To the Romans 11:1-36

11  I ask, then, God did not reject his people, did he?+ By no means! For I too am an Israelite, of the offspring of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.+  God did not reject his people, whom he first recognized.*+ Do you not know what the scripture says in connection with E·liʹjah, as he pleads with God against Israel?  “Jehovah, they have killed your prophets, they have dug up your altars, and I alone am left, and now they are trying to take my life.”+  Yet, what does the divine pronouncement say to him? “I have left for myself 7,000 men who have not bent the knee to Baʹal.”+  So in the same way, at the present time also, there is a remnant+ according to a choosing through undeserved kindness.  Now if it is by undeserved kindness,+ it is no longer through works;+ otherwise, the undeserved kindness would no longer be undeserved kindness.  What, then? The very thing Israel is earnestly seeking he did not obtain, but the ones chosen obtained it.+ The rest had their senses dulled,+  just as it is written: “God has given them a spirit of deep sleep,+ eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear, down to this very day.”+  Also, David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap and a stumbling block and a retribution for them. 10  Let their eyes become darkened so that they cannot see, and always make them bend their backs.”+ 11  So I ask, They did not stumble and fall completely, did they? Certainly not! But by their false step, there is salvation to people of the nations, to incite them to jealousy.+ 12  Now if their false step means riches to the world and their decrease means riches to people of the nations,+ how much more will their full number* mean! 13  Now I speak to you who are people of the nations. Seeing that I am an apostle to the nations,+ I glorify my ministry+ 14  to see if I may in some way incite my own people to jealousy and save some from among them. 15  For if their being cast away+ means reconciliation for the world, what will the acceptance of them mean but life from the dead? 16  Further, if the part of the dough taken as firstfruits is holy, the entire batch is also holy; and if the root is holy, the branches are also. 17  However, if some of the branches were broken off and you, although being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became a sharer of the richness of the olive’s root, 18  do not be arrogant toward* the branches. If, though, you are arrogant toward* them,+ remember that you do not bear the root, but the root bears you. 19  You will say, then: “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”+ 20  That is true! For their lack of faith, they were broken off,+ but you are standing by faith.+ Do not be haughty, but be in fear. 21  For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22  Consider, therefore, God’s kindness+ and severity. There is severity toward those who fell,+ but toward you there is God’s kindness, provided you remain in his kindness; otherwise, you too will be lopped off. 23  And they also, if they do not remain in their lack of faith, will be grafted in,+ for God is able to graft them back in. 24  For if you were cut out of the olive tree that is wild by nature and were grafted contrary to nature into the garden olive tree, how much more will these who are natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree! 25  For I do not want you to be unaware of this sacred secret,+ brothers, so that you do not become wise in your own eyes: A partial dulling of senses has come upon Israel+ until the full number* of people of the nations has come in, 26  and in this manner all Israel+ will be saved. Just as it is written: “The deliverer will come out of Zion+ and turn away ungodly practices from Jacob. 27  And this is my covenant with them,+ when I take their sins away.”+ 28  True, with respect to the good news, they are enemies for your sakes; but with respect to God’s choosing, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.+ 29  For the gifts and the calling of God are not things he will regret. 30  For just as you were once disobedient to God+ but have now been shown mercy+ because of their disobedience,+ 31  so also these now have been disobedient with mercy resulting to you, so that they themselves may also now be shown mercy. 32  For God has confined all of them together in disobedience+ so that he might show all of them mercy.+ 33  O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and beyond tracing out his ways are!+ 34  For “who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his adviser?”+ 35  Or, “who has first given to him, so that it must be repaid to him?”+ 36  Because from him and by him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.

Footnotes

Or possibly, “he foreknew.”
Or “their fullness.”
Or “do not boast against.”
Or “you boast against.”
Or “the fullness.”

Study Notes

offspring: Or “descendants.” Lit., “seed.”​—See App. A2.

Jehovah: Paul is here quoting from 1Ki 19:10, 14, where the prophet Elijah addresses Jehovah God. In the original Hebrew text, the divine name is represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH). Paul abbreviates the quote and changes the order of some sentences. He also adds a direct personal address at the beginning of the quote, showing that these words were directed to God. Available Greek manuscripts use a form of the word Kyʹri·os (Lord), but “Jehovah” is here used in the main text because in the context of the words that Paul is quoting, as well as in other contexts, Elijah consistently addresses Jehovah, using His personal name. (1Ki 17:20, 21; 18:36, 37; 19:4) So the Hebrew Scripture background of this quote supports the view that Kyʹri·os was substituted for the divine name. Also, a number of translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew use the divine name here.​—See App. C3 introduction; Ro 11:3.

