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Israel's Present Hardening and Future Salvation: An Exegesis of Romans 11:25-32

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A Translation

25 For (gaVr) I do not want you to be ignorant brothers, concerning this mystery, lest you be (i[na mhV h e) wise in your own estimation:1 that (o{ti) a partial hardening has happened to Israel until (a[cri ou|) the full number (toV plhvrwma) of the Gentiles has come in,

26 and thus (ou{tw") all Israel will be saved, just as it is written, the deliverer will come out of (ejk) Zion, He will turn godlessness away from (ajpoV) Jacob

27 and this is my covenant with them when (o{tan) I take away their sins.

28 On the one hand (meVn), according to (kataV) the gospel, they are enemies (of God) for your sake (di j uJma`"), but on the other hand(deV), according to (kataV) election, they are loved for the sake of (diaV) the fathers.

29 For (gaVr) the gifts and call of God (God's call) are irrevocable.

30 For (gaVr) just as (w{sper)2 you at one time were disobedient to God, but (deV) now3 have been shown mercy by their disobedience

31 so also (ou{tw" kaiV) these (Israel) are now disobedient, in order that (i[na of purpose) they themselves4 also may now be shown mercy by your mercy.

32 For (gaVr) God has consigned all men5 over to disobedience in order that (i[na of purpose) He might have mercy upon all men.

Synthesis of the Passage

The Exegetical Idea


    Saved Gentiles should not be proud concerning Israel's present failure to respond to God


    because it is a Divine hardening that is only temporal, partial, and forms the basis for God's salvific blessings to them.

An Exegetical Sentence Outline

Introduction: Throughout Romans 9-11 Paul has been emphasizing Israel's sovereign election in the past (9:1-29), her rejection at present (9:30-10:21) and her ultimate salvation in the future (11:1-24). The following section (11:25-32) provides a conclusion to the whole argument (chs.9-11) in which he informs the Gentiles that conceit has no place among them, for although it is true that Israel is disobedient now and that the Gentiles have entered into relationship with God, this is all according to Divine plan, which plan also includes the salvation of the nation of Israel in the end.

    I. Saved Gentiles should not boast in themselves as they consider Israel's present rejection by God, because the nation as a whole has been divinely hardened for a time (25).

      A. Paul does not want the Gentiles to think that they are intrinsically better in the sight of God than the Jews (25a).

      B. God has temporarily and partially hardened national Israel, until the complete number of Gentiles is saved (25b).

    II. The nation of Israel will be spiritually saved when God sends the Messiah as the deliverer who will cleanse Jacob according to His covenant with them (26, 27).

      A. National Israel will be spiritually saved after the complete number of Gentiles is saved (26a)

      B. Christ will return to the city of David and will turn them away from their iniquities (26b).

      C. Christ taking away Israel's sin is according to God's covenant with them as expressed by Jeremiah (27).

    III. At this time in the progress of the gospel, national Israel is God's enemy, but because they were sovereignly chosen through promises given to the patriarchs, they will yet be saved (28, 29).

      A. At the present time national Israel rejects the gospel (28a)

      B. God will never regret, nor turn back His decision to choose and show mercy to Israel (28b, 29).

    IV. While Israel has been disobedient to God, He has shown mercy to the Gentiles and because of this mercy He will again show mercy to Israel because this is His purpose (30-32)

      A. The Gentiles were shown mercy because of Israel's disobedience (30).

      B. God's mercy to the Gentiles will cause Him to show mercy to Israel (31).

      C. God has consigned all to disobedience so that He might show mercy to all men (32).

Conclusion: In this section Paul brings to a close his thoughts on the relation between the salvation of Israel and the Gentiles. Israel has been set aside for a time until God has finished his work of saving Gentiles, but will again be saved when the Deliverer, Christ, comes. God's plan is marvelous and Gentiles should not boast in respect to Israel's failure because it was a result of Divine hardening in order that having set aside Israel God might fully extend His salvation to the Gentiles.

Exegetical Exposition


Perhaps no where in the Bible is it made more clear that a merciful God is orchestrating human history than it is here, at this specific point, in the book of Romans. Having developed the argument regarding the depravity of all men (1-3) and the provision of God's righteousness (5-8; imputed and imparted) Paul, the theologian, now desires to reveal how Israel has related to God's righteousness. In point of fact, he says, they have sought to establish their own and want no part of God's provision (9:32,33).

Israel did not as a nation want God's Messiah (9:33). But the question still remains, "What about all the blessings promised to the nation that have not been fulfilled"? Or, "How can I, as a Christian trust the promise of God concerning my future glory (8:30), when God was not able to fulfill His word to Israel"? Paul answers these questions by saying in effect that God will yet fulfill His great promises to the nation. But, at the present time there is another Divine work of blessing under way; the salvation of Gentiles.

It is quite likely that many Gentiles, observing Israel's disobedience, would conclude that they were wiser than the Jews (11:18), for they (saved Gentiles in Rome) had indeed responded properly and in faith toward the Messiah. But, Paul wants to tell them that they know not the whole story and that such ignorance may lead to conceit. What they could not have known, as it was a mystery, was that Israel as a whole had been hardened by God for a time (she will someday be saved) in order that God might save the Gentiles. But she will, at the second advent, enter into all the spiritual and material blessings promised her by the prophets (cf. Dunn, 690; Witmer, 485).

