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Bible Commentaries
Romans 9

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Romans 9:0


God's ElectionIsrael's Rejection of ChristThe Problem of Israel's UnbeliefGod and His PeopleThe Privileges of Israel
Romans 9:1-5Romans 9:1-5Romans 9:1-5Romans 9:1-5Romans 9:1-5
Israel's Rejection and God's PurposeGod's Promise to Israel Has Not Failed God Has Kept His Promise
Romans 9:6-13Romans 9:6-13Romans 9:6-13Romans 9:6-9Romans 9:6-13
Romans 9:10-13
Israel's Rejection and God's JusticeGod's Right to Choose God is Not Unjust
Romans 9:14-18Romans 9:14-29Romans 9:14-18Romans 9:14-18Romans 9:14-18
God's Wrath and Mercy God's Anger and Mercy
Romans 9:19-29 Romans 9:19-26Romans 9:19-21Romans 9:19-21
Romans 9:22-29Romans 9:22-24
All Has Been Foretold in OT
Romans 9:25-29
Romans 9:27-29
Israel and the GospelPresent Condition of IsraelTrue Righteousness is by FaithIsrael and the Gospel
Romans 9:30-4Romans 9:30-33Romans 9:30-4Romans 9:30-4Romans 9:30-33



This is a study guide commentary ,which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. There have been two ways of understanding this literary unit's relationship to Romans 1-8.

1. It is a totally separate topic, a theological parenthesis

a. There is a drastic contrast and lack of logical connection between Romans 8:39 and Romans 9:1.

b. It is directly related to the historical tension in the church at Rome between believing Jews and believing Gentiles. It was possibly related to the growing Gentile leadership of the Church.

c. There was misunderstanding about Paul's preaching concerning Israel (and the Law) and his apostleship to the Gentiles (offer of free grace), therefore, he deals with this topic in this section.

2. It is the climax and logical conclusion of Paul's presentation of the gospel.

a. Paul concludes Romans 8:0 with the promise of "no separation from the love of God." What about the unbelief of the covenant people?

b. Romans 9-11 answers the paradox of the gospel concerning Israel's unbelief!

c. Paul has been addressing this very issue all through the letter (cf. Romans 1:3, Romans 1:16; Romans 3:21, Romans 9:1 and 4:1ff).

d. Paul claims that God is true to His Word. What about His OT word to Israel? Are all those promises null and void?

B. There are several possible ways to outline this literary unit

1. by Paul's use of a supposed objector (diatribe)

a. Romans 9:6

b. Romans 9:14

c. Romans 9:19

d. Romans 9:30

e. Romans 11:1

f. Romans 11:11

2. Romans 9-11 forms a literary unit (chapter and verse divisions are not inspired and were added later). It must be interpreted together as a whole. However, there are at least three major subject divisions.

a. Romans 9:1-29 (focusing on God's sovereignty)

b. Romans 9:30-21 (focusing on human responsibility)

c. Romans 11:1-32 (God's inclusive, eternal, redemptive purpose)

3. by main topics: a good outline of this section of Romans is found in the paragraph divisions of the NKJV by Thomas Nelson Publishers

a. Israel's rejection of Christ, Romans 9:1-5

b. Israel's rejection of God's purpose, Romans 9:6-13

c. Israel's rejection of God's justice, Romans 9:14-29

d. Present condition of Israel, Romans 9:30-33

e. Israel and the gospel, Romans 10:1-13

f. Israel rejection of the gospel, Romans 10:14-21

g. Israel's rejection not total, Romans 11:1-10

h. Israel's rejection not final, Romans 11:11-36

C. This section is as much a cry from the heart as a presentation from the mind (logical outline). Its passion reminds one of God's heart breaking over rebellious Israel in Hosea 11:1-4, Hosea 11:8-9.

In many ways the pain and goodness of the Law in Romans 7:0 are paralleled in Romans 9-10. In both cases Paul's heart was breaking over the irony of a law from God that brought death instead of life!

