Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
BE, WITH THE
GOD ON THE
1. I say then, Hath--"Did"
God cast away his people? God forbid--Our Lord did indeed announce
that "the kingdom of God should be taken from Israel"
and when asked by the Eleven, after His resurrection, if He would at
that time "restore the kingdom to Israel," His reply is a virtual
admission that Israel was in some sense already out of covenant
Yet here the apostle teaches that, in two respects, Israel was
not "cast away"; First, Not totally; Second, Not
finally. FIRST, Israel is not wholly
for I also am an Israelite--See
and so a living witness to the contrary.
of the seed of Abraham--of pure descent from the father of the
of the tribe of Benjamin--
that tribe which, on the revolt of the ten tribes, constituted, with
Judah, the one faithful kingdom of God
and after the captivity was, along with Judah, the kernel of the Jewish
(Ezr 4:1; 10:9).
2-4. God hath--"did"
not cast away his people--that is, wholly
which he foreknew--On the word "foreknew," see on
Wot--that is, "Know"
ye not that the scripture saith of--literally, "in," that is, in the
section which relates to
Elias? how he maketh intercession--"pleadeth"
against Israel--(The word "saying," which follows, as also the particle
"and" before "digged down," should be omitted, as without manuscript
3. and I am left alone--"I only am left."
4. seven thousand, that have not bowed the knee to Baal--not "the image
of Baal," according to the supplement of our version.
5. Even so at this present time--"in this present season"; this
period of Israel's rejection. (See
there is--"there obtains," or "hath remained"
a remnant according to the election of grace--"As in Elijah's time
the apostasy of Israel was not so universal as it seemed to be, and as
he in his despondency concluded it to be, so now, the rejection of
Christ by Israel is not so appalling in extent as one would be apt to
think: There is now, as there was then, a faithful remnant; not however
of persons naturally better than the unbelieving mass, but of persons
graciously chosen to salvation." (See
This establishes our view of the argument on Election in
as not being an election of Gentiles in the place of Jews, and merely
to religious advantages, but a sovereign choice of some of Israel
itself, from among others, to believe and be saved. (See on
6. And, &c.--better, "Now if it (the election) be by grace, it
is no more of works; for [then] grace becomes no more grace: but if it
be of works," &c. (The authority of ancient manuscripts against this
latter clause, as superfluous and not originally in the text, though
strong, is not sufficient, we think, to justify its exclusion. Such
seeming redundancies are not unusual with our apostle). The general
position here laid down is of vital importance: That there are but two
possible sources of salvation--men's works, and God's grace; and that
these are so essentially distinct and opposite, that salvation cannot
be of any combination or mixture of both, but must be wholly either of
the one or of the other. (See on
7-10. What then?--How stands the fact?
Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for--better,
"What Israel is in search of (that is, Justification, or acceptance
with God--see on
this he found not; but the election (the elect remnant of Israel) found
it, and the rest were hardened," or judicially given over to the
"hardness of their own hearts."
8. as it is written--
God hath given--"gave"
them the spirit of slumber--"stupor"
unto this day--"this present day."
9. And David saith--
which in such a Messianic psalm must be meant of the rejecters of
Let their table, &c.--that is, Let their very blessings prove a curse
to them, and their enjoyments only sting and take vengeance on them.
10. Let their eyes be darkened . . . and bow down their
back alway--expressive either of the decrepitude, or of the
servile condition, to come on the nation through the just
judgment of God. The apostle's object in making these quotations is to
show that what he had been compelled to say of the then condition and
prospects of his nation was more than borne out by their own
Scriptures. But, SECONDLY, God has not cast away
His people finally. The illustration of this point extends,
11. I say then, Have they stumbled--"Did they stumble"
that they should fall? God forbid; but--the supplement "rather" is
through their fall--literally, "trespass," but here best rendered
"false step" [DE
WETTE]; not "fall," as in our version.
salvation is come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy--Here,
as also in
we see that emulation is a legitimate stimulus to what is good.