Israel's Present Hardening: A Divine Work (11:25)

Paul has made it clear that Israel has rejected God (10:21). In order that saved Gentiles not look down on the Jews because of their failure, thus yielding to a mordant attitude, Paul wants to let the Gentiles in on a Divine mystery; a truth hitherto unknown. All that he has referred to in chapters 9-11 by way of Israel's willful disobedience has another factor other than purely human agency which he has emphasized. That other factor is the sovereign hardening of part of the nation for a period of time. The Gentiles, in order to remain humble, need to keep this in mind as they evaluate Israel's present situation of rebellion. It is a lesson to the Gentiles of the severity of God.

    A Warning For Gentiles (25a)

The phrase, For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers is a significant one in Pauline literature (cf.1:13; 1 Cor. 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor.1:8; 1 Thes. 4:13). From an examination of it's occurrences, it is clear that Paul employs it when he desires his readers to really understand that which follows (cf. Murray, 91; Black, 159). The word For (gaVr)6 is an explanatory conjunction indicating that that which follows (25-32) is a further explanation of that which preceded it (11:11-24; cf. Cranfield, 573). Whereas Paul has explained the human side of Israel's rejection because of her disobedience (vv. 11-24), there is another side to this phenomena, a Divine side, as of yet unknown to his readers. The word you (uJma`") refers specifically to Gentile readers in Rome7 (and by implication anywhere), who may have had the tendency to become arrogant (cf.11:18), having been ignorant (ajgnoei'n)8 of a Divine act of hardening against Israel. Paul did not want them to be in such a position concerning this mystery, lest they be (i[na mhV h e)9 wise in their own estimation;10 that is conceited "about their supposed superior wisdom" (Cranfield, 574). The purpose then for which Paul is expounding this mystery is to prevent pride and to bring about humility on the part of the Gentile believers in Rome.

    An Explanation (25b-d)

Having made it clear why he wants them to really know this mystery, Paul moves on to describe it's nature and substance. Once they grasp his message, they will surely refrain from prideful attitudes; they should in fact bow down and worship (33-36). Before we examine the partial and temporal aspects of the mystery, we need to take a closer look at the term mystery itself.

      It Is A Mystery (25b)

The word this (tou`to) looks forward to the hardening Paul mentions (cf. Bruce, 221); the hardening of Israel he calls a mystery (musthvrion).11 In Classical usage the word mystery was used literally to refer to a secret rite12 or mystical ornament13 or knowledge possessed by the initiated within a group (cf. Dunn, 690). In the LXX and the Apocrypha the word occurs 21x and means a "secret", but in some prophetic literature of the LXX it has a decidedly eschatological significance as well (cf. Dan. 2:18,19, 27-30,47).14 Here it denotes secrets that will be revealed by God in the future, near the end of human history. During the period of Koine Greek (200 B.C.-100 A.D.) the word had several uses. Like classical usage it was employed by extra-biblical writers to designate a religious secret known only to the initiated within a group, that they were not at liberty to disclose.15 However, in the N.T. the word occurs 28 times. In the Gospels it refers to secrets about the kingdom of heaven (Mt.13:11; Mk.4:11), and in Paul refers to a secret hid from men in God, until He revealed it. This could refer to God's plan of salvation through Christ (Rom.16:25; 1 Cor.2:1,2); any secret from God (1 Cor.4:1); the Church (Eph. 3:5); and even Christ Himself is said to be God's revealed Secret (Col. 2:2; 1 Tim.3:9,16). These secrets of God, once revealed, were to be announced everywhere by His messengers. They were not secrets for an initiated few (Col.1:23).16

In this passage Paul is saying that Israel's hardening by God was not known in the O.T. (cf. Eph.3:5), but only revealed to the apostles since the resurrection of Christ (cf. Jn.16:13, 14; Murray, 92). Therefore, having stated that it was a mystery, something the Gentiles could not have known on their own, Paul begins to articulate a couple aspects of it that form the basis for his request for Gentile humility, namely, that the hardening is both partial and temporary.

      It Is Partial (25c)

The hardening God has brought about upon Israel is not on every person in Israel, but only on the nation as a whole. Therefore, Paul says that17 (o{ti) a partial hardening has happened18 to Israel. The word partial is actually two words in the original (ajpoV mevrou") and could be rendered as a hardening in part has happened to Israel19 (11:7,17; Cranfield, 574; Murray, 92). Not all Israel has been hardened as a "present remnant", chosen by God seems to make clear (11:5,7, 17). But only a certain number of Jews, enough to be called the nation, were hardened. There were many Jews who had come to Christ as a result of Paul's ministry alone (Acts14:1) and indeed this was the Divine plan (Rom.1:16), but the nation as a whole rejected God and His Messiah (cf. Mt.13; 27:23).20 The noun or verb form of the term hardening (mevrou") occurs only twice in Romans (here and 11:7) and six other times in all of the N.T. Though it is used to describe men when they willfully refuse to acknowledge God (Mk.3:5; Eph.4:18), it is also said to be an act of God, whereby He sovereignly dulls the heart so that belief is impossible (Jn.12:40;

2 Cor.3:14; TDNT,1026). Therefore, the condition of hardening itself is one of dullness, insensibility and obstinacy.21 That Israel was truly disobedient was evident to all, but that she had been dulled by God and as a result was (and is) unable to turn to Him was truly a mystery. And, according to Paul, knowledge of this "secret" should bring about restraint on the part of Gentiles who may want to engage in self-glory when in their own eyes it appears that they were indeed wiser than the chosen people in that they accepted Christ.