D. Paul's use of over 25 OT quotes in Romans 9-11 shows his desire to illustrate the paradox of Israel from OT sources, as he did in Romans 4:0, not just current experience. The majority of Abraham's physical descendants had rejected God, even in the past (cf. Acts 7:0; Nehemiah 9:0).

E. This text, like Ephesians 1:3-14, deals with the eternal purposes of God for the redemption of all humanity. At first it seems to describe God choosing some individuals and rejecting other individuals (supralapsarian Calvinism), however, I think the focus is not on individuals, but on God's eternal plan of redemption (cf. Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:3; Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18; Acts 4:28; and 13:29, see Special Topic at Romans 8:28).

The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 2, "The New Testament," edited by Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Raymond E. Brown, says:

"It is important to realize from the outset that Paul's perspective is corporate; he is not discussing the responsibility of individuals. If he seems to bring up the question of divine predestination, this has nothing to do with the predestination of individuals to glory" (p. 318).


A. What a drastic change of attitude occurs between Romans 8:0 and Romans 9:0.

B. This literary unit (Romans 9-11) deals theologically with

1. the basis of salvation

2; the electing purpose of God

3. the faithlessness of unbelieving Israel versus the faithfulness of YHWH

4. the inclusion of all humanity in Jesus' redemption

C. Romans 9:0 is one of the strongest NT passages on God's sovereignty (i.e., the other being, Ephesians 1:3-14) while Romans 10:0 states human's free will clearly and repeatedly (cf. "everyone" Romans 9:4; "whosoever" Romans 9:11, Romans 9:13; "all" Romans 9:12 [twice]). Paul never tries to reconcile this theological tension. They are both true! Most Bible doctrines are presented in paradoxical or dialectical pairs. Most systems of theology are logical, but proof-text only one aspect of biblical truth. Both Augustinianism and Calvinism versus semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism have elements of truth and error. Biblical tension between doctrines is preferable to a proof-texted, dogmatic, rational, theological system that forces the Bible onto a preconceived interpretive grid! See SPECIAL TOPIC: EASTERN LITERATURE at Romans 3:27.

D. Romans 9:30-33 is a summary of Romans 9:0 and the theme of Romans 10:0.

E. Notice how much Paul uses OT texts to establish his argument. This presupposes a Jewish readership in Rome.

Romans 9:1. Romans 9:7 - Genesis 21:12

Romans 9:2. Romans 9:9 - Genesis 18:10, Genesis 18:14

Romans 9:3. Romans 9:12 - Genesis 25:32

Romans 9:4. Romans 9:13 - Malachi 1:2-3

Romans 9:5. Romans 9:15 - Exodus 33:19

6. Romans 9:17 - Exodus 9:16

7. Romans 9:25 - Hosea 2:23

8. Romans 9:26 - Hosea 1:10

9. Romans 9:27 - Isaiah 10:22

10. Romans 9:28 - Isaiah 10:23

1Romans 9:1. Romans 9:29 - Isaiah 1:9

1Romans 9:2. Romans 9:33 - Isaiah 28:16 and Romans 8:14

There are many more OT quotes in Romans 19 and 11!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How is Romans 9:0 (predestination) related to Romans 10:0 (mankind's free will)?

2. What is the main theme of Romans 9:1-29?

3. Has God broken His promise to Israel?

4. List the privileges that national Israel enjoyed (Romans 9:4-5).

5. Were all the Jews right with God? Why or why not (Romans 9:6)?

6. If man is forced to do God's will is he morally responsible?

7. How is "mercy" the key to predestination (cf. Romans 15:16, Romans 15:18, Romans 15:23; Romans 11:30-32)?

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Romans 9:1-5 1I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,2that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Romans 9:1-2 Verses 1 and 2 form one sentence in Greek. Paul is giving several reasons they (the church at Rome) could know that he was telling the truth.

