messiah, but erected a religion designed to insulate Jews against the appeal of the good news.
12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world, and their defeat is riches of the nations, how much more the fulfillment of them!
Now: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. their: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. The pronoun does not refer to every Israelite or Israel as a corporate unit (of which Paul was a member), but the Judean authorities. transgression: Grk. paraptōma. See the previous verse. The KJV's use of the word "fall" instead of "transgression" suggests a significant bias against Israel, which has prejudiced attitudes toward Israel ever since its publication. Similarly the ICB and NCV have an antisemitic rendering "the Jews' failure." is riches: Grk. ploutos, a term used for wealth in a material sense (Matt 13:22; 1Tim 6:17), or fig. of abundant supply (Php 4:19). The term occurs 22 times in the Besekh, 16 of which are in Paul's writings. Yeshua used the term only in a negative sense, but Paul frequently uses ploutos in a positive sense to describe divine mercy (Rom 2:4), glory (Rom 9:22), grace (Eph 1:7; 2:7), and inheritance (Eph 1:18).
for the world: Grk. kosmos has a variety of uses in the Besekh and other Jewish literature, including (1) the orderly universe; (2) the earth as the place of habitation; (3) the world as mankind, sometimes in reference to a segment of population; and (4) representative of people and values opposed to God. In the LXX kosmos occurs five times for Heb. tsaba, the "hosts of heaven and earth," i.e., the stars (Gen 2:1; Deut 4:19), but the meaning of kosmos as "the world of mankind" is only found in Apocryphal writings. A number of passages in the Besekh use "world" to refer to the nations outside the land of Israel (Matt 24:14; Luke 12:30; John 14:22), but the term is also used in some passages of the Jewish world (John 3:17; 6:14, 33; 12:47; 14:19; 16:28; 17:6). The use of kosmos here does not exclude Israelites from the benefit described.
and their defeat: Grk. hēttēma, a worsened condition or circumstance, loss or setback. BAG gives the meaning as "defeat," from the verb hēttaomai, be defeated or succumb to a person or thing. It is basically a military term referring to the loss of a battle because of heavy casualties (Harrison). The term occurs only twice in the Besekh, the other in 1 Corinthians 6:7 where Paul declares the lawsuits among members to be a "defeat" for the congregation. No military unit can possibly defeat the enemy if the soldiers are committing fratricide. The CJB paraphrases the meaning of hēttēma with "being placed temporarily in a condition less favored" as a result of the transgression. However, Paul is not talking about the loss of "most favored nation" status.
Several versions render hēttēma as "failure" (AMPC, ESV, HCSB, GW, MEV, MRINT, MW, NASB, NKJV, NOG, OJB, REV, RSV), but "failure" is too mild a word. Paul's point is that the Sanhedrin's intention was utterly defeated. A similar idea is conveyed in Colossians 2:13-15:
"And you, being dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made alive together with him, having forgiven us all the trespasses; having blotted out the certificate against us in the ordinances, which was contrary to us: and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; having disarmed the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." (mine)
Several versions have "loss" (CEV, HNV, NIV, TLV), which is closer to the idea of "defeat" than "failure." The irony is that Israel did lose something important to them. But let's consider first what they did not lose. They did not lose God's love. They were not rejected as Paul insists in the first verse of this chapter, so they are still a favored nation. They did not lose their advantages of adoption, the glory, the covenants, the Torah legislation, the service of worship and the promises as Paul insisted in 9:4. So what did they lose? It would be easy to interpret this statement through the lens of history and consider the loss of Israel's political existence, as Caiaphas feared (John 11:50). However, we must interpret the loss that resulted from the Sanhedrin's defeat from the time that Paul wrote this letter.
Perhaps the greatest loss from a Jewish point of view is that the Sh'khinah glory of God left the Temple forty years prior to its destruction and God no longer forgave sins based on the Yom Kippur sacrifice. The Talmud explains that four ominous signs occurred: (1) the lot for selecting priests did not come up in the right hand; (2) the westernmost light of the menorah refused to burn continually; (3) the doors of the Temple would open of themselves; and (4) the red wool no longer turned white supernaturally (Yoma 39b).
The fourth sign was the most significant and the most distressing. It was customary to tie a cord of red wool on the horn of the scapegoat, before it was released into the wilderness. When the red wool turned white, it was a sign that God forgave the people’s sin (cf. Isa. 1:18). In a similar fashion the Temple priests used to bind a shining crimson strip of cloth on the outside door of the Temple. If the strip of cloth turned white, they would rejoice; if it did not turn white they were full of sorrow and shame (Yoma 67a).
The people were sorrowful because they began to realize more and more that the sacrifice of Yom Kippur did not have the power to cleanse their sinful hearts. If 40 years is taken literally then in the year Yeshua started His ministry the blood of animals was no longer accepted as a sacrifice for the atonement of sin. However, in Jewish literature 40 years can also be a general rounding up, so that the dating of these signs could have begun after the veil was torn in two (Matt 27:51). After all, it was only the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua that ended the efficacy of animal sacrifices (Heb 9:13-15).
Of course, calculating forty years for the temple in relation to Yeshua, whether the beginning of his ministry or his death, is contingent on the date of Yeshua's birth. In either event, the forty years served as a time of grace. Israel's leadership had forty years to repent. If they had accepted their Messiah the temple might have been maintained. There would be no need to destroy it. Rabbi Akiva in the early second century repeated the crime of Caiaphas and compounded it by endorsing Simon Bar Kokhba as the Messiah, thereby incurring the wrath of God.
is riches: Grk. ploutos. of the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See the previous verse. Paul employs an Hebrew style of parallelism to add emphasis to his point. He may have intended ethnos as a synonym for kosmos, but the parallelism is probably more of the synthetic or constructive variety. That is, the second clause builds on the first and does not merely offer a restatement of the first in different words. Christian commentators typically see the contrast here between Jews and Gentiles. Stern says that the idea of a temporary eclipse of Israel by the Gentiles can be found in rabbinic writings as Jewish religious leaders tried to make sense of the Temple's destruction by the Romans after A.D. 70.
The Talmud has a saying, "When the ox runs and falls, the horse is put in the ox’s stall" (Sanhedrin 98b). Later Jewish commentators, such as Rashi, understood this saying as referring to Israel and the Gentile nations. They accepted that the horse (the goyim) is allowed to replace the ox (Israel), but when the ox recovers it will be hard to remove the horse from his position of power without inflicting much suffering. Another aspect of the contrast is between those who sinned and those who accept the benefit of the atoning sacrifice. From Paul's viewpoint the whole world, including Jews, would benefit, not just in his present, but in the years ahead.
how much: Grk. posos, interrogative pron. with numerical aspect, which may focus on degree or on quantity; how much, how great. more: Grk. mallon, adv. of increase or additive to some aspect of activity, situation, or condition; (much) more. Paul engages in the classic kal v'chomer argument ("light and heavy"), corresponding to what in logic as fortiori reasoning: If A is true, then, a fortiori (Latin, "with [even] greater strength"), B must also be true. The English phrase, "how much more," equivalent to Hebrew kol sh’khen, expresses this sense and force. Explicit kal v’chomer arguments appear frequently in the Besekh, which emphasizes the fact that the Jewish apostles communicated in a manner typical of rabbinic reasoning and hermeneutical rules. So, if A is true (their defeat produced riches of mercy for the nations), then how much more is B true (Israel will likewise experience God's mercy).
the fullness: Grk. plērōma, that which is there as result of filling. In application the term may mean (1) that which fills up the contents; (2) that which is full of something; (3) that which is brought to fullness either as the full number or sum total; (4) fulfillment and (5) the state of being full, such as the fullness of time. "Fullness" implies a far great number than the remnant of verse 5. of them: pl. of Grk. autos. Paul's argument in this verse is that since the Sanhedrin's defeat has brought the riches of God's grace to the Gentiles on a large scale, then acceptance by Israel of her Messiah (v. 26) will bring even greater blessing to the world (Harrison).
Stern suggests that here Gentiles are offered a “selfish” motive for evangelizing Jews: Jewish spiritual failure has brought riches to the Gentiles, but Jewish spiritual success will bring them even greater riches, so it pays spiritually to win Jews. In any event, Paul declares that Israel will not be left out of the riches of grace. Indeed, Revelation offers a glimpse of that future when the full number of Israelite tribes and Gentiles will form the Kingdom of God (Rev 7:4-9).
Shulam suggests another layer of meaning by noting that plērōma is consistently used in the apostolic writings to refer to Yeshua himself (387). In him all the "fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily" (Col 2:9; cf. Col 1:19; Eph 4:13) and he gives of that fullness to his body, the Messianic community (John 1:16; Rom 15:29; Eph 1:23; 3:19). Yeshua also embodies the fullness of the times (Eph 1:10; cf. Gal 4:4), which includes the fulfilling [Grk. plēroō] of the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24) and the final "fullness of the Gentiles" that completes the great plan of salvation (verse 25 below). Significant is John Wesley's note on this verse:
"So many prophecies refer to this grand event, that it is surprising any Christian can 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 thousand Deists, in countries nominally Christian; of whom there will, of course, be increasing multitudes among merely nominal Christians. And this will be a means of swiftly propagating the gospel among Mahometans and Pagans; who would probably have received it long ago, had they conversed only with real Christians."
13 Now I am speaking to you, the Gentiles, on the basis of how much indeed then I am an apostle of the nations, I glorify my ministry
Now: Grk. de, conj. I am speaking: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above. to you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pers. pron. the Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 11 above. Paul now addresses the non-Israelite members of the congregation, who would have included both proselytes and God-fearers. The proselytes had chosen full identification with Israel through circumcision and had all the legal rights in Israel as other Jews. The God-fearing Gentiles loved the Jewish people, believed in and prayed to the God of Israel, attended synagogue worship, kept at least the moral code and other Jewish traditions in varying degrees, and gave alms and other financial support to the Jews.
The specific address affirms that the letter was written to both Jews and Gentiles in the congregation. The Gentile members had apparently been subjected to the kind of pessimism voiced in Paul's fictive rhetoric. The Jewish disciples would be quietly saying "amen" to Paul's argument hoping that the Gentile disciples "got it." How Christianity misinterpreted and even twisted Paul's words to build an antisemitic theology is perhaps the most colossal blunder of history. It was bad enough that Jews suffered because of the sins of Caiaphas and Akiva, but the Gentile Christian Church learned nothing from Paul's plea and compounded the plight of the Jews.
on the basis of: Grk. epi, prep. that expresses the idea of hovering, used primarily as a marker of position or location; but used here for the purpose of drawing a conclusion. how much: Grk. hosos, correlative of posos (see the previous verse) denoting maximum inclusion or a signifier of degree; how much, how great, how many, as great as, as much. Danker translates the word here as "to the degree/extent that. indeed: Grk. mén, conj., a particle of affirmation; indeed, verily, truly. Most versions do not translate this particle, but it gives added emphasis to the proposition presented. Many versions provide a concise translation of epi hosos mén with "inasmuch." then: Grk. oun, conj.
I: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. am: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 1 above. an apostle: Grk. apostolos, a delegate, ambassador, envoy, messenger, emissary or official representative. Only here does Mark use the word "apostles" for the disciples. In this context the title is descriptive of their function and is not a title. In Greek culture apostolos was used of an envoy representing a king and a commander of a naval expedition. In the LXX apostolos occurs only in 1 Kings 14:6 where it translates Heb. shaluach, pass. part. of the verb shalach, to send. "Sending" is a key activity of God, and in the past His emissaries included angels (Gen 19:13; Num 20:16; 2Chr 32:21), Joseph (Gen 45:5), Moses and Aaron (Ex 3:12, 15; 1Sam 12:8), the deliverance judges (Jdg 2:16; 1Sam 12:11) and all the prophets (1Sam 15:1; 2Sam 12:1; 2Kgs 2:2; Isa 6:8; 48:6; Jer 26:5, 12; 35:15; Ezek 2:3).
First century Judaism institutionalized the office of shaliach, (pass. part. of Aram. shalach) who acted as an official messenger or a proxy for and with the full authority of the sender, as the Mishnah says, "the agent (Heb. shaluach) is as the one who sends him" (Ber. 5:5). When the high priest authorized Paul to initiate persecution against the disciples he was acting as the priest's shaliach (Acts 9:1-2). A peculiarity of the shaliach is that these representatives were not missionaries to win others to Judaism. The shaliach’s mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128). Nevertheless, when Yeshua, the Great High Priest, appointed the twelve disciples and Paul as his shlichim (pl. of shaliach), the mission was broad and its duration indefinite.