      It Is Temporary (25d, 26a)

Having alluded to a final restoration of Israel in 11:24 (Murray, 93), Paul now moves to further clarify that her present rejection, due to a Divine hardening, is only temporal. The hardness will continue only until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. The word until (ajcriV ou')22 indicates that at the time when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, then God will turn back once again to deal with Israel as a nation. Israel will then be spiritually saved. The term fullness (plhvrwma) of the Gentiles seems to refer to the numbers of Gentiles to be saved by God (Murray, 93). That this is true is quite clear from three facts: 1) fullness has the numerical idea when applied to Israel (cf.11:12); 2) the verb has come in is the standard term in the N.T. for entering into the kingdom of God (Mt. 5:2; 7:13; 18:3; Mk.9:43,45, 47; Jn.3:5; Acts 14:22) and must include the idea of numbers; 3) the term fullness is used in comparison with all Israel (11:26) which itself involves the idea of numbers.

But, the questions remain, "Does the term fullness refer to the remainder of elect Gentiles to come in? Does it refer to the elect Gentiles of all time? Or, does it refer to the aspect of blessing among the Gentiles as seen among the fullness of the Jews" (11:12)? The term cannot mean the elect Gentiles all throughout the church age, because of the term until, which indicates that it is something yet to take place. Cranfield (574) simply asserts that it refers to the total elect (cf. "the full tale" Bruce, 222) or the added number needed to make up the total elect. In this view, fullness refers to numbers alone and this is quite possible. But perhaps it's use in this context is broader than numbers alone. Perhaps the best view, given the use of fullness in the context (v.12; it refers to more than just numbers) is that it suggests "blessing for the Gentiles that is parallel and similar to the expansion of blessing for Israel denoted by 'their fullness' (v.12) and their 'receiving' (v.15)" (Murray, 95). Therefore, the fullness of the Gentiles refers to the blessings to come to the Gentiles and the world as a whole, which in turn will even be superabounded by the fullness of Israel when she will be brought back in (cf.11:12 and 12:26). So numbers of people are involved, but blessing is brought about in the world, to and through, those people.

Israel's Future Salvation: A Divine Initiative (26b,27)

As sure as Israel's hardening was God's sovereign choice (cf. 11:7), so also is her ultimate salvation and restoration. God, according to His time and initiative, will send the Deliverer and fulfill His covenant with the nation as a whole. These promises he made with the nation primarily through Isaiah and Jeremiah.

    A Deliverer Will Come (26b)

Paul states that all Israel will be saved and then quotes from Isaiah 59:20, 21 to support his point. There are several issues that need to be addressed here in order to arrive at a proper understanding of the passage.

The phrase and thus all Israel shall be saved is difficult to interpret. The words and thus (kaiV ou{tw") could mean "and then" referring to a temporal idea (Bruce, 222) or it could mean "and thus" or "in this manner"23 referring to a correlative idea. That there is a temporal aspect to Israel's salvation is clear from the fact that it will occur only after the Gentiles have come in (25). However, Paul's emphasis does not seem to be temporal at this particular point in the passage, but rather demonstrative. He is in effect answering an implied question as to how Israel's future grafting in will occur (cf.11:24). It will occur "in this manner" says the apostle: first the Gentiles, then Israel (cf.1:16; Murray, 96; Black,160).24

The words all Israel25 (pa'" IsrahVl) present yet another difficulty. At least four different interpretations have been advanced in an attempt to exegete this phrase. First, it is affirmed that all Israel refers to the elect of all time; from both Jew and Gentile (Calvin, 255).26 This is quite untenable given the distinction between Israel and Gentiles throughout this whole section (9-11; cf. Murray, 97). Second, some say all Israel refers to the elect within the nation, but this makes the "shall be saved" superfluous and redundant. It is quite obvious that all elect Jews will be saved (Cranfield, 577). Third, some say that all Israel refers to the nation as a whole including every Israelite at the time. However, the phrase all Israel was common in Jewish rabbinical writings (which Paul uses) to refer to the nation as a whole, but not necessarily every individual in it (Ezek. 20:34-38; Bruce, 222; Harrison,123). Fourth, all Israel refers to the nation as a whole, excepting some individuals and the remnant spoken of in 9:27 is only a reference to a "stage in Israel's salvation history on this earth" (Black,160). This view seems most agreeable with the context and the extra-biblical use of the phrase all Israel.

Finally, some take the shall be saved (swqhvsetai) to refer to an ongoing historical process (cf. Cranfield, 577). But, two facts seem to mitigate against this interpretation. First, the until (v.25) seems to indicate a future event. Second, all Israel refers to the nation being saved, not to certain individuals over a period of time. Others take the phrase to refer to Israel's deliverance from the time of Jacob's trouble; the Great Tribulation (Witmer, 486). But, the verb shall be saved, referring to Israel, is used in contrast to the verb have come in which refers to the Gentiles' spiritual salvation. Therefore, the salvation spoken of here for the Jews is not deliverance from her enemies at the return of Christ, but rather spiritual salvation. However, as Paul goes on to affirm, through Isaiah, this salvation will only come and be concomitant with her political deliverance through the Deliverer. Therefore, Israel's final restoration to God is both spiritual and political and according to God's gracious covenant with them (Gen.12:1-3; Dt. 30:1-10; 2 Sam.7:12-16; Jer.31:31-34; contra Cranfield, 578).