my life: Here the Greek word psy·kheʹ, rendered “soul” in some Bible translations, refers to a person’s life. The expression trying to take my life (lit., “seeking my soul”) can also be rendered “trying [wanting] to kill me.” This expression reflects wording used in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as at 1Ki 19:10, 14, from which Paul quotes.​—Ex 4:19, ftn.; 1Sa 20:1, ftn.; see Glossary, “Soul.”

was given divine instructions: The Greek verb khre·ma·tiʹzo appears nine times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Mt 2:12, 22; Lu 2:26; Ac 10:22; 11:26; Ro 7:3; Heb 8:5; 11:7; 12:25) In most occurrences, the word has a clear connection with things having divine origin. For example, the verb is here used together with the expression “by a holy angel.” At Mt 2:12, 22, it is used in connection with divinely inspired dreams. The related noun khre·ma·ti·smosʹ appears at Ro 11:4, and most lexicons and translations use such renderings as “divine pronouncement; divine response; God’s reply; the answer of God.” Here at Ac 10:22, one translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J18 in App. C4) reads “was given a command of Jehovah.”​—See study note on Ac 11:26.

were by divine providence called: Most Bible translations simply read “were called.” However, the Greek words commonly rendered “called” are not used here. (Mt 1:16; 2:23; Mr 11:17; Lu 1:32, 60; Ac 1:12, 19) The word that appears in this verse is khre·ma·tiʹzo, and in most of the nine places where it occurs in the Christian Greek Scriptures, it clearly refers to things that come from God, that have a divine origin. (Mt 2:12, 22; Lu 2:26; Ac 10:22; 11:26; Ro 7:3; Heb 8:5; 11:7; 12:25) For example, at Ac 10:22, this word is used together with the expression “by a holy angel,” and at Mt 2:12, 22, it is used in connection with divinely inspired dreams. The related noun khre·ma·ti·smosʹ appears at Ro 11:4, and most lexicons and Bible translations use such renderings as “divine pronouncement; divine response; God’s reply; the answer of God.” It is possible that Jehovah directed Saul and Barnabas to use the name Christians. Some have suggested that the Gentile population in Antioch may have used the nickname Christians out of jest or scorn, but the usage of the Greek term khre·ma·tiʹzo clearly indicates that God was responsible for the designation “Christians.” And it would have been most unlikely that the Jews would label Jesus’ followers “Christians” (from Greek) or “Messianists” (from Hebrew). They had rejected Jesus as the Messiah, or Christ, so they would not have tacitly recognized him as the Anointed One, or Christ, by identifying his followers with the designation “Christians.”

the divine pronouncement: The Greek noun khre·ma·ti·smosʹ denotes a statement of divine origin. Here it describes what God said to his prophet Elijah at 1Ki 19:18. Most lexicons and Bible translations use such renderings as “divine pronouncement; divine response; God’s reply; the answer of God.” This term is related to the verb khre·ma·tiʹzo, used several times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. For example, Ac 11:26 states that Jesus’ followers “were by divine providence called Christians.”​—See study notes on Ac 10:22; 11:26.

Baal: A Canaanite god regarded by some of its worshippers as the owner of the sky and the giver of rain and fertility. This is the only reference to Baal in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Paul is here quoting from 1Ki 19:18. In the Hebrew Scriptures, this god is designated by the Hebrew term hab·Baʹʽal, literally, “the Baal.” (Jg 2:13; 1Ki 16:31; 18:25) The Hebrew term is also found in the plural form (the Baals), apparently referring to the various local deities thought of as owning or having influence over particular places. (Jg 2:11; 8:33; 10:6) The Hebrew word baʹʽal (without the definite article) means “owner; master.”​—Ex 21:28; 22:8.

God: In this quote from De 18:15, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text, which reads “Jehovah your God.” Stephen’s quote is slightly abbreviated; he uses only the word for “God.” Peter quotes the same verse at Ac 3:22, using the whole expression “Jehovah your God.” (See study note on Ac 3:22.) Some translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew use the divine name here and read “Jehovah your God” (J7, 8, 10-17) or “Jehovah God” (J28). (See App. C4.) A few Greek manuscripts also have readings that can be rendered “the Lord God” or, for the same reasons as presented in App. C, “Jehovah God.” However, the vast majority of Greek manuscripts and ancient translations into other languages simply read “God.”

