The Ruach ha-Kodesh is making it clear from the beginning that spiritual Israel and ethnic Israel are one in the same and that she has been chosen by HaShem for the sake of His great Name.
An examination of Romans 11
Shaul/Paul begins Romans 11 with a statement that regards the last verses of Romans 10. This is yet another reminder of the reason for examining this entire section of Romans 9 through 11 as one dialogue. Shaul/Paul says, “Okay, so if Israel has been a disobedient and gainsaying people, does that mean G-d has rejected her?” The answer is of course an emphatic, “No!”
11:1 I ask then, “Did G-d (the G-d of Israel--empirical, ethnic, spiritual) push away His people?” A curse on it! For I myself am an Israelite (empirical, ethnic, spiritual), from the seed of Avraham, of the tribe of Benyamin.2 G-d has not rejected His people, whom He foreknew. (From before the foundation of the world. 1 Kefa/Peter 1:20)
Why have I added the bracketed statement, “G-d of Israel”? Because over 360 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament), HaShem refers to Himself, either directly or indirectly, as the Elohim ha-Israel (the G-d of Israel). Romans 11:1 should read with incredulous irony in the face of the anti-Semitic rhetoric of replacement theology or Supersessionism—or whatever new name these same ideas have been given in recent days. It should read as a blatant and forceful rebuke and warning to those who seek to misrepresent the Word of G-d. It should read, “I ask then, “Did G-d, the G-d of the people of Israel push away His people?” A curse on it!”
“For HaShem (YHVH) will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because HaShem (YHVH) has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.” –1 Sh’muel/Samuel 12:22
“Zion says, ‘The Lord has abandoned me;
The Lord has forgotten me!’
15 ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or lack compassion for the child of her womb?
Even if these forget,
yet I will not forget you.
16 Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
your walls are continually before Me.’” –Yeshaiyuhu/Isaiah 49:14-16
“And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 24 “Have you not observed what this people have spoken, saying, ‘The two families which the Lord chose, He has rejected them’? Thus they despise My people, no longer are they as a nation in their sight. 25 Thus says the Lord, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, 26 then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.’” –Yermiyahu/Jeremiah 33:23-26
Shaul/Paul has made it very clear from the outset of Romans that he is a Jew, an ethnic member of Israel and unashamedly so. Why does he stress this point here? Why is he so pedantic on this point? Because he knew that the Goyim (Gentiles) might misinterpret Israel as referring to all believers in Messiah. Therefore he begins with the premise for the unique and uncompromised position of the ethnic people of Israel. The Ruach ha-Kodesh is making it clear from the beginning that spiritual Israel and ethnic Israel are one in the same and that she has been chosen by HaShem for the sake of His great Name.
Or don’t you know what the Tanakh says about Eliyahu? He pleads with G-d against Israel, 3 “HaShem (YHVH), they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars, and I’m the only one left, and now they want to kill me too!” 4 But what is G-d’s answer to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not knelt down to Ba‘al.” (1 Kings 19) 5 It’s the same way in the present age: there is a remnant, chosen by chesed (grace). 6 (Now if it is by chesed—grace, it is therefore not based on legalistic observance; if it were, chesed [grace] would no longer be chesed—grace.) 7 It makes sense then, that Israel (empirical, ethnic, spiritual) has not yet attained the goal (Messiah) for which she is striving.
There continues to be a remnant among ethnic Israel (which is the only Israel) chosen by chesed/grace. That is over and above those among ethnic Israel that have, like Shaul, accepted Messiah Yeshua. This remnant refers to the entire ethnic people of Israel who have yet to recognise the goal of the Torah, which is Messiah Himself.
It is important to note that the mistranslation of many English versions which reads, “For which they were striving.” is tragically anti-Semitic. A true representation shows us that Israel—evidenced even until the present time in history, now—has continued to seek the goal of Torah but has yet to discover Him. Why? We will soon see that it is because of G-d’s mercy toward the nations. Therefore the only correct reading of this text is, “It makes sense then, that Israel (empirical, ethnic, spiritual) has not yet attained the goal (Messiah) for which she is striving.”
The ones chosen have obtained it, but the rest have been made like petrified stone/calloused, (frozen in stasis) blinded, 8 just as the Tanakh says:
The chosen ones are those Jews who have individually received the gift of G-d through Yeshua. The rest are the entire remnant of Jews who have not yet reached the goal of the Torah, which is Yeshua.