12. Now if the fall of them--"But if their trespass," or "false step"
be the riches of the--Gentile
world--as being the occasion of their accession to Christ.
and the diminishing of them--that is, the reduction of the true Israel to so small a remnant.
the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness!--that
is, their full recovery (see on
that is, "If an event so untoward as Israel's fall was the occasion of
such unspeakable good to the Gentile world, of how much greater good
may we expect an event so blessed as their full recovery to be
13, 14. I speak--"am speaking"
to you Gentiles--another proof that this Epistle was addressed
to Gentile believers. (See on
mine office--The clause beginning with "inasmuch" should be read as
14. If . . . I may provoke, &c. (See on
15. For if the casting away of them--The apostle had denied that they
were east away
here he affirms it. But both are true; they were cast away,
though neither totally nor finally, and it is of this partial and
temporary rejection that the apostle here speaks.
be the reconciling of the--Gentile
world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?--The
reception of the whole family of Israel, scattered as they are among
all nations under heaven, and the most inveterate enemies of the Lord
Jesus, will be such a stupendous manifestation of the power of God upon
the spirits of men, and of His glorious presence with the heralds of the
Cross, as will not only kindle devout astonishment far and wide, but so
change the dominant mode of thinking and feeling on all spiritual things
as to seem like a resurrection from the dead.
if the first-fruit be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root
. . . so the branches--The Israelites were required to
offer to God the first-fruits of the earth--both in their raw state, in
a sheaf of newly reaped grain
(Le 23:10, 11),
and in their prepared state, made into cakes of dough
--by which the whole produce of that season was regarded as
hallowed. It is probable that the latter of these offerings is
here intended, as to it the word "lump" best applies; and the argument
of the apostle is, that as the separation unto God of Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob, from the rest of mankind, as the parent stem of their race,
was as real an offering of first-fruits as that which hallowed the
produce of the earth, so, in the divine estimation, it was as real a
separation of the mass or "lump" of that nation in all time to God. The
figure of the "root" and its "branches" is of like import--the
consecration of the one of them extending to the other.
17, 18. And if--rather, "But if"; that is, "If notwithstanding this
consecration of Abraham's race to God.
some of the branches--The mass of the unbelieving and rejected
Israelites are here called "some," not, as before, to meet Jewish
prejudice (see on
and on "not all" in
but with the opposite view of checking Gentile pride.
and thou, being a wild olive, wert--"wast"
grafted in among them--Though it is more usual to graft the superior
cutting upon the inferior stem, the opposite method, which is intended
here, is not without example.
and with them partakest--"wast made partaker," along with the branches
left, the believing remnant.
of the root and fatness of the olive tree--the rich grace secured by
covenant to the true seed of Abraham.
18. Boast not against the--rejected
branches. But if thou--"do"
thou bearest not--"it is not thou that bearest"
the root, but the root thee--"If the branches may not boast over the
root that bears them, then may not the Gentile boast over the seed of
Abraham; for what is thy standing, O Gentile, in relation to Israel, but
that of a branch in relation to the root? From Israel hath come all that
thou art and hast in the family of God; for "salvation is of the Jews"
19-21. Thou wilt say then--as a plea for boasting.
The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
20. Well--"Be it so, but remember that"
because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest--not as
a Gentile, but solely
by faith--But as faith cannot live in those "whose soul is lifted
Be not high-minded, but fear--
21. For if God spared not the natural branches--sprung from the parent
take heed lest he also spare not thee--a mere wild graft. The former
might, beforehand, have been thought very improbable; but, after that,
no one can wonder at the latter.
22, 23. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them that
fell, severity--in rejecting the chosen seed.
but toward thee, goodness--"God's goodness" is the true reading, that
is, His sovereign goodness in admitting thee to a covenant standing who
before wert a "stranger to the covenants of promise"
if thou continue in his goodness--in believing dependence on that pure
goodness which made thee what thou art.
