To describe how the Abrahamic covenant produces the full number of members of the spiritual seed of promise, he uses the symbol of a specially cultivated olive tree.—Please read Romans 11:13-26.
14. Who is the root of the symbolic olive tree, and what scriptures show this?
14 Paul mentions the root before speaking of the tree itself, and he says “the root is holy.” (Romans 11:16) Jehovah God is the “Most Holy One.” (Hosea 11:12) He is frequently called “the Holy One of Israel,” particularly in the book of Isaiah. (Isaiah 10:20; 29:19; 60:9) The apostle Peter counsels anointed Christians, saying: “In accord with the Holy One who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct.” (1 Peter 1:15, 16) Jehovah God, the Greater Abraham, is the root of the symbolic olive tree.
15. (a) In what ways is Jehovah the root of spiritual Israel? (b) Who is the trunk of the symbolic olive tree? Why?
15 As the patriarch Abraham was the root of the nation of Israel, so Jehovah gives life to spiritual Israel. As the 12 tribes of Israel stemmed from Abraham through his son Isaac, through Jacob and the 12 patriarchs, the 12 symbolic tribes of spiritual Israel stem from Jehovah through the Greater Isaac, Christ Jesus. He, as the primary Seed of Abraham, is symbolized by the olive tree’s stock, or trunk. (Galatians 3:16) Jehovah, the root, produces the full number of members of the secondary seed through his Son, Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:29) But how or in what manner does Jehovah produce the required number of symbolic branches?
Some Branches Lopped Off, Others Grafted In
16 Paul goes on to explain this wonderful arrangement. He writes: “For I do not want you, brothers, to be ignorant of this sacred secret, in order for you not to be discreet in your own eyes: that a dulling of sensibilities has happened in part to Israel until the full number of people of the nations has come in, and in this manner [Greek, kai houʹtos*] all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25, 26; compare Ephesians 3:3-6.) Jehovah would “raise up children to Abraham” by admitting into the secondary seed of Abraham the required number, or “full number of people of the nations [Gentiles].” By showing “the faith of Abraham” this limited number of non-Jews would prove to be spiritual Jews, part of spiritual Israel, “the Israel of God.”—Romans 4:16; 2:28, 29; Galatians 6:15, 16.
17. (a) What unusual procedure did Paul describe? (b) Who were pictured by the lopped-off branches and by the grafted-in shoots from a wild olive tree? (c) What exposure did this illustration make of the proud and haughty Jews?
17 Paul illustrated the outworking of this “sacred secret” by an unusual horticultural procedure. The normal procedure is to graft shoots from a cultivated tree onto a wild stock, in order to make it productive, as Paul was well aware. He told the Gentile Christians that they had been “grafted contrary to nature into the garden olive tree.” (Romans 11:24) He thus likened the non-Jews who would be admitted into the Abrahamic covenant to scions, or shoots, from a wild olive that would be grafted onto the trunk of a “garden olive tree.” They would replace the natural branches that had been lopped off, these representing the fleshly Jews who had been rejected because of their lack of faith. (Romans 11:17, 19, 20, 24) This unusual illustration served as a forceful exposure of the proud and haughty unbelieving Jews, who considered the Gentiles to be as lifeless as stones or as incapable of producing fine fruit as wild olive branches. It confirmed that Jehovah had “power to raise up children to Abraham,” even as John the Baptist had forewarned.—Luke 3:8.
18. (a) What occurred in 36 C.E., but were any lopped-off branches grafted back into the Abrahamic-covenant tree? (b) How did Paul promote unity within the Christian congregation?
18 Nevertheless, non-Jewish Christians who had been “grafted contrary to nature” into the Abrahamic-covenant tree as part of the spiritual seed had no reason to feel superior to the Jews. Paul explained: “They also [Jews], if they do not remain in their lack of faith, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again.” (Romans 11:23) A small remnant of natural Jews accepted the primary Seed and became permanent branches in the symbolic tree. (Romans 9:27; 11:5) But the majority of the Jews had been broken off the Abrahamic-covenant tree in 36 C.E., at the end of the 70th week of years foretold by Daniel. (Daniel 9:27)* After that, however, some Jews had been grafted back “into their own olive tree” by putting faith in the Messiah, Jesus, the primary Seed of Abraham. (Romans 11:24; Acts 13:5, 42, 43; 14:1) By pointing these things out Paul promoted unity among the anointed Christians, for all had become ‘sharers in the olive’s root of fatness’ through “God’s kindness.”—Romans 11:17, 22.
A Fully Productive Olive Tree
19. How has the Abrahamic covenant gradually produced the spiritual seed, to the saving of “all Israel”?
19 Throughout the centuries, and particularly in the favorable part of this time of the end, other Jews and non-Jews were grafted into the symbolic olive tree. Thus the Abrahamic covenant produces the “full number” of Jews and Gentiles needed to complete the spiritual seed. “In this manner all Israel will be saved,” not fleshly Israel, but those who are “really ‘Israel,’” the 144,000 members of spiritual Israel.—Romans 11:12, 25, 26; 9:6-8; Revelation 7:4.
“καὶ οὕτως = and thus; not merely temporal.” (The Expositor’s Greek Testament) Compare Today’s English Version (“and this is how”), Authorized Version, Revised Standard Version and New International Version (“and so”). Those who believe in the ultimate conversion and salvation of the entire Jewish nation make kai houʹtos mean “and then,” timewise. (See Romans 11:26, The Jerusalem Bible.) Many of Christendom’s Bible commentaries give this interpretation, even though it goes against Paul’s whole line of reasoning and against the facts of history, past and present.—Compare Romans 2:28, 29; 9:1-6, 27; 10:1, 21; 11:5, 7-10, 14; Acts 13:45, 46.
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Paul’s illustration of the olive tree shows how the Abrahamic covenant produces the complete spiritual “seed”
ABRAHAMIC COVENANT (Genesis 22:16-18)
“Full number” of “Full number” of
“natural branches” “wild olive”
(Jewish remnant branches
and Jews later (non-Jewish
144,001 members of spiritual “seed”
of Abraham, for blessing of “all nations
of the earth”