In the Besekh the term "apostle" is first applied to the original Twelve (Matt 10:2), then Mattathias (Acts 1:25-26), Paul (Acts 9:15; Rom 1:1), Barnabas (Acts 14:4) and Jacob (the brother of Yeshua, Gal 1:19), because they too had "seen the Lord" and been approved to speak on His behalf (Acts 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:6; 1Jn 1:1). In Romans 16:7 Paul mentions Andronicus and Junia as apostles. All the apostles named in the Besekh were Jewish. The apostles had the authority to proclaim the good news, determine orthodox doctrine, impose requirements based on application of Torah ("bind and loose," Matt 16:19; 18:18), and shepherd the congregations they founded (cf. 1Cor 14:37). While the gift of apostleship (e.g., serving as a cross-cultural missionary), continued beyond the first century (1Cor 12:28), the unique authority of the apostolic office ended with the original apostles and the publication of their sacred writings.
of the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. Many versions translate ethnōn as "to the Gentiles," even though there is no preposition "to." The genitive case of the noun, normally translated as "of" is an objective genitive, meaning the nations receive the benefit of Paul's apostleship. My translation of "nations" (also found in DARBY and YLT) seems appropriate since Paul alludes to his commission from Yeshua as announced to Ananias, "he is a choice instrument to carry My name before nations and kings and Bnei-Yisrael" (Acts 9:15 TLV). Ananias served as an independent witness to God's intention. Some time later Paul received his call direct from the Lord while praying in the temple (Acts 22:17-21; 26:16-18). Paul then reaffirmed his call as an apostle in every letter he wrote, except Hebrews. Paul no doubt felt the need to frequently repeat his credentials due to his record as a persecutor, and there were likely many who felt him to be unworthy of this assignment.
In his Galatian letter Paul distinguishes Peter's apostleship to the "circumcised' from his own to the uncircumcised and the nations (Gal 2:7-8). As a result Christian interpreters have mischaracterized Paul's ministry as only to Gentiles and Peter's ministry as only to Jews. We need to consider these facts: (1) The "uncircumcised" included Hellenistic Jews and the "circumcised" included Gentile proselytes. (2) The "circumcised" was a technical term for the zealous orthodox Jews who insisted on Gentile circumcision to be considered a part of the Messianic Kingdom (Acts 15:1). (3) Peter was the first apostle to take the good news to Gentiles after Paul received his call. (4) With the exception of Athens Paul always proclaimed the good news at the local synagogue first. (5) Contrary to popular assumption the constituency of congregations in the apostolic era was predominantly Jewish.
I glorify: Grk. doxazō, pres., (from doxa, "glory"), enhance esteem or reputation through word (of praise) or action to honor. In the LXX doxazō renders Heb. navah (SH–5115), to beautify, adorn with praises (Ex 15:2), but principally kabad (SH–3513), to be weighty, to be honored or praised (Lev 10:3; Ps 15:4). my: Grk. egō. ministry: Grk. diakonia, service or ministration, especially in meeting the needs of others. Sometimes the term is used in the apostolic writings of dedication to a specific divine assignment, such as prayer and preaching. Other examples include special ministrations like that of Martha (Luke 10:40) and the collection for famine relief (1Cor 16:15; 2Cor 8:4).
Although the concept of service is set forth in the Torah, the only occurrence of diakonia in the LXX is in Esther 6:3, 5 and 1 Maccabees 11:58 in reference to servants in the royal court. In first century Judaism diakonia is found in both Philo and Josephus, the latter in describing the Essenes (DNTT 3:545). Generally Jews practiced their social responsibilities through almsgiving, but lowly service, such as waiting on table or performing personal service was considered beneath the dignity of a free man (cf. Luke 7:44-46; John 13:3-8). In contrast Josephus said that the Essenes refrained from marriage and keeping personal servants, but instead lived in mutual ministry to one another (Ant. XVIII, 1:5). In the congregation of Yeshua diakonia was so important that it was elevated to an office (cf. Acts 6:1; Php 1:1; 1Tim 3:8).
Paul conducted his apostolic assignment with the heart of a servant. In chapter fifteen he will discuss a specific mission of service in which he was engaged. The present tense of the verb "glorify" conveys not boastfulness but submissive and faithful obedience to the divine call. Stern restates Paul's declaration as "I make a point of letting Jewish people know about it." Paul was happy to be a servant of Yeshua (Rom 1:1).
14 if somehow I will incite to jealousy of my flesh, and save some of them.
if: Grk. ei, conj. See verse 6 above. somehow: Grk. pós, particle expressing an undetermined aspect; somehow; perhaps. Paul alludes to the strategy of his ministry by which he became all things to all men, as he states in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. He says that he became as a Judean Jew, meaning he maintained his orthodox identity, which he emphasizes in this letter. He lived by the traditions of the Pharisees ("those under the law" or legalism). In addition, for the sake of Gentiles he placed himself in the role of a God-fearing Gentile living by Torah as interpreted by Yeshua. He did not become a Gentile to the Jews as suggested by Shulam. In all these roles he lived a life of sacrifice and simplicity (cf. Phil 4:11-12) to avoid giving offense to the poor. Paul was the model of the cross-cultural missionary.
I will incite to jealousy: Grk. parazēloō, fut. See verse 11 above. Paul wants to incite a zeal for God reflected in acceptance of and service to Messiah Yeshua based on the transformation of Gentiles who were both Torah-observant and committed followers of the Jewish Messiah. of my: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. flesh: Grk. sarx, "flesh," has both literal and figurative uses in Scripture. Sarx refers basically to being alive in an earthly or physical way, including parts of the body; flesh, human being, person. Sarx is also used of a condition of human perspective, which may reflect a natural limitation, personal desire or even sinfulness.
In the LXX sarx stands for Heb. basar, which denotes flesh as (1) the food of men, Gen 41:2; (2) tissues or parts of the human body, Gen 2:21; (3) the human body in its entirety, specifying the part for the whole, Ps 63:2; and also figurative of close relations, Gen 29:14, and even all mankind, Job 34:15 (DNTT 1:672). Paul uses sarx here as he does in 9:3 to denote his ethnic identity as an Israelite. Many Christian interpreters make the mistake of assuming that Paul, the rest of the apostles and Jewish disciples in the first century were once Jews, but then became Christians and stopped being Jews. However, Paul continued to identify himself as a Jew as he does elsewhere (cf. Acts 21:39; 22:3; 26:4; 1Cor 9:20; Gal 2:15; Php 3:5). Indeed, Paul never called himself a "Christian" and the word "Christian" occurs nowhere in his writings.
and save: Grk. sōzō, fut., to deliver, or rescue from a hazardous condition, often in the sense of bodily harm (Matt 14:30), as well from spiritual peril (Matt 24:13). In the LXX sōzō translates no less than 15 different Hebrew verbs, but the most important yasha, to deliver and save (e.g., 1Sam 23:5), and malat, to escape, deliver, save, (e.g., 1Kgs 1:12). The verbs are used in relation to various external threats and bodily peril, especially enemies (DNTT 3:206). Two important principles may be noted in the Tanakh. First, deliverance may be mediated through men (e.g., Gideon, Jdg 7:2). Second, the pious Israelite was aware of the fact that deliverance comes ultimately from God himself (Ps 18:2; 44:3). It is by His power and name that foes are vanquished and evil defeated. In the Besekh sōzō frequently refers to rescue from spiritual peril, including deliverance from God's wrath on the Day of the Lord.
some: Grk. tis, indefinite pron., a certain one or thing, someone, anyone. of: Grk. ek, prep. them: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. Paul is under no false illusions that every Jew would be saved (Rom 9:6; cf. Matt 3:9; John 1:12-13), nor did he labor under any assumption that he could save anyone by himself (1Cor 3:6). Salvation of sinners is a collaborate effort as disciples minister together in the name of Yeshua with the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt 9:36-38; Acts 1:8). Sometimes Christians may be infected with a naiveté that assumes the world can be won for Yeshua if only every disciple would win another disciple. Yeshua himself said that only a few would be saved (Matt 7:14).
What Christians miss in interpreting this verse is the importance of evangelism among Jews. Stern observes that most Christians do not have a ministry to Jewish people, so they suppose that they have no particular responsibility toward them. The imperative of the good news of salvation is to the Jew first (1:16) and Christians should consider how they might support evangelism to Jews worldwide and to Israelis in particular, especially through Messianic Jewish organizations and ministries. Contrary to common perception Paul spent considerable time among Jews. The first stop in every city he visited was the synagogue where he presented the message of Messiah Yeshua. Even in Rome, the very city to which this letter was written, he seems to have had, a few years later, a notable evangelistic success with them (Acts 28:24–25).
15 For if their rejection is reconciliation of the world, what is acceptance if not life from the dead?
For: Grk. gar, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. their: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron., genitive case. rejection: Grk. apobolē, a throwing away, and thus rejection, losing, or loss, as in the peril at sea in Acts 27:22. Some versions treat the pronoun "their" as an objective genitive, which denotes receiving the action. Thus, these versions interpret the opening clause to mean Israel being rejected by God (AMPC, ASV, BRG, Darby, DRA, EXB, HNV, JUB, KJV, Moffatt, NCV, NKJV, NLV, NRIV, PNT, TEV, WE, WEB). The ERV and WE are very explicit with "God turned away from the Jews." All of these versions have purposely mistranslated what Paul meant and used words and grammatical constructions not even found in the Greek text. Moreover, the bad translations contradict what Paul has just explicitly said in verse 1 that God has not rejected Israel and what he says in verses 28–29 below that God’s gifts and calling of Israel are irrevocable.
The pronoun "their" is clearly a subjective genitive, which denotes performing the action. Israel, that is, the Judean authorities rejected God's purposes in Yeshua. Other versions have the simple translation "their rejection" (AMP, CEB, DLNT, ESV, HCSB, ISV, LEB, MEV, MRINT, NAB, NASB, NEB, NJB, NET, NIV, NOG, NRSV, OJB, RSV, TLV) as I've done above. Unfortunately, some Christian readers might still interpret the literal translation as God's rejection rather than Israel's rejection. The CJB clarifies the matter by its translation of "by casting Yeshua aside," as well as the CEV, "when Israel rejected God."
is: Of interest is the lack of a verb here and thus Paul implies a logical formula. "Rejections equals." reconciliation: Grk. katallagē, change into a friendly relationship, reconciliation. Mounce defines as "restoration to favor." A few versions translates katallagē as a verbal participle (ASV, HNV, JUB, KJV, NKJV), but it actually is a noun in the nominative form. The noun points to an end result, not the process. Reconciliation reflects a drastic change in relationship grounded in the mercy and forgiveness of God. of the world: Grk. kosmos. See verse 12 above. Jews generally believed that Gentiles could be saved if they abided by the terms of the Noahic covenant (Stern 81). However, the apostolic message is that reconciliation with God is accomplished through the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua.
what: Grk. tís, interrogative pron. It's important to note that Paul asks a question rather than making a prophecy of the future. "What would happen if?" is acceptance: Grk. proslēmpsis, hospitable reception, opposite of apobolē. This phrase should be interpreted in the same manner as the first clause and would refer to the reception of Yeshua by Israel as their Messiah and Redeemer. if: Grk. ei. not: Grk. mē, adv. life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in contrast with being dead. The Besekh not only uses zōē in its normal meaning of ordinary physical existence, but over forty times for life that continues into the next age and eternity. In the LXX zōē renders Heb. chay (SH-2416, alive, living) with both literal and figurative uses.
from: Grk. ek, prep. the dead: Grk. nekros, without life in the physical sense; dead. The phrase "life from the dead" alludes to the bodily resurrection, which he discusses in 8:11-24 and at length in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul as a Pharisee believed in the resurrection and when he later appears before the Sanhedrin he will proclaim that he is on trial for the hope of the resurrection (Acts 23:6). Yet, Paul does not use the word "resurrection" and "life from the dead" would carry a profound spiritual meaning (Rom 6:4, 13; Col 2:12). The Judean leaders were dead in their trespasses and sins (cf. Eph 2:3) and served "dead works" (Heb 9:14). If Israel's leaders were to reverse their opposition to Yeshua Israel would truly come to life as God intended.
Stern suggests that Paul may be offering a midrash on Ezekiel 37, which uses the valley-of-dry-bones vision to speak figuratively of Israel being restored as a political nation to inhabit the Land forever (Ezek 37:1–12, 15–22), and then spiritually (Ezek 37:13–14, 23–28) as coming to faith in God and his Messiah Yeshua in the light of the New Covenant. Thus, "Paul feels duty-bound to follow the Jewish pattern of hastening the Messiah’s Second Coming (cf. 2Pet 3:12) by evangelizing the Jewish people indirectly (vv. 13–14) as well as directly (Acts 9–28, 1Cor 9:19–23)." Similarly, Morris interprets the phrase "life from the dead" as the reconciling of Israel back to God, associated with both the resurrection of Israel as a nation and the bodily resurrection of all who died in faith (Isa 26:19; Hos 6:1-3; Rev 20:4-6). This interpretation provides strong motivation for Jewish evangelism.
