Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Remainder of Israel Blinded

 (38) Remainder of Israel Blinded
Romans 11:7-10

7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
8 Just as it is written: “God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.”
9 And David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them.
10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And bow down their back always.”



Israel was zealous in their efforts to obtain righteousness, but they went about it in the wrong way. They thought they were righteous because they kept the Law. But the truth is, they never kept it, they did not obey God, and they rejected Christ. They were self-righteous, but they were not righteous in God’s eyes. Therefore, God blinded them to the understanding of His Word and hardened their hearts. The blessings they received at the hand of God became a stumblingblock, because they took that as proof that God was satisfied with their outward religious acts of worship. Finally, God gave the Gospel to the Gentiles, who would believe. To this day, the Jews hearts are hardened, except for a remnant who have accepted Jesus as their Savior.



7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks;--“What was Israel seeking for?” or “What does Israel desire?” They wanted righteousness. Chapter 10 indicates that while seeking to establish their own righteousness, the Jews did not recognize God’s method of imputed righteousness. It was their own fault that they did not receive what they so earnestly sought after, since they sought it by works and not by faith in Christ and His finished work. Because they did not seek the righteousness of God, which can come only to those who accept Jesus as Savior, the rest of Israel became insensitive to God. Such moral insensitivity was the judicial penalty inflicted on them for their refusal to heed the Word of God, which called for them to receive the Messiah.

but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.—The elect is the same as the remnant (v. 5). The remnant did obtain the righteousness of God through the grace of God. The rest of the people of Israel have been blinded. The Greek verb pōroō, which is used for, blinded, means “to render insensitive” or “to harden.” The hardening was definitely a matter of divine [1]retribution (see below), as it was in the case of Pharaoh [2](see 9:18). That raises a question—Did they fail to come to Christ because they had been blinded? Oh, no! They had been exposed to the Gospel as no other people have been exposed to it. God said, “All day long have I stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Rom. 10:21). He has been patient with them. Now they are blinded because they would not accept the light He gave them. How can men and women fail to accept what is so obviously God’s gracious act on their behalf unless they have been blinded or hardened? Just as a callous can grow on the hand, a callous can grow on the heart. That is what happened to the mass of Israel. God save us from that.


_________________________verse 7 notes______________________________

[1]Retribution: Retribution is the act of receiving what one deserves. While retribution may be used in the sense of a reward for doing good, it usually refers to punishment for doing evil, especially in the world to come. The principle of retribution is found often in the Bible; it is indicated by words such as wrath, vengeance, punishment, judgment, and hell. Retribution is the judgment of a holy God upon sin. Eventually it becomes the eternal punishment of the ungodly—unless the sinner turns in faith to Christ, who took the punishment the sinner deserves upon Himself on the cross.
[2]Romans 9:18: Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
Pharaoh repeatedly hardened his own heart, and after each of these times God additionally hardened Pharaoh’s heart as a judgment upon him. The same sun that melts ice hardens clay. The same sun that bleaches cloth tans the skin. The same God who shows mercy to the brokenhearted also hardens the impenitent. Grace rejected is grace denied. God has the right to show mercy to whomever He wishes, and to harden whomever He wishes. But because He is God, He never acts unjustly.

8 Just as it is written: “God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.”

This is exactly what the OT predicted would happen. God abandoned them to a state of stupor in which they became insensitive to spiritual truth. The phrase “a spirit of stupor” is taken from Isaiah 29:4. This quote refers to the unseeing eyes and unhearing ears of those who refuse to recognize the truth of God.  Because they refused to see the Lord Jesus as Messiah and Savior, they lost the power to see Him at all. Because they would not hear the pleading voice of God, now they were smitten with spiritual deafness. That terrible judgment continues to this very day.

How are we to understand this, in the light of God’s Word that says Jesus died for the world, and “whosoever may come”? Moses recorded the fact that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but not until Pharaoh first hardened his own heart. The original hardening came from Pharaoh’s own free will and a depraved nature. God only hardened Pharaoh’s heart by forcing him to face an issue (allowing the Israelites to leave Egypt) that brought his sinful nature to the boiling point. The more he rebelled, the harder his heart became. Later, Israel was forced into a similar decision. Israel rejected Jesus, and the more they did so, the harder their hearts became. Eyes are blinded when Spiritual light is rejected.

Here in verse 8, Paul quotes (not literally) from [3]Isaiah 29:10 and [4]Deuteronomy 29:4 (see below) to show that the Jew’s own Scriptures taught them clearly beforehand that they could not reject Almighty God and not suffer the consequences. This teaching was hard for them to take. The long-drawn-out, continuous abuse of God’s goodness and grace brought terrible, horrible punishment upon the chosen people…Israel.

I want you to notice the commission Almighty God gave to Isaiah in Isaiah 6:9-10: “And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ “Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.”

In Matthew 13:13-17, our Lord replied to a question as to why He had begun to teach the people in parables: “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;  for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."

John tells us that some of those who heard the Lord were unable to believe: “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him” (Jn. 12:37-41)

These words of Isaiah are also referred to in Acts 28:25-28: “So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.”’ “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!”

Thus, we learn from these passages that those things that were prophesized had come upon Israel—that is, the consequences of hearing the Word of God but refusing to obey the Word [5](see James 1:22-25 below) This judicial hardening continues to work on Israel even unto this day. Stephen, when he made his defense before the Jewish Sanhedrin had the same interpretation of Jewish history; “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51). Twenty centuries have come and gone since the Epistle to the Romans was dictated by the Holy Spirit to Paul who wrote it down for us. Israel as a nation is still hardened, and they are far, far from God. You see, they had rejected Jesus. When a man rejects Him, he becomes the most difficult to reach with the grace of God.