In order to support his point concerning Israel, Paul quotes from Isaiah27 and Jeremiah regarding the coming Deliverer. The formula just as it written (kaqwV" gevgraptai) indicates that what he has just said about Israel's final salvation (26a) has already been taught in the O.T. (Cranfield, 577; for the use of the formula see 1:17; 3:10; 4:17; 8:36; 9:13, 33; 10:15; 11:8 etc.). He says The Deliverer will come out of Zion. The word deliverer (oJ ruovmeno"28) is used 16x in the N.T., 3 of which are in Romans (cf. also 7:24; 15:31) and means to "rescue, deliver, save or preserve."29 It is applied both spiritually (deliverance from sin; Rom.7:24) as well as physically (deliverance from enemies and wrath (Rom.15:31; 1 Thes.1:10; 2 Thes.3:2). Here it is applied to the Messiah and His work for the sake of Israel at the parousia (cf. 2 Thes.2:8).30 The phrase out of simply means that Christ will manifest Himself to the nation (cf. Bruce, 222) in Jerusalem (Zion ), just as the prophets foretold (Zech.14:4, 9-21; Rev.20:4). Some commentators refer to Zion as a heavenly place,31 but it is perhaps better to see it as the literal Zion of the O.T. (Ps.137:3; Jer. 50:5) which would agree with Paul's use in Romans 9:33 (contra Cranfield, 578; Black, 161).

It is clear from the many O.T. passages, when taken literally, that Israel will be restored in more than just a salvific way (2 Sam.7:13; Is.9:3-7; 11:1-10; Jer.33:15, 17, 21; Pentecost,113; 142, 43; McClain,156). She will indeed possess, for the first time, all the land promised her (Gen. 15:17-21).32 However, the emphasis in Romans is salvific; God's righteousness bestowed upon sinners, both Jews and Gentiles alike. Therefore, it is not necessarily in keeping with the apostle's purpose in this context, to enumerate all the political (cf. Zech.8:3) and millennial blessings to come to Israel, but only the primary salvific work of the Deliverer; that is He shall turn godlessness away from (ajpoV) Jacob (contra Cranfield, 578,79; Murray, 99).33 The verb he shall turn...away (ajpostrevysei) means to "do away with" or "remove."34 The term godlessness (ajsebei'a") means impiety in thought or deed35 and usually refers to the religious condition of the heathen (cf. Rom.1:18; 2 Tim.2:16; Tit. 2:12). Therefore, Christ will completely remove this spiritually sinful condition from Israel (Jacob),36 which is according to His covenant.

    A Covenant Will Be Fulfilled (27)

When Christ comes he will remove ungodliness from Israel because, as He says, this (aujthV)37 is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins. Before interpreting the verse, it is significant to note that the first phrase is taken, (cf. also 26b) from Isaiah 59:20,21, but the second phrase is taken from Isaiah 27:9.38 This is probably due to the fact that the phrases in Is. 59 and 27 are so similar; they say the same thing in different words (Cranfield, 578). The term covenant (diaqhvkh) means a declaration of God's will39 and refers here to that spoken by Jeremiah (31:31-34) as the "new covenant" (Witmer, 486; cf. 9:4; Martin, 1114). Because God is the initiator of the covenant ( ), it will certainly come to pass and is therefore a good argument, as the apostle is stating, for the fact that all Israel will be saved (Murray, 100). As Cranfield rightly notes (578,79), the word when 40 (o{tan) is difficult understand in this composite quotation, because that which follows seems to be the content of the covenant. But, perhaps it indicates that the covenant will be inaugurated, when God forgives (ajfevlwmai)41 the sins

(tav" aJmartiva") of Israel. At any rate, the removal of sins, those acts of lawnessness that invoke the wrath of God (cf. 1:18; 2:1-4; 3:10-20;

1 Jn.3:4)42 is an essential element here to the fulfilling of the pledge God has made with the nation.

Israel's Hardening & Salvation: A Divine Plan (11:28-32)

At this point, Paul begins to draw out and summarize the implications of all that he has just affirmed in vv.25-27 (Cranfield, 579). Again, he affirms that Israel has been set aside so that mercy may come to the Gentiles (cf.11:11,12,15; Murray, 100). But, because God has called her into existence through the patriarchs, He will most definitely fulfill His purpose for her. First, Paul deals with Israel's present relation to the progress of the gospel and second, he relates all that he has said in 25-27 to God's wonderful purpose of granting mercy to all.