16 Now if the firstfruits is holy, also the lump, and if the root is holy, also the branches.
Paul introduces the analogy of the Olive Tree, which continues through verse 24, but begins with a different metaphor. Now: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. the firstfruits: Grk. aparchē, make a beginning in sacrifice by offering something as first fruits. In Greek culture this term referred to the first portions set apart for deity. In the LXX this word was chosen to translate terumah ("heave offering," Num 15:19), where it refers to a portion of bread-cake that was presented as an offering to represent the first fruits of the harvest. The feast, called Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) and Yom HaBikkurim (Day of First Fruits), occurred fifty days after Passover (Lev 23:9-11, 17-20; Num 15:18-21). This was the only time of the year that leavened bread was permitted in the inner sanctuary of the Temple. It was during this feast that the Holy Spirit came upon 120+ disciples, later identified as Pentecost on the Christian calendar.
is holy: Grk. hagios, adj., set apart for dedication to the interests or expectations of God. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qôdesh, sacredness, apartness, holiness (DNTT 2:224; BDB 871). In the Torah the first fruits offering was holy (Heb. qadôsh) to the Lord, i.e., it belonged to God. also: Grk. kai, conj. the lump: Grk. phurama, a mass of malleable matter formed by mixing or kneading dry and wet ingredients. Paul makes the analogy that if the portion of the bread-cake offered by the priests is holy, so is the whole cake.
and: Grk. kai, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. the root: Grk. rhiza, root, normally used of a tree (Matt 3:10) and other plants (Mark 4:6), but also in imagery of genealogical or family stock (Rom 15:12; Rev 5:5). The root is the source of nourishment (the next verse) and support (verse 18 below) for the entire plant. The term has a figurative use as demonstrated in a parable of Yeshua (Matt 13:21; Mark 4:17; Luke 8:13) and Paul's reasoning that follows. Rhiza is also used to in the LXX translate Heb. shoresh, a root (BDB 1057) to represent the root of the Messiah (Isa 11:10; 53:2; Sirach 47:22). is holy: Grk. hagios. Paul adds the logical comparison that if one is holy so is another. Commentators have suggested four alternatives for the identity of the root:
1. The root could be historic Israel, namely the faithful remnant (cf. 9:6-7; 11:5). The root could allude to the prophecy of Isaiah 6:3, "If even a tenth [of the people] remain, it will again be devoured. "But like a pistachio tree or an oak, whose trunk remains alive after its leaves fall off, the holy seed will be its trunk" (CJB). Against this interpretation is that the root cannot be the Jewish people, since like the Gentiles they are branches (Edwards).
2. A couple of passages speak of first fruits in connection with disciples:
"Not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for adoption, the redemption of our body." (Rom 8:23)
"Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures." (Jas 1:18)
The Body of Messiah is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20) and, of course, the first disciples of Yeshua were Jews. The root of Christianity is in Jews who followed Yeshua and to deny this Jewish root, as Edwards says, is to lay an axe at the root of the Christian religion. However, Paul is not talking about Messianic Jews of the first century being the foundation of Christianity. Messianic Jews can no more be the root in this context than historic Israel for the same reason that branches cannot be the root.
3. Abraham is arguably the father of our faith and as such could be the root (cf. Rom 4:12; 11:28). Peter in his Pentecost sermon and Paul in his Roman treatise asserted that all of God’s promises of blessing and life have their origin in Abraham (Acts 3:25; Rom 4:1-12). God promised as much to Abraham – "I will make you a great nation…and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (Gen 12:2-3). Early Gentile believers in Messiah Yeshua were not surprised to hear that their origin and hope for the future likewise resided in Abraham, as Paul says, "If you are Messiah's, then you are Avraham's seed and heirs according to promise" (Gal 3:29 CJB). The faith Yeshua and the apostles handed down to the Body of Messiah was a Hebrew faith grounded in the life and example of the first Hebrew, Abraham. This option is favored by Clarke, Harrison, Murray, Stern, and Wesley.
4. Yeshua would seem to be a better choice since Paul refers to Yeshua as firstborn, a root and first fruits:
"For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Rom 8:29)
"Again, Yesha'yahu [Isaiah] says, "There will be the root [Grk. rhiza] of Yishai [Jesse], He who arises to rule over the Goyim; on him will the Goyim hope." (Rom 15:12 CJB)
"But now Messiah has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Messiah the first fruits, then those who are Messiah's, at his coming." (1Cor 15:20-23 CJB)
Yeshua is also the root in the writings of John.
"Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root [Grk. rhiza] of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." (Rev 5:5)
"I, Yeshua, have sent My angel to testify these things to you for My communities. I am the Root [Grk. rhiza] and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star." (Rev 22:16 TLV)
A similar analogy occurs in John 15 where Yeshua says, "I am the vine, you are the branches," (John 15:5). Of course, "branches" in that passage is not the same word that occurs here, but the metaphor functions in the same manner. The branches, whether tree or grape vine, draw their sustenance from the root. Taking the root as Yeshua seems a logical deduction. In Yeshua's debate with his opponents in John 8, he counters the claim of his opponents as being the children of Abraham with the saying, "before Abraham was born, I am," (John 8:58). In other words the root is YHVH, the God of Israel, who called Abraham to the life of faithfulness (Gen 15:7; 17:1). Yeshua is YHVH and as such is the author and perfecter of our trusting faithfulness (Heb 12:2), not Abraham.
Paul does not explain the root here, although in the next verse he will mention the tree, which, of course, biologically speaking consists of root, trunk and branches. In Jeremiah 11:16 Adonai says that he gave the name "Olive Tree" to Israel. However, in the total context of Scripture, considering the usage of rhiza, the root is Yeshua.
also: Grk. kai, conj. the branches: pl. of Grk. klados, branch in reference to a tree. In the Besekh the word occurs only in the Synoptic Narratives (Matt 13:32; 21:8; 24:32) and in this chapter. Paul began with the first fruits of bread in order to present his theology of the Olive Tree in the following verses, which may be a midrash on the figure of the olive tree in Jeremiah 11:16-19 (suggested by A.T. Hanson; cited in NET Notes). The same logic of the bread applies to the tree. The branches are holy to the Lord.
As for the identity of the branches Stern suggests four options: (1) every single Jew, past, present and future; (2) every single Messianic Jew, past, present and future; (3) the Jewish people, as a nation, though not necessarily every Jew; (4) all believers, Jewish and Gentile, past, present and future. Stern favors the third option, and given Paul's description of the body of Messiah as the commonwealth of Israel in Ephesians 2, then it would seem most logical that the branches constitute corporate Israel, biblically defined.
Another viable alternative is that since God gave the name "Olive Tree" to Israel, then the branches would be the twelve tribes. There is precedence for this view since Joseph was likened to producing fruitful branches (Gen 49:22). Joseph would eventually be treated as two tribes (Manasseh and Ephraim) in the distribution of the Land. Yeshua likened his apostles as branches of a vine and they probably represented the twelve tribes since he promised that they would judge the twelve tribes (Luke 22:30).
The Olive Tree Analogy, 11:17–32
But: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pron. of the branches: pl. of Grk. klados. See the previous verse. have been broken off: Grk. ekklaō, aor. pass., to break off. This may be a historical allusion to the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah:
"Now in that day Jacob's glory will fade, and the fatness of his flesh grow lean. 5 It will be as when the harvester gathers the standing grain and reaps the heads with his arm, as when one gleans grain in the valley of Rephaim. 6 Only gleanings will remain, as when beating an olive tree—two or three olives at the very top, four or five on a fruitful tree’s branches. It is a declaration of ADONAI God of Israel." (Isa 17:4-6 TLV)
"ADONAI called your name—a leafy olive tree, beautiful with well-formed fruit. With the noise of a great tumult He has set it on fire, and its branches are broken." (Jer 11:16 TLV)
Considering the branches as tribes, ten were broken off from the Olive Tree during the time of the Assyrian invasion. However, the ten tribes were not removed from the Land in their entirety. In fact, after the Assyria invasion, there were members of those tribes that migrated to Judah or were already there at the time of the invasion (2Kgs 15:29; 17:6, 21; 2Chr 30:1, 21, 25; 31:1; 32:17, 23; 34:9, 21; 35:17; 36:13). Eventually, the remaining branches were broken off by the Babylonians as far as removal from the Land. However, a better way of interpreting the metaphorical language is that God cut off all the unfaithful in all the tribes as he promised in the Torah curses (Deut 28:45; 30:17-18). None of the tribes disappeared (Acts 26:7; Jas 1:1) and God's covenant with all twelve tribes remains in force as the appointment of the apostles as their clan leaders (Matt 19:28) and their representation in Revelation 7:4-8 testify.
and: Grk. de, conj. you: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 1 above. a wild olive: Grk. agrielaios, an uncultivated olive tree. It grows wild rather than being planted or cultivated by a farmer. The noun occurs only twice in the Besekh, both in this chapter. The Greek term does not occur in other Jewish literature so its use as a type is unique to Paul. The Tanakh contains one mention of a term that many versions translate as "wild olive" (Heb. ets [tree, wood] shemen [oil, fat], Neh 8:15), but the LXX renders the Hebrew name with kuparissos, cypress. Some versions translate ets shemen as "pine" (BRG, JUB, KJV, MSG, TEV), so perhaps this is a plant not readily identifiable.
As the Olive Tree of Israel existed by covenant consisting of commandments, the wild olive then refers to those outside the covenant, i.e., Gentiles. In Ephesians 2:12 Paul depicts the Gentiles as "strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world." having been grafted in: Grk. egkentrizō, aor. part., a horticultural term meaning to graft into a plant. A bud, shoot, or scion of a plant is inserted in a groove, slit, or the like in a stem or stock of another plant in which it continues to grow. among: Grk. en, prep., lit. "within." them: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. The plural pronoun refers to the branches of the olive tree. GW and RSV give the bizarre translation of "grafted in their place," implying a replacement theology. The Greek phrase instead emphasizes that the wild olive shoot was inserted into the tree among the other branches.
and became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 5 above. a co‑partner: Grk. sugkoinōnos (from sun, with and koinōnos, a sharer, partner, companion) to be connected with or to be a sharer with; participant, sharer. Many versions translate the noun as a verb (generally "share"). The term occurs only four times in the Besekh (also 1Cor 9:23; Php 1:7; Rev 1:9). The noun does not occur in other Jewish literature, but Paul's scribe may have chosen the word to convey the meaning of the participial form of Heb. chalaq, to divide, share (SH-2505) and is used in passages pertaining to sharing in inheritance (Prov 17:2) and the division of the land among the tribes of Israel (Josh 18:10).
Individual examples of national grafting found in the Tanakh include Rahab, Ruth and Naamah who all belonged to idolatrous nations, but were grafted into the stock of Israel. Rahab and Ruth were ancestors of King David (Josh 6:25; Ruth 4:13ff; Matt 1:5) and Naamah was an ancestor of King Hezekiah (1Kgs 14:31; Matt 1:7-9). Paul describes the "grafted-in" Gentiles as "fellow citizens with the holy ones, and of the household of God" (Eph 2:19). Those who join the people of God gain all the rights and privileges as the native-born Israelites.
of the fatness: Grk. piotēs, referring to the high quality of sap delivered from the root of the olive tree; fatness, richness. of the root: Grk. rhiza. See the previous verse. In horticultural grafting the new branch, called a scion, does not take place into the root but into the stock of the tree. The grafting may be done to repair an injured tree or fill out a mature tree to make it even better. However, the rootstock has what the scion needs for nourishment and the scion has buds capable of blossoming and producing fruit. This imagery has powerful spiritual implications.
of the olive tree: Grk. elaia, used of the olive tree, its fruit (Jas 3:12) and the Mount of Olives (Matt 21:21). The olive is a small evergreen tree or shrub native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin (the adjoining coastal areas of southeastern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa) as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea. Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil. Olive trees are very hardy, resistant to drought, disease and fire, and can live for a very long time. Its root system is very capable of regenerating the tree even if the above-ground structure is destroyed.