23. And they also--"Yea, and they"
if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is
able to graft them in again--This appeal to the power of God to
effect the recovery of His ancient people implies the vast difficulty of
it--which all who have ever labored for the conversion of the Jews are
made depressingly to feel. That intelligent expositors should think that
this was meant of individual Jews, reintroduced from time to time
into the family of God on their believing on the Lord Jesus, is
surprising; and yet those who deny the national recovery of Israel
must and do so interpret the apostle. But this is to confound the two
things which the apostle carefully distinguishes. Individual Jews have
been at all times admissible, and have been admitted, to the Church
through the gate of faith in the Lord Jesus. This is the "remnant,
even at this present time, according to the election of grace," of
which the apostle, in the first part of the chapter, had cited himself
as one. But here he manifestly speaks of something not then
existing, but to be looked forward to as a great future event in the
economy of God, the reingrafting of the nation as such, when they
"abide not in unbelief." And though this is here spoken of merely as a
supposition (if their unbelief shall cease)--in order to set it over
against the other supposition, of what will happen to the Gentiles if
they shall not abide in the faith--the supposition is turned into an
explicit prediction in the verses following.
24. For if thou wert cut--"wert cut off"
from the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and wast grafted contrary
to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, &c.--This
is just the converse of
"As the excision of the merely engrafted Gentiles through
unbelief is a thing much more to be expected than was the excision of
the natural Israel, before it happened; so the restoration of
Israel, when they shall be brought to believe in Jesus, is a thing far
more in the line of what we should expect, than the admission of the
Gentiles to a standing which they never before enjoyed."
25. For I would not . . . that ye should be ignorant of this mystery--The word "mystery," so often used by our
apostle, does not mean (as with
us) something incomprehensible, but "something before kept secret,
either wholly or for the most part, and now only fully disclosed"
Eph 1:9, 10; 3:3-6, 9, 10).
lest ye should be wise in your own conceits--as if ye alone were in
all time coming to be the family of God.
in part is happened to--"hath come upon"
Israel--that is, hath come partially, or upon a portion of Israel.
until the fulness of the Gentiles be--"have"
come in--that is, not the general conversion of the world to Christ,
as many take it; for this would seem to contradict the latter part of
this chapter, and throw the national recovery of Israel too far into the
future: besides, in
the apostle seems to speak of the receiving of Israel, not as
following, but as contributing largely to bring about the general
conversion of the world--but, "until the Gentiles have had their
full time of the visible Church all to themselves while the Jews
are out, which the Jews had till the Gentiles were brought in." (See
26, 27. And so all Israel shall be saved--To understand this great
statement, as some still do, merely of such a gradual inbringing of
individual Jews, that there shall at length remain none in unbelief,
is to do manifest violence both to it and to the whole context. It can
only mean the ultimate ingathering of Israel as a nation, in
contrast with the present "remnant." (So THOLUCK,
HODGE). Three confirmations of this now follow: two
from the prophets, and a third from the Abrahamic covenant itself.
as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and
shall--or, according to what seems the true reading, without the
turn away ungodliness from Jacob--The apostle, having drawn his
illustrations of man's sinfulness chiefly from
and Isa 59:1-21,
now seems to combine the language of the same two places regarding
Israel's salvation from it [BENGEL]. In the
one place the Psalmist longs to see the "salvation of Israel coming
out of Zion"
in the other, the prophet announces that "the Redeemer (or,
'Deliverer') shall come to (or 'for') Zion"
But as all the glorious manifestations of Israel's God were regarded as
issuing out of Zion, as the seat of His manifested glory
(Ps 20:2; 110:2;
the turn which the apostle gives to the words merely adds to them that
familiar idea. And whereas the prophet announces that He "shall come
to (or, 'for') them that turn from transgression in
Jacob," while the apostle makes Him say that He shall come "to turn
away ungodliness from Jacob," this is taken from the
Septuagint version, and seems to indicate a different reading of
the original text. The sense, however, is substantially the same in
27. For--rather, "and" (again); introducing a new quotation.
this is my covenant with them--literally, "this is the covenant from
me unto them."
when I shall take away their sins--This, we believe, is rather a brief
than the express words of any prediction, Those who believe that there
are no predictions regarding the literal Israel in the Old Testament,
that stretch beyond the end of the Jewish economy, are obliged to view
these quotations by the apostle as mere adaptations of Old Testament
language to express his own predictions [ALEXANDER
on Isaiah, &c.]. But how forced this is, we shall presently see.
