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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Romans 11

The rejection of the Jews is not universal. (1-10) God overruled their unbelief for making the Gentiles partakers of gospel privileges. (11-21) The Gentiles cautioned against pride and unbelief, The Jews shall be called as a nation, and brought into God’s visible covenant again. (22-32) A solemn adoring of the wisdom, goodness, and justice of God. (33-36)

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The rejection of the Jews is not universal

1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying,

3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.

4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.

5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.

9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:

10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.

God overruled their unbelief for making the Gentiles partakers of gospel privileges

11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.

20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

The Gentiles cautioned against pride and unbelief, The Jews shall be called as a nation, and brought into God’s visible covenant again

22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.

24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.

29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:

31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.

32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

A solemn adoring of the wisdom, goodness, and justice of God

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. &c. S. Paul in this chapter endeavours to comfort the Jews, though the greatest part of them were rejected for their blindness; and to admonish the Gentiles, not to boast for being called and converted, but to persevere with humility, and the fear of God. — God hath not cast away his people. That is, not all of them, nor hath he cast off those whom he foreknew, and decreed to save. — The Scripture saith of Elias. He brings the example of Elias living among the ten tribes of Israel, when all the people were forbidden to go and adore in the temple of Jerusalem, when the altars of the true God were destroyed, and almost all in these tribes were fallen into idolatry, and worshipped Baal: he complains as if he were left alone in the worship of the true God. But the divine answer shewed him his mistake. I have reserved to myself seven thousand man, &c. Some take notice that seven is divers times put for a great number, as three and a half for a small number: however, besides these seven thousand, all in the kingdom of Juda remained firm in the worship of the true God. In like manner, a remnant is now saved by the election of grace, by God’s free and liberal gift of divine grace. Some pretended reformers of the faith of the Church bring this as an argument, that the Church of God may fail, and fall into errors. It is sufficient to answer, that there is a wide difference betwixt the Jewish synagogue, which brought nothing to perfection, and the Church of Christ, which he built upon a rock, with which he has promised to be to the end of the world, and guide them by the Spirit of Truth. Wi. — This is very ill alleged by some against the perpetual visibility of the Church of Christ: the more, because however the number of the faithful might be abridged by the persecution of Jezebel in the kingdom of the ten tribes; the Church was at the same time in a most flourishing condition (under Asa and Josaphat) in the kingdom of Juda. Ch.— Our separated brethren add to this text, as in Acts xix. 35. the word image. They also cite it in proof of an invisible Church; but with no just grounds: for in Jerusalem the faith and worship were public to the whole world. Besides, the Christian Church rests on better promises than the synagogue. B. — The Jews obtain not the justice they sought after, because they did not seek it as they ought; they expected to obtain it by their works, whereas it can only be had from grace. Estius.

Ver. 6. It is not now by works: otherwise grace is no more grace. The election of God, and the first grace at least, are always without any merits on our part; but if we speak of works done in a state of grace, and by the assistance of God’s grace, we co-operate with the graces given, and by thus co-operating, we deserve and merit a reward in heaven. Wi. — If salvation were to come by works, done by nature, without faith and grace, salvation would not be a grace or favour, but a debt; but such dead works are indeed of no value in the sight of God towards salvation. It is not the same with regard to works done with and by God’s grace; for to such works as these he has promised eternal salvation. Ch.

Ver. 8. God hath given them, &c. Not by his working, or acting in them; but by his permission, and by withdrawing his grace in punishment of their obstinacy. Ch. — Permitted them (says S. Chrys.) to fall into the spirit of insensibility. Lit. the spirit of[1] compunction. Compunction is not here taken, as in some spiritual writers, for a great sorrow for sins. In the Latin Vulg. (Is. vi. 9.) it is called the spirit of slumber, as in the Prot. translation. We cannot have a better judge of the sense of the word than S. Chrys. who tells us, that it signifies a habit of the soul, firmly fixed in evil, and an insensible disposition: as, saith he, persons under a pious compunction are not to be removed from their good resolutions; so the wicked, under a hardened compunction, are nailed, as it were, to vice. And that here this is the true sense, appears by the following words out of Isaias: he hath given them eyes that they should not see, &c. And also out of David, (Ps. lxviii. 23.) let their table be made a snare, &c. We may understand the spiritual food of the word of God, and of the Scriptures; which by the blindness of this people, have served to their great condemnation. — And a recompense, that is, for a just punishment of their obstinacy. — And bow down their back always, a metaphor to represent the condition of such, as are under heavy oppressions. Wi. — Although by bending their back is literally understood the yoke of servitude and captivity, with which the Jews were oppressed at the destruction of Jerusalem; yet it seems more conformable to the apostle’s meaning, when considered in a spiritual sense, and then it will signify the insensibility of the Jews, as to heavenly things, and their anxious solicitude for the things of the earth. This their avaricious and carnal disposition was so manifest, that the poet said of them

