ROMANS CHAPTER 9:
ISRAEL, GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE
It was through the Old Covenant people of Israel that the promised seed of the Messiah was preserved. You trained them in holiness and when the time was ready for the mission of the Messiah it was a faithful remnant of Israel who not only recognized and followed Him but after His Ascension, faithfully carried out His command to spread the Gospel message of salvation to the entire earth, beginning the harvest of souls into the gates of heaven. It was through the Old Covenant faithful that the Universal Church of the New Covenant in Christ—the new kingdom of Israel—was established and the Gentile nations were admitted into fellowship with the One True God. We are thankful for our Old Covenant fathers who set the foundation upon which the Universal Catholic Church has been built and we look to the time when the whole covenant family is united in singing the Song of Victory of the Lamb. Send Your Holy Spirit, Lord, as we study St. Paul's message of hope for the promised ingathering of all of Israel into one Covenant people in Christ. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen to Christ "the trustworthy King!"
[Note: the Hebrew word "amen" is an acrostic formed from the Hebrew words El Meleck Ne'eman ="God is a trustworthy king", see Talmud, Shabbat 1196, The Jewish Book of Why, page 152, and Revelation 3:14].
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The Vatican, March 15th , 2006: Pope Benedict XVI's Wednesday homily: "By choosing the twelve, introducing them into a communion of life with him and making them sharers in the same mission of announcing the Kingdom with words and deeds (cf. Mark 6:7-13; Matthew 10:5-8; Luke 9:1-6; 6:13), Jesus wants to say that the definitive time has arrived; the time for rebuilding God's people, the people of the 12 tribes, which is now converted into a universal people, his Church. By their mere existence, the twelve – called from different backgrounds – have become a summons to all Israel to conversion and to allow themselves to be reunited in a new covenant, full and perfect accomplishment of the old. By entrusting to them the task of celebrating his memorial in the supper, before his passion, Jesus shows that he wanted to transfer to the entire community, in the person of its heads, the commandment of being a sign and instrument of the eschatological assembly begun by him."
regards those who are God's choice, they are still well loved for the sake of
their ancestors. There is no change of mind on God's part about the gifts he
has made or his choice."
In Romans 1:16 Paul acknowledged that the Gospel of salvation was intended for the Jew first: "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God for the Jew first, and then the Greek" and Jesus instructed the woman of Samaria in His encounter with her at the well of Sychar, "for salvation comes from the Jews" (John 4:22c). But this preeminence of the Jew in God's plan of salvation has now become the problem. In chapter 3 Paul asked the question: If Israel is the chosen people of God and the ones meant to receive the gift of salvation (see John 4:22), then how can it be that many have refused that path to salvation? In the first century AD only a faithful remnant of Israel has embraced the New Covenant of the Messiah Jesus and His Gospel of salvation. What is the meaning of this rejection and what is its significance in the historical election of Israel as the first among many nations and the irrevocable promises made by Yahweh to His chosen people, made to them at Sinai and to their forefathers the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
In Romans chapter 4 Paul had referred to those promises but only as they were related to Abraham's justification by faith as contrasted with works of the old law. Now Paul returns to the foundational promises made to Abraham and applies those promises to the question of Israel's rejection of the Messiah and the "in gathering" of the Gentile nations of the earth into the New Covenant of salvation in Christ Jesus. In Romans chapters 9-11 St. Paul expresses a heart wrenching yearning for the restoration of a fractured family and develops the short answer he gave to his own question in chapter 3 into a longer discourse, assuring his Jewish Christian audience that no matter how much human beings are unfaithful to the covenant, this unfaithfulness cannot abrogate God's covenant promises; indeed the way human beings behave only makes God's righteous promises more remarkable. God's faithfulness; however, does not protect the sinner from God's righteous judgment [Romans 3:6], or absolve his sin [Romans 3:8]. Now Paul addresses this question of Israel's part in the history of salvation and the future of those Jews who cling to the Sinai Covenant and who have rejected the New Covenant in Christ. He will rely heavily on Old Testament Scripture in this chapter. In fact, Paul who quotes Old Testament Scripture in all of his 14 letters, quotes over half of his Old Testament passages in his letter to the Romans and the majority of those Old Testament passages are in these 3 chapters of Romans 9-11! Paul lists 12 Old Testament quotations the 3-part division of this portion of his address on the role of Israel in Salvation History, a division in our modern translations that becomes the 3 chapters of Romans 9-11.
|Romans 9||Romans 10||Romans 11|
|1. Genesis 21:12||1. Leviticus 18:5||1. Psalm 44:9|
|2. Genesis 18:10||2. Deuteronomy 9:4, 30||2. Jeremiah 31:37|
|3. Genesis 25:23||3. Deuteronomy 30:14||3. 1 Kings 19:10, 14|
|4. Malachi 1:2||4. Sirach 21:26||4. 1 Kings 19:18|
|5. Exodus 33:19||5. Isaiah 28:16||5. Deuteronomy 29:3|
|6. Exodus 9:16||6. Joel 3:5||6. Isaiah 29:10|
|7. Isaiah 29:16||7. Isaiah 52:7||7. Psalm 69:22|
|8. Hosea 2:25||8. Isaiah 53:1||8. Proverbs 3:7|
|9. Hosea 1:10/2:1-2*||9. Psalm 19:4||9. Isaiah 59:20-21|
|10. Isaiah 10:22-23||10. Deuteronomy 32:21||10. Isaiah 27:9|
|11. Isaiah 1:9||11. Isaiah 65:11||11. Psalm 139:6, 17|
|12. Isaiah 8:14 + 28:16||12. Isaiah 65:2||12. Isaiah 40:13, 28|
It is obviously Paul's plan to use the significant number 12 in the Old Testament quotations, which in Scripture represents the number of perfection of government and is the number for Israel in covenant with Yahweh [see the document The Significance of Numbers in Scripture in the Documents section of Agape Bible Study]. *The Hosea citation reference may vary according to what translation is being used. All Old Testament quotes Paul uses are from the Greek Septuagint [a translation from the original Hebrew texts first made circa 250 BC: see the document: The Septuagint Old Testament Translation vs. the Jamnian and Masoretic Translations of the Old Testament.