28, 29. As concerning the Gospel they are enemies for your sakes--that
is, they are regarded and treated as enemies (in a state of exclusion
through unbelief, from the family of God) for the benefit of you
Gentiles; in the sense of
Ro 11:11, 15.
but as touching, the election--of Abraham and his seed.
they are beloved--even in their state of exclusion
for the fathers' sakes.
29. For the gifts and calling--"and the calling"
of God are without repentance--"not to be," or "cannot be repented of."
By the "calling of God," in this case, is meant that sovereign act
by which God, in the exercise of His free choice, "called" Abraham to be
the father of a peculiar people; while "the gifts of God" here
denote the articles of the covenant which God made with Abraham, and
which constituted the real distinction between his and all other
families of the earth. Both these, says the apostle, are irrevocable;
and as the point for which he refers to this at all is the
final destiny of the Israelitish nation, it is clear that
the perpetuity through all time of the Abrahamic covenant is the
thing here affirmed. And lest any should say that though Israel,
as a nation, has no destiny at all under the Gospel, but as a people
disappeared from the stage when the middle wall of partition was broken
down, yet the Abrahamic covenant still endures in the spiritual seed
of Abraham, made up of Jews and Gentiles in one undistinguished mass of
redeemed men under the Gospel--the apostle, as if to preclude that
supposition, expressly states that the very Israel who, as concerning
the Gospel, are regarded as "enemies for the Gentiles' sakes," are
"beloved for the fathers' sakes"; and it is in proof of this that he
adds, "For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance." But
in what sense are the now unbelieving and excluded children of Israel
"beloved for the fathers' sakes?" Not merely from ancestral
recollections, as one looks with fond interest on the child of a
dear friend for that friend's sake [DR.
ARNOLD]--a beautiful thought,
and not foreign to Scripture, in this very matter (see
--but it is from ancestral connections and obligations,
or their lineal descent from and oneness in covenant with the fathers
with whom God originally established it. In other words, the natural
Israel--not "the remnant of them according to the election of
grace," but THE NATION, sprung from Abraham
according to the flesh--are still an elect people, and as such,
"beloved." The very same love which chose the fathers, and rested on
the fathers as a parent stem of the nation, still rests on their
descendants at large, and will yet recover them from unbelief, and
reinstate them in the family of God.
30, 31. For as ye in times past have not believed--or, "obeyed"
God--that is, yielded not to God "the obedience of faith," while
strangers to Christ.
yet now have obtained mercy through--by occasion of
their unbelief--(See on
31. Even so have these--the Jews.
now not believed--or, "now been disobedient"
that through your mercy--the mercy shown to you.
they also may obtain mercy--Here is an entirely new idea. The apostle
has hitherto dwelt upon the unbelief of the Jews as making way for the
faith of the Gentiles--the exclusion of the one occasioning the
reception of the other; a truth yielding to generous, believing Gentiles
but mingled satisfaction. Now, opening a more cheering prospect, he
speaks of the mercy shown to the Gentiles as a means of Israel's
recovery; which seems to mean that it will be by the instrumentality of
believing Gentiles that Israel as a nation is at length to "look on Him
whom they have pierced and mourn for Him," and so to "obtain mercy."
2Co 3:15, 16).
32. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief--"hath shut them all
up to unbelief"
that he might have mercy upon all--that is, those "all" of whom he had
been discoursing; the Gentiles first, and after them the Jews
Certainly it is not "all mankind individually" [MEYER,
ALFORD]; for the
apostle is not here dealing with individuals, but with those great
divisions of mankind, Jew and Gentile. And what he here says is that
God's purpose was to shut each of these divisions of men to the
experience first of an humbled, condemned state, without Christ, and
then to the experience of His mercy in Christ.
33. Oh, the depth, &c.--The apostle now yields himself up to the
admiring contemplation of the grandeur of that divine plan which he had
of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God--Many able
expositors render this, "of the riches and wisdom and knowledge," &c.