O curvæ in terram animæ et cœlestium inanes.Estius.

Ver. 11-15. Have they so stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid. That is, their fall is not irreparable, or so as never to rise again: but by their offending, salvation (through the liberal mercy of God) is come to the Gentiles, that they, the Jews, may be emulous of the Gentiles, and of their happiness, and so may be converted. Wi. — The nation of the Jews is not absolutely and without remedy cast off for ever; but in part only (many thousands of them having been at first converted) and for a time: which fall of theirs God has been pleased to turn to the good of the Gentiles. Ch. — How much more the fulness of them? As if he should say, if the obstinacy of so many Jews seem to be an occasion upon which God, whose mercy calls whom he pleaseth, hath bestowed the riches of his grace on other nations; and while the glory of the Jews, the elect people of God, has been diminished, the Gentiles have been made happy: how much more glorious will be the fulness of them? that is, according to the common interpretation, will be the re-establishment and conversion of the Jews hereafter, before the end of the world? See S. Chrys. om. ith. p. 164, S. Hilar. in Ps. lviii. S. Jer. in c. iii. Osee. Habac. iii. S. Aug. l. xx. de Civ. Dei. c. xxix. — Then (v. 15.) the receiving of them into the Church, and their conversion to Christ, shall be like life from the dead, when the Jewish nation in general, shall rise from the death of sin, and their hardened infidelity, to the life of faith and grace. These things I speak to you, Gentiles, to honour and comply with my ministry of being your apostle: yet endeavouring at the same time, if by a pious emulation, or by any other way, I may be able to bring any of my flesh, or of my brethren, the Jews, to be saved by the faith of Christ. Wi.

Ver. 16. &c. If the first-fruit (see the Greek word) be holy, so also is the mass; so also the rest, the product that follows. He alludes to the offering made by the law of the first-fruit, which was to acknowledge that all good things were from God, and to bring a blessing upon the rest. — If the root be holy, so are the branches. By the root, says S. Chrys. he understands Abraham, and the patriarchs, from whom all the Jewish nation proceeded, as branches from that root: and these branches are to be esteemed holy, not only because of the root they proceeded from, but also because they worshipped the true God. And if some, or a great part of these branches, have been broken, they may, as it is said, (v. 23.) be ingrafted again. And you, Gentiles, ought to remember that, you were of yourselves a wild olive-tree: and it is only by the merciful call of God, that you have the happiness to be ingrafted upon the same root of the patriarchs; and so, by imitating the faith of Abraham, are become his spiritual children, and heirs of the promises, and by that means have been made partakers of the root, and of the sap, and fatness of the sweet olive-tree. Remember that you bear not the root, nor were you the root that was holy; but the root beareth you; and that being branches of a wild olive, you ought naturally still to bear bad fruit, though ingrafted on the root of a sweet olive. It is only by the mercies of God, if you bring forth good fruit. Do not then be high-minded, nor boast, but fear, and endeavour to continue in goodness; lest God also spare not you, but cut you off, as unprofitable branches. And let me tell you, as to the Jews, if they abide not still in unbelief, God is able to ingraft them again into their own olive-tree; and it seems more easy, that they, who are naturally branches of the sweet olive-tree, should bring forth good fruit, when they shall be ingrafted in their own olive-tree, being of the race of Abraham, to whom the promises were made. Wi. — We see here, that he who standeth by faith, may fall from it; and therefore must live in fear, and not in the vain presumption and security of modern sectaries. Ch. — The apostle here exhorts the converted Gentiles, to fear lest they fall, and bring upon themselves a punishment similar to that of the Jews. The Jews were his chosen people, the children of the alliance; they have now been stripped of all; the same may also happen to you. You may fall into presumption and incredulity; if you remain firm, it is not by your own merits or works, but by faith, the pure gift of God. Neither faith, nor vocation, nor grace, are inadmissible. You may lose all; and therefore ought always to fear and live in humility. If God has not spared the natural branches, fear, lest he should not spare you. v. 21. Calmet. — The Gentiles are here admonished not to be proud, nor to glory over the Jews; but to take occasion rather from their fall to fear and to be humble, lest they be cast off. Not that the whole Church of Christ can ever fall from him; having been secured by so many divine promises in holy writ; but that each one in particular may fall; and therefore all in general are to be admonished to beware of that, which may happen to any one in particular. Ch.

