“If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

“If by any means”
Literally: “If somehow.”–If even by stating unpleasant truths; if by  bringing out all the counsel of God, even that which threatens their destruction, I may get their attention, and save them.

“I may provoke to emulation
Literally: “I may provoke to jealousy”—I may awaken them up to zeal, or to an earnest desire to obtain the like blessings. This was in accordance with the prediction of Moses, that the   calling in of the Gentiles would excite their attention, and provoke them to deep feeling.

Paul here means provoke to jealousy in such a way that they shall be stirred up to seek the blessings which they see taken from them on account of the unbelief, and given to the Gentiles through their faith.  He expected to do this by calling their attention to the ancient prophecies; by alarming their fears about their own danger; and by showing them the great privileges which Gentiles might enjoy under the Gospel; thus appealing to them by every principle of benevolence, by all their regard for God and man, to excite them to seek the same blessings.

            PROVOKE TO JEALOUSY:   (Grk.–parazêlōsō)as in v. 11; and 10:19, where the original Greek uses the same wording. This is all one word in the original Greek text. Paul means, provoke them to jealousy in such a way that they shall be stirred up to seek the blessings which they see taken from them on account of the unbelief, and given to the Gentiles through their faith.

“them which are my flesh”
Literally: “Of my flesh.”  My countrymen, my kinsmen. Those belonging to the same family or nation (9:3; Gen. 29:14; Judges 9:2; II Sam. 5:1; Isa. 58:7).

“might save some of them”
Literally:  “May save some of them.”  This desire Paul often expressed. The phrase implies   hat he looked for conversions only one-by-one, through his own ministry.

He may even refer to the contrast of results hereafter, when the crisis predicted in v. 25  should come. Or again, he may mean that to save even some, in any event, was worth any effort. (See 9:2; 10:1-2.) We may see here.
1.        That it is the earnest wish of the ministry to save the souls of men.
2.        That they should urge every argument and appeal with reference to this
3.        That even the most awful and humbling truths may have this tendency.|
No truth could be more likely to irritate and offend than that the Jews would be cast off;  and yet Paul expected and desired that it might be the means of saving the souls of his countrymen.

4.      It is right to use all the means in our power, that is, all that is not wicked, to save men. Paul was full of devices; and much of the success of the ministry will depend on a wise use of plans that may, by the Lord’s blessing, capture and save the souls of men.

And yet all these were among the rejected; however, Paul supposed that none of them were irrecoverably shut out from the God’s grace; and that some of them, by his preaching, might receive salvation from Christ Jesus.  It is instructive to see that Paul never allows the promise of a glorious future to divert him from practical efforts in the present.

“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?”
This verse really parallels v. 12.

“If the casting away of them”|
Literally:  “For if their casting away.”–The same as their diminishing (v. 12).  If their rejection as the peculiar people of
God–their exclusion from their national privileges, on account of their unbelief. It is the same as “the fall of them,” (v. 12).
In verse 1 Paul had denied that they were cast away but  here he affirms it.  But both are true; they were cast away, though neither totally nor finally, and it is of this partial and temporary rejection that Paul here speaks.

           CASTING AWAY:  (Grk.–apobolê)–From apoballô, meaning “to throw off” (cf.  Mark 10:50), in N.T. In contrast with receiving.   Used only here and in Acts 27:22.|

“be the reconciling of the world”|
Literally: “Reconciliation of {the} world.”  The occasion of the reconciliation of the
Gentiles to God.  The unbelief of Israel caused the preaching of the Gospel of Reconciliation to the Gentiles.

         RECONCILING:  (Grk.–katallage)– This denotes, commonly, a pacification of contending parties; a removing the occasion of difference, so as again to be united. (I Cor.     7:11), “Let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband.”

         This is commonly applied to the reconciliation, or pacification, produced between man and God by the Gospel. They are brought to union, to friendship, to peace, by the intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ, (5:10; II Cor. 5:18-19), “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.”  Hence the ministry is called the “ministry of reconciliation,” (II Cor. 5:18).  And this word is used to express the atonement. 5:11, “By whom we have now received the atonement,” (the reconciliation).  In this place it means, that many of the Gentiles (the world) had become reconciled to God as the result of the casting away of the Jews. By their unbelief, the way had been opened to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles; it was the occasion by which God sent it to the nations of the earth (comp. Acts 13:46).
gospel could not be preached to the Gentiles until it had first been offered to and rejected by the Jews. Hence the casting away of the Jews might be said to have caused the reconciling of the rest of the world.

“what shall the receiving of them be”
Literally:  “What the reception.”–One would have supposed that their rejection of the Messiah would have been an important obstacle in the way of the Gospel.   It was overruled, however, to promote its increase. Their return will have a direct tendency to spread it.