1. his union with Christ, Romans 9:1

2. his Spirit-led conscience, Romans 9:1

3. his deep feelings for Israel, Romans 9:2

Romans 9:1 "I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying" Paul often made this kind of statement of his veracity (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:10; Galatians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:7) or a similar one about God as his witness (cf. Romans 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 11:31; Philippians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:5, 1 Thessalonians 2:10). It was his way of asserting the truthfulness of his teachings and preaching. The experience on the road to Damascus changed everything!

"my conscience" This referred to the believer's God-given, Spirit-led moral sense. In one sense this is a key source of authority for believers. It is God's word, understood and applied by the Spirit of God to our minds (cf. 1 Timothy 1:5, 1 Timothy 1:19). The problem arises when believers-and for that matter, unbelievers-continue to reject the Word and the Spirit; it then becomes easier to rationalize one's sin (cf. 1 Timothy 4:2). Our consciences can be culturally and experientially conditioned.


NASB, NKJV"bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit" NRSV"confirms it by the Holy Spirit" TEV"ruled by the Holy Spirit" NJB"in union with the Holy Spirit assumes me"

Paul believed he had a special call and mandate from Christ (cf. Acts 9:1-22; Galatians 1:1).

The verbal (present active participle, cf. Romans 2:15) is a compound with sun (so common in Paul). He was convinced of his new understanding based on

1. the revelation of Christ

a. road to Damascus

b. taught in Arabia (Nabetean)

2. internal witness of the Spirit

He was an Apostle and spoke with divine authority (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:25, 1 Corinthians 7:40). He shared God's grief over the unbelief and incalcitrance of national Israel (cf. Romans 9:2). They had so many advantages (cf. Romans 9:4-5).

Romans 9:3

NASB, NKJV, NRSV"For I could wish . . . " TEV"For their sake I could wish" NJB"I would be willing . . . "

Paul felt so deeply for his people, Israel, that if his separation could effect their inclusion, he would be willing, Romans 9:3. This verse has such a strong, emphatic grammatical construction (imperfect middle indicative with both autos and egô, and a present infinitive). The intensity and burden of this prayer is very similar to Moses' intercessory prayer for sinful Israel in Exodus 32:30-35. This is best understood as a statement of desire, not fact. It is similar to a use of the imperfect tense in Galatians 4:20.

See Special Topic following.


NASB"were accursed, separated from Christ" NKJV"were accursed from Christ" NRSV"were accursed and cut off from Christ" TEV"were under God's curse and separated from Christ" NJB"willingly be condemned and cut off from Christ"

The basic etymology of "holy" is to set apart to God for His use. This same concept relates to these terms for "curse" (anathema, cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8, Galatians 1:9). Something or someone is set apart to God. It can be a positive experience (cf. Leviticus 27:28; Luke 21:5) or a negative experience (cf. Jos. 6-7; Romans 9:3), depending on the context.


"my kinsmen according to the flesh" See Special Topic at Romans 1:3.

Romans 9:4-5 This series of noun phrases spells out in graphic detail the privileges of Israel. Their unbelief was all the more culpable in light of these advantages. To whom much is given, much is required (cf. Luke 12:48)!

Romans 9:4 "Israelites" This was the OT covenant name for Abraham's seed. After a pivotal encounter with God Jacob's name was changed to Israel (cf. Genesis 32:28). It became the collective title for the Jewish nation. Its etymology may be "may El (God) persevere" and by implication, not Jacob's trickery.


"to whom belongs the adoption as sons" In the OT the plural of "sons" usually referred to the angels (cf. Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Job 38:7; Daniel 3:25; Psalms 29:1; Psalms 89:6-7), while the singular referred to

1. the Israeli King (cf. 2 Samuel 7:14)

2. the nation (cf. Exodus 4:22, Exodus 4:23; Deuteronomy 14:1; Hosea 11:1)

3. the Messiah (cf. Psalms 2:7)

4. it can refer to humans (cf. Deuteronomy 32:5; Psalms 73:15; Ezekiel 2:1; Hosea 1:10. Genesis 6:2 is ambiguous; it could be either). In the NT it refers to one who belongs to the family of God.