    In Relation To The Gospel (28, 29)

Israel is presently an enemy in relation to he gospel, but will someday experience God's mercy. These verses (28ff) are clearly an asyndeton, being grammatically unconnected to that which came before (Cranfield, 579).43 However, their purpose to clarify what was announced in 25-27 is unmistakable (cf. Dunn, 693). Paul says first of all that On the one hand (meVn)44 , according to the gospel, they are45 enemies for your sake (di j uJma'").46 The phrase according to (kataV) could be rendered "in accordance with"47 or "as concerning" (Bruce, 222) the gospel. The word enemies (ejcqroiV) is used 25x in the N.T.; three of which are in Romans (cf. also 5:10;12:20). It carries the idea of "hatred, enmity and hostility"48 and is used to describe a man's feelings toward another man (12:20) as well as a God's disposition toward a man (5:10). Here it denotes God's posture toward Israel,49 but which is only temporary, as 11:25, 26a indicate, and for a reason. Therefore, since it is only for a time, the phrase according to the gospel must mean according to the progress of the gospel. That is, they are enemies at this time in the progress of carrying out of the gospel in the world, but in the future it will be this very same message that will save them as well (cf. Cranfield, 579). That the idea of time or progress is inherent in the according to (katav) preposition is even clearer when we consider the heavy emphasis on the element of time in this paragraph (cf. "until") and indeed in the whole segment (9-11). So Paul says they are enemies for a time for your sake. This final phrase affirms that it was for the salvation of the Gentiles that Israel was hardened and is now considered an enemy by God (Bruce, 222; Murray, 100).

But, on the other hand (deV), according to (kataV) election, they are50 beloved for the sake of the fathers. The term according to here could be rendered "as far as election is concerned,"51 election (ejkloghVn) referring to the sovereign choosing52 of national Israel (11:2), not individuals nor a remnant (cf.11:5; contra Harrison,124; pace Murray, 101). And, this nation, freely53 chosen by God is beloved (ajgaphtoiV) by Him for the sake of the fathers (diaV touV" patevra"). Cranfield (580) rightly points out the distinction between the two "for the sake of" clauses. The first clause concerning the Gentiles looks forward and means "for the benefit of." The second clause looks backward and means "by reason of". But this "reason" is not to be found in any merit on the part of the fathers as some interpreters have advanced (cf. Bruce, 223). This is quite clear in view of 4:1-12. All that Paul is saying is that God chose to freely bestow His love on the fathers and gave them promises to which He will remain faithful.

That God will indeed be faithful is clear for the gifts and call of God are irrevocable. The term for (gavr) indicates that Paul is now giving the reason54 as to why Israel is still beloved by God. She is so, because God has purposed to bless her. The gifts (carivsmata) spoken of here refer to those enumerated in 9:4, 5 (Murray, 101; Black, 163) which include the privileges mentioned therein. Israel will experience final adoption, Divine glory, temple worship (cf. Ezek.40-48), the promises and abundant blessings through Christ in the Millennial reign.55 It depends upon the faithfulness of God (3:3; Num.23:19). The call (klh`si") of God or God's calling56 refers to His bringing into existence and preservation of the nation for a special purpose and role in history (Cranfield, 581). Not only did Yahweh create her to bring forth the Messiah (Gen.12:3), but He also used her in many ways, perhaps not the least of which is as a demonstration to Satan that He is in fact in control of the destiny of this planet.57 Israel's gifts and calling, Paul says, are irrevocable (ajmetamevlhta); something God will never change His mind on or regret.58 The term occurs only one other time in the N.T., in 2 Cor. 7:10 where it is used to refer to a person who does not regret experiencing sorrow that leads to salvation. It carries the same meaning in extra-biblical writings.59 Here Paul places the word first in it's clause, in order to emphasize his point regarding God's unwavering commitment to Israel.60

    In Relation To God's Overall Plan Of Mercy (30-32)

Verses 30 and 31 run parallel61 to each other at many points and provide a further explanation (For: gaVr),62 by way of comparison (just as: w{sper [ the protasis]),63 for all that Paul has been saying in 11:11; 12; 15 and 28 (Murray, 101). The Gentiles were disobedient (hjpeiqhvsate)64 to God in the past (povte cf. Acts 17:30), but not so anymore. At one time they too were enemies of God (Rom.5:10) in their minds and in their behavior (Rom. 8:7; Col.1:21), but now (vnuvn deV) they have been shown mercy (hjlehvqhte).65 God's mercy toward them is His pity, compassion or clemency66 as expressed through the offer of salvation to them through Christ, which offer came by means of the disobedience (th/`...ajpeiqeiva/)67 of Israel (Murray, 101; cf. Black, 163). Or as Harrison (125) says, "It was Jewish disobedience in regard to the gospel that opened the gates of mercy for the Gentiles".

Paul concludes his comparison (the apodosis), saying that just as mercy has come to the Gentiles when they were disobedient so also (ou{tw") Israel (ou|toi) is now (nuvn) disobedient in order that (i[na)68 they themselves69 (i.e. Israel) may now (nuvn) be shown mercy by means of the mercy that has come to the Gentiles. So, in the case of the Gentiles it was Israel's disobedience that brought about their mercy (cf. 11:11), but it is the opposite in the case of Israel. It will be Gentile mercy that brings about her mercy (Murray, 102). The problem in this passage revolves around the second now. The whole point of what Paul has been saying is that at the present time (if now be understood chronologically) Israel has not been shown mercy. Does this now contradict that? Some take the now to refer to the availability of blessing to Israel at any time, even now (Black, 163). But this minimizes the eschatological nature of the blessing to come to Israel that Paul has so emphasized in this passage. A better way to see the now is to regard it as a logical, eschatological now. That is, because of what God is doing with the Gentiles, now (i.e. thus or as a result) Israel may receive mercy. In other words, now that God has been merciful to the Gentiles, He can logically turn back to the Jews. Israel will experience this mercy at the parousia (cf. Cranfield, 586).