Revised Version]. The words will certainly
bear this sense, "the depth of God's riches." But "the riches of God" is
a much rarer expression with our apostle than the riches of this or that
perfection of God; and the words immediately following limit our
attention to the unsearchableness of God's "judgments," which
probably means His decrees or plans
and of "His ways," or the method by which He carries these into
effect. (So LUTHER, CALVIN,
BEZA, HODGE, &c.). Besides,
all that follows to the end of the chapter seems to show that while the
Grace of God to guilty men in Christ Jesus is presupposed to be
the whole theme of this chapter, that which called forth the special
admiration of the apostle, after sketching at some length the divine
purposes and methods in the bestowment of this grace, was "the depth of
the riches of God's wisdom and knowledge" in these purposes and
methods. The "knowledge," then, points probably to the vast sweep of
divine comprehension herein displayed; the "wisdom" to that fitness to
accomplish the ends intended, which is stamped on all this
34, 35. For who hath known the mind of the Lord?--See
or who hath been his counsellor--See
Isa 40:13, 14.
35. Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to
him--"and shall have recompense made to him"
Job 35:7; 41:11.
These questions, it will thus be seen, are just quotations from the Old
Testament, as if to show how familiar to God's ancient people was the
great truth which the apostle himself had just uttered, that God's
plans and methods in the dispensation of His Grace have a reach of
comprehension and wisdom stamped upon them which finite mortals cannot
fathom, much less could ever have imagined, before they were
36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom--"to Him"
be glory for ever. Amen--Thus worthily--with a brevity only equalled
by its sublimity--does the apostle here sum up this whole matter.
Him are all things," as their eternal Source: "THROUGH
HIM are all
things," inasmuch as He brings all to pass which in His eternal counsels
He purposed: "To Him are all things," as being His own last End; the
manifestation of the glory of His own perfections being the ultimate,
because the highest possible, design of all His procedure from first to
On this rich chapter, Note, (1) It is an unspeakable consolation
to know that in times of deepest religious declension and most extensive
defection from the truth, the lamp of God has never been permitted to go
out, and that a faithful remnant has ever existed--a remnant larger than
their own drooping spirits could easily believe
(2) The preservation of this remnant, even as their separation at the
first, is all of mere grace
(Ro 11:5, 6).
(3) When individuals and communities, after many fruitless warnings,
are abandoned of God, they go from bad to worse
(4) God has so ordered His dealings with the great divisions of
mankind, "that no flesh should glory in His presence." Gentile and Jew
have each in turn been "shut up to unbelief," that each in turn may
experience the "mercy" which saves the chief of sinners
(5) As we are "justified by faith," so are we "kept by the power of God
through faith"--faith alone--unto salvation
(6) God's covenant with Abraham and his natural seed is a perpetual
covenant, in equal force under the Gospel as before it. Therefore it
is, that the Jews as a nation still survive, in spite of all the laws
which, in similar circumstances, have either extinguished or destroyed
the identity of other nations. And therefore it is that the Jews as a
nation will yet be restored to the family of God, through the
subjection of their proud hearts to Him whom they have pierced. And as
believing Gentiles will be honored to be the instruments of this
stupendous change, so shall the vast Gentile world reap such benefit
from it, that it shall be like the communication of life to them from
the dead. (7) Thus has the Christian Church the highest motive to the
establishment and vigorous prosecution of missions to the Jews;
God having not only promised that there shall be a remnant of them
gathered in every age, but pledged Himself to the final ingathering of
the whole nation assigned the honor of that ingathering to the Gentile
Church, and assured them that the event, when it does arrive, shall
have a life-giving effect upon the whole world
(Ro 11:12-16, 26-31).
(8) Those who think that in all the evangelical prophecies of the Old
Testament the terms "Jacob," "Israel," &c., are to be understood solely
of the Christian Church, would appear to read the Old Testament
differently from the apostle, who, from the use of those very terms in
Old Testament prophecy, draws arguments to prove that God has mercy in
store for the natural Israel
(Ro 11:26, 27).
(9) Mere intellectual investigations into divine truth in general, and
the sense of the living oracles in particular, as they have a hardening
effect, so they are a great contrast to the spirit of our apostle,
whose lengthened sketch of God's majestic procedure towards men in
Christ Jesus ends here in a burst of admiration, which loses
itself in the still loftier frame of adoration