The Tanakh describes the people of Israel as various trees, including the vine (Isa 5:1-7), the cedar and the palm tree (Ps 92:12), and the olive tree (Jer 11:16). The olive tree is most significant as demonstrated in this quotation form the Talmud:
"R. Isaac said, … Then came forth a Heavenly Voice and said, 'The Lord called thy name a leafy olive-tree, fair with goodly fruit: as the olive-tree produces its best only at the very end, so Israel will flourish at the end of time.' … R. Joshua b. Levi said, 'Why is Israel likened to an olive-tree? To tell you that as the olive-tree loses not its leaves either in summer or in winter, so Israel shall never be lost either in this world or in the world to come.' R. Johanan said, 'Why is Israel likened to an olive-tree? To tell you that just as the olive produces its oil only after pounding, so Israel returns to the right way only after suffering.'" (Menahoth 53b)
The olive tree is called Heb. asher and the tribe of Asher is associated in Genesis 49:20 with olive oil; its traditional sign or symbol being the olive tree itself (Shulam 388). There could be some significance in Anna, a prophetess from the tribe of Asher, greeting of the parents of the baby Messiah at the temple and representing the nation waiting for its redemption (Luke 2:36-38).
18 do not be boasting of the branches. But, if you are boasting, you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
do not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 1 above. be boasting: Grk. kauchaomai, aor. mid. imp., have or express pride in being intimately associated or involved with some person, thing or circumstance; boast. "Boast" perhaps implies a taunting attitude of superiority because of having been grafted into the tree. The verbal form combined with the negative particle indicates a command for the offenders to stop a practice in progress. of the branches: pl. of Grk. klados. See verse 16 above. The "branches" may allude to the Jewish branches previously "broken off" for unbelief or even the remnant branches as part of the Olive Tree.
But: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. you are boasting: Grk. kauchaomai, pres. mid., 2p-sing. you: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. do not: Grk. ou, adv., particle of strong negation. support: Grk. bastazō, pres., may mean (1) take up something from a position; lift; (2) sustain a burden; bear, carry; (3) remove from a position; carry away, remove. The second meaning applies here. Thayer gives the meaning here as 'uphold' or 'support.' the root: Grk. rhiza. See verse 16 above. but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 4 above. the root: Grk. rhiza. supports you: Grk. su. The verb bastazō is not repeated, but is implied in the construction.
Paul offers a similar thought in 1 Corinthians 4:7, "For who makes you different? And what do you have that you didn't receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" The principle applies no matter how the root is defined, because the Gentiles are not the root. Too many Christians still fail to realize that trusting in Israel's God and Messiah also means joining the covenant people. We should have the same attitude of Ruth who in humility said: "Your people shall be my people and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16). As Stern reminds us, "Gentile Christians have joined Israel, not the reverse. For a Gentile Christian to look down on the people he has joined is not only chutzpah and ingratitude but also self-hate."
19 Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in."
Then: Grk. oun, conj. you will say: Grk. ereō, fut., inform through utterance, here denoting anticipated speech; call, say, speak, tell. Paul returns to the rhetorical device of the fictive opponent and uses the future tense to suggest how the opponent will respond to what Paul has just asserted. The verb is singular, which may only be natural for a fictive opponent or it may suggest an actual person without indicting a number of Gentiles in the Roman congregation. Branches: pl. of Grk. klados. See verse 16 above. were broken off: Grk. ekklaō, aor. pass. See verse 17 above. so that: Grk. hina, conj. See verse 11 above. I might be grafted in: Grk. egkentizō, aor. pass. subj., 1p-sing., to graft in. The verb means properly, to engraft (insert) by making a puncture to graft a viable shoot into another plant (tree) (HELPS).The fictive opponent has the temerity to suggest that branches, whether tribes or unbelieving Jews, were broken off in order to replace them with Gentiles. What colossal arrogance to think that God would be such a discriminator of persons!
20 Right! They were broken off by unbelief, but you stand by faithfulness; be not high minded, but fear.
Right: Grk. kalōs, an adverb denoting in an effective manner, used here as an exclamation. Danker translates the word for this verse as an exclamatory, "Fine!" Thayer says the adverb is an expression of approval and virtually every Bible version reflects this viewpoint. However, the expression also has the nuance of sarcasm, because he goes on to rebuke faulty conclusion. This interpretation is reflected in the CJB that has "True, but so what?" and the TLV that has "True enough." they were broken off: Grk. ekklao, aor. pass., 3p-pl. See verse 17 above. by unbelief: Grk. apistia, refusal to give credence to; lack of faith, unbelief. Danker says the noun refers to the lack of willingness to respond positively to words or actions that invite belief or commitment.
Unbelief invariably cuts one off from God and invokes divine wrath. The Greek term apistia does not mean failure to have a correct theological viewpoint, but the failure to trust which then resulted in the failure to obey or to be faithful to God. This specific charge is made of the Israelites who were prevented from entering the promised land because of rebellion in the wilderness (Heb 3:19). Moses reminded the Israelites of the miracles God had performed in the wilderness, but concluded, "Yet for all this you did not trust in ADONAI your God" (Deut 1:32 TLV). And again when the northern kingdom of Israel rebelled and they were rebuked the Scripture records that, "Yet they would not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not trust in ADONAI their God." (2Kgs 17:14 TLV). As a result the kingdom was broken by the Assyrians (2Kgs 17:6).
but: Grk. de, conj. you: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers.; the fictive opponent. stand: Grk. histēmi, perf., may mean (1) to cause to be in a place or position; set, place or (2) be in an upright position; stand, used of bodily posture. The first meaning applies here but in the extended sense of causing someone to remain firm or steadfast. by faithfulness: Grk. pistis incorporates two facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). In the LXX pistis renders the Hebrew root word 'aman (to confirm, support) and its derivatives (DNTT 1:595), with the resultant meanings of trust, faithfulness, firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity,' mainly of men's faithfulness (e.g., 1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Prov 3:3; 12:17, 22; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4).
The LXX usage emphasizes that the Hebrew meaning of faithfulness is the intended usage of pistis. The apostles build on this meaning and represent pistis as composed of two elements. The first element of faithfulness is confidence or trust: "And without faith[fulness] it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb 11:6; cf. Heb 4:2). True faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts. The second element of faithfulness involves commitment, constancy and obedience, which includes following God's direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10). The condition for remaining in the Olive Tree of Israel is to continue in trusting faithfulness in the God of Israel and the Jewish Messiah.
be not: Grk. mē, adv. high: Grk. hupsēlos, adj., may mean (1) positioned at a point that is upward; high; or (2) considered to be of special importance; highly valued/esteemed. The second meaning applies here to indicate an aberrant sense of self-importance. minded: Grk. phroneō, pres. imp., engage in a process of mental activity, with emphasis on thought or attitude; think, give thought to. In other words, don't think higher of yourself than God does. but: Grk. alla, conj. fear: Grk. phobeō, pres. mid. imp., may mean (1) be in a state of apprehension; be afraid, fear; or (2) have special respect or reverence; be in awe. Most versions follow the first meaning with "fear" or "be afraid," but the CJB may be closer to the mark with "be terrified."
A sensible person standing in the presence of the holy God of Israel should remember Yeshua's words, "I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matt 17:36-37 NASB). Gentile disciples can't claim any special privileges. As Yochanan the Immerser said to certain Pharisees and Sadducees, "do not think that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'! For I tell you that from these stones God can raise up children for Abraham" (Matt 3:9 TLV).
21 For if God did not spare the branches according to nature, neither will he spare you.
For: Grk. gar, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. God: Grk. theos (for Heb. Elohim) the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. did not: Grk. ou, adv. spare: Grk. pheidomai, aor. mid., have hesitation about doing something that affects adversely; spare. the branches: pl. of Grk. klados. See verse 16 above. according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 5 above. nature: Grk. phusis, a fundamental state of being; nature. Paul uses the term in the sense of those who share a common ethnic descent. neither: Grk. oude, adv. that links a negative statement as complement to a preceding negative; neither, nor. will he spare: Grk. pheidomai, fut. mid. you: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers.
The grafted-in branch only keeps its position in the tree on the same basis as the natural branches. Breaking God's Law and engaging in antisemitic pride is very dangerous activity, because it demonstrates the same lack of trust as the ancient Israelites who were cut off. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) and the same equity principle of impartiality that provides salvation to the Gentiles also works to impose judgment when the covenantal relationship is violated. The New Covenant does not provide an exemption clause for Gentiles.
22 Behold therefore the kindness and severity of God: indeed upon the ones having fallen severity, but on you the kindness of God, if you continue in His kindness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
Behold: Grk. ide, aor. imp. of horaō, to see, but functions as an attention–getter; behold! therefore: Grk. oun, conj. the kindness: Grk. chrēstotēs, the quality of having a high level of usefulness, understood in Israelite culture as an important factor in maintaining a well-ordered society; kindness, generosity, goodness. As an attribute of God it would be all these elements combined. and severity: Grk. apotomia, an attitude that cuts off the possibility of lenience; strictness, harness, severity. of God: Grk. theos (for Heb. Elohim) the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. In the Tanakh God cuts off those who intentionally transgress His commandments and for specific capital crimes, either from the nation or the earth and usually by death (Gen 17:14; Num 15:31; Isa 29:20).
Paul restates his theme of the sovereignty of God in 9:14-15. God's standard is impartial. Many modern scholars (and not a few Christians) have difficulty with the severity of God and assume in the end God will surely welcome everyone into his kingdom. However, Yeshua insisted that only a few are on the road to life and far too many are on the road to eternal death (Matt 7:13-14). Paul is even more explicit in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 where he says that those who don't know God and don't obey the Good News of Yeshua will pay the penalty of eternal destruction.
indeed: Grk. mén, conj. See verse 9 above. upon: Grk. epi, prep. the ones: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used as a demonstrative pron. having fallen: Grk. piptō, aor. part. See verse 11 above. Paul uses the verb to depict the consequence of spiritual rebellion. severity: Grk. apotomia. but: Grk. de, conj. on: Grk. epi. you: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. the kindness: Grk. chrēstotēs. of God: Grk. theos. if: Grk. ean, conj. that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance.
you continue in: Grk. epimenō, pres. subj., may mean (1) persist in a local position; remain, stay; or (2) continue in a state or activity; continue, persist. The second meaning applies here. His kindness: Grk. chrēstotēs. Otherwise: Grk. epei, conj. that can have either a temporal function, 'when,' 'after' or a causal function; 'since, inasmuch as, otherwise.' The causal function applies here. you: Grk. su. also: Grk. kai, conj. will be cut off: Grk. ekkoptō, fut. pass., eliminate by cutting; cut off, do away with, remove.
God is an equal opportunity master. Favor is extended from heaven by virtue of continuing in a relationship of trust and faithfulness to His commandments. There is no basis for a theology that allows a disciple to believe in and follow the Jewish Messiah and then live anyway he wants, especially to hate Yeshua's own people. God doesn't change his commandments given to the Jews into suggestions for the sake of the Gentiles. The "if" in the middle of the statement clearly makes salvation conditional. Moreover, if you want the blessing of God, then bless his people. God told Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you" (Gen 12:3), and that promise extends to all the "sons of Abraham."
23 And they, moreover, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to engraft them again.
And they: pl. of Grk. kakeinos, demonstrative pron. used in reference to someone or something mentioned earlier; and/also that one. moreover: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ean, conj. they do not: Grk. mē, adv. continue: Grk. epimenō, pres. subj. See the previous verse. in unbelief: Grk. apistia. See verse 20 above. Yeshua marveled at the unbelief he encountered in his home town of Nazareth (Matt 13:58). To discontinue on this path to judgment requires a radical self-assessment and confession as the man told Yeshua, "I believe. Help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24) God does not demand that unbelieving Jews produce a list of good works to be restored, but simply to place their trust in their Messiah. will be grafted in: Grk. egkentizō, fut. pass. See verse 19 above. Paul makes a simple horticultural argument. A branch that has been cut off can be grafted back into the rootstock.
for: Grk. gar, conj. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse x above. able: Grk. dunatos, adj., may mean (1) having power or competence, mostly of persons; competent, able, powerful; or (2) capable of being realized; possible, realizable. The first meaning applies here in reference to God's power. to engraft: Grk. egkentizō, aor. inf. them: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. again: Grk. palin, adv., may mean (1) "back," when used with verbs involving motion; or (2) "again, once more, anew" when someone repeats something he has already done (BAG). The second meaning applies here. Such a spiritual grafting requires the power of the sovereign God. What man considers impossible is more than possible with God (Luke 18:27). Paul could provide himself as Exhibit A, as he said to Timothy, "although I was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and insolent. However, I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief" (1Tim 1:13).
24 For if you, according to nature, were cut out from a wild olive tree, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more these who are according to nature, will be grafted into their own olive tree.