Paul concludes this paragraph as well as the entire section (9-11) by saying that it was God's ultimate purpose (gaVr)70 in consigning (sunevkleisen)71 all to disobedience that He might have mercy upon all. And such a statement serves as an explanation (For: gaVr) for what He has just said in 30,31. The fact that God first chose Israel, then hardened her in order to reach Gentiles, but yet will finally save her is according to His plan to bring mercy unto all. The idea that God has confined all to disobedience is similar to His hardening of Israel (as a sovereign decision) and reflects the fact that, as Paul has made clear, it does not depend on man's effort, but on Him who has mercy (9:16). There is nothing man can do to change his estate. Only God, through His mercy, can work blessing to men instead of wrath (cf. Murray, 102).

A question remains as to what the second all men (touV" pavnta") means in this context. As Bruce (223) remarks, it has an air of universalism in it. But Paul's theology will simply not allow this (cf.9:22; 2 Thes.1:8,9). In the context Paul has said that God has bound all men over to disobedience. Since the first all men here means every living human being we may conclude, because the two are in parallel, that the second all men includes every human being. But, does this not lead to universalism and a contradiction in Paul? Whereas the first action toward all men (the consigning to disobedience) is viewed as a completed act, the second is said to be only the purpose of God and thus is not the same thing as saying He will in fact do it (Cranfield, 588; contra Murray,103).72


In this final paragraph in Romans 9-11, Paul has shown the reason for Israel's present disobedience, namely, that she has been hardened by God and unable to believe as a nation. In making this plain, he has accomplished two things. First, he has provided a conclusion to the section as a whole, that sums up yet goes slightly beyond what he has said previously. Second, he has provided a basis for his appeal to the Gentiles to be humble in respect of Israel's disobedience.


1. The sovereignty of God to choose whom He wishes challenges me to a life of fear and worship (cf. Paul's application11:33-36).

2. The fact that God will fulfill His purpose for Israel challenges me to believe Him for His will to be done in my life (cf. Phil. 1:6).

3. The purpose of God in history to be merciful really challenges me to spend more time on my knees with Him in thanksgiving.

4. The fact that Paul revealed a mystery in order to bring about humility challenges me to live a life of humility. In a sense all of the scripture is the revelation of a mystery: God and His ways.

Selected Bibliography

Archer, Gleason L. Jr. "Daniel" in The Expositors Bible Commentary. vol. 7. Gen. ed. Gaebelein, Frank E. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1985.

Barrett, C. K. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Harper's New Testament Commentaries. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1957.

Bauer, W., Arndt W. F., Gingrich, F. W. and Danker, F. W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Black, Matthew. Romans. New Century Bible. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1973.

Blass, F. Grammar of New Testament Greek. London: Macmillan & Co. Limited, 1905.

Blass, F., and A. Debrunner. A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Edited and Translated by R. W. Funk. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961.

Brooks, James A. and Winbery L. Carlton. Syntax of New Testament Greek. New York: University Press of America, 1979.

Bruce, F. F. New Testament History. New York: Doubleday, 1969.

Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Romans: An Introduction and Commentary. The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963.

Bultmann, Rudolph. Theology of the New Testament. (2 vols. in one). Trans. Kendrick Grobel. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955.

Burton, Ernest Dewitt. Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kriegel Publications, 1900.

Calvin, John. The Epistles of Paul to the Romans and to the Thessalonians. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd Ltd, 1960. Reprint. ed. Torrence, David W. and Torrence, Thomas F. Trans. Mackenzie R. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991.

Cranfield, C. E. B. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. The International Critical Commentary. 6th ed. 2 vols. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1975, 1979.

Dunn, James D. G. "Romans" in The Word Biblical Commentary. 2 vols. Dallas, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, 1988.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985.

Feine, Paul and Behm, Johannes. Introduction to the New Testament. ed. Kummell, Werner Georg. Trans. A. J. Mattill, Jr. New York: Abingdon Press, 1965.

Gutherie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. Rev. ed. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1990.

Harrison, Everett F. "Romans" in The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 10. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976.

Hendricksen, William. Exposition of Paul's Epistle to the Romans. New Testament Commentary. 2 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980, 1981.

Hill, Andrew and Walton, John E. A Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991.

Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. vol. 3. New York: Charles Scribner and Co., 1880.

Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971.

McCant Jerry W. "The Development of Doctrine in the New Testament" in New Testament Criticism & Interpretation. eds. Black, David Allen and Dockery, David S. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991.

McClain, Alva J. The Greatness of the Kingdom. Winona Lake, Indiana: WMH Books, 1959.

Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. New York: United Bible Societies, 1971.

Metzger, Bruce M. Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek. Princeton, New Jersey: Bruce M. Metzger, 1983.

Moule, C. F. D. An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek: 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1959.

Moulton, James Hope, Nigel Turner and Wilbert Francis Howard. Syntax. v. III. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1976.

Murray, John. The Epistle to the Romans. 2 vols. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959, 1965.

New Testament Greek Syntax Notes. New Testament Department, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1984.

Pentecost, J. Dwight. Thy Kingdom Come. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Victor Books, 1990.

Pike, Kenneth L. Linguistic Concepts: An introduction to Tagmemics. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1971.

Robertson, A. T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1934.

________. Word Pictures in the New Testament. v. II: "The Gospel According to Luke". New York: Harper and Brothers Pub., 1930.

