Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles,
so as to make Israel jealous.
Verse 11 marks a transition in two important respects. First, whereas Paul previously focused on Israel’s believing remnant or the disobedient majority, he now speaks of Israel as a corporate body. Second, Paul shifts from Israel’s present to the future, as his answer to his question makes clear. “By no means!” is Israel’s misstep final. There is more to come in God’s plan for God’s people.Israel has not fallen to oblivion
If Israel would never recover from her stumble over the stumbling stone (see 9:32–33), the Jewish people would have tripped to their downfall. And a permanent fall would call into question God’s character, because the tiny remnant of Jews who have received Christ would be insufficient proof that God remains faithful to his covenant.
But God caught his stumbling people on the way down, sparing the apple of his eye from destruction. The Lord continues to guide Israel “like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions” (Deuteronomy 32:11).
And God remains faithful to his covenant. Israel can still count on God’s promise through Isaiah: “even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4).A providential trespass
The line of argument Paul began in chapter 9 has led to a remarkable conclusion. The sovereign God who has mercy on whomever he wills and hardens whomever he wills has been using Israel’s rejection of Christ to save Gentiles (see Acts 13:46–49). And the final beneficiaries of this unfolding process will be the Jews themselves, as Douglas Moo eloquently explains:
The jealousy of grace versus the jealousy that hates
At the end of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness Moses composed a song. It instructed the new generation on the history of God’s dealings with his people and foretold either blessing or judgment depending on the people’s future faithfulness. The Lord, knowing Israel would not remain faithful, spoke through Moses, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21).
Paul quoted that passage in 10:19, and now he elaborates its application. Jealousy can be expressed in good or bad ways. Biblical jealousy is closely related to zeal. Here, though, Paul speaks of imitative jealousy. Seeing Gentiles rejoice in the blessings of grace should provoke the Jews “to become zealous for the righteousness that comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ” (Chuck Swindoll).
Imitative jealousy is distinct from protective jealousy, also a biblical concept. God is jealous for the loyalty of his covenant people (Exodus 20:5), lest they fall for idolatry, licentiousness, and other forms of spiritual adultery. Paul feels “divine jealousy” for the purity of believers he has betrothed to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2).
On the negative side is the jealousy of envy, division, and hate. Cain killed Abel, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, Haman sought to destroy the Jews. Divisive jealousy is a deed of the flesh (Galatians 5:15) and threatens the unity of churches (James 3:16) and nations. More than any other people, Israel has been the target of this hateful jealousy, as a red line of Jewish blood running through three millennia of human history bears tragic witness. On the other hand, Paul’s scars bore witness that the Jews themselves have been guilty of this same hatred.
Like Jacob’s descendants, those of Ishmael and Esau have had their share of trouble, and much of it has been self-inflicted. A sense of inferiority and victimization fuels a need to blame others and to restore honor by inflicting harm on the perceived enemy. Even if the resulting violence brings greater destruction on oneself, at least there is the self-satisfaction of revenge.
Israel’s enemies satisfy their jealous rage in the shedding of Jewish blood, whereas God woos Israel to his mercy by having shed his own blood for them. Gentiles respond to that mercy in droves. Will the jealousy of grace provoke Jews to do the same? We will find an answer later in this chapter.