Since the number 12 is significant in its connection to Israel in covenant with God, Paul does not ignore this connection but names "Israel" 12 times in his 3 part presentation: Paul refers to "Israel" 12 times and Israelites twice [9:4; 11:1] in Romans chapters 9-11:
[Interlinear Greek translation: references to Israel: Romans 9:6 (2 times); 9:27 (2 times); 9:31; Romans 10:1; 10:19; 10:21; Romans 11:2; 11:7; 11:25; 11:26.
|Romans 9||Romans 10||Romans 11|
|1. 9:6 "not all those of Israel"||6. 10:1 "Brothers...and the request to God on behalf of Israel is for to be saved."||9. 11:2 "how he pleads with God against Israel.."|
|2. 9:6 "these (are) Israel"||7. 10:19 "did not Israel know"||10. 11:7 "What then? What seeks for Israel"|
|3. 9:27 "but cries on behalf of Israel"||8. 10:21 "but to Israel He says"||11. 11:25 "that hardness from part to Israel has happened"|
|4. 9:27 "numbers of the sons of Israel"||12: 11:26 "and so all Israel will be saved"|
|5. 9:31 "Israel but followed after Law"|
With the two references to "Israelites" added to the references to "Israel" there are a total of 14 references, double perfection and fullness [7 being the number of perfection and fullness, especially spiritual perfection].
Please read Romans 9:1-5: The Divine Prerogatives of Israel
Note: All Old Testament quotations will be in bold type in the next 3 chapters.
"1 This is the truth and I am speaking in Christ, without pretense, as my conscience testifies for me in the Holy Spirit; 2 there is great sorrow and unremitting agony in my heart: 3 I could pray that I myself might be accursed and cut off from Christ, if this could benefit the brothers who are my own flesh and blood, 4 They are Israelites; it was they who were adopted as children, the glory was theirs and the covenants; to them were given the Law and the worship of God and the promises. 5 To them belong the fathers and out of them, so far as physical descent is concerned, came Christ who is above all, God, blessed for ever. Amen
In the first two verses of this passage Paul expresses his heart felt longing for the restoration of all his "brothers" who are the "firstborn" sons of the Old Covenant. There are Jews who have accused Paul of abandoning his people. St. James, Bishop of Jerusalem will advise Paul on this problem when Paul visits Jerusalem in the spring of 58AD after this letter has been written and was being delivered to Rome. St. James tells Paul: "You see, brother, how thousands of Jews have now become believers, all of them staunch upholders of the Law; and what they have heard about you is that you instruct all Jews living among the gentiles to break away from Moses , authorizing them not to circumcise their children or to follow the customary practices" [Acts 21:20-21]. But this is not new information to Paul. Knowing these things are being said about him, Paul now refutes those accusations. In 9:3 Paul states he is willing to offer his own life as a sacrifice if it would bring all his Israelite and Jewish brothers into the New Covenant in Christ.
Compare what Paul writes in Romans 9:1-3 with what he wrote
Question: Is what he writes here a contradiction of his former words?
Answer: No. The chapter 8 passage deals with God's love and faithfulness and this chapter 9 statement testifies to Paul's willing sacrifice of himself for the sake of the salvation of his kinsmen. In fact, the two statements complement one another in that God's faithfulness and love for us moves us to love others with His same intensity, to the point at which we should be willing, as Christ was willing, to suffer anything in order to bring salvation to others in need of God's gift of salvation.
Question: Paul's willingness to sacrifice himself for
his kinsmen ["brothers" = adelphoi] recalls what Old Testament prophet's
unselfish offer to sacrifice himself for the sake of his kinsmen? See Exodus
Answer: After the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses interceded with God on behalf of the Israelites who had embraced the worship of a symbol of Egyptian idolatry and offered to sacrifice not only his life but his own salvation for their sake. Paul's willingness to offer himself in the same way would have recalled Moses' act of unselfish love to Paul's Jewish audience. Paul is telling them that he has the same love and devotion to this generation of his Israelite kinsmen that the great Moses had for his
Note: It is interesting that both these generations, that of Moses and that of Paul, are the only two generations in the Bible that are called "perverse", "accursed" "corrupt" or "wicked" generations: see Acts 2:40; Numbers 14:27 & Deuteronomy 32:20. In Matthew 23:33-36 Jesus says that all the evils of the other generations of Israel will fall upon Paul's generation.
Question: Is Paul's difficult situation with his
kinsmen in anyway similar to the relationship Moses, the greatest of all
prophets before the coming of Christ, had with his people? Hint: see Exodus
14:10-12; 17:3-4; Numbers 14:14, 10; and 16:1-15; 17:6-7.
Answer: There are many similarities. Moses' people did not understand God's plan which had been revealed to Moses and they constantly challenged his authority as Yahweh's covenant representative. Paul is telling his Jewish audience, "just as your ancestors misunderstood Moses, so you now misunderstand me, but like Moses my motives are pure and I am led by the Holy Spirit who gives me the authority to speak to you about matters of faith and salvation."