For: Grk. gar, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. you: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers., used of Paul's fictive opponent. according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 5 above. nature: Grk. phusis. See verse 21 above. were cut out: Grk. ekkoptō, aor. pass. See verse 22 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 6 above. a wild olive tree: Grk. agrielaios. See verse 17 above. and contrary: Grk. para, prep. that stresses nearness ("beside"), but with the accusative case of the noun following and the contrast with kata, the meaning is "contrary to" (Thayer). nature: Grk. phusis. were grafted into: Grk. egkentrizō, aor. pass. See verse 19 above. Stern explains the figurative description as contrary to normal agricultural practice, contrary to what makes economic sense.
a cultivated olive tree: Grk. kallielaios, cultivated or domesticated olive tree. LSJ defines the term as a "garden olive." The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Like agrielaios, this term is not found in other Jewish literature, so its use as a type is unique to Paul. The contrast between the two types of trees was noted in Greek literature as early as Aristotle (4th cent. BC) (BAG). The contrast Paul is making is similar to his declaration in Galatians 2:15 where he rebukes Peter for hypocrisy by saying that "we are Judeans Jews by nature [Grk. phusis] and not sinners from among the Gentiles." The contrast there is not that Jews possess no evil inclination, but that Jews are born into a people bound by covenant to God and Gentiles are not. From a moral and spiritual perspective the Gentiles lack all the influences of growing up in a Torah-observant environment.
how much: Grk. posos, an interrogative pron. with a numerical aspect, here with the focus on quantity. more: Grk. mallon, adv. of increase or additive to some aspect of activity, situation, or condition; (much) more. Paul introduces a kal v'chomer argument, where if one thing is true, how much more is another thing true (also called a fortiori argument in Greek logic). these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pron., this one. who: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used as a demonstrative pron. are according to: Grk. kata. nature: Grk. phusis. will be grafted into: Grk. egkentrizō, fut. pass. their own: Grk. idios, adj., belonging to oneself, one's own. olive tree: Grk. elaia may mean the olive tree or the fruit of that tree. The climax of Paul's argument emphasizes God's sovereign control over his olive tree. Stern observes:
"The analogy does not apply to every single Jew over against every single Gentile—especially today, when some Jews are raised without any Jewish identification, while many Gentiles, particularly those raised in Christian homes, have been exposed to spiritual truth as much as or more than many Jews. But, leaving modern exceptions aside, it ought to be easier for a Jew to believe in Yeshua as the Messiah than for a Gentile (and this would certainly have been so when Sha’ul wrote), since "Messiah" is a concept which is part of Jewish culture, whereas a Gentile has to be introduced to an idea alien to his culture (Acts 11:20–23)."
25 For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers and sisters, of this mystery in order that you not be intelligent in yourselves: that a hardening in part has happened to Israel, until that the fullness of the nations might come in.
For: Grk. gar, conj. I do not: Grk. ou, adv., particle of strong negation. want: Grk. thelō, pres., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pers. pron. to be ignorant: Grk. agnoeō, pres. inf., to be without knowledge of something; be ignorant, be uniformed. brothers and sisters: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." Usage in the apostolic writings is generally literal, but figurative uses also abound indicating affinity in common interests or culture. In the apostolic narratives adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites (Matt 4:18; 5:22-24; Mark 3:22; Acts 1:14; 3:22; 7:13), but in the apostolic letters adelphos, often in the plural, refers primarily to disciples of Yeshua and members of believing communities, which had a majority of Jewish constituency (e.g. 1Cor 1:10; Gal 1:2; Php 2:25; 1Th 3:22).
The plural vocative case (direct address) of the noun is translated as "brothers and sisters" (Danker) given that Paul is addressing the entire congregation. It's inconceivable that the vocative case would not include the women, given the amount of hortatory material in this letter. This is a tactful approach in exercising his apostolic authority as well as expressing his affection for them on the ground of their shared bond in Yeshua. Stern suggests that Paul emphasizes the filial relationship, because some of the Gentile members might have taken umbrage at the sharpness of his immediately preceding remarks.
of this mystery: Grk. mustērion, that which awaits divine disclosure or interpretation; mystery, secret. In the LXX mustērion occurs only in later writings, i.e., those belonging to the Hellenistic period (DNTT 3:502) and renders Aram. raz, a secret (Dan 2:18-19, 27-30, 47; 4:9). A comparable Hebrew term sôd, secret, occurs in Amos 3:7, "Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing His secret [LXX apokaluptō] to His servants the prophets." Another Hebrew term is sathar, conceal, hide, used in Deuteronomy 29:29, "the secret things [LXX krupta] belong to the Lord." In Greek culture mustērion referred to a secret rite or secret teaching of pagan cults and so it carries this meaning in Apocryphal literature (Wis. 12:5; 14:23; 3Macc 2:30). Besides this religious usage mustērion is used in the Apocrypha in the ordinary sense of secrets kept by humans (Tobit 12:7; Judith 2:2; 2Macc 13:21; Sirach 22:22; 27:16).
The term occurs 28 times in the Besekh, 21 of which are in the writings of Paul. Yeshua first used the term "mystery" when he explained to his disciples why he taught in parables (Mark 4:11). In Scripture a mystery is a reality or plan that God kept concealed from his people but finally revealed to his apostles (cf. Eph 3:5). God had communicated several mysteries to his prophets, but the meaning remained obscure, in effect hidden in plain sight. (Note the plural of "mysteries" in Matt 13:11; 1Cor 4:1; 13:2; 14:2; cf. Dan 2:28f). God’s secret counsels were necessary because man cannot really be trusted (John 2:24f) and Satan engages in unceasing warfare against God’s kingdom and would certainly use any intelligence to hinder God’s workings (John 10:10; cf. Eph 6:12; 1Th 2:18; 1Pet 5:8).
The term "mystery" in the apostolic writings is applied in a variety of ways, which include the mystery of the kingdom (Mark 4:11), the mystery of the good news (Rom 16:25; Eph 6:19), the mystery of God (1Cor 2:1, 7; Rev 10:7), the mystery of the resurrection (1Cor 15:51), the mystery of the Messiah (Eph 1:9; 3:4; Col 1:26f; 2:2; 4:3), the mystery of the Messiah and His people (Eph 5:32), the mystery of lawlessness (2Th 2:7), the mystery of the faith (1Tim 3:9) and the mystery of godliness (1Tim 3:16). Three more mysteries were revealed to John on Patmos: the mystery of the seven stars (Rev 1:20), the mystery of the woman Babylon (Rev 17:5) and the mystery of the beast (Rev 17:7).
in order that: Grk. hina, conj. you not: Grk. mē, adv. be: Grk. eimi, pres. subj. See verse 1 above. intelligent: Grk. phonimos, using one's wits effectively; intelligent, prudent, judicious. in: Grk. en, prep. yourselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reciprocal pron. of the third person. Paul uses an idiomatic expression of being smart from one's own point of view. In reality, for man to understand anything of God's mysteries, He must reveal them, and God chose the prophets and apostles as the messengers of His revelation (Eph 3:3; 2Pet 1:20f; 3:2). Paul applies a not so tactful rebuke to those who think they're better than the Jews and that they know better what God is doing.
Paul proceeds to let them in on the secret of God's sovereign working. Stern observes that one would have expected Israel to be the first nation to be saved. Israel had advantages enjoyed by no other people (3:1–2, 9:4–5). The good news itself is "to the Judean Jew especially" (1:16), and God had promised Jewish national salvation (Ezek 36:24–36; Matt 23:37–39, Acts 1:6–7). However, making the Gentiles "joint-heirs" (Eph 3:3–9) with the Jews gives the fullest possible demonstration of God's love for all humanity and not Jews only (verses 30–32 below). that: Grk. hoti, conj. a hardening: Grk. pōrōsis, a condition of hardness or callousness; figuratively one with a closed mind. The DRA and KJV inexplicably translate the word as "blindness."
in: Grk. apo, prep., lit. "from." part: Grk. meros, a piece or segment of a whole; part. has happened: Grk. ginomai, perf. See verse 5 above. The perfect tense refers to an event in the past with continuing results into the present. to Israel: See verse 2 above. Noteworthy is that Paul does not attribute cause of the hardening. He only states what is. Paul seems to emphasize that this hardness affects only a portion of the Jewish population. When Paul wrote this letter the Judean leadership and many orthodox Jews, whether in Judea or the Diaspora, had a closed mind to Yeshua as Messiah. However, the fact that the hardening had happened to Israel implies that even the Messianic Jews are impacted by this condition since, as Stern observes, it delays full national salvation.
until: Grk. achri, adv., a function word signifying an interval between two points with focus on continuity, here of an extension in time; until, as far as. that: Grk. hos, relative pron. the fullness: Grk. plērōma. See verse 12 above. of the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 11 above. The plural form corresponds to the Heb. goyim, which in the Tanakh referred to all nations, including Israel (cf. Gen 10:5, 20, 31; 12:2; 17:4; 18:18; 25:23; 35:11; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1; Jer 5:15; Ezek 4:13; 36:13-14; Mic 4:2-3). "Gentiles," as found in many versions, is an inaccurate translation here since the prophecy encompasses all the peoples that will make up the final Kingdom of God, or more specifically the Commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12).
should come in: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. subj., to go, to enter in, or into and speaks of entrance into something and often is used in connection with a geographical location. Paul indicated that the close-mindedness of Jews would last until an event takes place. The verb is in the subjunctive mood, indicating a mild contingency or probability. The subjunctive indicates what is conceivable, not what the event will be when it is completed. A variety of opinions have been offered as to the meaning of the "fullness of the nations." Stern believes the expression is of the breadth of representation, rather than a number. Shulam, interpreting the plural noun as "Gentiles," suggests in light of the meaning of plērōma as completion or wholeness then "fullness of the Gentiles" refers to both the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles (Rom 1:5) and the "fullness of times" (Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10). Thus, "fullness of the Gentiles" is shorthand for "fullness of the times of the Gentiles" (cf. Luke 21:24). Israel's redemption is linked with the redemption of the world.
Edwards, Harrison and Morris reflect the view "full number," indicating a certain quantity, as given in several Bible versions (CEV, HCSB, NIV, NRSV, RSV, TEV). Certainly God knows how many will be saved, but we should be careful not to read a hyper-predestinarian theology into Paul's words, especially since he emphasized "whoever will" in Romans 10:13. If Paul had meant a fixed number he would surely have used the word arithmos ("number") as he does in 9:27. The Kingdom of God does not operate on a "zero-sum" philosophy, i.e., there are a fixed number of positions and when they are filled the end will come. In aid of this faulty reasoning is the misinterpretation of verses 17 and 19 where Jews were cut off in order to make room for Gentiles.
Yeshua had prophesied, "This Good News of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matt 24:14 TLV). In other words, the "fullness of the nations" encompasses the entire world. In Revelation 7:9 John saw a multitude no man could count, but he also saw genuine diversity in its representation, including the tribes of Israel. No people group is left out of God's kingdom. Stern cautions that Paul does not offer an excuse to avoid evangelizing the Jewish people, as if Israel’s salvation cannot occur until Gentiles have finished entering the Kingdom. Fortunately the rise of Messianic Judaism has brought a greater awareness among Gentiles of God saving His people, a movement that Gentile Christians should support.
26 And thus all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The One Delivering will come out of Zion, he will remove ungodliness from Jacob";
and: Grk. kai, conj. thus: Grk. houtōs, adv. See verse 5 above. all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 10 above. Israel: See verse 2 above. Paul's use of "Israel" is in relation to the biological descendants of Jacob who received this name after he wrestled with God (Genesis 32:25, 31). Throughout the rest of the Tanakh, Jacob’s descendants are called the "house of Israel." Thus, the Jewish people are the people of God. The expression "all Israel" occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Rom 9:6), but over 140 times in the Tanakh where it has a relative meaning depending on the context. Sometimes "all Israel" is the entire population (Ex 18:25; Josh 3:17), or a portion of the nation in contrast with the whole (Num 16:34), or the citizens in contrast with the leaders (Josh 8:33), or eleven tribes in contrast with Judah (1Chr 21:5) and then later the northern Kingdom of Israel in contrast with the Kingdom of Judah (2Chr 10:16). Paul obviously uses "all Israel" in the sense of the covenant people, but he would not include those who had been cut off for apostasy (Rom 9:6; cf. Matt 3:9; John 1:12-13).