God: In this verse, Paul quotes wording from De 29:4 and Isa 29:10. The Hebrew text of these verses does not use “God,” but Paul may have quoted from the Septuagint, which according to most manuscripts reads at De 29:4 (29:3, LXX): “The Lord God has not given . . . ” For reasons stated in App. C1, copies of the Septuagint existing in Paul’s day likely read: “Jehovah God has not given . . . ” In fact, there is evidence that a fragment containing De 29:4 in the papyrus collection Fouad Inv. 266 uses the Tetragrammaton in the Greek text, followed by the Greek term for “God.” So Paul may have made a slightly abbreviated quote from the Septuagint, using only “God,” which is the reading found in available Greek manuscripts of Ro 11:8. (Compare a similarly abbreviated quote at Ac 7:37; see study note.) The Hebrew texts of both De 29:4 and Isa 29:10 use the divine name, and this is reflected in some translations of Ro 11:8 into Hebrew (referred to as J7, 8, 10, 14, 15, 20 in App. C4) that use the Tetragrammaton here.

table: Possibly an allusion to a table for sacrifices or to a feast. Paul is here quoting from Ps 69:22, where “table” is parallel to “prosperity” and apparently denotes blessings. Paul applies this psalm to the Jews, the majority of whom would reject Jesus and be stumbled. This stumbling was due, in part, to their insistence that their fleshly relationship with Abraham was sufficient for them to receive ongoing blessings from God. (Mt 3:9; Joh 8:39) This erroneous view would ultimately lead to “retribution” for them.

world: In this context, the Greek word koʹsmos refers to the world of mankind apart from God’s servants, the unrighteous human society alienated from God. John is the only Gospel writer to quote Jesus as saying that his followers are no part of the world or do not belong to the world. The same thought is expressed two more times in Jesus’ last prayer with his faithful apostles.​—Joh 17:14, 16.

the world: In this context, Paul uses the Greek word koʹsmos as an equivalent to people of the nations, that is, non-Jews, or Gentiles. Here “the world” is distinguished from the people of Israel with whom God had concluded a covenant. Also, Christian Bible writers frequently used koʹsmos to denote the world of mankind separate from the true followers of Christ. This use of the Greek term rendered “world” is unique to the Scriptures.​—See study note on Joh 15:19.

Matthias: The Greek name Math·thiʹas is probably a shortened form of Mat·ta·thiʹas, derived from the Hebrew name rendered “Mattithiah” (1Ch 15:18), meaning “Gift of Jehovah.” According to Peter’s words (Ac 1:21, 22), Matthias was a follower of Christ throughout Jesus’ three-and-a-half-year ministry. He was closely associated with the apostles and was quite likely one of the 70 disciples whom Jesus sent out to preach. (Lu 10:1) After his selection, Matthias was “counted along with the 11 apostles” (Ac 1:26), and when the book of Acts immediately thereafter speaks of “the apostles” or “the Twelve,” Matthias was included.​—Ac 2:37, 43; 4:33, 36; 5:12, 29; 6:2, 6; 8:1, 14.

an apostle to the nations: That is, to the non-Jews, or Gentiles. When Paul was converted to Christianity, probably about 34 C.E., the resurrected Jesus declared: “This man is a chosen vessel to me to bear my name to the nations as well as to kings and the sons of Israel.” (Ac 9:15) Thus Paul was chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ to be “an apostle [meaning “someone sent out”] to the nations.” (Ac 26:14-18; Ro 1:5; Ga 1:15, 16; 1Ti 2:7) While Paul had strong conviction and proofs of his apostleship, nowhere does the Bible suggest that he replaced one of “the Twelve”; nor did he ever refer to himself as one of “the Twelve.”​—1Co 15:5-8; compare study note on Ac 1:23.

glorify: Or “magnify.” The Greek verb do·xaʹzo (to glorify; to give glory to), related to the word doʹxa (glory; honor), is often used in connection with glorifying God. (Mt 5:16; 9:8; Mr 2:12; Lu 2:20; 5:25, 26; Ac 4:21; 11:18; Ro 15:6, 9) In this context, the verb may convey such shades of meaning as “take pride in; take seriously; make the most of.” Paul shows that he highly esteems his “ministry,” regarding it as an honor of the highest order.

my ministry: When Jesus was on earth, he commissioned his followers to make disciples of people of all the nations. (Mt 28:19, 20) Paul called this work “the ministry of the reconciliation.” In Paul’s words, “we beg” a world alienated from God to “become reconciled to God.” (2Co 5:18-20) Paul made the most of his Christian ministry to the nations, but at the same time, his earnest desire was that some Jews would also be moved to take the necessary steps to gain salvation. (Ro 11:14) The basic meaning of the Greek word di·a·ko·niʹa is “service” and the related verb is sometimes used in the Bible with regard to personal services, such as waiting on tables. (Lu 4:39; 17:8; Joh 2:5) Here it refers to the Christian ministry. This is an elevated form of service, that of ministering to the spiritual needs of others.