In his distress over his fellow Jews who have rejected the
Messiah, Paul expresses the desire: "I could pray that I myself might be
accursed and cut off from Christ, if this could benefit the brothers who are my
own flesh and blood." The word "accursed" is literally the Greek word anathema,
which means "accursed" or being placed under a "curse of destruction" [see Leviticus
26:14-43; 27:28; and Deuteronomy 27:15-26; 28:14-69].
Question: What is the curse of the covenant placed upon the people of Israel if they are not faithful as a people to God's holy Covenant obligations? See Isaiah 51:17-22; Jeremiah 25:15; also see the chart "The Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets."
Answer: The curse calls down temporal judgments meant to bring about repentance and redemption, but if the people fail to repent and turn back to God the penalty is to drink "the cup of God's wrath".
Question: Was the penalty ever paid for the Covenant people as a whole? See Matthew 26:39, 42, 44; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42
Answer: Jesus paid this penalty for His kinsmen, and for all generations of mankind, on the Cross.
But Paul does not offer his life as Moses did because he
knows, as Moses discovered, that this is a request God would not fulfill other
than for Moses' sake and perhaps for Paul's sake as well, to extend His mercy
to an undeserving people by giving them 40 years of desert wandering to bring
forth a new generation who has lived under the Law of the Covenant of Sinai.
Question: Does God show this same mercy and forbearance for this generation of Israelites in the New Covenant as He showed for Moses' generation? Is there another significant 40 year period? Hint: If Jesus ascended to the Father in the year 30AD what significant historical event in Salvation History occurred 40 years later? Also see Hebrews 9:8 "as long as the old tent stands, the way into the holy place is not opened up—it is a symbol for this present time"—"tent" or "tabernacle" [depending on your translation] refers to the Temple which replaced the desert Tabernacle while the "holy place" refers to our unlimited access to God.
Answer: The coming of the New Covenant was like the dawn. It first began with the baptism of Jesus when heaven opened and God the Holy Spirit descended over Christ. It continued to open in its fullness during His 3 year ministry and was almost complete upon His Resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But the New Covenant would not be fully in place until the symbol of the Old Covenant, the Temple in Jerusalem was removed. On the 9th of Av [Ab], in 70AD the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, thus ending Old Covenant liturgical worship and animal sacrifice. The Temple was never rebuilt and the Old Covenant came to a final and complete end. Any attempts to rebuild the Temple ended in failure. In the 7th century AD the Moslem invasion of the Holy Land ended any attempts to rebuild the Temple when the Moslem shrine, the Dome of the Rock was placed on the Temple site. So long as this Islamic shrine stands, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem is impossible.
Paul does not offer his life for the hope of salvation for his kinsmen
because he knows there is only one Jew who could take upon Himself such a
sacrifice for the Covenant people as a whole, as Moses and Paul proposed, and
in Paul's case that sacrifice had already been offered and accepted in Jesus
Christ: "Only in him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world
given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved." Acts
Question: But since Israel did not fulfill the promises of the covenant and since Israel, despite the faithful remnant who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, collectively rejected the Messiah, will God reject Israel? See Leviticus 26:44-45.
Answer: NO! According to Leviticus 26:44-45, Yahweh remains faithful to His covenants even when the people violate and reject His covenants.
In this part of his letter St. Paul reminds the Roman
congregation that Yahweh selected the children of Israel from all the nations
of the earth to be His Covenant people.
Question: What does Paul list in his letter that is the record of the 8 divinely instituted prerogatives that uniquely characterize this covenant bond between Yahweh and His chosen people? See Romans 9:4
Answer: Israel's Divinely Instituted Prerogatives as Yahweh's Chosen People
Notice that Paul writes "covenants" in the plural [see Sirach 44:12, 18; Wisdom 18:22; 2Maccabees 8:15] . Pope Benedict XVI [the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger] commenting on the link between the people of Israel and God's covenants wrote in Many Religions, One Covenant: "In chapter 9 of Romans, Paul sings the praises of Israel: among God's gifts to his people are 'the covenants', and according to the Wisdom tradition they are a plurality. [...]. Paul is well aware that, prior to the Christian history of salvation, the word 'covenant' had to be understood and spoken of in the plural; out of these various covenants he selects two particularly, sets them up in mutual opposition, and refers each one to the covenant in Christ: these are the covenant with Abraham and the covenant with Moses." [Many Religions, One Covenant, page 55]. Also see CCC#s 60; 762; 218-19
In the next passage Paul answers the rhetorical question "If the majority of Old Covenant Jews have rejected the Messiah, has God's promises to them failed?"
Please read Romans 9:6-13: Yahweh's Election of Covenant
Children in The Past [bold type indicates Old Testament passages quoted]
"6 It is not that God's promise has failed. Not all born Israelites belong to Israel, 7 and not all the descendants of Abraham count as his children, for 'Isaac is the one through whom your Name will be carried on.' 8 That is, it is not by being children through physical descent that people become children of God; it is the children of the promise that are counted as the heirs. 9 The actual words of the promise were: I shall come back to you at this season, and Sarah will have a son. 10 Even more to the point is what was said to Rebecca when she was pregnant by our ancestor, Isaac, 11 before her children were born, so that neither had yet done anything either good or bad, but in order that it should be God's choice which prevailed 12not human merit, but his call, she was told: the elder one will serve the younger. 13 Or as Scripture says elsewhere: I loved Jacob but hated Esau."
It is significant that, for the first time in this letter,
Paul uses the designation "Israelites" to identify his kinsmen and not the term
"Jews" as he has in Romans 1:16; 2:9, 10, 17, 28, 29; 3:1, 9, and 29. Paul
will use the term "Israel/Israelites" 12 times in Romans 9-11.