Paul's major metaphor for salvation was "adoption" (cf. Romans 8:15, Romans 8:23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5), while Peter and John's was "born again." They are both familial metaphors. It is not a Jewish, but Roman, metaphor. Adoption was a very expensive and time consuming legal procedure under Roman law. Once adopted the person was considered a new person who could not be legally disowned or killed by their adoptive father.

"the glory" The Hebrew root meant "to be heavy" which was a metaphor for that which was valuable. Here it refers to

1. God's revealing Himself on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 19:18-19)

2. the Shekinah cloud of glory which led the Israelites during the Wilderness Wandering Period (cf. Exodus 40:34-38)

YHWH uniquely revealed Himself to Israel. YHWH's presence was referred to as His glory (cf. 1 Kings 8:10-11; Ezekiel 1:28). See Special Topic at Romans 3:23.

"the covenants" In the ancient Greek manuscripts P46, B, F, and G the singular "covenant" is used. However, the plural is in MSS א, C, and some Old Latin, Vulgate, and Coptic versions. The UBS4 gives the plural a "B" rating (almost certain). However, the plural is never used in the OT. There are several specific covenants in the OT: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. Since the giving of the Law is mentioned next, this probably refers to the Abrahamic Covenant, which was the one Paul saw as foundational (cf. Romans 4:1-25; Galatians 3:16-17) and was repeated several times (i.e., Genesis 12:15, Genesis 12:17) and to each of the Patriarchs.


"the giving of the Law and the temple service" This would refer to

1. Moses' receiving the Law on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 19-20)

2. the Tabernacle of the Wilderness Wandering Period (cf. Exodus 25-40 and Leviticus)

"the promises" God has revealed His future plans (cf. Romans 1:2; Acts 13:32; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 1:1) through the OT.

Since "the covenants" are mentioned earlier, "the promises" probably refers to the Messiah (cf. Romans 9:5, e.g., Genesis 3:15; Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 18:15, Deuteronomy 18:18-19; 2 Samuel 7:0; Psalms 16:10; Psalms 118:22; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 11:1-5; Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:27; Micah 5:2-5a; Zechariah 2:6-13; Zechariah 6:12-13; Zechariah 9:9; Zechariah 11:12).

These promises (covenants) are both unconditional and conditional. They were unconditional as far as God's performance (cf. Genesis 15:12-21), but conditional on mankind's faith and obedience (cf. Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:0). Only Israel had God's self revelation before the coming of Christ (but with exceptions such as Job, Jethro).

Romans 9:5 "the fathers" This referred to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Patriarchs of Genesis 12-50 (cf. Romans 11:28; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 10:15).

"from whom is the Christ according to the flesh" This referred to the physical lineage of the Messiah (cf. Romans 1:3, see Special Topic: Messiah at Romans 1:4), the Anointed One, God's special chosen servant who would accomplish God's promises and plans, (cf. Romans 10:6).

The term "Christ" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew "Anointed One." In the OT three groups of leaders were anointed with special holy oil.

1. kings of Israel

2. high priests of Israel

3. prophets of Israel

It was a symbol of God's choosing and equipping them for His service. Jesus fulfilled all three of these anointed offices (cf. Hebrews 1:2-3). He is God's full revelation because He was God incarnate (cf. Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2-5a; Colossians 1:13-20).

For "flesh" see Special Topic at Romans 1:3.