Ver. 25-26. I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery, this hidden truth of God’s justice and mercy, that blindness in part hath happened in Israel, or to part of them, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in, by the conversion of all nations: and then all Israel should be saved, when they shall submit to the faith of Christ: as it is written by the prophet Isaias, (lix. 20.) there shall come out of Sion he that shall deliver; that is, their Redeemer, Christ Jesus, who is indeed come already, but who shall then come to them by his powerful grace. This is my covenant with them. Wi.

Ver. 28. According to the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sake. That is, enemies both to you, because they see the gospel preached and received by you, and enemies to God, because he has rejected them at present for their wilful blindness: yet according to election, God having once made them his elect, and because of their forefathers, the patriarchs, they are most dear for the sake of the fathers: for the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance, in as much as God is unchangeable, and his promises, made absolutely, cannot fail. Wi.

Ver. 30. &c. As you also in times past did not believe God, but now have obtained mercy through their unbelief, which was an occasion of God’s sending his preachers to you: but the cause of your salvation is God’s mercy. — That they also may obtain mercy. That is, God has permitted their incredulity, that being a greater object of pity, he may shew greater mercy in converting them by the free gift of his grace. — For God hath concluded[2] all, that is, has permitted at different times, both Gentiles and Jews, to fall into a state of unbelief, that the salvation of all may be known to come, not from themselves, but as an effect of his mercy and grace. Wi. — He hath found all nations, both Jews and Gentiles, in unbelief and sin; not by his causing, but by the abuse of their own free-will; so that their calling and election are purely owing to his mercy. Ch.

Ver. 33-36. O the depth, &c. After he hath spoken of the mysteries of God’s grace and predestination, of his mercy and justice, which we must not pretend to dive into, he concludes this part of his epistle, by an exclamation, to teach us submission of our judgment, as to the secrets of his providence, which we cannot comprehend. — How incomprehensible are his judgments, &c. — Who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him? That is, no one, by any merit on his part, can first deserve God’s favours and mercy, by which he prevents us. — For of him, from God, or from Jesus Christ, as God, and by him, who made, preserves, and governs all things, and in him, is our continual dependance: for in him we live, we move, and exist. In the Greek, it is unto him,[3] to signify he is also our last end. See the notes, John c. i. Wi. — All things are from God, as their first cause and creator; all things are by God, as the ruler and governor of the universe; and all things are in God, or (as the Greek has it) for God, because they are all directed to his honour and glory. For he hath made all things for himself. Ps. xvi. S. Basil, lib. de Spiritu sto. c. 5.

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[1] V. 8. Spiritum compunctionis; pneuma katanuxeos. In the Latin Vulgate, Is. xxix. 10, the same Greek words are translated, spiritum soporis; the spirit of slumber. See Mr. Legh, Crit. Sacr. on the word katanusso. S. Chrys. om. ith. p. 163. katanuxin, entautha ten peri to cheiron exin tes psuches, &c. See Corn. a Lap. S. Chrys. in the same place; katanugenai gar ouden eteron esti to empagenai, kai proselosthai.

[2] V. 32. Conclusit omnia. Greek, pantas.

[3] V. 36. Et in ipso, kai eis auton.