Question: Today there is no differentiation between Jew and Israelite but was that true in ancient times? What is significant about Paul's use of the word "Israelites" in this passage? Hint: see Genesis 32:28; 35:10.
Answer: Every Jew is an Israelite but not every Israelite is a Jew. The word "Israel" is derived from Genesis 32:28: "'What is your name?' 'Jacob,' he replied. He said, 'No longer are you to be called Jacob, but Israel since you have shown your strength against God and men and have prevailed.'" I was in this encounter that God changed Jacob's name [Jacob is the grandson of Abraham] to "Israel." This significant name change, which indicated a change of destiny, is again affirmed in Genesis 35:10: "God said to him, 'Your name is Jacob, but from now on you will be called not Jacob but Israel.' Thus he came by the name Israel." Jacob's name change is followed by the promise in Genesis 35:11: "God said to him, 'I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed an assembly of nations, will descend from you, and kings will issue from your loins.'" This passage affirms the same worldwide blessing promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 and 22:18. In Genesis 36:31; 42:5; in 45:21; and 46:8-27 Israel's sons and their descendants come to be identified by his name.
The Jews, however, derive their name from Jacob/Israel's 4th son, Judah, Yehudah in Hebrew. Those who are descendants of Judah are not only Israelites, members of one of the 12 tribes of Israel, and also the nation if Israel, but also members of the tribe of Judah. After the children of Israel take possession of the Promised Land a united Israel is formed from the 12 tribes. Eventually a king is chosen to rule over all 12 tribes. King Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin, and later King David, a Judahite [from the tribe of Judah], will become kings of a United Kingdom of Israel. Under the leadership of King David and his son, Solomon, the nation of Israel will control the greatest amount of territory in the history of the nation of Israel [see Salvation History Study Lessons #15-16]. However, after only 120 years as the United Kingdom, the 10 northern tribes will rebel against Solomon's son Rehoboam, the Judahite king of Israel, and the result of the civil war will be that circa 930BC the 10 tribes withdraw to form the Northern Kingdom of Israel [first ruled by an Ephraimite king] while the tribes of Judah and Benjamin will form the Southern Kingdom of Judah, ruled by Judahite kings who are the descendants of King David [see the Salvation History Study Lesson # 17]. From that time forward, anyone from the Southern Kingdom of Judah will be known as a Judahite, or a "Jew". This is why Paul, a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin, identified himself as an Israelite and as a Jew [Acts 21:39; 22:3; and Philippians 3:5].
What is significant about the use of the word "Israelites" instead of "Jews" is that Paul is going to base his argument on God's faithfulness to the fulfillment of the covenant promises to all of Israel not just to those descendants of Judah or the remnant of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin who returned from the Babylonian exile.
Question: When did the nation of Israel cease to exist?
Answer: The Northern Kingdom, which continued to carry the name "Israel," was not ruled by a descendant of David but would be ruled by 9 succeeding families. The rulers and the people fell away from the worship of Yahweh as the One True God. In 722BC God brought judgment in the form of the fierce and merciless Assyrians who conquered the Northern Kingdom, took the people into exile, and imported 5 other tribes of people to repopulate the area which will from then on will be known as Samaria [name of the capital city of the Northern Kingdom; see 2 Kings 17:5-6, 24-34]. There is no record in Scripture of a return of the 10 tribes. Apparently only a faithful remnant returned to the Galilee. It was from among this faithful remnant of Israel that Jesus called His disciples [see John 1:47] and established His headquarters [Matthew 4:12-17; Isaiah 8:23]. The Galilee was the very site from which the Assyrian Army began the dismantling of Israel [1 Kings 15:27-29; see the Salvation History Study, Lesson #19]. Israel as a nation ceased to exist since 722BC until the United Nations established the nations of Israel for the Jews and Jordan for the Palestinians and Arabs in 1947. But there is no record of the 10 tribes. Jews across the earth continued from the time of the loss of Israel in 722BC to the present day to morn the 10 tribes of Israel that were dispersed and lost among the Gentile nations of the earth.
In verse 8 Paul writes: " That is, it is not by being children through physical descent that people become children of God; it is the children of the promise that are counted as the heirs. The literal Greek translation refers to the "seed" of Abraham and refers to Isaac as "the Seed" as a title. Then the literal Greek translation in verse 8 reads: "This is not the children of the flesh these children of God but the children of the promise counted for a seed of promise." [see The Interlinear Bible-Greek/English, volume IV, page 433].
Question: In the literal Greek translation what
passage in Genesis does Paul's reference to "the children of the promise
counted for a seed of promise" recall? Hint: see Genesis 3:15
Answer: In Genesis 3:15 the future redeemer who will defeat the serpent and his seed is promised to come from the "seed of the Woman." This "promised seed" was preserved down through Salvation history through the line of Adam's son Seth, through Noah's son Shem, through Abraham's son Isaac and his son Jacob and through the line of Jacob's 4th son Judah until the Woman Mary, without the seed of a man bore the Son of God, a descendant of the tribe of Judah.
It is important to note that in this passage Paul is not eliminating the children of physical descent but he is saying the covenant is not exclusively the privilege of those of physical descent—the argument Paul is laying out in these 3 chapters is going to be one of inclusion not exclusion. However, Paul points out, there are those of physical descent who were eliminated from the line of promise through the Patriarchs.
Question: Why does Paul say in Romans 9:1 that not
all Israelites belong to Israel and not all those who claim descent from
Abraham are children of the covenant?