In addition, God intended from the beginning that Gentiles would be included in Israel. Jacob was informed that he would be a "company of nations" (Gen 35:11). God demonstrated his electing love toward Gentiles by the stories of Rahab, Ruth and the mission of Jonah to the Ninevites. Salvation for Gentiles is only found in the God of Israel and the Jewish Messiah. God never intended for Gentiles to separate themselves into a different religion cut off from their Jewish roots.
will be saved: Grk. sōzō, fut. pass. See verse 14 above. Paul repeats the promise of deliverance, both as a temporal freedom from the power of sin and then eternal deliverance from judgment. Salvation for Jews and Gentiles can only be found in Yeshua (Acts 4:12). just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. See verse 8 above. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. See verse 8 above. This is the eleventh time the formula is used in the letter. Paul then conflates two passages from Isaiah that concern the days of the Messiah. The One: Grk. ho, definite article but used as a demonstrative pron. Delivering: Grk. rhuomai, pres. mid. part., to save, rescue, deliver or preserve. The verb does appear in the LXX, but the MT has Heb. go'el, redeemer.
will come: Grk. hēkō, fut., to reach the end-destination or goal with the sense of the perfect tense; have come, have arrived, be present. out of: Grk. ek, prep. Zion: Grk. Siōn transliterates the Heb. Tsiōn, one of the seven mountains on which Jerusalem was built. Most modern commentators generally relegate the suggestion to legend, but Jerusalem is reputed in Jewish circles to have been built on seven hills (cf. Ps 125:1-2). Rev. James Neil, formerly incumbent of Christ Church in Jerusalem (1871–1874), from his own observations enumerated on a map the seven hills on which the city was built as Mount Zion, Mount Ophel, Mount Moriah, Mount Bezetha, Mount Acra, Mount Gareb, and Mount Goath (Palestine Explored [James Nisbet & Co, 1882], 289). Tsiōn was originally the fortress of the Jebusites (Josh 15:63), but was captured by David (2Sam 5:5-7).
David later built his residence and headquarters there (1Chr 11:5). Tsiōn became a substitute name for the city of Jerusalem (2Kgs 19:31; Ps 48:1f; 135:21; Isa 2:3) and by extention the nation of Israel (Ps 125:1; 149:2; Isa 46:13). Not only was Tsiōn the home of David, but more importantly the dwelling place of the God of Israel (Isa 8:18; 12:6; Joel 3:16). The significance of the location should not be missed. Tsiōn is not the Church. While the LXX says that the deliverer will come from Zion, the MT has to Zion," which likely reflects rabbinic editing to deny the fulfillment of the original prophecy in Yeshua. If that was the case the scribe failed to take into account Yeshua's own prophecy that he would return to Zion.
he will remove: Grk. apostrephō, fut., to turn away, turn back, reject, remove. The verb depicts departure from a previous point. ungodliness: Grk. asebeia, lack of respect or reverence for deity displayed in sacrilegious words or deeds; impiety, godlessness, ungodliness. The root seb- meant originally to step back from someone or something, to maintain a distance. From this spatial meaning developed the metaphorical idea of trepidation ranging from shame, through wonder, to something approaching fear (DNTT 2:91). In the LXX the asebeia word-group translates several different Hebrew words (e.g., Deut 9:4-5; 17:13; 18:20, 22; Job 9:20; Ps 5:10; Prov 1:19, 31; 11:5-6), and describes both action and attitude in departing from God (DNTT 2:93).
from: Grk. apo, prep. Jacob: Grk. Iakōb, a transliteration of Heb. Ya'akov, grandson of Abraham. The meaning of Jacob's name, "heel-catcher," had no pejorative connotation when first given by Isaac to his son. As indicated by Hosea 12:3, "heel-catcher" illustrated the strength and power he had with God. The story of Jacob is narrated in Genesis 25—50. Jacob has been the victim of Christian defamation for centuries due to the allegation that he stole a blessing from his brother. The truth is Jacob couldn’t steal what already belonged to him, but in fact his deceit prevented Isaac from committing a monstrous fraud and rebellion against God. Isaac realized his error and gave a second blessing to Jacob that left no doubt as to his rights. (See my article Our Father Jacob in which I set the record straight.)
Soon afterwards Jacob left for Haran at the suggestion of his parents to find a wife among the family of Laban. On the way God revealed to Jacob that he had succeeded to the covenant made with Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 15:1-21; 17:1-22) and his father Isaac (Gen 26:2-5, 23-24) with all its promises (Gen 28:13-16). God assured Jacob that his descendants would possess the land of Canaan, that his descendants would multiply as the dust of the earth and spread out in all directions, that through him all the peoples of the earth would be blessed and that God would never leave him. (See my web article The Everlasting Covenants.)
Jacob's lengthy stay in Haran gained him four wives, eleven sons and a daughter. After spending 20 years in Haran Jacob moved his family back to Canaan (Gen 31). En route to Haran Jacob wrestled with an angel (Gen 32:24-30) and was given the name Israēl ("God prevails" BDB 975). Shortly thereafter Jacob met his brother Esau with whom he gained a reconciliation. Eventually Jacob moved to Bethel where God appeared to him and again affirmed his continuing inheritance of the Abrahamic covenant, specifically mentioning the land promised to Abraham and Isaac and adding a new promise that Jacob would become a "company of nations" (Gen 35:11-12).
Not long after Rachel died in giving birth to their twelfth son, Benjamin (35:16-20). After the death of Isaac follows the story of Joseph being sold into Egyptian slavery, famine, the removal of the family of seventy into Egypt and the reconciliation between father and sons (Gen 37—47). There in the land of Goshen Jacob finished his life, then gave final blessings to his sons (Gen 49) and died at the age of 147 (Gen 47:28). Jacob's body was embalmed and carried with great ceremony into the land of Canaan, and buried beside his wife Leah in the cave of Machpelah, according to his dying charge. Jacob, son of Isaac, was a great and godly man who held a place of high honor among the people of Israel. It is not surprising then that five different men bear his name in the Besekh.
The passage Paul quotes has the Deliverer turning away ungodliness from Jacob, whereas the MT has Jews themselves turning from transgression. Stern comments that the textual difference presents no conceptual difficulty, since the two actions go hand in hand: "Turn us, and we shall be turned" (Lam 5:21). First century Jews expected their Messiah to rescue them from the Romans, but the real mission of the Deliverer was to transform his people into a holy nation (1Pet 2:9). This he accomplished on Shavuot (Pentecost).
Dispensational theology interprets this verse to assert that the restoration of Israel will climax the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer 30:7). When Yeshua returns to earth following the seven-year great tribulation period to establish his millennial kingdom then the surviving and resurrected Jews will all acknowledge Yeshua as their Messiah in that day (Morris). However, this eschatology does not reflect what Paul actually says in this verse. He does not repeat the MT, a savior will come "to Zion," but quotes the LXX that a savior will come "out of Zion." In other words, the deliverance began with the first coming. Paul says in Hebrews 1:2 that in these last days God has spoken in his son and goes on in that letter to recount Messiah's redemptive activity already accomplished. God will continue to redeem his people Israel until the end.
27 "and this is the covenant from me with them when I take away the sins of them."
and: Grk. kai, conj. this: Grk. autos, pers. pron. is the covenant: Grk. diathēkē, generally a formal arrangement or agreement for disposing of something in a manner assuring continuity. The Greek term may have focus on (1) the testamentary aspect of "last will and testament" (e.g., Gal 3:15; Heb 9:16-17); or (2) focus on the Tanakh perspective of God's unilaterally assumed obligation to confer a special blessing (Eph 2:12; Heb 7:22 and often) (DNTT 1:365). In the LXX diathēkē translates Heb. b'rit (SH-1285), pact, compact, or covenant (first in Gen 6:18). The Hebrew word is used in the Tanakh to describe two very different relationships. The first major usage is of a pact, treaty, or alliance between men (e.g., Gen 14:13; 21:22; 31:44), as well as between a monarch and subjects (2Sam 3:12; 5:3).
The second major usage of b'rit is of the covenants initiated by God with named individuals and their descendants and the nation of Israel. Each of these covenants include both divine promises and expectations of the recipients. All of the covenants mentioned in the Tanakh were based on irrevocable decisions and had legal power. The covenant God made with Israel functioned like a constitution. Daniel Gruber, a Messianic Jewish scholar, insists that b'rit never carries a testamentary meaning, because (1) God obviously cannot die; (2) a testament is a solitary declaration and cannot be "with" someone, as the expression "covenant with" occurs many times in the Tanakh; (3) a covenant may have a mediator (Heb 9:15), but a testament does not; and (4) a testament does not involve sacrifices, whereas a divine covenant does (41).
However, the fact remains that the Jewish rabbis who translated the LXX chose to use diathēkē for b'rit. The Jewish translators might have chosen to use sunthēkē, which means an agreement with someone, but instead they chose uniformly to use diathēkē, which by its definition as a "will" requires the death of the author to make it effective. The LXX translation, made long before Yeshua came, does seem strange. Perhaps they probably considered these factors:
(1) Like a testament God made His covenants unilaterally and He alone set the terms. There was no negotiation to reach a mutually agreeable result. In this sense the divine covenants are one-sided.
(2) Like a testament God's covenant with Israel is the expression of His will concerning His property (His people). After all, the concept of being "holy the LORD" (Ex 19:6) means to be His property.
(3) Like a testament God's covenant provides an inheritance for His people and instructions for distribution of that inheritance.
(4) Like a testament which requires a judicial act to enforce its terms, so God acts as judge to enforce the terms of his covenants.
The reality is that the covenant God made "with" Israel required Israel's obedience and which Israel freely accepted (BDB 136). The covenant was "with" Israel only in the sense of their being chosen out of all the nations on the earth. Their participation was to accept or reject it and then upon acceptance to obey it. Thus, "testament" and "covenant" are two sides of the same coin.
Christians are accustomed of thinking of only one covenant pertaining to the Jews, the Old Covenant (2Cor 3:14; Heb 8:13). One could say that there is one covenant with a number of versions, just as in computer software there can be different versions of the Windows operating system. While there is much in common between them, each "version" of the covenant introduced something new in terms of expectations, promises and signs. Christians generally miss the significance of this single word and the history it encapsulates. There are eight divine-human covenants recorded in the Tanakh. Each of these covenants set forth specific expectations, promises, the duration and a sign or perpetual reminder of the covenant. For a detailed discussion of all these covenants see my web article The Everlasting Covenants.
from: Grk. para, prep., lit. "from beside." me: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. with them: pl. of Grk. autos. The opening phrase comes from Isaiah 59:21, but it would also be the New Covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31:33. In the Greek text there is no preposition between "me" and "them," but the Hebrew text has "with" (Heb. eth). when: Grk. hotan, conj., a temporal marker indicating 'when' or 'whenever.' I take away: Grk. aphaireō, aor. subj., cause to be no longer there; to take away or remove. In the LXX aphaireō renders Heb. sur, which means to be removed, as in an oppressor's yoke. Paul quotes from the second line of the parallelism found in Isaiah 27:9, "By this, then, will Jacob's guilt be atoned for, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin" (NIV). Paul provides his own translation since his rendering of the verb is not the future passive tense found in the LXX.
sins: Grk. hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. In Greek culture hamartia meant to fail and could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking, anything that did not conform to the community ethic (DNTT 3:577). In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (miss, go wrong, lapse, sin; Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity; Gen 15:16). Throughout Scripture a sin is a violation of God's written commandments.
In the first line of the passage Paul quotes the LXX uses the word anomia ("lawlessness, iniquity, disobedience") and hamartia in the second line. In Hebraic thinking these terms are synonymous. Sin is breaking God's Law, not man's law. In the Torah one's intention does not determine the definition of sin, only the form of punishment deserved for the offense. The plural form of hamartia used here denotes all sins, including capital crimes which previously had no atonement. The taking away of sins would result from genuine confession and repentance.
of them: pl. of Grk. autos. This is the literal translation and Paul means "all Israel" by the plural pronoun. Messiah's purpose as stated in Isaiah is to stop the practice of sinning among his people. He had no intention of rejecting or removing his people, only the sin in his people. Stern comments that Paul’s object in chapters 9–11 is to show that despite appearances to the contrary, God’s promises will not fail of fulfillment. Thus we are led to the summing-up of verses 28–29.
28 indeed with regard to the good news, there are hostilities on account of you; but as regards election beloved on account of the fathers.
From verses 28 to 31 Paul appears to employ two tristich (three-part) parallelisms that give these verses a definite rhetorical structure and perhaps serve as a midrash on the verses he just quoted from Isaiah. Verse 28 contains the thesis of the first parallelism with verse 29 providing the logical conclusion. Verses 30 to 31 contain the thesis of the second parallelism with the conclusion in verse 32.
indeed: Grk. mén, conj. See verse 13 above. with regard to: Grk. kata, prep. the good news: Grk. euangelion originally meant a reward for good news and then simply good news. The term is formed from Grk. eu, "good," and angelia, "message, announcement." Christian Bibles translate the term as "gospel," but given the origin of "gospel" in Old English ("god-spell"), many Jews regard the word as a distinctively Christian word. In the LXX euangelion renders besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22). The good news proclaimed by the Jewish apostles was that God had fulfilled His promises given to Israel through the prophets and sent His Messiah in Jewish flesh to provide deliverance and atonement and to establish his kingdom on the earth (Matt 1:1, 20-23; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:30-37, 68-75; 24:44; John 1:29; 20:31; Rom 1:1-4, 16). The good news concerns directly the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy.
there are: There is no verb in the Greek text, so the insertion of "they are" in most versions is an interpretative choice. hostilities: pl. of Grk. echthros, as (1) an adj., inimical, hostile; or (2) a noun, one who is inimical, enemy. Danker assigns the first meaning here. Since the word is plural almost all versions render the word as "enemies." Yet in Hebrew a plural noun does not always denote number, but may represent (1) an idea composed of parts; (2) an abstract quality or condition; or (3) intensity of expression (Ross 388). The Messianic Jewish versions MW and TLV have "hostile." Of interest is that the Mace New Testament (1729) has "they are violently prejudiced against the good news."