Sandlay, William, and Headlam, Arthur C. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. The International Critical Commentary. 5th ed. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1955.

Seow, C. L. A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1987.

Simcox, William Henry. The Language of the New Testament. 2nd ed. New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1889.

Smyth, Herbert. Greek Grammar. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956.

Strong, Augustus Hopkins. Systematic Theology. (3 vols. in one). Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1907.

Walvoord, John F. "Dispensational Premillenialism" in Readings in Christian Theology: The New Life. vol. 3. ed. Erickson, Millard J. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979.

Witmer, John A. "Romans" in The Bible Knowledge Commentary. eds. Walvoord, John F. and Zuck, Roy B. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Victor Books, 1983.

Zerwick, Maximilian. Biblical Greek Illustrated By Examples. Translated by Joseph Smith. Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1963.


1There are three variants here. The par' reading, the ejn reading and an omission. The evidence is fairly balanced externally with the par' reading having slightly better geographical support than the ejn reading. The more difficult and preferred reading seems to be the par' reading as it does not seem likely to have arisen from the other two and there appears the possibility of unintentional error through dittography: EN with EAUTOIS. In any event the sense of the text is not changed either way.

2The addition of the kaiV here, as a variant, has very little textual support and must be seen as an scribal attempt to clarify the text.

3The alternate rendering nuni has little textual support and may be seen as a scribal attempt to clarify the text by emphasizing the "now".

4Some manuscripts insert the word u{steron here. Some texts have no word there and others have the adverb nu`n. The quantity of early and diverse readings favors the shorter reading. But the difficulty the nu`n brings to the meaning of the text may have been the cause for the omission or the replacement with u{steron. Therefore nu`n is the preferable reading. cf. Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 527.

5Some manuscripts insert taV pavnta here instead of the touV" pavnta". Given the context, the meaning would still be the same: i.e. all men. As Metzger points out, perhaps it is a scribal recollection from Gal.3:22. Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 527.

6Cf. BAGD, 151 #1.

7Cf. Gutherie, p. 405, 6; Feine, Behm and Kummell, Introduction, 218, 19; Bruce, New Testament History, p.393, 4.

8BAGD, p.11#1; The verb form of the word is used 21x in the N.T., 6 of which are in Romans; cf. 1:13; 2:4; 6:3; 7:1; 10:3; 11:25.

9 The i{na here is one of purpose (BDF, *369; cf. Cranfield, 574)

10BAGD, 866. frovnimoi is the plural predicate nominative of the verb h e (BDF, *145). BAGD translates par' ejautoi`" frovnimoi as shown. The dative ejautoi`" is one of advantage (BDF, *188 [2]).

11BAGD, 530 #2. The term functions here as an accusative of Reference/Respect to the infinitive ajgnoei`n.

12Euripedes, (5 B.C.); Supp.173 "To set their feet, who scarce for eld may creep; No mission to Demeter's mysteries"

13Euripedes, (5 B.C.); Supp. 470 "free from yon wreaths your sacred mysteries"

14 Cf. Archer, 42, 43.

15Pergamon (iiA.D.); OGI 331.54

16Cf. also its use in Rev. 10:7 and 17:5,7.

17the o{ti is epexegetical (or perhaps appositional) to musthvrion.

18The verb gevgonen is in the perfect tense; used here to denote a continuing effect on the subject. cf. BDF, *342.

19Cf. BAGD, 506; *1[d] for the idea of "in part". Cf. also Barclay M. Newman. A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, 114. He deals with this precise passage and translates it as "a partial hardening".

20Contrast the sign/sermon (Acts 3) and the offer of the kingdom 3:19-21 with the response (Acts 4:1-22).

21BAGD, 732.

22 the conjunction a[cri with the genitive ou is equivalent to a[cri crovnou w/| = "until the time when" cf. BAGD, 129 *2[a].

23BAGD, 597

24Note the emphatic position of the conjunction ou}tw". The point is this: as surprising as it may seem, the nation of Israel will only come in after the Gentiles are saved. Notice also the inversion of the salvation order from 1:16 (cf. Cranfield, 576).

25The phrase pa`" Israhl is a Hebraism, cf. BDF, *275 (4).

26For a further discussion of this issue, see Charles M. Horne, JETS (December, 1978): 329-34. He presents the options and then argues for the view that all Israel refers to all the Jews being saved throughout the Church age.

27The quotation from Isaiah 59: 20,21 is slightly altered from the LXX. Paul replaced ejneken with ejk and omitted kaiV before ajpostrevyei.

28 oJ ruovmeno" is a substantival participle emphasizing more of the substantive idea rather than a verbal idea (cf. Jn.4:36; As John became known as "the baptizer" it would appear that Messiah was known as "the Deliverer").

29BAGD, 737

30The idea of political restoration is evident in Isaiah's meaning and Paul would not disagree, but Israel must be born again first and this is Paul's emphasis in this passage (see Martin, Isaiah in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1114).

31Cranfield apparently does this to account for the preposition ejk which means "out of" or "from." Cf. BAGD, p.234 *2. But it appears that Paul's emphasis here is on a human realization of the coming of the Messiah, which will appear to be, from a human perspective, out of Jerusalem, rather than from heaven.

32Notice the unconditionality of the ceremony in Gen. 15:12-18. Abraham was asleep, indicating that it's ultimate fulfillment did not depend on his faithfulness, but on God's.