Answer: Abraham was the father of 8 sons: Ishmael by Hagar [Genesis 16:1-4 15]; Isaac by Sarah [Genesis 17:19; 21:1-5] and 6 sons by Keturah, Abraham's wife after the death of Sarah [Genesis 25:1-4]. But the covenant with Yahweh did not continue through all the sons these women bore Abraham. The Abrahamic Covenant only continued through Sarah's son Isaac: "Yes, your wife Sarah will bear you a son whom you must name Isaac. And I shall maintain my covenant with him, a covenant in perpetuity, to be his God and the God of his descendants after him" [Genesis 17:19-21]. However, not all of Isaac's descendants were heirs of the covenant. Of the twins born to Isaac's wife Rebecca, only the second twin Jacob was to be the "child of the promise" as Isaac had been "the child of the promise." This son was renamed Israel by Yahweh he became the father of 12 sons... the 12 sons Israel became the heirs of the Covenant and the physical fathers of the 12 Tribes of Israel who received the Covenant of Yahweh at Sinai. In addition to those who were physical descendants, any Gentile could convert to become a full member of the Covenant people without descending from the Patriarchs [Exodus 12:48] . In King David's genealogy there were 3 Gentile women: Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth.
In affirming that it is God who elects the one who will carry on the Covenant, Paul quotes in Romans 9:8 from Genesis 21:12: "Isaac is the one through whom your Name will be carried on." And then adds in Romans 9:8 "that is, it is not by being children through physical descent that people become children of God; it is the children of the promise that are counted as the heirs." Then Paul quotes the actual words of the promise to Abraham concerning the "child of promise" from Genesis 18:10: "I shall come back to you at this season, and Sarah will have a son." Yahweh not only appointed the "child of promise" but orchestrated the birth through a supernatural event* just as in an even more supernatural act Yahweh would orchestrate the birth of another Son in which the covenants of the Patriarchs and the Sinai Covenant would be fulfilled. [*note: Sarah was 90 years old and long past the age of childbearing].
Continuing in his theme of divine election Paul now uses the
example of the sons of Isaac and Rebecca.
Question: Even before her sons were born what did God reveal to this ancestress of Joseph and Mary by quoting both Genesis 25:23 and Malachi 1:2-3?
Answer: Like Isaac this "child of promise," the younger twin Jacob, was chosen by Yahweh before his human birth.
Question: What is Pau's point concerning the election of Jacob over Esau before the birth of the twins?
Answer: The event of this election indicates even more strongly the privilege of divine election because neither child had the opportunity to either merit or to lose the privilege of election. God reversed the natural order of the superior status of the "firstborn" by revealing to the mother that "the elder one will serve the younger." In no sense are human works involved here, this election depends sole on the election or "calling" of God, in this case as in Isaac, from the womb. Ultimately in the Biblical account of the lives of these two men we see that Jacob was the better choice, but not necessarily [in the beginning] the better man. Esau despised his birthright and sold it to Jacob for a bowl of porridge [Genesis 25:29-34]. That Jacob was willing to purchase Esau's birthright blessings showed that he had faith in the promises God made to his grandfather Abraham [the firstborn received a double portion of the material possessions as well as the spiritual inheritance of the blessings, see Genesis 27:36]. Jacob's election illustrates the point that in one's relationship with God it is faith that must come first, faith that is a gift of grace. As St. Augustine observed in the interpretation of this passage, and as Paul himself has already insisted in his letter, "deeds do not precede grace, but follow it."
Paul gives additional emphasis by quoting from the prophet Malachi, one of the last Old Testament prophets [mid 5th century BC; after the return from the Babylonian captivity]: "I loved Jacob but hated Esau" indicating that the Scriptural proof comes from both the law and the prophets. In the Malachi passage, the prophet assures "Jacob" = Israel, of God's faithful covenant love by pointing out how He protected Israel from her adversary, the descendants of Esau [the Edomites later known as the Idumeans] and confirming God's preference for Israel over Edom [thus Jacob over Esau] in Genesis 25:23. Scholars point out that this statement is stronger in English than it is in the Greek or in the original Hebrew and more likely carries the force of: "Jacob was favored while Esau was not favored." This divine favor is directed toward the people who will be the descendants of these two men: the Israelites and the Edomites. The struggle between the two brothers, Jacob and Esau will be replayed throughout the centuries in the struggle between the descendants of Jacob/Israel and the descendants of Esau the Edomites [Idumeans]. In Salvation history God's favor will rest in the corporate election of Israel over Edom, but the confrontation will once again become personal when two men from these people will also be locked in a struggle at the turning point of history with Herod the Great, a descendant of Edom, and Jesus of Nazareth, an Israelite of the tribe of Judah [see the prophecy of Numbers 24:16-19 which the Fathers of the Church understood as a Messianic prophecy referring to Christ "the star" advancing from Jacob and Edom as a reference to Herod].
Historical note: The territory of Edom bordered Judah just north of Hebron and included the territory of the Negeb. Edom [Idumaea] was conquered by John Hyrcanus [c. 135-105 BC], a descendant of the Maccabees, in the 2nd century BC and the conquered Idumeans were forced to accept Judaism. Antipater, Herod the Great's father, was an Idumean who served the Judahite Hasmonean monarchy and later became an agent of Rome. The Romans appointed Herod king of the Jews in 37BC.
Please read Romans 9: 14-24: God is not unjust-He is both
faithful and just!
