Romans 11:17
And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17-24) The admission of the Gentile to the privileges of the Jew is no ground for boasting on his part. It is merely an admission. The Gentile is, as it were, a branch grafted into a stem that was none of his planting. Nor is his position absolutely secured to him. It is held conditionally on the tenure of faith. He ought, therefore, anxiously to guard against any failure in faith. For the moment God has turned towards him the gracious side of His providence, as towards the Jew He has turned the severe side. But this relation may easily be reversed, and the Jew received back into the favour which he once enjoyed.

(17) And.—Rather, but.

Among themi.e., among the branches of the olive-tree generally, both those which are broken off and those which are suffered to remain. This seems on the whole the more probable view; it would be possible to translate the words, in place of them (the branches broken off).

Partakest of the root and fatness.—The meaning of this is sufficiently obvious as it stands. If, as perhaps is probable, we ought to drop the second “and,” reading, “of the root of the fatness,” the sense is that the rich flow of sap in which the wild olive par-takes does not belong to the wild olive itself, but is all drawn from the root.

The evidence for the omission of the second “and” is that of the Vatican, Sinaitic, and rescript Paris manuscript—a strong combination.

11:11-21 The gospel is the greatest riches of every place where it is. As therefore the righteous rejection of the unbelieving Jews, was the occasion of so large a multitude of the Gentiles being reconciled to God, and at peace with him; the future receiving of the Jews into the church would be such a change, as would resemble a general resurrection of the dead in sin to a life of righteousness. Abraham was as the root of the church. The Jews continued branches of this tree till, as a nation, they rejected the Messiah; after that, their relation to Abraham and to God was, as it were, cut off. The Gentiles were grafted into this tree in their room; being admitted into the church of God. Multitudes were made heirs of Abraham's faith, holiness and blessedness. It is the natural state of every one of us, to be wild by nature. Conversion is as the grafting in of wild branches into the good olive. The wild olive was often ingrafted into the fruitful one when it began to decay, and this not only brought forth fruit, but caused the decaying olive to revive and flourish. The Gentiles, of free grace, had been grafted in to share advantages. They ought therefore to beware of self-confidence, and every kind of pride or ambition; lest, having only a dead faith, and an empty profession, they should turn from God, and forfeit their privileges. If we stand at all, it is by faith; we are guilty and helpless in ourselves, and are to be humble, watchful, afraid of self-deception, or of being overcome by temptation. Not only are we at first justified by faith, but kept to the end in that justified state by faith only; yet, by a faith which is not alone, but which worketh by love to God and man.If some of the branches - The illustration here is taken from the practice of those who ingraft trees. The useless branches, or those which bear poor fruit, are cut off, and a better kind inserted. "If some of the natural descendants of Abraham, the holy root, are cast off because they are unfruitful, that is, because of unbelief and sin."

And thou - The word "thou" here is used to denote the Gentile, whom Paul was then particularly addressing.

Being a wild olive-tree - From this passage it would seem that the olive-tree was sometimes cultivated, and that cultivation was necessary in order to render it fruitful. The cultivated olive-tree is "of the a moderate height, its trunk knotty, its bark smooth and ash-colored, its wood is solid and yellowish, the leaves are oblong, and almost like those of the willow, of a green color, etc. The wild olive is smaller in all its parts." (Calmet.) The wild olive was unfruitful, or its fruit very imperfect and useless. The ancient writers explain this word by "unfruitful, barren." (Sehleusner.) This was used, therefore, as the emblem of unfruitfulness and barrenness, while the cultivated olive produced much fruit. The meaning here is, that the Gentiles had been like the wild olive, unfruitful in holiness; that they had been uncultivated by the institutions of the true religion, and consequently had grown up in the wildness and sin of nature. The Jews had been like a cultivated olive, long under the training and blessing of God.