              RECEIVING:  (Grk.–proslêmpsis)–Better rendered as, “reception.” From proslambanô, which means, “to take to         oneself.”  This word is used only here in N.T.

“but life from the dead”
Literally: “If not life from {the} dead?”The resurrection of the world in a spiritual sense.  The exact meaning of this cannot be determined.  Some expositors refer it to the resurrection to follow the conversion of Israel including the new life which the resurrection will produce,  while others contend that it refers to a new spiritual life.

            The reception of the whole family of Israel, scattered as they are among all nations under heaven, and the most inveterate enemies of the Lord Jesus, will be such a demonstration of the power of God upon the spirits of men.  This will not only kindle devout astonishment far and wide, but so change the dominant mode of thinking and feeling on all spiritual things as to seem like a resurrection from the dead.
            It will come to pass that when the Jews come to the Gospel, the world will as it were come to life again, and rise up from dead to life. The restoration of the Jews to a state of favor with God to which Paul refers, will be a most striking event. Their being preserved as a distinct people is certainly a strong collateral proof that they shall once more be brought into the favor of God: and their conversion to Christianity will be an incontestable proof of the truth of Divine revelation; and doubtless will become the means of converting multitudes of deists, who will see the prophecies of God, which had been delivered so long before, so strikingly fulfilled in this great event.  We need not wonder if a whole nation should then be born as in a day.

“For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root be holy, so are the branches.”

“if the firstfruit”
Literally:  “But if the firstborn.”–The Jews were required to present such a portion of their harvest to God, as an expression of gratitude, and of their sense of dependence (Num. 15:19-21). Until this was done, it was not lawful to partake of the harvest.

            FIRST-FRUIT: (Grk.–aparchê)—This denotes the firstling of fruit or grain which was separated from the mass, and presented as an offering to God.  Apparently the patriarchs are the first fruit.

          The offering of this was regarded as rendering the entire mass holy, i.e., it was lawful then to partake of it. The firstfruits were regarded as among the best portions of the harvest; and it was their duty to devote to God that which would be the best expression of their thanksgiving. This was the general practice in relation to all that the land produced.\
           In Paul’s use of this term he usually signifies an initial work of
God that is a pledge of more to come (see 8:23; 16:5; I Cor. 15:20, 23; 16:15).  The second half of this verse makes a similar state-ment by maintaining that if the root is consecrated, so also are the branches.  This imagery of the root and branches becomes the basis for Paul’s discussion in verses 17-24.

              FOR:  (Grk.–de)—This would have been better rendered as, “but” or “now.  This begins a new paragraph or thought to Paul.  This word denotes transition to a new fact in connection with the “receiving” of Israel; the fact of the peculiar position of Jews with regard to the Divine Promise.

             BE HOLY:  (Grk.–hagia)—{Is} holy.  Set apart, or consecrated to God, as He commanded. As the consecrating the first fruits to God was the means of drawing down His blessing upon the rest, so the conversion of Abraham to the true faith, and the several Jews who have now embraced Christianity, are pledges that God will, in process of time, admit the whole Jewish nation into His favor again.

“the lump is also holy”|Literally:  “Also the lump.”–Some explain the first fruits by Abraham and the patriarchs. It probably refers, rather, to the Jewish Christians, “the election by grace” (v. 5).

            If a portion of the nation has been saved, it is an assurance that the whole nation can be saved.  The Israelites were required to offer to God the first-fruits of the earth–both in their raw state, (in a newly reaped sheaf of grain–Lev. 23:10,11), and in their prepared state, made into cakes of dough (Num. 15:19-21)–by which the whole produce of that season was regarded as hallowed.
            It is probable that the latter of these offerings is here intended here, for to it the word “lump” best applies; and the argument of Paul’s is that as the separation of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, unto God from the rest of mankind, as the parent stem of their race, was as real an offering of first-fruits as that which hallowed the produce of the earth, so, in the divine estimation, it was as real a separation of the mass or "lump" of that nation in all time to God. The figure of the “root” and its “branches” is of like importance–the consecration of the one of them extending to the other.

              THE LUMP: (Grk.–phurama)—The expression here, however, has reference to the small portion of dough or kneaded meal that was offered toGod; and then the mass, or lump, was left for the use of the one who made the offering (Num. 15:20).

“is also holy:”–It is lawful then for the owner to partake of it. The offering of a part has consecrated the whole.  If a portion of the nation has been saved, it is an assurance that the whole nation can be saved.