my own people: Lit., “my flesh.” Paul here refers to his fellow countrymen, the Israelites.​—Compare Ge 37:27.

the root . . . the branches: Here Paul compares the fulfillment of God’s purpose regarding the Abrahamic covenant to an olive tree. Jehovah, the root of the tree, gives life to spiritual Israel. (Isa 10:20) Jesus, the trunk of the tree, is the primary part of Abraham’s offspring. (Ga 3:16) Paul says that the branches collectively are “the full number” of those included in the secondary part of Abraham’s offspring.​—Ro 11:25; Ga 3:29.

the root . . . the branches: Here Paul compares the fulfillment of God’s purpose regarding the Abrahamic covenant to an olive tree. Jehovah, the root of the tree, gives life to spiritual Israel. (Isa 10:20) Jesus, the trunk of the tree, is the primary part of Abraham’s offspring. (Ga 3:16) Paul says that the branches collectively are “the full number” of those included in the secondary part of Abraham’s offspring.​—Ro 11:25; Ga 3:29.

grafted contrary to nature into the garden olive tree: Normally, farmers grafted branches from a cultivated, or garden, olive tree into a wild olive tree. As a result, the wild olive tree would produce better fruit, comparable to fruit from the tree from which the branch had been cut. The reverse​—grafting wild branches into a cultivated tree​—would be quite contrary to the regular procedure and would usually not be expected to yield good results. However, grafting a branch from a wild olive tree into a cultivated one was what some farmers occasionally did in the first century. (See Media Gallery, “Grafting an Olive Branch.”) By alluding to just such a procedure that would seem unusual​—even unnatural, or contrary to nature​—Paul heightens the force of his illustration. Paul uses the cultivated olive tree to illustrate how God’s purpose with regard to the Abrahamic covenant was fulfilled. He likens those who become part of Abraham’s offspring to branches on this symbolic olive tree. (Ro 11:21) The Gentile Christians are likened to branches from a wild olive tree because they had previously been alienated from God’s people, Israel, who were Abraham’s natural offspring and heirs of the covenant made with Abraham. (Eph 2:12) But when some Jews, likened to the natural branches, showed a lack of faith, they were rejected by God and “broken off.” (Ro 11:20) Jehovah arranged for these Gentiles to be grafted in to replace the unproductive branches. (Ga 3:28, 29) Just as branches from a wild olive tree would thrive when grafted into a cultivated olive tree, the Gentile Christians benefit greatly as they receive “the richness [lit., “fatness”]” of the garden olive tree’s root. This arrangement highlighted God’s undeserved kindness toward the Gentile Christians and removed any basis for boasting on their part.​—Ro 11:17; compare Mt 3:10; Joh 15:1-10.

some of the branches were broken off: That is, the natural Jews who rejected Jesus were themselves rejected.

you, although being a wild olive, were grafted in: Paul is still addressing Christians of non-Jewish background. (Ro 11:13) He continues with the illustration of a cultivated olive tree to show how God’s purpose with regard to the Abrahamic covenant was being fulfilled. (See study note on Ro 11:16.) Initially, only Jews had the opportunity to be part of that covenant. Non-Jews, or Gentiles, were likened to branches from a different tree, that is, a wild olive tree. Jehovah opened the way for Gentiles to become part of Abraham’s offspring as spiritual Jews, figuratively grafting them into the cultivated olive tree. The Rome congregation consisted of faithful Christians from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds, and all were expected to produce spiritual fruitage.​—Ro 2:28, 29.

grafted in: Grafting is the process of joining a branch or a twig from a tree producing good fruit with a tree bearing inferior fruit. After the union becomes permanent, the grafted-in branches produce quality fruit, similar to that of the tree from which they were taken. Paul discusses the grafting of branches from an inferior tree into a cultivated tree “contrary to nature,” apparently practiced by some cultivators in the first century. (See study note on Ro 11:24.) The Greek word for “to graft” is used only in Romans chapter 11.