Wert grafted in - The process of grafting consists in inserting a scion or a young shoot into another tree. To do this, a useless limb is removed; and the ingrafted limb produces fruit according to its new nature or kind, and not according to the tree in which it is inserted. In this way a tree which bears no fruit, or whose branches are decaying, may be recovered, and become valuable. The figure of the apostle is a very vivid and beautiful one. The ancient root or stock, that of Abraham, etc. was good. The branches - the Jews in the time of the apostle - had become decayed and unfruitful, and broken off. The Gentiles had been grafted into this stock, and had restored the decayed vigor of the ancient people of God; and a fruitless church had become vigorous and flourishing. But the apostle soon proceeds to keep the Gentiles from exaltation on account of this.

Among them - Among the branches, so as to partake with them of the juices of the root.

Partakest of the root - The ingrafted limb would derive nourishment from the root as much as though it were a natural branch of the tree. The Gentiles derived now the benefit of Abraham's faith and holy labors, and of the promises made to him and to his seed.

Fatness of the olive-tree - The word "fatness" here means "fertility, fruitfulness" - the rich juices of the olive producing fruit; see Judges 9:9.

17, 18. And if—rather, "But if"; that is, "If notwithstanding this consecration of Abraham's race to God.

some of the branches—The mass of the unbelieving and rejected Israelites are here called "some," not, as before, to meet Jewish prejudice (see on [2251]Ro 3:3, and on "not all" in Ro 10:16), but with the opposite view of checking Gentile pride.

and thou, being a wild olive, wert—"wast"

grafted in among them—Though it is more usual to graft the superior cutting upon the inferior stem, the opposite method, which is intended here, is not without example.

and with them partakest—"wast made partaker," along with the branches left, the believing remnant.

of the root and fatness of the olive tree—the rich grace secured by covenant to the true seed of Abraham.

In this, and some following verses, the apostle digresses a little, and takes occasion to prevent the insulting of the Gentiles over the Jews; as also to persuade them to take warning by their example.

If some of the branches be broken off; the unbelieving Jews.

And thou; a believing Gentile: though he speaks as to a particular person, yet he means the whole body of the believing Gentiles.

Being a wild olive tree; a scion taken from a wild olive tree; i.e. from the heathenish and unbelieving world.

Wert graffed in among them; the believing Jews. Some read, for them, or in the place of the branches that are broken off.

And with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree: by the root he means Abraham, &c. as before: by the olive tree he means the church of Christ; by the root, or sap of the root, and by the

fatness of the olive tree, he means, all the promises and privileges, the graces and ordinances, the spiritual blessings and benefits, which belonged to Abraham and his seed, or to the true church of God. And if some of the branches be broken,.... This is to be understood, not of the exclusion of the Jews from their national church; for the persons designed by the "branches", were the principal members of it, as the civil and ecclesiastical rulers, the priests, Scribes, and Pharisees, and the far greater part of the people; and on the other hand, the apostles and followers of Christ were put out of their synagogues, and deemed by them heretics and apostates: nor of the destruction of the Jewish nation, city, and temple; for as yet they existed as a nation, their city of Jerusalem was in being, and their temple standing: but of their being left out of the Gospel church, gathered among them, they not believing in the Messiah, but rejected and crucified him; and though afterwards the Gospel was preached to them, they despise it, contradicted, and blasphemed it; so that it pleased God to take it wholly away from them, when they might be truly said to be, "as branches broken off"; which phrase seems to be borrowed from Jeremiah 11:16; they were withered, lifeless, and hopeless, being cast off by God, and neglected by his ministers, the Gospel being removed from them, and they without the means of grace and salvation: and this was the case of the generality of the people; for though the apostle only says "some", making the best of it in their favour against the Gentiles, and speaking in the softest terms; yet they were only a few, a seed, a remnant, that were taken into the Gospel church, and the rest were blinded, hardened, rejected, and left out for their unbelief:

