Did the Jews stumble at the stumbling stone, or did they fall? King James Version first says “they did not fall” (Rom 11:11) and then says “the Jews did fall” (Roman 11:12). However, the Greek says “they did not fall” in both verses. The stumbling was a temporary stumbling (Rom. 11:11) ‘until the fullness of the Gentiles come’ in (Rom. 11:1225). That happened at least somewhere around 68 AD or later ‘so all Israel shall be saved’ (Rom. 11:26). The stumbling ‘stone’ is almost if not totally referring to Christ.

If the church had started off to be Jewish, with the Jews’ scorn for Gentiles, the Gentiles would have had a tremendous barrier to overcome to obey the gospel. With the Gentiles coming in first, and the Jews seeing an ordinary non-clergy member with the same miraculous powers the Jew knew that their Old Testament prophets had, they certainly had nothing to boast about. The Jew would have liked to have had the power themselves (John 6:28). In AD 70 when Jerusalem and temple were destroyed, and the Jewish nation summarily destroyed by being scattered all over the world, they had nothing left to be proud about. Thus the barrier (old wine tastes better than the new) was removed because there was no more old wine!

Many references are made to the prophecy that the Jews would initially reject Christ.

Consider the following scriptures about God

1) Blinds the Jews so the Gentiles will accept the gospel (Rom. 10:1911:1113-14).

2) Provokes the Jews to jealousy by blessing the Gentiles (Rom. 11:30-32 – these scriptures are not so clear on how he will provoke the Jews to envy)

3) Opens the eyes of the Jews to see that Jesus is Christ and be saved (Rom. 11:23-30)

Jesus knew the prophecy that the Jews would be blinded.

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand (Matt 13:10-13).

Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the prophecy that the Jews would reject him.

When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? (Matt 21:40-42).

Jesus prophesied that the kingdom would be taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles.

Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder (Matt 21:43-44).

Even after the cross the majority of Jews continued to reject Christ Peter reminded the chief priests of the same prophecy.

If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner (Acts 4:9-11).

The Jews continue to be blinded many years after the cross.

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (1 Cor. 1:22-23).

The Jews were still blinded 20 years after the cross.

But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away (2 Cor. 3:14-16).

Shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem the Jews were still blinded.

Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed (1 Pet. 2:6-8).

Paul applied the same Scripture as the reason that the Jews were still blind 30 years after the cross for the Jews’ blindness.

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed (Rom. 9:30-33).

Paul understood the reason the Jews were blinded.

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 (Rom. 11:25).

Jesus had prophesied that the fullness of the Gentiles would be brought in after the destruction of Jerusalem.

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (Luke 21:24).

The prophesy that Isaiah had a vision the year that King Uzziah died is the prophecy that is quoted. “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple” (Isa. 6:1).

This is the prophecy, which was quoted many times by Christ and the apostles.

And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed (Isa. 6:9-10).

Isaiah did not ask why Israel would be blinded. “Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate” (Isa. 6:11-12).

Isaiah asked how long that blindness would continue. The Lord informed Isaiah that Israel would be blinded until men were moved far away. There was a great forsaking in the midst of the land. “And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land” (Isa. 6:12).

Isaiah prophesied that a tenth of the Israelites would return.

But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof (Isa. 6:13).

Now consider the Lord’s explanation of his plan for blinding the Jews.

The Lord appeared to totally reject the Jews….but….

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (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 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway (Rom. 11:7-10).

The Lord had a plan to bring the Jews back. God made three points in this verse.

I say then, Have they stumbled (4417) that they should fall (4098)? God forbid: but rather through their fall (3900 – side-slip- not fall) salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy (Rom. 11:11).

1) The Jews stumbled but they did not fall.

2) Salvation came to the Gentiles because the Jews stumbled

3) Salvation came to the Gentiles in order to cause the Jews to be jealous of the Gentiles

He makes three points in this verse: “Now if the fall (3900) of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?” (Rom. 11:12).

1) The Jews’ falling caused the world (Gentiles) to be rich

2) The Jews’ diminishing caused the Gentiles to be rich

3) The Jews’ “fullness” would be much more make the world rich

Paul spoke to Gentiles, not Jews in these verses: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office” (Rom. 11:13).

Paul’s (God’s) plan was to make the Jews jealous (stimulate them). “If by any means I may provoke to emulation (3863 = stimulate alongside) them which are my flesh, and might save some of them” (Rom. 11:14).

He mentioned his plan to provoke the Jews to envy in the previous chapter. “But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you” (Rom. 10:19).

He makes two points in this verse: “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?” (Rom. 11:15).

Casting the Jews away (blinding them) caused the world (Gentiles) to be reconciled to God. What would happen when God receives the Jews? Receiving the Jews would be life from the dead.

Another three points: “For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches” (Rom. 11:16).

1) The firstfruits (Jews) were holy

2) The lump (leavened bread illustration) must be holy if what came from it was holy

3) The root (tree illustration) was holy so what comes from the tree must be holy

Another two points: “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree” (Rom. 11:17).

1) Some of the branches (tree illustration) – the Jews

2) The wild olive tree (Gentiles) were grafted into the root

3) The Gentiles were thus getting their spiritual food and strength from the root (God or Christ)

Apparently the Roman brethren (Gentiles) were boasting that they were accepted and the Jews were not. “Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee (Rom. 11:18).

The Roman brethren were apparently boasting that the Jews had been cut off so the Gentiles could be part of the tree. “Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in” (Rom. 11:19).

The Jews were broken off because of unbelief. “Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear” (Rom. 11:20).

The Gentiles should not boast but rather fear that they also would be taken out. The Roman brethren needed to remember that God can cut anyone out of the tree. “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee” (Rom. 11:21).

God has two ways to respond to men.

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 “Rom. 11:22).

1) He responds with goodness to those who continue in his goodness.

2) He responds with severity toward those who fall.

The promise—If the Jew believes, God is able to graft them in. “And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again” (Rom. 11:23).

If God can graft a wild branch (a Gentile), he can graft the natural branch (a Jew) back into the olive tree (Christ).

For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? (Rom. 11:24).

Now the explanation to keep the Roman brethren from being proud:

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 (Rom. 11:25).

1) God blinded part of Israel

2) God blinded a part of Israel only until the fullness of the Gentiles enters Christ

When God brings the spiritual Jews into Christ, all (spiritual) Israel will be saved.

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: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Rom. 11:26-27).

At this point the (blinded) Jews are enemies of the gospel.

As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Rom. 11:28-29).

The Gentile Romans obtained mercy through the Jew’s unbelief (blindness). “For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief” (Rom. 11:30).

God’s plan was to show the blind Jews mercy through the mercy he gave to the Gentiles. “Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy” (Rom. 11:31).

God is the one who concluded the blind Jews in unbelief—for his plan. “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32).

No one knows the Lord’s mind and plans unless he reveals them. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?” (Rom. 11:34).

Beth Johnson

Chennai Teacher Training School

Women’s Studies

Muliebral Viewpoint

Articles and Books by Beth Johnson

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