By this illustration Paul doubtless means to say that the Jewish nation, as a people, were set apart to the service of God, and were so regarded by Him. Paul is probably referring to the patriarchs, the faithful men of old, as the firstfruits of the Jewish nation (v. 28). By their faithfulness the nation was sanctified, in a manner, or set apart to the service of God; implying that yet tile great mass of them would be reclaimed and saved. 

“if the root be holy”
Literally:  “If the root {is} holy.”  The word “holy” in this verse is to be taken in that sense which it has so frequently in the O.T and N.T., that is,  consecrated, set apart to sacred uses.

It must not be forgotten that the first converts to Christ were from among the Jews.   These formed the root of the Christian Church: these were holy; literally:  “holy ones,” consecrated to God, and those who among the Gentiles were converted by their means were also holy, consecrated.

           ROOT:  (Grk.–riza)–Literally meaning, “root, descendant, sources, cause.” The root of a tree is the source of nutritious juices necessary for its growth, and gives its character to the tree. If that be sound, pure, vigorous, we expect the same of the branches. A root bears a similar relation to the tree that the firstfruit does to the mass of bread.

           This is a reference is to the ancestors of the Jewish people, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and, as these were devoted to God and received into His covenant all their posterity; and therefore, the branches which proceeded from this root, became entitled to the same privileges: and as the root still remains, and the branches also remain, the descendants from that root still remain.  They still have a certain title to the blessings of the original covenant; though, because of their obstinate unbelief, these blessings are suspended, as they cannot, even on the ground of the old covenant, enjoy these blessings but through faith.
           It was when Abraham believed God that it was accounted to him for righteousness; and thus he became an heir of the righteousness which is by faith.  It must not be forgotten that the first converts to Christ were from among the Jews; these formed the root of the Christian Church. These were holy, (Grk.–hagoi), “holy ones,” consecrated to God, and those who among the Gentiles were converted by their means were also hagoi, that is, consecrated. 

UNDERSTAND:  When James wrote his epistle, it was only about three years after Jesus had ascended to heaven and the church was then a totally Jewish church.  As of his time no Gentiles had as of yet been brought into the church.  James wrote years before Cornelius had met with Peter (Acts 10).

Perhaps there is allusion here to Jer. 11:16, where the Jewish nation is represented under the image of “a green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit.”  In this place the reference is doubtless to Abraham and the patriarchs, as the root or founders of the Jewish nation.  If they were holy, it is to be expected that the distant branches, or descendants, would also be so regarded. The mention of the root and branches of a tree gives Paul room for an illustration of the relation at that time of the Jews and Gentiles to the Church of Christ.

“so {are} the branches” 
Literally:  “Also the branches.”  As the branches follow the nature of the root, so do the Jews follow the condition of Abraham, and the holy patriarchs, with respect to the outward privileges of the covenant.  The figure of the “root” and its “branches” is of like importance–the consecration of the one of them extending to the other.

Was the root holy?  Then so are the branches holy; not inherently, but federally holy, being called, consecrated, and separated from the world unto the service of God.  If then Almighty God, by entering into covenant with Abraham, hallowed to Himself all his posterity, even as the first-fruits hallowed the whole lump; in like manner will God in His own good time be so mindful of the Jews, the posterity of Abraham, as to bring them again nigh unto Himself in remembrance of His holy covenant; so that they shall be His people, and He will be their God        

“And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, were graffed in amongst them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of of the olive tree”

“if some of the branches be broken off”
“But if some of he branches were broken off.”  The illustration here is taken from the practice of those who graft trees. The useless branches, or those which bear poor fruit, are cut           off, and a better kind inserted. “If some of the natural descendants of Abraham, the holy root, are cast off because they are unfruitful, that is, because of unbelief and sin.”

                        SOME:  (Grk.–tines)-A portion of the branches; comp. with 3:3.

                        BRANCHES:  (Grk.–kladōs)–From (klaō), meaning, “to break.”

           BRANCHES BROKEN OFF:  (Grk.–kladōn ekeklasthêsan)– The reference of tine is specially to the crisis of the rejection of Messiah by Israel. 

            Here we see Paul making another of his “play-on-words” in the Greek text. The derivation of kladōn (branches) from (Grk.–klaō), “to break.” is shown in this word-play that Paul makes between the noun (kladōn and the verb, (ekeklasthêsan). 
             If the present nation of the Jews, because of their unbelief, are cut off from the blessings of God , and the high honor and dignity of being His peculiar people; and you, being a wild olive–Gentiles, being without the knowledge of the true God , and consequently bringing forth no fruits of righteousness, were grafted in among them–are now inserted in the original stock, having been made partakers of the faith of Abraham, and consequently of his blessings; and enjoy, as the people did who sprang from him, the fatness of the olive tree, i.e., the promises made to the patriarchs, and the spiritual privileges of the Jews.
             To understand verses 17-24 we must have a clear idea of what is meant by the olive tree. That it means the chosen family of Abraham, not his children merely of the flesh, but his believing children, the heirs of the promise, is clear. The Jewish nation inherited the temporal promises as Abraham's children; we become heirs of the promise when we become his children by faith. (see Gal. 3:28-29). The Jews, the natural branches of this olive tree, “were broken off” by unbelief. The root is Abraham.