and thou being a wild olive tree: speaking to the Gentiles, to some, not to all of them; for not a whole tree, but a part of one, what is cut out of it, a scion from it is grafted into another; and so they were a certain number which God took out from among the Gentiles, to be a people for his name and glory, and who before conversion were comparable to a wild olive tree; for though they might have some show of morality, religion, and worship, yet lived in gross ignorance, superstition, idolatry, and profaneness were destitute of a divine revelation, of all spiritual light and knowledge, of true righteousness and the grace of God; were barren and unfruitful in good works, were without hope, God and Christ in the world. This metaphor rather regards their character, case, and manners, than their original; in respect of which they and the Jews were on a level, being by nature equally corrupt, and children of wrath; and yet though a wild olive tree, were

grafted amongst them; meaning either the broken branches, in whose stead they were grafted; the Syriac version favours this sense, reading it "in their place"; as also in Romans 11:19; and so the Ethiopic version: or rather the believing Jews, of whom the first Gospel church and churches consisted; for the Jews first trusted in Christ, received the firstfruits of the Spirit, and were first incorporated into a Gospel church state; and then the Gentiles which believed were received among them. The first coalition of Jews and Gentiles, or the ingrafting of the Gentiles in among the Jews that believed, was at Antioch, when dropping their distinctive names of Jews and Gentiles, they took the common name of Christians, Acts 11:19. So that this is not to be understood of an ingrafting into Christ unless by a visible profession, but of being received into a Gospel church state; which is signified by the "olive tree" in the next clause:

and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; the Gospel church is so called for its excellency the olive tree being a choice tree, as they were a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; for its fruitfulness, bringing forth berries that are wholesome, delightful, and useful, so the saints are filled with the fruits of grace, and good works, which are by Christ to the praise and glory of God; for its beauty when laden with fruit, so a Gospel church is beautiful maintaining the purity of Gospel doctrine, discipline, worship and conversation; "his beauty shall be as the olive tree", Hosea 14:6; see Jeremiah 11:16; and for its verdure and durableness, and growing on the mountains, all which may denote the continuance and firmness of the church of Christ. Now the Gentiles being grafted into a Gospel church state with the believing Jews, partook of the same root and fatness as they did, being built upon the same "foundation of the apostles prophets", Ephesians 2:20; rooted, grounded, and built up in the same church state they enjoyed the same privileges, had the doctrines of Christ and his apostles preached to them, communicated with them in the ordinances of the Gospel, and were satisfied with the goodness and fatness of the house of God; for they became "fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel", Ephesians 3:6, the apostle speaks according to the nature of the olive tree, which is unctuous, from whence an oil is taken, which makes the face of man to shine, the fruit of which fattens those that are lean; and hence it loses not its leaves, , "because of its heat and fatness", as Plutarch (x) says.

(x) Sympos. l. 8. qu. 10.

{10} And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in {q} among them, and with them {r} partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

(10) There is no reason why the Gentiles who have obtained mercy, should triumph over the Jews who condemn the grace of God, seeing they are grafted in place of the Jews. But let them rather take heed, that also in them is not found that which is worthily condemned in the Jews. And from this also the general doctrine may be gathered and taken, that we ought to be zealous for God's glory, even in regards to our neighbours: and we should be very far from bragging and glorying because we are preferred before others by a singular grace.

(q) In place of those branches which are broken off.

(r) It is against the common manner of farming, that the barren juice of the young shoot is changed with the juice of the good tree.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 11:17-24. In pursuance of the figure, a warning to the Gentile Christians against self-presumption, and an exhortation to humility, down to Romans 11:24.

τινές] some, a portion of the branches; comp. on Romans 3:3.

ἐξεκλάσθ.] were broken off (Plat. Rep. p. 611 D), κλάω being the proper word for the breaking of the young twigs (κλάδοι); Theophrastus, c. pl. i. 15. 1. They were broken off on account of their unfitness for bearing.

σὺ δέ] individualizing address to each Gentile Christian.