"14 What should we say, then? That God is unjust? Out of the question! 15 For speaking to Moses, he said: I am gracious to those to whom I am gracious and I take pity on those on whom I take pity. 16 So it is not a matter of what any person wants or what any person does, but only of God having mercy. 17 Scripture says to Pharaoh: I raised you up for this reason," to display my power in you and to have my name talked of throughout the world. 18 In other words, if God wants to show mercy on someone, he does so, and if he wants to harden someone's heart, he does so. 19 Then you will ask me, 'How then can he ever blame anyone, since no one can oppose his will? 20 But you... who do you think you, a human being, are to answer back to God? Something that was made, can it say to its maker: why did you make me this shape? 21 A potter surely has the right over his clay to make out of the same lump either a pot for special use of one for ordinary use. 22 But suppose that God, although all the time he wanted to reveal his retribution and demonstrate his power, has with great patience gone on putting up with those who are the instruments of his retribution and designed to be destroyed; 23 so that he may make known the glorious riches ready for the people who are the instruments of his faithful love and were long ago prepared for that glory. 24 We are that people, called by him not only out of the Jews but out of the gentiles too."
Now Paul will turn to the pattern of election as it is
revealed in the Mosaic Covenant. He begins by asking another rhetorical
question: What should we say then? That God is unjust?
Question: How does Paul answer his own question using Yahweh's exercise of mercy in the Old Testament quotation taken from Exodus 33:19 after the event of the Golden Calf and the subsequent rebellion that Moses is forced to put down violently, leading to the death of 3,000 people? Read Exodus 33: 1-23. What in this passage is an illustration concerning Yahweh's attributes? Is Yahweh always just? See Deuteronomy 32:4.
Answer: This passage illustrates the exercise of Yahweh's mercy, it is God's nature to be merciful. He shows mercy to His servant Moses. It is entirely God's choice to whom He exercises His divine mercy and this exercise of His divine mercy is not derived from or dependant upon any amount of willingness or achievement on the human side, it depends totally upon God as the one who exercises divine mercy. The exercise of His mercy is His choice but to be just is an attribute that defines God—He is always just. In the Hebrew text of Exodus 34:6 the three attributes of God are listed: hen = grace, rachum = mercy/compassion, and hesed = faithful covenant love: "Then Yahweh passed before him and called out, 'Yahweh, Yahweh, God of tenderness [grace] and compassion, slow to anger, rich in faithful love and constancy, maintaining his faithful love to thousands, forgiving fault, crime and sin..."
Question: Can you think of an example where God has
exercised His divine mercy through the Catholic Church in which some, outside
the Church, may criticize as unnecessary or superstitious?
Answer: There are many possible answers, but one might be the observance of Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter in which the Church has pronounced through God's Mercy that His grace is poured out in abundance upon covenant believers who observe the requirements of this special day. Whether you agree or not with this special dispensation is not according to human understanding but these special graces are solely in the hands of God and His prerogative to dispense mercy through His Church.
In Romans 9:16 Paul has used Moses as a positive example of
God's exercise of His will and now Paul turns in verse 17 to a negative example
using Moses' adversary the Pharaoh of Egypt.
Question: What is the negative example of God's will in Pharaoh's case? See Exodus 4:1; 6:1; 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12-19, 34-35; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:8.
Answer: The Egyptian pharaoh represents another example of divine freedom to choose but in this case the direction is different. Paul is suggesting that the entire purpose of this man's appearance on the stage of salvation history was to serve display Yahweh as the One True God to the Egyptian people and to Israel. Instead of calling this Egyptian man, who claimed to be a god, into covenant God hardens his heart [Exodus 4:21; 7:3; etc.], which corresponds in the negative to Paul's previous example of mercy in the case of Moses, so that the Pharaoh became, in his rejection of Yahweh, a greater instrument for a larger purpose.
Question: What was that greater purpose?
Answer: The greater purpose was that Pharaoh's rejection became the canvas upon which God would paint the miracles of the Exodus experience through which Israel as a people would carry Yahweh's name to the nations of the world in celebrating their liberation from slavery: 17 Scripture says to Pharaoh: I raised you up for this reason," to display my power in you and to have my name talked of throughout the world. This liberation would in turn become the background by which the Messiah would liberate mankind from slavery to sin and death.
Later in 11:7 and 25 Paul with use the word "hardening" to connect Pharaoh's hardening that brought about a world-wide blessing to Israel's "hardening" which also brought about a world-wide blessing! The point Paul has made is to assert God's freedom to chose who He will chose for His ultimate purpose—a purpose and a plan which is not always evident to us: 18 In other words, if God wants to show mercy on someone, he does so, and if he wants to harden someone's heart, he does so.
Question: What does Paul's rhetorical question
suggest in verse 19: Then you will ask me, 'How then can he ever blame
anyone, since no one can oppose his will?' He is anticipating the charge
that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart appears to eliminate human freedom of
choice and therefore human responsibility. How does he answer his own question
in verses 20-21?
Answer: Paul defends God's freedom against the human complaint that they are victims of God's will. This recalls the earlier charge that God is unfair found in verse 14. He uses the example of the potter and his vessel in verse 20 quoting from Isaiah 29:16: "Something that was made, can it say to its maker: why did you make me." Please note that the quoted passage, Isaiah 29:16, is very similar to the questioning of the anguished Job in Job 38:2-3 & 40:1-2.
Paul's reference to Isaiah 29:16 would have recalled to his audience other Biblical passages that illustrate the potter/clay vessel imagery [please see Psalms 2:9; Job 10:8-9; Isaiah 41:25; 45:9; 64:8; and Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 33:13]. But for Paul's audience the most well known passage using the image of God as the divine potter was probably Jeremiah 18:1-12 in which Yahweh illustrated to His prophet a teaching of His divine authority and sovereignty over His covenant people and in the lives of the other humans who make up the nations of the human family. Of Israel Yahweh tells Jeremiah in 18:1-6, "The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh as follows: 'Get up and make your way down to the potter's house, and there I shall tell you what I have to say.' So I went down to the potter's house; and there he was, working at the wheel. But the vessel he was making came out wrong, as may happen with clay when a potter is at work. So he began again and shaped it into another vessel, as he thought fit. Then the word of Yahweh came to me as follows, 'House of Israel, can I not do to you what this potter does? Yahweh demands. Yes, like clay in the potter's hand, so you are in mine, House of Israel."
