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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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: See study note on Ro 1:25.