ἀγριέλ. ὤν] although being of the wild olive. ἀγρ. is here an adjective, like ἐκ τῆς ἀγριελαίου, Romans 11:24. This view is assured by linguistic usage (Eryc. 4, in Anthol. ix. 237: σκυτάλην ἀγριέλαιον, Theocr. xxv. 255; see Jacobs, Delect. Epigr. p. 33; Lobeck, Paralip. p. 376) and necessary; for the traditional interpretation: “oleaster, i.e. surculus oleastri,” is as arbitrary as the apology for the expression when so explained, on the ground that Paul wished to avoid the prolixity of the distinction between tree and branch, is absurd (in opposition to Hofmann), inasmuch as he would only have needed to employ the genitive instead of the nominative, and consequently to write not a word more, if he wished to be thus sparing. The opinion of Reiche, Rückert, Köllner, Philippi, Krehl, Ewald, van Hengel—that the collective body of the Gentiles is conceived as an entire tree—is inappropriate to the relation portrayed by the figure, because the ingrafting of the Gentiles took place at first only partially and in single instances, while the σύ addressed cannot represent heathendom as a whole, and is also not appropriate to the figure itself, because in fact not whole trees, not even quite young ones (in opposition to de Wette), are ingrafted either with the stem, or as to all their branches; besides, Romans 11:24 contradicts this opinion. Matthias also takes the right view.

ἐν αὐτοῖς] may grammatically be equally well understood as among them (the branches of the noble olive tree generally)—so Erasmus, Grotius, Estius, and many others, including Rückert, Fritzsche, Nielsen, Tholuck, Philippi, Maier, Reithmayr, Hofmann—or as: in the place of the broken-off branches (Chrysostom, Beza, Piscator, Semler, and others, including Reiche, Köllner, de Wette, Olshausen), which, however, would have to he conceived of, not as ordinarily, in locum, but in loco eorum (Olshausen has the right view). The first rendering is preferable, because it corresponds to the notion of the συγκοινωνός.

τῆς ῥίζης κ. τ. πιότ. τ. ἐλ.] of the root (which now bears thee also among its own branches, Romans 11:18) and fatness (which now goes jointly to thee) of the olive tree. On the latter, comp. Jdg 9:9. The assumption of a hendiadys (of the fat root) (Grotius and others) is groundless and weakening. The sense without figure is: “Thou hast attained to a participation in holy fellowship with the patriarchs, and in the blessings of the theocracy developed from them,”—both which the unbelieving Jews have forfeited.

Has Paul here, Romans 11:17 ff., had in view the process, really used in the East, of strengthening to renewed fertility olive trees by grafting scions of the wild olive upon them (see Columella, v. 9. 16; Pallad. xiv. 53; Schulz, Leit. d. Höchsten, V. p. 88; Michaelis, orient. Bibl. X. p. 67 ff., and note, p. 129; Bredenkamp in Paulus, Memorab. II. p. 149 ff.)? Answer: The subject-matter, which he is setting forth, required not at all the figure of the ordinary grafting of the noble scion on the wild stem, but the converse, namely, that of the ingrafting of the wild scion and its ennoblement thereby. The thing thus receiving illustration had taken place through the reception of Gentile members into the theocracy; and the thing that had taken place he was bound to represent (figuratively depict) as it had taken place. “Ordine commutato res magis causis quam causas rebus aptavit,” Origen. But that, while doing this, he had before his mind that actual pomological practice, and made reference to it (Matthias: in order to exhibit the παραζηλῶθηναι of the unbelieving Jews, Romans 11:13), is not to be assumed for this reason, that here, conformably to the following καὶ συγκοινωνὸς κ.τ.λ., there is conceived as the object of the ingrafting the ennobled fertilization of the graft itself; whereas, in the practice referred to, the ingrafted scion was not to receive the fatness from the noble tree, not to become fertilized, but to fertilize; for “foecundat sterilis pingues oleaster olivas, et quae non novit munera, ferre docet,” Palladius.Romans 11:17-24. In these verses, which in a sense are a long parenthesis, Paul anticipates an objection which Gentile readers might take to his use of the last figure, the root and the branches; and he draws from it two special lessons—one, of humility, for the objectors; the other, of hope, for Israel.17. some of the branches] A tender statement of what, alas, was so great an amount of unbelief. See below again, Romans 11:25; “blindness in part.”