33It is difficult to see how some commentators manage to interpret the return of Christ as predicted in the O.T. (Zech.8:3) as literal, yet abandon all else that is mentioned with regards to Israel's preeminence in the millennial kingdom.

34BAGD, 100 *1a; the verb is also used in parallel with aJfevlwmai which means "to take away" (BAGD, 124*3) thus strengthening the idea of complete removal.

35BAGD, 114.

36It appears that he will do it, in part, by judging the Jewish rebels at the parousia (Ezek. 20:34-38; cf. Witmer, 486)

37The demonstrative pronoun au}th looks forward to the phrase "when I take away their sins", just as it looked forward to the original saying in Isaiah 59:21 (Cranfield, 578).

38 The latter phrase is slightly altered from the LXX rendering.

39BAGD, 183 *2.

40BAGD, 587 *1 says that o}tan with the subjunctive almost approaches the meaning of ejavn and hence there is uncertainty involved here in the action of the dependent clause. Not that it won't happen, it certainly will, but the timing is something no one knows.

41 ajfevlwmai means to "take away" and hence forgive. BAGD, 124 *3. Compare with the verb ajfivhmi.

42Cf. BAGD, p.43 *1. Though sinful acts arise from the flesh (Rom.7:18), the prophet's emphasis here is not on the flesh per se, but on the acts that depart from righteousness.

43BDF, *463.

44compare with the deV in the following clause. Cf. BDF, *447.

45The copula, "they are" needs to be supplied from the context. The tense is clear, given that this enmity is a present situation.

46Diav + the accusative. Cf. BAGD, 181 B.II [1] for this translation.

47BAGD, 407 *5a.

48BAGD, 331.

49That Israel is an enemy of God is clear as the term enemy parallels beloved which is referring to God's love.

50Again the verb "they are" is supplied according to the context.

51F.F. Bruce suggests "As touching the election", 223. Cf. also John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, trans. by Ross Mackenzie. eds. David W. Torrence and Thomas F. Torrence (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1960): 256.

52BAGD, 243.

53The term ejkloghVn as used by Paul is consistent with Hellenistic usage in that the choosing is done freely, under no obligation. Paul applies the concept to the choosing of the patriarchs (Rom.9:11); the choosing of all Israel in the fathers (our passage); the Christian community to faith (1 Thes. 1:4); and a remnant from Israel (11:5; cf. TDNT).

54BAGD, 151 *1a

55Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989): 393.

56 The Genitive tou` qeou` is a subjective genitive meaning "God calls". Cf. BDF, *163.

57One of the purposes running throughout the dispensations is the failure of man and the ruin reeked by Satan, but despite this, the kingdom as a demonstration of God's sovereign power and purpose (which involves Israel directly) will come about. As someone once said, "in the arena where Christ was defeated He must surely be victorious."

58BAGD, 45 *1.

59Cf. P Fay 12423 (ii A.D.). The papyri is second century, but nonetheless shows the word undergoing no evolutionary change in meaning.

60BDF, *472 (2).

61Cranfield argues that tw/` uJmetevrw/ ejlevei is to be taken with ejlehqw`sin and not hjpeivqhsan. The following is a summary of his reasons: 1) such a construction, as difficult as it might seem, is not entirely foreign to Koine Greek or Paul; 2) a one to one parallel remains between verse 30 and 31 if tw/` uJmetevrw/ ejlevei is placed with ejlehqw`sin. If not, the balance is disrupted; 3) the meaning of "they may be shown mercy by your mercy" more readily agrees with Paul's argument in 11:11ff than does "they are disobedient because of your mercy". Murray (p.102) takes a similar reading citing as evidence 2 Cor.2:4b and Gal.2:10.

62BAGD, 152 *2

63BAGD, 391 *1

64 The word (noun & verb) is used 21x in the N.T., 7x in Romans. It means and is always used of disobedience to God. It was associated by the early church with disbelief concerning the gospel (BAGD, 82 *3).

65The aorist tense is an ingressive aorist (BDF, 331) and could be translated as "by means of Israel's disobedience, God has begun to show mercy...".

66BAGD, 249,50.

67the dative ajpeiqeiva/ is one of means and parallels the dative tw`/ uJmetevrw/ ejlevei in v.31. cf. BDF, *195 (cf. also Cranfield, 584)..

68The i|na here is one of purpose (i.e. divine purpose) BDF, *369 (cf. Cranfield, 585; Witmer, 486)

69The pronoun aujtoiv is intensive here and means "they themselves" referring to Israel. Cf. BDF, *288.

70The i|na is one of purpose. Cf. BDF, *369.

71The word is used only four times in the N.T.: Lk.5:6; Rm.11:32; Gal.3:22,23. From these verses it is clear that the meaning is "to confine or imprison". See BAGD, 774. It has the same basic meaning in extra-biblical writings; cf. Syll 32618 (107B.C.) and P Oxy 11 27520 (66A.D.). In it's use here it is in the aorist tense; a complexive aorist; viewing the action as a completed whole; cf. BDF, *332.

72Murray (p.103) says that the second all men means all without distinction who are the partakers of this mercy.

Greg Herrick graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with the Th.M. in 1994 and his Ph.D. in 1999. Greg, his wife, and four children live in Canada, just north of Toronto.

Related Topics: Dispensational / Covenantal Theology, Soteriology (Salvation)

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