grafted contrary to nature into the garden olive tree: Normally, farmers grafted branches from a cultivated, or garden, olive tree into a wild olive tree. As a result, the wild olive tree would produce better fruit, comparable to fruit from the tree from which the branch had been cut. The reverse​—grafting wild branches into a cultivated tree​—would be quite contrary to the regular procedure and would usually not be expected to yield good results. However, grafting a branch from a wild olive tree into a cultivated one was what some farmers occasionally did in the first century. (See Media Gallery, “Grafting an Olive Branch.”) By alluding to just such a procedure that would seem unusual​—even unnatural, or contrary to nature​—Paul heightens the force of his illustration. Paul uses the cultivated olive tree to illustrate how God’s purpose with regard to the Abrahamic covenant was fulfilled. He likens those who become part of Abraham’s offspring to branches on this symbolic olive tree. (Ro 11:21) The Gentile Christians are likened to branches from a wild olive tree because they had previously been alienated from God’s people, Israel, who were Abraham’s natural offspring and heirs of the covenant made with Abraham. (Eph 2:12) But when some Jews, likened to the natural branches, showed a lack of faith, they were rejected by God and “broken off.” (Ro 11:20) Jehovah arranged for these Gentiles to be grafted in to replace the unproductive branches. (Ga 3:28, 29) Just as branches from a wild olive tree would thrive when grafted into a cultivated olive tree, the Gentile Christians benefit greatly as they receive “the richness [lit., “fatness”]” of the garden olive tree’s root. This arrangement highlighted God’s undeserved kindness toward the Gentile Christians and removed any basis for boasting on their part.​—Ro 11:17; compare Mt 3:10; Joh 15:1-10.

the garden olive tree: In the Greek term kal·li·eʹlai·os used here, the word for “olive tree” has a prefix that comes from the word ka·losʹ. It means “good; fine; excellent,” implying well-suited for its purpose​—like an olive tree that is cultivated in order to be fruitful and productive. Here the garden, or cultivated, olive tree is contrasted with the olive tree that is wild (a·gri·eʹlai·os; lit., “field olive tree”) and uncultivated.

and in this manner all Israel will be saved: That is, all spiritual Israel, “the Israel of God.” (Ga 6:16; Ro 2:29) God’s purpose is to have 144,000 spiritual Israelites in a saved condition and ruling with His Son in heaven. That purpose will be fulfilled “in this manner,” namely, by figuratively grafting in branches from the “wild olive” to fulfill God’s purpose to have his “garden olive tree” full of productive branches. (Ro 11:17-25; Re 7:4; 14:1, 3) This involved admitting Gentile Christians to be part of spiritual Israel. Some favor rendering the Greek expression at the beginning of the verse “and then” or “and in the end,” but the rendering “and in this manner” is supported by many lexicons and other Bible translations.

deliverer: Or “savior.” Paul here quotes from the Septuagint reading of Isa 59:20, and he applies the prophecy to Christians who are members of “the Israel of God.” (Ga 6:16) He indicates that the prophecy will be completely fulfilled when the full number of spiritual Israel is made up.

Jehovah’s: In this quote from Isa 40:13, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text. The Greek expressions rendered “come to know . . . mind” and “become his adviser” follow the wording of Isa 40:13 in the Septuagint.

Amen: Or “So be it.” The Greek word a·menʹ is a transliteration of a Hebrew term derived from the root word ’a·manʹ, meaning “to be faithful, to be trustworthy.” (See Glossary.) “Amen” was said in agreement to an oath, a prayer, or a statement. Writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures often used it to express agreement with some form of praise to God, as Paul does here. (Ro 16:27; Eph 3:21; 1Pe 4:11) In other cases, it is used to emphasize the writer’s wish that God extend favor toward the recipients of the letter. (Ro 15:33; Heb 13:20, 21) It is also used to indicate that the writer earnestly agrees with what is expressed.​—Re 1:7; 22:20.

Media

Grafting an Olive Branch
Grafting an Olive Branch

The practice of grafting was common in Bible times. It normally involved joining a shoot or a twig of a tree known to produce good fruit with the stock of a tree bearing inferior fruit in order to improve the quality of the fruit produced by that tree. The apostle Paul alluded to the practice of grafting in the illustration he gave regarding an olive tree. (Ro 11:17-24) He compared spirit-anointed Gentile Christians to wild olive branches grafted into a “garden olive tree.” (Ro 11:24) A first-century C.E. Roman soldier and farmer named Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella, who wrote about a variety of agricultural subjects, specifically mentioned such a technique. For healthy olive trees that failed to produce fruit, he recommended: “It is a good plan to bore them with a Gallic auger and to put tightly into the hole a green slip taken from a wild olive-tree; the result is that the tree, being as it were impregnated with fruitful offspring, becomes more productive.” Paul’s illustration was a vivid reminder that all spirit-anointed Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, should be united. (Ro 2:28, 29; 11:17, 18) Shown here are different grafting methods that may have been used in the first century C.E.

1. A hole is bored in the side of a branch, and a slip from another tree is inserted

2. Slits are cut into the end of a branch, and multiple slips are inserted and bound in place

3. A patch is cut out of a branch, and a slip attached to a piece of bark is bound into the opening