NASB"the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever" NKJV"Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God" NRSV"comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever" TEV"and Christ as a human being, belongs to their race. May God, who rules over all, be praised forever" NJB"came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed"

Grammatically this could be a doxology to the Father (TEV, following Jewish tradition), but the context favors Paul's affirmation of Jesus' deity (it does not follow the pattern of Jewish doxologies to YHWH in the LXX; see J. Murray, II, pp. 245-248). Paul does not use Theos for Jesus often, but he does use it (cf. Acts 20:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:12; Titus 2:13; Philippians 2:6). All the early church Fathers interpreted this text as referring to Jesus. Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary On the Greek New Testament, pp. 520-522, shows that the different options are related to where the punctuation marks are places. The ancient uncial manuscripts had no

1. capitalization

2. punctuation marks

3. paragraph divisions

4. not even spaces between words

"who is over all" This also could be a descriptive phrase for God the Father or Jesus the Son. It does reflect Jesus' statement of Matthew 28:19 and Paul's in Colossians 1:15-20. This majestic phrase showed the height of Israel's folly in rejecting Jesus of Nazareth.

"forever" This is literally the Greek idiomatic phrase "unto the ages" (cf. Luke 1:33; Romans 1:25; Romans 11:36; Galatians 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:17). This is one of several related phrases (1) "unto the age" (cf. Matthew 21:19 [Mark 11:14]; Luke 1:55; John 6:5, John 6:58; John 8:35; John 12:34; John 13:8; John 14:16; 2 Corinthians 9:9) or (2) "of the age of the ages" (cf. Ephesians 3:21). There seems to be no distinction between these idioms for "forever." The term "ages" may be plural in a figurative sense of the rabbinical grammatical construction called "the plural of majesty" or it may refer to the concept of several "ages" in the Jewish sense of "age of innocence," "age of wickedness," "age to come," or "age of righteousness."

"Amen" See Special Topic at Romans 1:25.

Verses 6-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Romans 9:6-13 6But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "through Isaac your descendants will be named." 8That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son." 10And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger." 13Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

Romans 9:6 "the word of God" In this context this phrase refers to the OT covenantal promises. God's promises are sure (cf. Numbers 23:19; Joshua 21:45; Joshua 23:14; 2 Kings 10:10; Isaiah 40:8; Isaiah 55:11; Isaiah 59:21).

NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB"has failed" NKJV"has taken no effect"

This term (ekpiptô) was used in the Septuagint several times for something (cf. Isaiah 6:13) or someone (cf. Isaiah 14:12) falling. Here it is a perfect active indicative, which denotes a state of being with lasting results (but it is negated). See note above for the surety of God's word.

NASB"For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel" NKJV"For they are not all Israel who are of Israel" NRSV"For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel" TEV"For not all the people of Israel are the people of God" NJB"Not all those who descend from Israel are Israel"

The meaning of this paradoxical statement revolves around the different biblical meanings of the term "Israel."

1. Israel, meaning Jacob's descendants (cf. Genesis 32:22-32)

2. Israel, meaning the elect people of God (cf. TEV)

3. spiritual Israel, Israel meaning the church, (cf. Galatians 6:16; 1 Peter 2:8, 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6) versus natural Israel (cf. Romans 9:3-6)

Only some of Abraham's children were the children of promise (cf. Romans 9:7). Even the Jews were never right with God based solely on their lineage (cf. Romans 9:7), but on their faith (cf. Romans 2:28-29; Romans 4:1ff.; John 8:31-59; Galatians 3:7-9; Galatians 4:23). It was the believing remnant (see Special Topic at Romans 9:27-28) who received God's promises and walked in them by faith (cf. Romans 9:27; Romans 11:5).

Verse Romans 9:6 starts a series of supposed objections (cf. Romans 9:14, Romans 9:19, Romans 9:30; Romans 11:1). This continues Paul's diatribe format. It conveys truth by means of a supposed objector (i.e., Malachi 1:2, Malachi 1:6, Malachi 1:7 [twice], Romans 9:12, Romans 9:13; Romans 2:14, Romans 2:17 [twice]; Romans 3:7, Romans 3:13, Romans 3:14).

Romans 9:7 The second half of this verse is a quote from Genesis 21:12d. Not all of Abraham's children were children of God's covenant promise (cf. Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:1-11; Genesis 17:1-21; Genesis 18:1-15; Galatians 4:23). This shows the distinction between Ishmael and Isaac in Romans 9:8-9, and Jacob and Esau in Romans 9:10-11.