____________________________verse 8 notes________________________________

[3]Isaiah 29:10: For the Lord has poured out on you The spirit of deep sleep, And has closed your eyes, namely, the prophets; And He has covered your heads, namely, the seers. 
[4]Deuteronomy 29:4: Yet the Lord has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.
[5]James 1:22-25   But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.  It is not enough to receive the implanted word; we must obey it. There is no virtue in possessing the Bible or even in reading it as literature. There must be a deep desire to hear God speaking to us and an unquestioning willingness to do whatever He says. We must translate the Bible into action. The word must become flesh in our lives. There should never be a time when we go to the Scriptures without allowing them to change our lives for the better. To profess great love for God’s word or even to pose as a Bible student is a form of self-deception unless our increasing knowledge of the word is producing increasing likeness to the Lord Jesus. To go on gaining an intellectual knowledge of the Bible without obeying it can be a trap instead of a blessing. If we continually learn what we ought to do, but do not do it, we become depressed, frustrated, and callous. “Impression without expression leads to depression.” Also, we become more responsible to God. The ideal combination is to read the word and obey it implicitly. Anyone who hears the word but does not change his behavior is like a man who takes a fleeting glance in the mirror each morning, then completely forgets what he saw. He derives no benefit from the mirror or from looking into it. Of course, there are some things about our appearance that cannot be changed. But at least we should be humbled by the sight! And when the mirror says “Wash” or “Shave” or “Comb” or “Brush,” we should at least do as we are told. Otherwise, the mirror is of no practical benefit to us.

It is easy to read the Bible casually or because of a sense of duty without being affected by what we read. We see what we ought to be, but we quickly forget and live as if we were already perfect. This type of self-satisfaction prevents spiritual progress.

In contrast is the man who looks into the word of God and who habitually reduces it to practice. His contemplative, meditative gazing has practical results in his life. To him the Bible is the perfect law of liberty. Its precepts are not burdensome. They tell him to do exactly what his new nature loves to do. As he obeys, he finds true freedom from human traditions and carnal reasoning.

9 And David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them.

David, too, anticipated the judgment of God on Israel. In [6]Psalm 69:22, 23 (see Below) he described the rejected Savior as calling on God to turn their table into a snare and a trap. The table here means the sum total of the privileges and blessings, which flowed through Christ. What should have been a blessing was turned into a curse.

Psalm 69 is a Messianic Psalm that is referred to many times in the New Testament. If anyone doubts that Christ is the theme of Psalm 69 just listen to verses 20 and 21 as the Lord Jesus cries out: “Reproach has broken my heart, And I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; And for comforters, but I found none. They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Certainly, anyone who knows anything about the crucifixion and the prophesies of the suffering Christ, would have to admit that these words could be spoken by no one other than “The Lamb of God” This passage was fulfilled literally at the Cross.

The words snare, trap, and stumblingblock are closely related. Their combination serves to enforce the turning of the table to its opposite intent. The table is indicative of the bountiful mercy and blessings given by God to Israel. But Israel has not partaken of the good things of God’s table, because of their refusal to receive Christ as their Savior.


__________________________verse 9 notes_______________________________

[6]Psalm 69:22-23    Let their table become a snare before them, And their well-being a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see; And make their loins shake continually.  In these verses, we hear the dying Savior calling on God to punish the nation, which condemned Him to die. At first this seems surprising when we remember that the Lord Jesus also prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Actually, there is no conflict between the two prayers. Forgiveness was available if they would have repented. However, in the absence of any change of heart, there was nothing left but the judgment described here. It is important to see that these verses apply particularly to the nation of Israel. They predict the judgments, which would come upon the race of people who had rejected their Messiah and brought about His execution. Their eyes would be darkened, so that they would not be able to see. This refers to the judicial blindness, which has actually come on Israel nationally. Because they rejected the Light, they have been denied the Light.

Their loins would shake continually. Since they were dispersed among the nations, they would find no rest for the soles of their feet, but the Lord would give them “a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul” (Deut. 28:65).


10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And bow down their back always.”

Paul is continuing to quote from Psalm 69:22-23 to show that David predicted that this would be the experience of Israel. God is working according to a plan he made from eternity past. Scripture predicted the present condition of Israel. God is not surprised by her state and neither should we be. We should be troubled if it was any other way.

Here we see the suffering Savior as He calls on God to let their eyes be darkened and their bodies bent over as if by hard work or in old age.

The recurring image of the unseeing eyes indicates the principle that the temporary blindness has overtaken all of Israel, with the exception of the believing remnant. Thus, the application is clear. Those who seek their own righteousness and refuse to accept God’s truth will have their backs bent under the weight of guilt and punishment forever, and must bow down their back always to the bondage of sin. But those who seek the righteousness of Christ receive it by grace and are the believing remnant of God.

God gives light so that men might see, but if they are blind, they will not see. The light reveals the blindness of multitudes today. I am amazed that so many intelligent people do not seem to understand what the Bible is all about.



Paul made it clear that the hardening of Israel is neither total nor final, and this makes it clear that God has a future for the nation. Paul tells when the hardening will end in Romans 11:25; “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” Today, there is a remnant of Jewish believers, as there was in Elijah’s day, which proves that God still has a plan for His people. Paul did not repeat Elijah’s mistake and say, “I am the only one left!” He knew there was a remnant in the world that trusted God.


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