Commentary on Romans 11:1-10

Notes (NET Translation)

1 So I ask, God has not rejected his people, has he? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.

Since large portions of ethnic Israel have rejected God it is natural to ask whether God has rejected his people. As part of his denial of this suggestion, Paul uses himself as an example of an ethnic Israelite chosen by God.

2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew! Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?

Paul adds the words ὃν προέγνω (hon proegnō, whom he foreknew) to the statement that God has not forsaken his people. As in 8:29, the word προγινώσκειν (proginōskein, to foreknow) does not merely connote foreknowledge but also implies foreordination, with the emphasis being on God’s covenantal love for his people (cf. Amos 3:2; 1 Cor. 8:3; Gal. 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:19). This understanding of προγινώσκειν is confirmed by the immediate context, for προέγνω clearly functions as the antonym of ἀπώσατο. The latter verb means “rejected,” and thus the former means “selected.” In addition, the verses from 1 Kings 19 cited in verses 2b-4 function as the ground for the proposition that “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.” Paul concludes this section with God’s declaration, “I have left to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” What receives prominence here is the verbal phrase κατέλιπον ἐμαυτῷ (katelipon emautō, I have left to myself) in which God’s action is the decisive reason that a remnant is preserved. So too, the preservation of Israel in Paul’s day is ascribed to God’s covenantal foreknowledge, which secures a people for his name. This interpretation is also ratified by verse 5, where the remnant is due to “the election of grace” (ἐκλογὴν χάριτος, eklogēn charitos). This is merely another way of saying that God has foreknown his people, or that he has “left to” himself a remnant. Finally, 1 Sam. 12:22 contains the same general idea. The promise that God will not forsake his people is grounded in (MT כִּי, , for; and LXX ὅτι, hoti, because) God’s election of his people, which is expressed in the words “because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself” (RSV). The idea of the verse, then, is that God has not rejected those upon whom he has set his covenantal love. Such an idea is unthinkable and indeed impossible.1

Paul summarizes the story of Elijah found in 1 Kings 19:1-18. Just as the majority of ethnic Israel was apostate in Elijah’s day so it was in Paul’s day.

3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left and they are seeking my life!”

4 But what was the divine response to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand people who have not bent the knee to Baal.”

5 So in the same way at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.

Verse 5 is the logical inference drawn from verses 3-4. The remnant is chosen by grace, not because of their greater wisdom or spiritual perception.

6 And if it is by grace, it is no longer by works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

In saying that election is “no longer” (οὐκέτι, ouketi) by works, there is no implication that salvation in the old covenant was by works, for the word οὐκέτι here is logical rather than temporal.2

7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was diligently seeking, but the elect obtained it. The rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, to this very day.”

Israel failed to attain righteousness (9:31). According to Schreiner, verse 7 should read “election has obtained it” instead of “the elect obtained it”. It stresses the work of God. The passive voice implies that God hardened the non-elect and the quotations in verses 8-10 confirm this interpretation. The quotation in verse 8 is a combination of Isa 29:10 and Deut 29:4.

9 And David says, “Let their table become a snare and trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they may not see, and make their backs bend continually.”

The quote is from Ps 69:22-23 (68:23-24 LXX) where David calls upon God to punish his persecutors. This psalm was used or alluded to in the NT in relation to the ministry of Jesus (Matt 27:34, 48; Mark 3:21; 15:23, 36; Luke 13:35; 23:36; John 2:17; 15:25; 19:29; Acts 1:20; Rom. 15:3; Heb. 11:26; Phil 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 16:1). We probably should not try to figure out what “table” was a stumbling block for the Jews or what the “bent backs” connote but instead take the overall image as one of judgment.

We should also note that the attribution of hardening to God does not remove responsibility from the Jews. Paul never concluded that since God hardens, therefore the Jews were exculpated from responsibility for their actions. Paul deemed both of these truths to be compatible.3

Bibliography

Kruse, Colin G. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014.

Metzger, Bruce M., ed. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Second Edition. Hendrickson Pub, 2005.

Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 1998.

Witherington III, Ben, and Darlene Hyatt. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Kindle Edition. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004.


  1. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 11354-11371 
  2. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 11407-11409 
  3. Schreiner 1998, Kindle Locations 11535-11537 
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