I believe that the translation "they are enemies" is foreign to Paul's intention, because it implies that Jews are special enemies of God. In fact, a few versions actually have this exact wording "they are enemies of God" (ESVUK, Moffatt, NRSV, RSV, WE). This interpretation is highly pejorative. Unsaved Jews are no more enemies of God than unsaved Gentiles, since sinners are by nature enemies of God (Rom 5:8-10). Conversely, Jews are not sinners like the Gentiles who have no knowledge of God's Law (Gal 2:15). The translation of "they are enemies" reflects historic Replacement Theology and in this belief Christianity for centuries used this text to justify discrimination and persecution of Jews.
Stern notes that Lance Lambert, a Messianic Jewish writer living in Jerusalem, points out that Replacement theologians, who say that "Israel" today means the Church, do not apply their theology to the first clause in this verse! If they did they would have to conclude that God hates the Church! (423). on account of: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 10 above. With the accusative case of a pronoun following, the preposition denotes the ground or reason for something, with the resultant meaning being 'on account of,' 'for the sake of.' you: Grk. humeis 2p-pl. pers. pron.
Paul knows full well the adverse reaction of Jewish leaders when Jews accepted Yeshua as Messiah. When Paul was "Saul" he represented the hostility of the high priest in persecuting Messianic disciples. Then when he became Messiah's spokesman he too experienced that hostility everywhere he took the good news. but: Grk. de, conj. with regard to: Grk. kata. election: Grk. eklogē. See verse 5 above. beloved: Grk. agapētos, held in affection, esteemed, dear. The noun is drawn from the verb agapaō, which means to have such an interest in another that one wishes to contribute to the other's well-being, even if it means making a personal sacrifice to do so.
on account of: Grk. dia. the fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr, a male parent or ancestor, most likely an allusion to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex 3:15-16; Acts 3:13; 7:32; Rom 9:5), or possibly even all the illustrious forefathers of faithfulness in the hall of heroes (Heb 11). Israelites could look back on the Genesis history with pride because all the patriarchs were models of piety and faithfulness to God. Moreover, God was not ashamed to be identified with any of them (cf. Gen 28:13; 31:42; Ex 3:6, 15-16; 4:5; 5:1). God's love for Israel, which translates into covenantal faithfulness, is grounded in the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God keeps these promises to demonstrate His own righteousness.
The Messianic Jewish version CJB inexplicably translates the first clause as "they are hated for your sake" and Stern in his commentary actually says the clause means the unbelieving Jews are temporarily hated by God! I strongly object to this interpretation. Paul does not say that God hates unbelieving Jews, even temporarily, because how could he then say that they are beloved of God. God is not fickle in His attitude toward Israel. The universal truth of Scripture is that God hates the sin but loves the sinner. Paul is careful in his choice of words. One can be hostile toward the Messiah without being hated by God. As Paul said in Romans 5:10, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (NASB).
All sinners, Jews and Gentiles alike, are functional enemies of God because they pursue an orientation to life contrary to the expressed will of God. Yet, God loves the entire world (John 3:16), especially Israel (Deut 23:5; 2Chr 9:8; Hos 3:1; Rom 9:13; Eph 2:4). Paul is in effect saying, "I know to you the unbelieving Jews are hostile to your spreading the good news, especially among them, but you need to remember that God still loves His people because of the promises He made to the patriarchs." The MSG offers a similar interpretation: "From your point of view as you hear and embrace the good news of the Message, it looks like the Jews are God's enemies. But looked at from the long-range perspective of God's overall purpose, they remain God's oldest friends."
29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
for: Grk. gar, conj. the gifts: pl. of Grk. charisma, that which results from the activity of generosity and in Scripture always refers to what God has conferred on his people. The term is used in chapter twelve of spiritual gifts, but the mention of gifts here refers back the divine choice of Israel. Paul has already spoken of these gifts in 9:4-5. and the calling: Grk. klēsis, an invitation to share in special privilege, here referring to God's call for Israel to enter into a covenantal relationship. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. The God of Israel is the source of these gifts and the calling.
are irrevocable: Grk. ametamelētos, unrepentant, not to be regretted, irrevocable. The term occurs only twice in the Besekh (also 2Cor 7:10). This word actually occurs first in the verse of the Greek text, offering a dramatic point. God's attitude is that He will not under any circumstances cancel the gifts and calling given to Israel. To do so would be to deny His own eternal nature as a faithful keeper of promises.
30 for just as you at one time were disobedient to God but now have been shown mercy for that disobedience,
The passage repeats and culminates two contrasts already mentioned: "objects of wrath" and objects of mercy" (9:22-23) and "the kindness and severity of God" (11:22) (Edwards). for: Grk. gar, conj. just as: Grk. hōsper, adv. you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pers. pron. at one time: Grk. pote, a disjunctive particle related to time; at one time or other, at some time. disobeyed: Grk. apeitheō, aor., disobey, be rebellious, resist. to God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. Paul finishes the chapter by summarizing his theme and setting forth a sort of before and after picture. He is no doubt speaking of the Gentile believers and points how they once were (cf. 1Cor 6:11; Eph 2:12). but: Grk. de, conj. now: Grk. nun, adv. See verse 5 above.
have been shown mercy: Grk. eleaō, aor. pass., to show concern for one who is in a bad situation or condition, and thus to have compassion or to show pity. for that: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pron. disobedience: Grk. apeitheia, disobedience, resistance; and in the Besekh always of opposition to God's claims or program of salvation. The term occurs seven times in the Besekh, all in Paul's writings. Paul is most likely referring to the decision of the Sanhedrin to execute Yeshua, thereby violating Torah rules of judicial process and justice. See verse 11 above. Yet, in that disobedience they accomplished the foreordained plan of God, as Peter said, "this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death (Acts 2:23).
31 in this manner also these now have disobeyed ─ this your mercy ─ in order that also they now may be shown mercy.
in this manner: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. also: Grk. kai, conj. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, masc. demonstrative pron. now: Grk. nun, adv. See verse 5 above. have disobeyed: Grk. apeitheō, aor. See the previous verse. Paul fast forwards from the disobedience of Judean authorities in reference to executing Yeshua to the current disobedience of those belonging to the Circumcision Party that opposed the apostolic message. Harrison suggests this was graphically illustrated by the effect of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). While it gave marked encouragement to the Gentile mission by its decision, it deepened and strengthened rabbinic opposition to the apostolic message.
this: Grk. ho, definite article, used as a demonstrative pron. your: pl. of Grk. humeteros, possessive pron., belonging to you in close association; your, yours. The plural pronoun would encompass all the members of the congregation. mercy: Grk. eleos, kindness expressed for one in need; compassion, mercy or pity. (i.e., "this mercy of yours.") In the LXX eleos normally represents Heb. chesed, (SH-2617), used of (1) man: goodness, kindness, or piety (first in Gen 24:12); and of (2) God: lovingkindness or covenant loyalty (first in Gen 39:21). In covenantal relationships chesed represents the solidarity which the partners in the covenant owe one another. Chesed results in one giving help to the covenant partner in his need. So the connotation of eleos meaning chesed may stretch from loyalty to a covenant to kindliness, mercy, and pity, particularly kindness extended to the lowly and needy (DNTT 2:594).
Danker and a number of versions insert a preposition denoting means to interpret the phrase as explaining the reception of mercy from God: "through [or "by"] the mercy shown to you" (ASV, CEV, ESV, MRINT, MW, NAB, NET, NJB, NRSV, RSV, WEB). The phrase "your mercy" is in the dative case, which normally signifies an indirect object. In the BAG article on humeteros (844) this phrase is incorrectly identified as an objective genitive, which Stern apparently relies on to discuss alternative forms of the genitive to arrive at his interpretation that the phrase is a subjective genitive and so gives the translation in the CJB as "so that by your [Gentiles] showing them [Israel, Jews] the same mercy that God has shown you."
However, the BAG article on eleos (249) identifies the phrase as dative of cause. Some versions accept this premise and interpret the phrase as either pointing backward to explain why the Jews disobeyed (CEB, ERV, ICB, TEV) or forward to explain why Jews will receive mercy (AMP, CEV, ISV, NASB, NIRV, NIV, TEV, TLV). In rebuttal to this point of view I find no mention of the "dative of cause" in my grammar resources. The concept is also illogical. God doesn't show mercy to one person because He gave it to another person. God gives mercy to a person when he repents. HCSB offers a mediating interpretation "so they too have now disobeyed, resulting in mercy to you."
I have separated my literal translation of "this your mercy" by dashes since it contains no verb or prepositions. Thus, I believe published Bible versions have misconstrued what Paul meant by this phrase. Considering the meaning of the possessive pronoun "your" the dative case is just as likely a dative of possession, an idiom for which there is no exact equivalent in English (DM 85). This use of the dative is personal interest particularized to the point of ownership. It's as if Paul paused for a moment of reflection (Heb. selah, lift up, be quiet, be silent) on his statement in the previous verse to which he invites his readers: "think about the mercy you have received, how glorious, how undeserved, but it is yours, even though you were once disobedient."
Paul then completes his parallelism with the same grammatical construction as the first clause. in order that: Grk. hina, conj. also: Grk. kai, conj. they: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. now: Grk. nun. Paul intended the adverb to apply equally to the second proposition as the first. may be shown mercy: Grk. eleeō, aor. pass. subj., show concern for one who is in a bad situation or condition; have compassion, show mercy, pity. Thus, Israel will receive mercy. Their salvation is not postponed to a future time in the last days, as in Dispensational theology, but is a current and ongoing campaign. Paul's message here is to again warn Gentile disciples against having an inflated attitude concerning their present position in grace, and to remind them that the very mercy received by the Gentiles is the same mercy being offered to Israel.
32 For God confined all into disobedience, in order that He may show mercy to all.
Paul now provides the logical conclusion to the rhetorical parallelism of verses 30 and 31. For: Grk. gar, conj. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. has confined: Grk. sugkleiō, aor., may mean (1) cause to be together with no opportunity for escape in a fishing net; enclose, catch; or (2) cause to be under constraint; confine, imprison. Typical of Jewish Greek that often follows Hebrew grammatical forms, Paul actually places the verb first in the sentence, emphasizing the decisive action of the sovereign God. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 10 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. disobedience: Grk. apeitheia. See verse 30 above.
This clause is another way of saying that all have sinned and all continue to fall short of the perfection of God (3:23). This "confinement" began with the disobedience of Adam (5:19) and has been manifest in the corruption of mankind chronicled in 1:18-32, but also in the nation of Israel, a people whom the prophet described as a "disobedient and contrary people" (10:21). Another manifestation of this "confinement" is that many Pharisees were imprisoned in pride and legalism to keep the Torah and yet failed to do so, and Gentiles were imprisoned in their rebellion against Torah commandments (Edwards). These failings are still with us. Paul is not saying that God causes people to sin (Jas 1:13-14), but that sinners are imprisoned in the consequences of sin (Rom 6:23). Fortunately, as Harrison says, disobedience does not have the last word (cf. Gal 3:22).
in order that: Grk. hina, conj. He may show mercy: Grk. eleeō, aor. subj. See the previous verse. to all: pl. of Grk. pas. Paul is not advocating a universalism that every single person who has ever lived will be saved. Too many other passages in Scripture flatly contradict this assumption. Paul is saying two things. First, mercy is initiated unilaterally by God and there is salvation is no one else. No human ever approached God first. God's plan of salvation was made before He even began to create. Second, mercy is offered to Jew and Gentile alike on the same basis. Jews don't get special treatment because they're part of the chosen people and Gentiles don't get special treatment because they responded more readily to the good news. The only way to mercy is to confess that we need a savior (10:9-10).