Paul's point is that in the Scriptures the image of God as a ceramist expressed God's sovereign power, authority, and freedom. A potter has the freedom to shape vessels to any use he wills and to use that vessel so shaped to perform whatever service he wills it is necessary to perform, from simple household use like storage containers, to personal use, to use in a formal banquet. In the same way God as the Creator has the freedom to shape people or nations in anyway He pleases in order to serve whatever function or to play whatever role He intends to be played out the stage of human history. The potter's vessel cannot see the necessity of its shape in relation to its function anymore than Israel as a covenant people, or each of us, for that matter, can ultimate understand God's divine plan. But like the useful vessel we have no right to complain to the potter [God] about the shape or usefulness He has assigned to us. God is not accountable to us, we are accountable to Him. Paul will continue to develop the point, as he continues in the next two chapters, that all of the "chosen people" of the Old Covenant did not embrace the Messiah and all He taught is somehow part of God's mysterious divine plan. However, that rejection of God's new plan of salvation by many of those of the "seed" of Israel in no way indicates that God has abandoned the "seed" He preserved down through salvation history.
In Romans 9:22 moves from God's mercy, which was the topic
concerning God's divine will in the case of Moses, to divine wrath: But
suppose that God, although all the time he wanted to reveal his retribution and
demonstrate his power, has with great patience gone on putting up with those
who are the instruments of his retribution and designed to be destroyed..". I
prefer the New American translation of this passage; it is closer to the
literal Greek: "What if God, wishing to show his wrath and make known his
power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction?"
The imagery of the potter's vessels now transformed to "vessels of wrath"
is too good to ignore because in verse 23 Paul will move from the negative
imagery of "vessels of wrath" to, in the literal translation, "vessels of
mercy": "This was to make known the riches of his glory to the vessels of
mercy, which he has prepared previously for glory.." [New American
Question: Who are these vessels of mercy which God has prepared long ago? Hint: see Romans 9:24
Answer: The chosen people of the New Covenant: the Jews and Gentiles He has called into covenant, who exercising their own free will, have responded to that call. The people of the Christian community are vessels of mercy, prepared before hand by the Divine Potter to be filled with glory. It is this community made up of the faithful remnant of Jews and newly formed Gentiles vessels, that is the realization in salvation history of God's eternally divine plan that human beings were meant to share in the reflection of the glory of the risen Savior, Christ Jesus. The mixing of the community formed of Jews and Gentiles is not an accident or an adjustment of God's divine plan but is the fulfillment of the original design conceived in the mind of God before time began and which is being fulfilled in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This union is the undoing of the broken vessels of the Tower of Babel when the family of humanity was scattered. Now the Universal Church of Jesus Christ will reunite that family with the Jews leading the way and taking their Gentile brothers with them. Also see CCC# 63; 781; 1539.
Please read Romans 9:25-33: Fulfillment of Old Testament
"25 Just as he says in the book of Hosea: I shall tell those who were not my people, 'You are my people,' and I shall take pity on those on whom I had no pity. 26 And in this very place where they were told, 'You are not my people,' they will be told that they are 'children of the living God.' 27 And about Israel, this is what Isaiah cried out: Though the people of Israel are like the sand of the sea, only a remnant will be saved; 28 for without hesitation or delay the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth. 29 As Isaiah foretold: Had the Lord Sabaoth not left us a few survivors, we should be like Sodom, we should be the same as Gomorrah. 30 What should we say, then? That the gentiles, although they were not looking for saving justice, found it, and this was the saving justice that comes of faith; 31 while Israel, looking for saving justice by law-keeping, did not succeed in fulfilling the Law. 32 And why? Because they were trying to find it in actions and not in faith, and so they stumbled over the stumbling-stone' 33 Now I am laying in Zion a stumbling-stone, a rock to trip people up; but he who relies on this will not be brought to disgrace."
In verses 25-26 Paul quotes from Hosea 2:23 and 1:10/2:1
[translations record these verses differently]; the complete passage reads: "I
shall tell those who were not my people, 'You are my people,' and I shall take
pity on those on whom I had no pity. 26
And in this very place where they were told, 'You are not my people,' they
will be told that they are 'children of the living God.' This passage
recalls Yahweh's promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17 and reaffirmed to Jacob in
Question: How was this prophecy fulfilled and who are the ones told they were not Yahweh's people who become "Children of the Living God?"
Answer: Through the forefathers of Israel and their descendants who light the way to the One True God, the Gentiles, who were not the chosen people of God become through the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ in baptism, "Children of the living God." See CCC#s 294; 422; 762; 1213; 1265; 1709.
Significantly Paul in making this connection to the inclusion of the Gentiles now quotes Isaiah 10:22-23: "Israel, though your people are like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return...the Lord Yahweh Sabaoth will enforce the destruction now decreed." [Note: the translation is slightly different because Paul is continually quoting from the Greek Septuagint translation]. In this passage Paul is introducing the theme of "the faithful remnant" of the Covenant people. Throughout the history of the Covenant people there has always been a division between those who fell from faith and the faithful remnant who persevered in faith and obedience, sometimes that remnant was very small.
Some examples of the falling away of the covenant people can be found in:
Examples of the preservation of the "Faithful Remnant" can be found in:
Question: What part will the "faithful remnant" play
in the formation of the New Covenant Kingdom of Heaven on earth?
Answer: They will be the foundation upon which the New Covenant Church, the New Israel will be built. Beginning with the authority given them by Jesus Christ, the Apostles will build, guided by Simon the Rock/Peter, the foundation Jesus alluded to in Matthew 7:24-5 & 16:28; also see CCC# 75; 857.