The Greek word poroo can be rendered as: petrified, hardened, blinded, and calloused. I believe Shaul/Paul, making a typically rabbinical word play and using all these meanings, is connecting this phrase to the following quotes, the olive tree allegory and the temporary petrified stasis of the Jewish people. There is no need to insist on one of these meanings as being paramount over the others. This is a wonderful word play that should be enjoyed and accepted as an illumination of the applicable texts.
“G-d has given them a spirit of dullness (numbness, stasis) --
eyes that do not see (temporary blindness);
and ears that do not hear, (temporary deafness)
right down to the present day.” (Deuteronomy 29:3, Isaiah 29:10)
9 And David says,
“Let their dining table become for them
a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a punishment. (Isaiah 28:8)
The fellowship gleaned from gathering around food is central to Jewish custom and Biblical moadim (festivals). The Talmudic writings of Rav Shimon convey the importance of Torah filled conversation at the dining table:
“Rabbi Shimon said: ‘If three have eaten at one table and have not spoken there words of Torah, it is as if they had eaten from the sacrifice of the dead; since it is said, “For all their tables are full of vomit and faeces.” (That is, without a place--makom: a Mishnaic euphemism for describing the omnipresent G-d of Israel.) But if three have eaten at one table and have spoken there the words of Torah, it is as if they have eaten from the table of G-d, blessed be He; since it is said, “And he said to me, ‘this is the table that is before HaShem.’” (Ezekiel 41:22)’” –Avot 3:3
10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they can’t see, (a temporary blindness intended to bring about tishuvah—repentance/returning.) with their backs bent (compare to ekklao Romans 11:17) continually.” (Psalm 69:23–24)
11 So then, I say, “has she (Israel, empirical, ethnic, spiritual) stumbled in order to permanently fall away?” A curse on it! On the contrary, it is because of her stumbling that deliverance has come to the nations, in order to provoke her to jealousy. 12 Moreover, if her stumbling is bringing riches to the world, how much greater riches will Israel (empirical, ethnic, spiritual) in her fullness bring them!
Israel’s stumbling is temporary, its purpose is to reconcile those among the nations who will receive Messiah. If Israel had not stumbled salvation would never have come to the nations. This is the purpose of G-d. The purpose of those who are of the nations who have accepted G-d’s gift, is to provoke Israel (that is the remnant who remain in disbelief) to jealousy. Not a vial jealousy but a holy desperation for the truth of G-d and His redemptive purpose in Messiah.
Shaul/Paul affirms all this with the promise of things to come. At the redemption of the entire remnant of Israel (not the Church) there will be immeasurably greater riches.
13 However, to those of you who are of the other nations I say this: since I myself am an emissary sent to the Goyim, I make known the importance of my work 14 in the hope that somehow I may provoke some of my own people to jealousy and save some of them! (That is, in order to save some of the Jews now, prior to all of the remnant of the Jews being saved) 15 For if Israel’s casting Yeshua aside means reconciliation for the world, what will her accepting Him mean? It will mean resurrection from the dead!
Here Shaul/Paul digresses and speaks specifically to the Gentile believers of Rome. He reminds the nations of their obligation in Messiah to provoke Israel to jealousy. Notice that Shaul/Paul always speaks of the nations and Israel as two entirely different entities. He restates the promise of greater things, this time in specific terms. Israel’s salvation will usher in the return of Mashiyach, the final resurrection, the judgement, the Olam haba—world to come.
16 Now if the portion of challah (Israel, the blood descendants of Jacob) offered as first-fruits (Yom ha-bikkurim, Shavuot) is holy, so is all of the dough (Numbers 15:17-18). And if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were bent (ekklao), and you — a wild olive — were grafted in among them and have become equal sharers in the rich root of the olive tree, 18 then don’t boast as if you were better than the natural branches! However, if you do boast, remember that you are not supporting the root, but the root supports you.
Numbers 15:17-18 describes the practise of offering the first portion of the dough before the L-rd, this portion makes all the other portions holy. The priests alone may eat the first portion but the remaining portions may be given to non-priests. Hence Shaul/Paul is saying, the forbears of Israel, the first portion, have been made holy for the purpose of making the ethnic descendants of Israel holy, which in turn will allow the remaining dough to be given to the nations, as members, not of Israel but of the commonwealth of Israel.
The roots of the olive tree representing Israel (empirical, ethnic, spiritual) are the Patriarchs of Israel; Avraham, Isaac and Jacob. This root is feed from the water of life that rains upon the soil of G-d’s instruction to Avraham. G-d is the source of nutrition for the root and the root is the channel by which the nutrition is passed on to all the branches.
