But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (Rom. 10:19, 20).
Like the verse that precedes it, v. 10:19 begins with a question that has a “yes, but…” answer. For, as in the preceding verse where the apostle asks, “Have they not heard?” and in the context we must answer, “Yes, they have heard, but they have not heard,” so in v. 19, we must say, “Yes they have known, but they have not known.” The ESV picks up on this notion of knowing and yet not knowing in v. 19 where it interprets what is literally “know” in “But I ask, did Israel not know? as “Did Israel not understand?” for it is clear in the context that Israel knew on the one hand but did not know on the other.
The question is, however, “What did they know that they did not know?” In other words, “What is it that they cognitively knew but did not rightly understand?” In the context, one option is that the apostle is speaking of the Gospel itself. Just as Israel heard the Gospel but did not hear it, so also they could be said to have known the Gospel and not have known it. This would parallel what the apostle writes in the next chapter:
As it is written, “God gave [Israel] a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day” (Rom. 11:8).
Also, it is possible that the apostle is speaking about Israel’s not knowing the scope of the Gospel of God’s Righteousness, for in v. 19, the apostle, when speaking about Israel’s hearing, does not speak about their hearing from the law or the prophets, as one might would expect, but he quotes Ps. 19 which speaks about the general revelation of God about himself to all men, for he writes, “Their voice has gone out to all the world, and their words to the ends of the world.” And in v. 19, the apostle writes concerning Israel’s lack of understanding, quoting Moses, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” In the same vein, he quotes Isaiah, writing “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (v. 10:20). Therefore, as it is clear earlier in the chapter, viz. vv. 10:5-17, Paul has a special emphasis on the Nations when speaking about Israel’s disbelief.
So then, what is it that Israel knows and yet does not know–is it the Gospel itself or is it the scope or missional nature of the Gospel? I think in the context that it is both, that is, that Israel has known but has not known the Gospel itself and that Israel has known but has not known that the Gospel was intended from the beginning to be for the Nations. I believe that this is the intent of the apostle here, and that it is also his continued intent in Romans 11, most obviously in v. 11:17-24, where he speaks of Israel being broken off the Root and the Gentiles being grafted in. For in God’s mysterious Providence, it was necessary in order for the Gospel to come in power to the Nations that physical Israel be hardened to the Gospel and to its scope.
Next: Final Thoughts on Romans 10
Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study