The Isaiah quotations ends with the words: "the Lord Yahweh Sabaoth will enforce the destruction now decreed" but Paul's quotation ends: "Lord will execute his sentence on the earth" and then follows with a quotation from Isaiah 1:9 in verse 29: "As Isaiah foretold: Had the Lord Sabaoth [Lord of Hosts] not left us a few survivors, we should be like Sodom, we should be the same as Gomorrah. In applying this passage to the faithful remnant of Israel which formed the New Covenant, the destruction Paul is alluding to may be the prophecy of Jesus made in Matthew 24:1-25 which was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70AD [see Matthew 24:1-25; Mark 13:14-23; Luke 21:20-24]. Jesus tells Christians to "recognize the signs" and to flee out of the path of destruction. This is precisely what Christians did when the Jewish revolt against Rome began in 66AD. Simon, Christian Bishop of Jerusalem led the Christians across the Jordan River into Perea.
In Romans 9:30-31 Paul asks the rhetorical question "Why is
it that the Gentiles found eternal salvation when they weren't looking for it while the
Jews who were looking for salvation in the form of the Law lost eternal salvation?" [Hint: see CCC 633-35 and 1961-1964].
Question: How does Paul answer his own question in verses 32-33? What is the significance of the mention of the stumbling stone or cornerstone and the two Isaiah passages he quotes, Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16: Now I am laying in Zion a stumbling-stone, a rock to trip people up; but he who relies on this will not be brought to disgrace"? Hint: read Matthew 21:42-43; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:6-8 [also Psalm 118:22-27; Zechariah 3:9; 4:7; Daniel 2:35-36, 44-45; Ephesians 2:20].
Answer: There was no eternal salvation under the old Law, it was a guide to help the Old Covenant people continue to be preserved in holiness and to serve as a light to find the Messiah. Jesus came as the "cornerstone" which the "builders"/ Old Covenant people, rejected, thereby becoming their stumbling stone. Their rejection opened the way for the Gentiles to be brought into the covenant of salvation through the faithful remnant, the Apostles and disciples, men and women of Old Israel who along with the Virgin Mary, gave birth through the power of the Holy Spirit to the New Israel, the (universal) Catholic Church, on Pentecost Sunday, 30AD. See CCC# 756; 767; 1963-64.
In this chapter of Romans by quoting so extensively from Scripture Paul has been building his argument that this Old Testament pattern set the pattern for the future, the future in which this mixed Jewish and Gentile Christian faith community of Rome is now living. The promised privileges of the people of God are not passed on simply through physical descent, but instead they are passed through the generations of humanity by the election of God as His plan for Salvation History has been set forth and as it unfolds in His continuing plan to bring humanity to salvation in Jesus Christ. In the case of the Old Testament patriarchs, physical descent was part of the inheritance of each "child of promise" in whom the promised seed of Genesis 3:15 was preserved and through whom the Messiah was to be born. But, Paul proposes, purely physical descent may not be the determinative factor now in the New Covenant. Paul has already taught that spiritual heritage takes precedent. It is this spiritual heritage that the Christian Jews and Gentiles share and which makes them one Covenant People. Now it is the blood of Christ that binds the New Covenant people as one family and not the blood of Abraham nor the blood of sacrificed animals, the only blood that counts now is the Blood of the Lamb and the only flesh that count now is His Flesh: "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person." John 6:55-56
Question for group discussion:
The Prophet Hosea was God's holy prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Hosea like the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel was called by Yahweh to perform symbolic actions which illustrated the covenant people's estrangement from Yahweh and prefigured God's divine plan of judgment for the unrepentant people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Hosea's entire life became symbolic of God's mysterious plan for Israel, concerning both judgment and renewal and restoration. He was told to marry a prostitute who would be unfaithful to him in marriage. Hosea was commanded to name his children by this faithless woman Lo-Ruhamah [meaning "not pitied"] and Lo-Amni ["not my people"], reflecting God's judgment to show no pity to the nation of Israel for her idolatry [identified in Scripture with the sin of adultery and harlotry] and that in this people's rejection of Yahweh they have declared that they are no longer His "children" /covenant people. The Northern Kingdom of Israel ceased to exist after 722BC. The Assyrians conquered the 10 northern tribes and took them into exile, bringing 5 other peoples into settle their land. These people became the Samaritans.
Question: Read the book of Hosea chapters 1-3, putting in context Paul's quotations of Hosea 1:10/2:1 and 2:25. Also please read John chapter 4. What point is Paul making by quoting the Hosea passages? What does Jesus tell the woman of Samaria in John chapter 4 concerning her "marriages" and worship of Yahweh? What command does Jesus give the Apostles in Acts 1:6-8 in response to their question about the establishment of the kingdom? How are these passages from Hosea 2:16-25 fulfilled in the New Israel of the universal Catholic Church?
Answer: Provided in next lesson.
|Romans 9:1||659*; 857*||Romans 9:19||876*|
|Romans 9:5-18||2122*||Romans 9:22||24|
Resources used in Romans chapter 9:
The Interlinear Bible Greek-English, volume IV
The Teachings of the Church Fathers, Ignatius Press
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Dogmatic Canons and Decrees: The Council of Trent; Vatican Council I; etc.
The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II
Jerome's Commentary on Romans
Chrysostom's Commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans
Romans, Joseph Fitzmyer
Romans, Brendan Byrne
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture-Romans
Modern Catholic Dictionary
Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, 1999
Ancient Israel, edited by Hershel Shanks, Biblical Archaeology Society, 1999
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.