12 Now if the fall of them [be] the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
1901 ASV Translation:
12 Now if their fall, is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
I. The Impact of Israel's Hardness.
A. Their "fall" has resulted in the "riches" of the world.
B. Their "loss" has resulted in the "riches" of the nations.
C. At issue are the words "fall/loss" and "world/Gentiles" and "riches".
1. Clearly Paul is addressing the "same" thing by repetition.
2. Just as clearly the issues are a bit more involved than simple "sameness".
3. The difference between "fall" and "loss" is the difference between an action and its root. As we noted in our prior study, "fall" is the wrong word to communicate the issue in Paul's mind. The translators of the Authorized Version used the word "fall" to attempt to carry Paul's meaning in his question, "Have they stumbled that they should fall?" Given Paul's adamant denial, they should have found a better word than "fall" in their translation, "... through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles". In the attempt to get to Paul's meaning, if we are going to use the word "fall" to communicate the meaning of his question, we cannot say afterwards that Israel "fell". The fact is, Israel sinned grievously (this is Paul's meaning for "stumbled"), but that did not turn God away from His promises to Israel (this is Paul's meaning for "fall"). He fully intends to fulfill His words through the prophets regarding the salvation of all Israel (Romans 11:26). That many of Jacob's offspring will eternally perish because of their egregious rebellion does nothing to annul these words. God's "Plan" involves the coming and going of many cycles of time, of many "threads" of the "Plan", of many successive generations of Israelites, and of a continued separation of the two "Israels" involved in Paul's use of the name (Israel as the offspring of Jacob/Israel and Israel as the offspring of Promise: Romans 9:6-13). Thus, the egregious rebellion (stumbling) did not cause God to forsake His Plan for them so that they "fell from His grace". Rather, their egregious rebellion (the true meaning of the word falsely translated "fall" in the AV's translation "...through their fall...") resulted in God's initiation of another "thread" in the Master Plan: the salvation of the nations as a way to "provoke" the elect within national Israel to turn to Him. Thus, when Paul raised the issue of the consequence of the egregious rebellion and called it "the riches of the world", he was merely identifying this new "thread" in the hitherto unrevealed elements of the "Plan". However, the egregious rebellion does have significance along another track. Thus Paul inserts the issue of the "loss", or "diminishing" of the egregious sinners. The word so translated is not found but twice in the New Testament and neither context gives us a solid sense of the word (Romans 11:12 and 1 Corinthians 6:7). The general consensus from the various word studies (Trench, et. al.) is that the word signals a demotion from a place of special privilege. Thus, though the egregious rebellion did not cause God to turn from His plans for Israel, it did cause Him to turn His attention elsewhere for objects of special privilege. The nations became the center of the focus of God's beneficent favor and Israel became a part of the fuzzy edges of that focus; not totally abandoned, but no longer, at this time, the object at the center of God's focus. Thus, both "fall" and "loss" are involved as cause (root) and effect (action).
4. The difference between "world" and "Gentiles" is the difference between the whole and its parts. The "world" is the structured system containing many parts; the "Gentiles" are a large block of those many parts. God let men know early that He was interested in the "world" as the locus of His Kingdom Plan. He only let them know much later that He was interested in the "Gentiles" as blessed players in that Plan. In a very real sense, God's turn from the nations (Gentiles) at the tower of Babel resulted in salvation for Israel. Then, much later, we find that God's turn from Israel at the point of Israel's rejection of His Christ resulted in salvation for the nations. What goes around comes around.
5. The links between "egregious rebellion resulting in riches for the "world" and God's "shift of focus from Israel" resulting in riches for the "nations" are these: Israel's egregious rebellion created the same kind of "shift in God's attention" as that which occurred at Babel so that "riches" returned to the "world"; and Israel's loss of divine focus created a return to the pre-Babel focus of riches for the nations.
a. The issue of "riches" in divine revelation, when presented from the divine point of view, is the issue of a high level of participation in things of the spirit and soul. Material wealth is presented, on one hand, as the anti-God and, on the other hand, as a medium for generating a different kind of wealth. God is not opposed to material wealth or those who possess it if those who possess it share His perspective on it. But, given the fact that few, if any, "wealthy" people share His perspective on it, most of what He has to say about material wealth and those who possess it is negative.
b. The essence of "riches" is disclosed by a perusal of the New Testament texts which address it.
1) In all four of the Gospels, the word translated "riches" is only used in one context: the parable of the soils and the "problem" of the "deceitfulness of riches".
2) In Romans, Paul uses the term in respect to "the riches of God's kindness" (2:4), the "riches of God's glory" (9:23), "salvation" in our current text (11:11-12), and "the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God" (11:33).
3) Hebrews 11:26 contrasts "the riches of the reproach of Christ" and the "treasures of Egypt."
4) It is indisputable that, from God's perspective, they are "rich" who both understand and live by the principles of God's essential character Who always uses His "wealth" for the purpose of communicating His Life to others. Revelation 3:17 and 2:9highlight the contrast between God's perspective and man's perspective.
5) The bottom line in the divine definition of "riches" is the presence of the Fruit of the Spirit. Who can even approach a denial of this? There are none who do not know the fact that "contentment" is the essence of "wealth". But there are few who have not been seduced by the deceitfulness of the lie that contentment comes from an abundance of material possessions.
II. The Anticipated Impact of Israel's Salvation.
A. Is unstated. Paul simply raises the possibilities and magnifies them.
B. Is raised for the readers to ponder. If God uses egregious rebellion and the demotion from His focus of attention to generate such an enormous good as "salvation" for others, what might His return to His promised focus at a later time mean? When, finally, all of the "threads" of the Master Plan have come together, what enormous blessing might this produce?