“and thou, being a wild olive tree
Literally:  “And you, being a wild olive tree”– From this passage it would seem that the olive tree was sometimes cultivated, and that cultivation was necessary in order to render it fruitful.      

The purpose and scope of Paul is to exhort the believing Gentiles not to despise and reproach the rejected and unbelieving Jews; and he draws an argument from the condition of the Gentiles, both past and present:  In their past condition they were like a wild olive-tree, we understand to visible church of God ; by the root he means Abraham, he was the root of the olive-tree, the Jewish nation.

THOU: (Grk.–ou)–The word “thou” (or "you") here is used to denote the Gentiles, whom Paul was then particularly addressing.

When the Jews, the natural branches, were broken off but wild olive by their unbelief, the Gentile Christians, not natural branches, not of the seed of Abraham,  “were grafted in”; that is, were adopted into God's family, and became Abraham’s children.

            WILD OLIVE-TREE: (Grk.–agrielaios)—one that is uncultivated and bears no valuable fruit; representing the Gentiles From this passage it would seem that the olive tree was sometimes cultivated, and that cultivation was necessary in order to render it fruitful. The wild olive was unfruitful, or its fruit very imperfect and useless.  This was used, therefore, as the emblem of unfruitfulness and barrenness, while the cultivated olive produced much fruit.

The meaning here is, that the Gentiles had been like the wild olive, unfruitful in holiness; that they had been uncultivated by the institutions of the true religion, and consequently had grown up in the wildness and sin of nature. The Jews had been like a cultivated olive, long under the training and blessing of GodIn thus addressing the Gentile in the second person singular, Paul now brings his warning home to any individual Gentile Christian who might be inclined to boast; though regarding him still as representing Gentile believers generally. They are compared to slips of the wild olive tree which was unproductive, acquiring richness and fertility by being grafted into the cultivated tree.

“were graffed in amongst them”–The process of grafting consists in inserting a young shoot into another tree. To do this, a useless limb is removed; and the grafted in limb produces fruit according to its new nature or kind, and not according to the tree in which it is inserted.  In this  way a tree which bears no fruit, or whose branches are decaying, may be recovered, and become valuable.

The ancient root or stock, that of Abraham, etc., was good. The branches-the Jews in the time of Paul–had become decayed and unfruitful, and broken off. The Gentiles had been grafted into this stock, and had restored the decayed rigor of the ancient people of God; and a fruitless church had become vigorous and flourishing. But Paul soon proceeds to keep the Gentiles from exaltation on account of this.

            AMONG THEM: (Grk.–en autois)–Literally:  “in them.”  This may grammatically be equally well understood as “among them.”  Among the branches, so as to partake with them of the juices of the root. Though it is more usual to graft the superior cutting upon the inferior stem, the opposite method, which is intended here, is not without example.

“partakest of the root and fatness of of the olive tree”
 Literally: “Became a partaker of the root and the fatness of the olive tree.”  With Jewish Christians, these Gentile Christians became partakers of all the blessings belonging to Abraham's seed.

Now though the Gentiles through rich grace, were instated in the privileges of the Jews, but Paul foresaw that instead of thankfulness to God for the favors received from Him, they would be puffed up with pride, and accordingly he advises them not to be high-minded, as if he had said, O ye Gentiles, your state is nigh, let your hearts be humble. The Jews are fallen; and unless you walk in holy fear, you cannot stand: unbelief ruined them, take heed that pride doth not ruin you; for the just and holy God is no respector of persons. He that spared not the natural branches, will no more spare thee.”

“partaker of the root”–The grafted in  limb would derive nourishment from the root as much as though it were a natural branch of the tree.

The Gentiles derived now the benefit of Abraham's faith and holy labors, and of the promises made to him and to his seed. With Jewish Christians, these Gentile Christians became partakers of all the blessings belonging to Abraham's seed.

“fatness of of the olive tree”–The word fatness here means fertility, fruitfulness–the rich juices of the olive producing fruit (see Judges 9:9). We are to understand all outward privileges and ordinances, all spiritual benefits and blessings, which belong to the Jews.  The rich grace secured by covenant to the true seed of Abraham.