19 So you will say, “Branches were bent (ekklao) so that I might be grafted in.” 20 True, but so what? They were bent (ekklao) because of their lack of emunah (trust). However, you keep your place only because of trust (not your trust, but the trust provided for you by G-d). So don’t be arrogant; on the contrary, be terrified! 21 For if G-d did not spare the natural branches, He certainly won’t spare you!
The Greek word ekklao unless it is specifically referred to as broken off, can refer to something that is, “dislocated,” or, “bent,” but not severed. This is clearly the meaning here. In fact the word ekopto, which means, “to severe, cut off, break off”; is only used in Romans 11 in reference to the nations.
Understanding the metaphor of the Olive tree:
Many a false theology has been formed over a misunderstanding of the allegory of the olive tree. It is important to have some basic understanding of the grafting process in order to properly understand Shaul/Paul’s (inspired by the Ruach ha-Kodesh) metaphor of the olive tree:
· Firstly, grafts take best from like plants, in this case we see the representation of humanity.
· Secondly, we must note that the wild branch never becomes a natural branch, it is always a grafted wild branch.
· Thirdly, a fruit bearing plant—in this case an olive tree—that bears fruit of the same species but a different variety (colour, flavour etc.), will continue to bear the fruit of its varietal origin even after having been grafted to a new mother plant.
§ For example: if the mother plant bears black olives and a wild olive branch that comes from a green olive tree is grafted to the black olive tree, the wild branch, once the graft has taken, will continue to bear green olives rather than changing and bearing black olives. It is the same with Gentile Christians, a Gentile Christian does not become a Jew; to the contrary, as the following verse clarifies, the Gentile Christian becomes part of the commonwealth of Israel.
There is therefore no New Israel or Renewed Israel or a Spiritual Israel that combines Jew and Gentile or the Church as Israel, rather there is Israel—the blood descendants of Jacob, empirical, ethnic and spiritual—and the nations—not the blood descendants of Jacob—and the root—Avraham, Isaac and Jacob, in Messiah—sustains both the natural branches—Israel—and the once alien branches—the nations. Israel, led by Messiah Yeshua, remains the autonomous ruling nation of a wider commonwealth which submits to Israel’s King. Hence G-d has determined to honour the yet to be fulfilled promises He has made to the blood descendants of Jacob/Israel, who maintain a remnant at this present time.
“Remember that you were at that time separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without G-d in the world.” –Ephesians 2:12
Gentiles do not become spiritual Jews, as some have suggested—what a ludicrous, racist and demeaning idea. On the contrary, Gentiles—to follow the metaphor—are from a different olive tree, and just as a grafted branch continues to bear its own olive tree’s variety of fruit, so too a Gentile continues to have a unique identity within the commonwealth of the mother plant. The grafted branch receives nourishment from the root but maintains its unique identity.
Commonwealth here, should be understood in a similar way to the commonwealth of Great Britain: each country belonging to this commonwealth maintains its unique cultural identity while submitting to the rule of the King or Queen of England. It is the same with the believers from the nations, we submit to the rule of Yeshua, the King of Israel and are therefore members of the commonwealth of Israel with all the rights of citizens, however, we are not Israel, we are still Goyim, of other nations but no longer alien’s to the G-d appointed traditions and culture of Israel, which has become familiar to us in Messiah, the Jew.
There is no Spiritual Israel made up of Jews and Gentiles. There is Israel and there are the nations, and Messiah makes us echad—one. Not one ethnic group, but one collection of ethnic groups.
There is nowhere in all of Scripture where Israel is ever spoken of as referring to the nations. We must conclude that when Shaul/Paul speaks of Israel he is always speaking of empirical (ethnic, spiritual) Israel. Any attempt to read Israel as referring to the Church or Spiritual Israel is nothing less than a satanic heresy.
22 So take a good look at G-d’s chesed (kindness) and his severity: on the one hand, severity toward those who fell/failed; but, on the other hand, G-d’s chesed (kindness) toward you — provided you continue in that chesed (kindness)! Otherwise, you then will be cut off (ekopto)! 23 Moreover, the others, if they do not persist in their lack of trust, will be grafted in; because G-d is able to graft them back in. 24 For if you were cut out (ekopto) of what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree!
When grafting a fruit bearing plant, the natural branches take more readily than the unnatural ones. In this case we understand, due to the word ekklao used in the previous verses that Israel has been torn but remains partially connected and therefore is grafted back in from a partial connection rather than from a complete severing.