be broken off] The reference of time is specially to the crisis of the rejection of Messiah by Israel. It was true, of course, that at no period of the Church was any worldly and unbelieving Jew otherwise than “broken off” from God’s covenant of peace; but not till Messiah was rejected was it ever possible to think of the Jews, as a class, as being so situated.

thou] The Gentile Christian, who is throughout in view.

a wild olive tree] A scion of a race alien from the special Covenant of Salvation. This word, from St Paul’s pen, implies no Pharisaic contempt of the Gentiles. He merely points to the Divine choice, equally sovereign for nations and for persons, which had willed that Israel, and not Greece, Rome, or India, should be the recipient and keeper of Revelation; the heaven-cultured subject of its privileges and ordinances. Not merit, but grace, made the difference. But a real difference it was, none the less, and it left the wonder and mercy of the call of the Gentiles as great as ever.

graffed in] Grafting, as is well known, is always of the good scion into the inferior stock. St Paul reverses this, no doubt quite consciously. The mere outline of his language is borrowed from the olive-yard, and that is enough for him. The union of true believers to the true Church is vividly illustrated (cp., but with care, the Lord’s own great metaphor, John 15:5,) by the union of branches to a stem; the bringing of alien believers into a Church originally Jewish is vividly illustrated by grafting a piece of one tree into another. Here the likeness ends.

partakest] Lit. and better, didst become a partaker.Romans 11:17. Συ, Thou) O Roman, who art a Gentile.—ἀγριέλαιος, a wild olive) the graft of the wild olive; a singularly expressive [δεινή. end. δεινότης] Synecdoche. [Sad experience even in our age proclaims this fact. A promiscuous multitude, unwilling to bear true Christianity, labour under the wildest ignorance; nor do we even except those, who boast no ordinary attainments in virtue and knowledge.—V. g.]—ἐν αὐτοῖς) among them: The word, them, is not to be referred to the word, some, but to the branches generally.—συγκοινωνὸς) Paul often uses σὺν concerning the Gentiles, Ephesians 2:19; Ephesians 2:22; Ephesians 3:6; comp. μετὰ, Romans 15:10.Verses 17, 18. - But if some of the branches were broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree (i.e. of the stock of a wild olive tree; cf. ch. Romans 11:24) wast grafted in among them, and wast made partaker with them of the root and the fatness of the olive tree, boast not against the branches. But if thou boastest, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. In thus addressing the Gentile in the second person singular, the apostle brings his warning home to any individual Gentile Christian who might be inclined to boast; though regarding him still as representing Gentile believers generally. They are compared to slips of the wild olive tree (ἡ ἀγριέλαιος, oleaster), which was unproductive (cf. "Infelix superat foliis oleaster amaris"), acquiring richness and fertility by being grafted into the cultivated tree (ἡ καλλιέλαιος, oleo). Whether or not such a reversal of the usual system of grafting would have the imagined effect does not matter, as long as the illustration serves St. Paul's purpose well, and helps us to grasp, his conception. The common process is -

"... to marry
A gentle scion to the wildest stock,
And make conceive a bark of baser kind,
By bud of nobler race."
In the illustration before us a scion of wildest stock is supposed to be made to conceive through the stock of nobler race to which it is united. The selecting the olive tree for illustration is happy, inasmuch as it was not only a characteristic produce of Palestine, but also regarded as symbolical of a plant of grace; cf. Psalm 52:8, "I am a green olive tree in the house of God;" also Jeremiah 11:16; Hosea 14:6. See also the parable of Jotham (Judges 9:8, 9), where the trees apply first to the olive tree to be their king; and observe also there the word "fatness," used here also by St. Paul: Μὴ ἀπολείψασαα τὴν πιότητα μου ἐν ῇ δοξάσουσι τὸν Θεὸν ἄνδρες πορεύσομαι κινεῖσθαι ἐπὶ τῶν ξύλων; (LXX.). The "branches" against which the ingrafted scion is warned not to boast are not exclusively either the broken-off or the remaining ones, but, as the sequel shows, the natural branches of the tree generally. The Gentile Christian is not to contemn the race of Israel because so large a portion of it is at present apart from the Church and under judgment; for it is, after all, from the stock of Israel, into which he has been engrafted, that he derives all his own fertility. As to the Christian Church being ever regarded as derived from that of Israel, the fulfilment and outcome of the ancient covenant, see note on Romans 1:2; and cf. John 4:22, "For salvation is of the Jews." Branches were broken off (κλάδων ἐξεκλάσθησαν)