Paul’s doxology of praise, 11:33-36
33 O, the depth of riches both of wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and incomprehensible His ways!
O: Grk. Ō, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, but used here as an interjection. When the address is intended to carry special force the inflectional particle omega ("ō") is used (DM 71). The special usage of the omega letter is found in both classical Greek writings and Jewish literature (BAG). the depth: Grk. bathos, depth, used literally of water, but here fig. of what is difficult to assess. of riches: pl. of Grk. ploutos. See verse 12 above. The term is used here in the non-material sense of abundant supply. both: Grk. kai, conj.
of wisdom: Grk. sophia, exceptional endowment of discernment, understand and insight, wisdom. In Greek culture sophia referred to practical knowledge, e.g., the sophia of a carpenter, but later incorporated theoretical knowledge (DNTT 3:1027). In the LXX sophia was used to translate the wisdom possessed by a specialist in a particular field (Ex 36:1f), or economic shrewdness (Prov 8:18). Over and above these elements sophia is concerned with the learned and perceptive ability that enables a man to master life (Prov 8:32-36) (DNTT 3:1028). Like riches, true wisdom originates from God (Prov 2:6; Jas 1:5).
and knowledge: Grk. gnōsis, knowledge or understanding with special reference to insight relating to matters involving God and spiritual perception. The term is especially used as an attribute of God and in Scripture knowledge of God is always linked with God's acts of self-revelation. In the LXX gnōsis generally renders Heb. da'at, knowledge (e.g. 1Sam 2:3; 1Chr 4:10; Ps 19:2; 73:11; 94:10; 119:66; 139:6; Prov 2:6; 8:9), which may refer to general knowledge received from God or others, knowledge possessed by God, prophetic knowledge or knowledge by man of God (BDB 395). The usage of gnōsis in the LXX clearly demonstrates that Paul did not borrow pagan terminology to write this letter. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above.
How: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 2 above. unsearchable: Grk. anexeraunētos, adj., not of a nature to be examined; inscrutable, beyond investigation, unsearchable. His: Grk. autos, pers. pron. judgments: pl. of Grk. krima may refer to a judicial decision, decree or verdict, or a sentence of condemnation and the subsequent punishment itself. The plural noun may refer to God's judgments given in the Torah or all of Scripture, as well as the judgment to be anticipated at the end of time. and incomprehensible: Grk. anexichniastos, adj., incapable of being tracked down; without leaving tracks, beyond exploration, beyond appraisal.
His: Grk. autos. ways: pl. of Grk. hodos, with the focus on the concept of going the word typically has the sense of a route for traveling, hence a way, a road or a highway. It can also refer to the act of traveling as here; journey, way, trip. Then, hodos is used fig. of conduct or a way of life. The LXX uses hodos to translate Heb. derek (SH-1870), way, road, distance, or journey generally in a literal sense. The term also has the fig. meaning for a way or manner of life. As God said to Israel through Isaiah, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the LORD, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa 55:8-9).
In view of the assurance generated by verse 32, it is no wonder that Paul, despite his burden for the Israel of his day, is able to lift his heart in adoring praise to God (Harrison). Thanks to the insight Paul was given into the mystery of God, he has given us a greater understanding of God's sovereignty and covenant faithfulness. Yet, even this revelation cannot unveil the full scope of God's wisdom and knowledge. Our theology can only take us so far before we must stop speculating and give ourselves over to worship.
34 "For who has known the mind of ADONAI, or who became His counselor?"
Paul quotes from the LXX text of Isaiah 40:13 with a minor alteration, reversing the clauses found in the Hebrew text.
MT: "Who has measured the Spirit of ADONAI? Who has been his counselor [Heb. ish etsah, lit. "man of counsel"], instructing [Heb. yada, to know] him?" (CJB)
LXX: "Who knew the mind of the Lord and who became his counselor who shall instruct Him?" (ABP)
For: Grk. gar, conj. who: Grk. tís, interrogative pron. has known: Grk. ginōskō, aor., to know, but the verb has a variety of meanings, including (1) to be in receipt of information; know, learn, find out; (2) form a judgment or draw a conclusion; think, understand, comprehend, perceive, notice, realize, conclude; or (3) have a personal relationship involving recognition of another's identity or value; make acquaintance, recognize. The second meaning has primary application with nuances of the other two meanings. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada (SH-3045), which has a similar wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning (DNTT 2:395). To the Hebrew mind "knowing" is not philosophical or theoretical, but based in reality.
the mind: Grk. nous may mean (1) capacity to comprehend or discern; understanding; (2) medium for processing information or instruction; mind; or (3) the result of mental processing; mind, thought. The second meaning applies here. of ADONAI: Grk. kurios. See verse 3 above on "Lord." The Greek text lacks the definite article in conforming to the Hebrew text of YHVH. Paul omits the mention of the Spirit. or: Grk. hē, conj., particle involving options, here as a marker of an alternative. who: Grk. tís. became: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 5 above. His: Grk. autos, pers. pron. counselor: Grk. sumboulos, one who serves in an advisory capacity; counselor. The term occurs only here in the Besekh.
In the LXX sumboulos appears without Hebrew equivalent twice (2Sam 8:18; Ezek 27:27). Primarily sumboulos renders the participial form of Heb. ya'ats (SH-3289), to advise or counsel, used of named individuals who served as counselors to leaders (2Sam 15:12; 1Chr 27:32, 33; 2Chr 22:3, 4; 25:16), and used generally of the office of counselor (Ezra 4:5; 7:28; 8:25; Isa 1:26; 3:3). In contradistinction to the use of the term for human counselors, it is used of the divine son (Messiah) in Isaiah 9:26 who is "wonderful counselor." Sumboulos is also used for Heb. y'at (SH-3272), to advise, counselor (Ezra 7:14, 15) and Heb. etsa, (SH-6098), counsel, advice (Isa 19:11; 40:13).
This passage is in the context of the Messianic prophecy of the herald crying out in the wilderness that the Lord God will come (40:3-10). The prophet then lists several attributes of the Lord who would come, including this one quoted from verse 13. Paul's intention seems to emphasize again God's unilateral design and plan for salvation. No one, including the angels, advised him on His plan.
35 "Or who has first given to Him and it will be repaid to him?"
Paul next conflates two verses from Job, borrowing the ideas he wanted and provided his own unique translation. Or: Grk. hē, conj. who: Grk. tís, interrogative pron. has first given: Grk. prodidōmi, aor., to be prior in giving; give first. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. to Him: Grk. autos, pers. pron., used in reference to God. The first part of the question comes from the confrontational monologue of Elihu the Buzite in which he rebukes Job with this question, "If you are righteous, what do you give to Him, or what does He receive from your hand? (Job 35:7 TLV). The LXX of this verse uses didōmi, the standard verb meaning "to give," but Paul adopts a derivative form of the verb for his purpose. Paul in effect uses Elihu's question to confront his self-righteous fictive opponent.
Elihu was a learned young man, but not a friend of Job. Elihu thought very highly of himself. He boasted of his intellect (Job 32:6-21; 33:33; 36:4), claimed divine inspiration (Job 32:18; 33:4-6) and even offered to be a mediator with God (Job 33:23-33). Job did not regard Elihu as worthy of an answer and God ignored him as well. and: Grk. kai, conj. it will be repaid: Grk. antapodidōmi, fut. pass., to give back as an equivalent; give back, pay back, repay. to him: Grk. autos, used of someone other than God. The second part of the question comes from God's confrontation of Job in 41:11. Stern observes that Paul quotes this question to emphasize that no one can put God in his debt. Similarly, the initiative for the gift of salvation comes from God and not man.
Of interest is that the rhetorical question from God is set in the midst of His lecture on His great works of creation as He describes the great dinosaurs that once roamed the earth. In chapter 40 God describes behemoth, a great land dinosaur, such as the tyrannosaurus. Commentators and marginal notes in various Bible versions identify behemoth as an elephant or hippopotamus, although the detailed description God provides cannot fit these suggested animals, especially since behemoth's tail is like a cedar (40:17). Then, in chapter 41 God lauds his creation of leviathan, the greatest of marine dinosaurs, something like a plesiosaur, although modern commentators generally identify him as a crocodile (Morris). Leviathan is described as a serpent or dragon in the sea (Isa 27:1), he breathed fire (Job 41:21) and he played in the great and wide sea (Ps 104:25-26). Leviathan was no crocodile. God details two of his greatest creative works on the earth to illustrate man's powerlessness.
36 because from Him and through Him and into Him are all things. To Him be the glory into the ages. Amen.
because: Grk. hoti, conj. from: Grk. ek, prep. Him: Grk. autos, pers. pron., used here of God. and: Grk. kai, conj. through: Grk. dia, prep. Him: Grk. autos. and: Grk. kai. into: Grk. eis, prep. Him: Grk. autos. are all things: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. This statement sums up Paul's point in quoting from Isaiah and Job. God is the Creator and the source of our very existence, including every thing we need (cf. 2Pet 1:3), and the revelation of His nature and word of salvation. Thus, all our trust, faithfulness, devotion and worship are due Him. Paul then adds a brief doxology of praise. To Him: Grk. autos.
be the glory: Grk. doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. The third meaning has application here. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod (pronounced "kah-vohd"), which refers to the luminous manifestation of God’s person, His glorious revelation of Himself. Characteristically, kabod is linked with verbs of seeing and stresses the impact that the manifestation of God makes on others. In the Besekh doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). Paul's exclamation of praise sums up God's dwelling in unapproachable light (1Tim 6:16), His absolute holiness, the beauty of His appearance, and the only One worthy of honor.
into: Grk. eis, prep. the ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn, an extended period of time, which may be (1) a general reference to a long period of time in the past ('ages ago') or in the future of a period with no apparent end; eternity; or (2) a segment of extended time determined by qualifiers as present or future; age. The great majority of Bible versions translate eis aiōn here as "forever" or "for ever." In the LXX aiōn occurs over 450 times and renders Heb. olam, first in Genesis 3:22. Olam means "a long duration, antiquity or futurity" (BDB 761), which is also used as an adverb meaning "for ever, for all time," the first being in Genesis 9:12. In the Tanakh, ōlam is generally concerned with a concrete idea of time in relation to the whole duration of a man's life (DNTT 3:827).
Since neither the Greek or Hebrew word in its singular form contains the concept of endlessness, the use of the plural intensive form yields a declaration of ages that will continue without end (cf. Ps 90:2; Isa 45:17; Dan 9:24). The prepositional phrase "into the ages" most likely means the time following the Second Coming (Heb. olam habah), the Messianic Age and beyond that eternity. In Hebrew thought historical time was divided into ages, perhaps coinciding with the great covenants that God made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David (Eccl 1:10; Rom 16:25; 1Cor 2:7; 10:11; Eph 3:9; Col 1:26; Titus 1:2; Heb 9:26). Yeshua and the apostles speak of two specific ages – the present age (Matt 28:20; Mark 10:30; Titus 2:12) and the age to come (Matt 12:32; Mark 10:30; Heb 6:5). However, only a few versions translate aiōn here as "ages" (JUB, Marshall, YLT).
Amen. Grk. amēn ("ah–mayn") reflects a strong affirmation, meaning "so let it be" or "truly." In the LXX amēn transliterates the Heb. ’amen (ah–mayn, SH–543), which means "it is true, so be it, or may it become true." The Heb. root aman means "to confirm or support." The word amēn reflects an Hebraic conviction that God's words were to be reverently received. In typical Jewish usage the singular amēn points to something previously said (Stern 26). For example, in the Torah people responded with "amen" for each of the curses as they were pronounced (Deut 27:15 +11t) and on other occasions "amen" was a congregational response to a public blessing of God (1Chr 16:36; Neh 5:13; Ps 106:48).
While "amen" was normally a congregational response there were individuals who affirmed their own words with "amen." David ended a psalm with "Amen" (Ps 41:13), as did Solomon (Ps 72:19) and Ethan (Ps 89:52). Thus, it was not unique for Yeshua to end many occasions of teaching with "Amen" (Matt 5:18, 26; 6:2, 5, 16; 10:15, 42; 13:17; 18:18; 23:36; 24:34, 47; and 26:13). Paul uses "Amen" in the same manner 17 times in his letters.
To Paul's doxology we heartily agree! Amen!
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Edwards: James R. Edwards, Romans, New International Biblical Commentary, Vol. 6. Hendrickson Publishers, 1992.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966.
Gruber: Daniel Gruber, The Separation of Church and Faith, Volume 1: Copernicus and the Jews. Elijah Publishing, 2005.
Harrison: Everett F. Harrison, Romans, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011.
Henry: Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (1710). Unabridged Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1991. Online.
LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. Rev. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. German Bible Society, 1994.
Morris: Henry Morris, The Defender's Study Bible. World Pub. Inc., 1995.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
Owens: John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, 4 vols. Baker Book House, 1989.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, "Romans," A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, "Romans," Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 4, Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997)
Ross: Allen P. Ross, Introducing Biblical Hebrew. Baker Academic, 2001.
Shulam: Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans, Lederer Books, 1997.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
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