25 Therefore, Ami (my people, fellow Jews), brothers & sisters, I want you to understand this truth (mystery) which G-d formerly concealed but has now revealed, so that you won’t imagine you know more than you actually do. It is that a type of petrified stasis/callousness, to some degree, has come upon Israel (empirical, ethnic, spiritual), until the full number from among the nations comes in; 26 and then all Israel (that is both those Jews who have individually accepted Messiah prior to the nations coming in, and the entire remnant of the blood descendants of Jacob: empirical, ethnic) will be saved. As the Tanakh says:
Shaul/Paul only uses the word brethren/brothers in Romans to refer to his ethnic Israeli brothers and sisters. Therefore these next few verses are directed toward the Messianic Jews of the Roman ecclesia. He is warning them of the danger of forgetting the promises of G-d. He is imploring them not to become despondent. This section ends with the quotation of Isaiah 59. Following this Shaul/Paul, in his practised rhythm, returns to addressing the general Roman ecclesia/church.
“Out of Tziyon will come the Redeemer;
He will turn away ungodliness from Yaakov
27 and this will be my covenant with them, . . .
when I take away their sins.” (Isaiah 59:20–21, 27:9)
Shaul/Paul now returns to speaking to the wider ecclesia of Rome:
28 With respect to the Good News Israel (empirical, ethnic, and spiritual) is hated for your sake. But with respect to being chosen she is loved for the Patriarchs’ sake, 29 for G-d’s gifts and His calling are irrevocable. (Romans9:4-5)
Shaul/Paul is referring specifically here to the gifts and calling of G-d on ethnic Israel. This is not a one liner for Christians to use in affirming their own individual G-d given gifts.
30 Just as you Goyim were disobedient to G-d before but have received mercy now because of Israel’s (empirical, ethnic, spiritual) disobedience; 31 so also Israel (empirical, ethnic, spiritual) has been disobedient now, so that by your showing her the same mercy that G-d has shown you, she too may now receive G-d’s mercy. 32 For G-d has made all humanity prisoners to disobedience, (Romans 1:18) in order that he might show mercy to all.
Here, the nations, those that have accepted Messiah, are challenged to show mercy to Israel. Those Christians who today side against the people of Israel and encourage others to do so, are in direct disobedience to G-d. This is rooted in rebellion, which is the root of all sin. The Ecclesia is commanded here to show the Jewish people, “the same mercy G-d has shown you!”
33 O the depth of the riches
and the wisdom and knowledge of G-d!
Who can explain His judgments!
How unsearchable are His ways!
34 For, ‘Who has known the mind of HaShem (YHVH)?
Who has been His counsellor?’ (Isaiah 40:13)
35 Or, ‘Who has given Him anything
and made Him pay it back?’ (Job 41:11)
36 For from Him and through Him
and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever!
Shaul/Paul concludes this portion of his letter with an acknowledgement of the reason behind the continued purpose of G-d for Israel, His chosen people. This reason is found in the previously quoted passage from 1 Samuel 12:22. It is for the sake, not of Israel, but for the sake of His own great Name that HaShem will never abandon her. Rather than inspire Christians to be jealous of the election of their older brother Israel because of some misperceived second class status, this affirmation of Israel should secure Christians in the knowledge that G-d is no liar, He keeps His promises. For the Scripture says, “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“For HaShem (YHVH) will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because HaShem (YHVH) has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.” –1 Sh’muel/Samuel 12:22
Having read my examination of Romans 11, no one could fail to see that it has been a polemic against the lie of Replacement Theology (Supersessionism, Revisionism etc). I have intentionally interpreted the Word of G-d in an accurate and contextual way that utterly refutes the anti-Semitic lies of many Christian scholars, leaders, teachers and laypeople throughout the centuries, even up to the present time. I passionately despise the hatred of these teachings and yes, I have an agenda. My agenda is truth in Messiah, the King of the Jews (empirical, ethnic, spiritual and seated at the right hand of G-d).
There is no such thing as a separate spiritual Israel made up of Jews and Gentiles. Israel is a spiritual and ethnic unity, it is not the Ecclesia (Church). The Church (Ecclesia) is an entirely different entity that is made up of both believing Jews and Gentiles, but it is not and will never be Israel in any way.
As an Ecclesia (Church) we receive the promises of G-d from the root, but we maintain our unique identity, bearing the fruit of our uniqueness for the sake of reconciling the world to HaShem, with the hope that at this present time, prior to the full salvation of Israel, we might provoke some of the members of Israel to jealousy and individual reconciliation to the Father through Messiah Yeshua.
Shalom Aleichim, Peace Himself is with you
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,