See on Matthew 24:32; see on Mark 11:8. The derivation of κλάδων branches, from κλάω to break, is exhibited in the word-play between the noun and the verb: kladon, exeklasthesan.

A wild olive-tree (ἀγριέλαιος)

To be taken as an adjective, belonging to the wild olive. Hence Rev., correctly, rejects tree, since the Gentiles are addressed not as a whole but as individuals. Meyer says: "The ingrafting of the Gentiles took place at first only partially and in single instances; while the thou addressed cannot represent heathendom as a whole, and is also not appropriate to the figure itself; because, in fact, not whole trees, not even quite young ones are ingrafted, either with the stem or as to all their branches. Besides, Romans 11:24 contradicts this view."

Wert graffed in among them (ἐνεκεντρίσθης ἐν αὐτοῖς)

The verb occurs only in this chapter. From κέντπον a sting, a goad. See on Revelation 9:9. Thus, in the verb to graft the incision is emphasized. Some render in their place, instead of among them; but the latter agrees better with partakest. Hence the reference is not to some of the broken off branches in whose place the Gentiles were grafted, but to the branches in general.

With them partakest (συγκοινωνὸς ἐγένου)

Lit., as Rev., didst become partaker with them. See on Revelation 1:9; and see on partners, Luke 5:10. With them, the natural branches.

Of the root and fatness (τῆς ῥίζης καὶ τῆς πιότητος)

The best texts omit καὶ and, and render of the root of the fatness: the root as the source of the fatness.

Paul's figure is: The Jewish nation is a tree from which some branches have been cut, but which remains living because the root (and therefore all the branches connected with it) is still alive. Into this living tree the wild branch, the Gentile, is grafted among the living branches, and thus draws life from the root. The insertion of the wild branches takes place in connection with the cutting off of the natural branches (the bringing in of the Gentiles in connection with the rejection of the Jews). But the grafted branches should not glory over the natural branches because of the cutting off of some of the latter, since they derive their life from the common root. "The life-force and the blessing are received by the Gentile through the Jew, and not by the Jew through the Gentile. The spiritual plan moves from the Abrahamic covenant downward, and from the Israelitish nation outward" (Dwight).

The figure is challenged on the ground that the process of grafting is the insertion of the good into the inferior stock, while here the case is reversed. It has been suggested in explanation that Paul took the figure merely at the point of inserting one piece into another; that he was ignorant of the agricultural process; that he was emphasizing the process of grace as contrary to that of nature. References to a custom of grafting wild upon good trees are not sufficiently decisive to warrant the belief that the practice was common. Dr. Thomson says: "In the kingdom of nature generally, certainly in the case of the olive, the process referred to by the apostle never succeeds. Graft the good upon the wild, and, as the Arabs say, 'it will conquer the wild;' but you cannot reverse the process with success.... It is only in the kingdom of grace that a process thus contrary to nature can be successful; and it is this circumstance which the apostle has seized upon to magnify the mercy shown to the Gentiles by grafting them, a wild race, contrary to the nature of such operations, into the good olive tree of the church, and causing them to flourish there and bring forth fruit unto eternal life. The apostle lived in the land of the olive, and was in no danger of falling into a blunder in founding his argument upon such a circumstance in its cultivation" ("Land and Book, Lebanon, Damascus and Beyond Jordan," p. 35). Meyer says: "The subject-matter did not require the figure of the ordinary grafting, but the converse - the grafting of the wild scion and its ennoblement thereby. The Gentile scion was to receive, not to impart, fertility."

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