Romans 9:8 Here Paul is using the term "flesh" to refer to national descent (cf. Romans 1:3; Romans 4:1; Romans 9:3, Romans 9:5, see Special Topic at Romans 1:3). He is contrasting the natural children of Abraham (the Jews of Romans 9:3) with the spiritual children (children of the promise) of Abraham (those who will trust God's promised Messiah by faith, cf. Romans 2:28-29). This is not the same contrast as Romans 8:4-11, fallen mankind versus redeemed mankind.

Romans 9:9 This is a quote from Genesis 18:10, Genesis 18:14. The promised child ("the seed") will come from Sarah at God's initiative. This eventually will culminate in the birth of the Messiah. Isaac was a special fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 thirteen years earlier.

Romans 9:10 The wives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were barren; they could not conceive. Their inability to have a child was one of God's ways to show that He was in control of the covenant promises, the Messianic line.

The other way was that the true Messianic line never proceeds through the oldest son of the Patriarchs (which was culturally expected). The key is God's choice (cf. Romans 9:11-12).

Romans 9:11-12 Verses 11-12 are one sentence in Greek. This account is taken from Genesis 25:19-34. This example is used to prove that God's choice (cf. Romans 9:16), not (1) human lineage or (2) human merit or achievements (cf. Romans 9:16). This is the new mechanism of the gospel, the new covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:22-36). However, it must be remembered that God's choice was not meant to exclude, but to include! The Messiah will come from a select seed, but He will come for all (who exercise faith, cf. Romans 2:28-29; Romans 4:3, Romans 4:22-25; Romans 10:0).

Romans 9:11 "purpose" This is the compound term pro plus tithçmi, which has several senses.

1. in Romans 3:25

a. set forth publicly

b. propitiatory gift

2. to plan beforehand

a. of Paul, Romans 1:13

b. of God, Ephesians 1:9

The noun form (prothesis), used in this text, means "to set before"

1. used of the shewbread in the temple, Matthew 12:4; Mark 2:26; Luke 6:4

2. used of a predetermined, redemptive purpose of God, Romans 8:28; Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 3:10; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2 Timothy 3:10

Paul uses several compound terms with the preposition pro (before) in Romans 8:0 and 9 of Romans and Ephesians 1:0 (they show God's planned activity).

1. proginôskô (foreknew), Romans 8:29

2. proorizô (design beforehand), Romans 8:29 (Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:11), 30 (Ephesians 1:9)

3. prothesis (predetermined purpose), Romans 9:11

4. proetoimazô (preface beforehand), Romans 9:23

5. prolegô (previously said), Romans 9:29

6. proelpizô (hoped beforehand), Ephesians 1:12)

Romans 9:12 This is a quote from the prophecy of Genesis 25:23 related to Esau and Jacob. This shows that Rebekah and Jacob acted out of prophecy, not personal gain, in tricking Isaac in regard to the blessing!

Romans 9:13 "but Esau I hated" This is a quote from Malachi 1:2-3. "Hate" is a Hebrew idiom of comparison. It sounds harsh in English, but compare Genesis 29:31-33; Deuteronomy 21:15; Matthew 10:37-38; Luke 14:26; and John 12:25. The anthropomorphic terms "love" and "hate" relate not to God's emotions towards these individuals, but His commitment to a Messianic line and promise. Jacob was the son of promise based on the prophecy of Genesis 25:23. Esau, in Malachi 1:2-3, referred to the nation of Edom (the descendant of Esau).


Verses 14-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Romans 9:14-18 14What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." 18So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

Romans 9:14 "What shall we say then" Paul often used this diatribe form (cf. Romans 3:5; Romans 4:1; Romans 6:1; Romans 7:7; Romans 8:31; Romans 9:14, Romans 9:19, Romans 9:30).

"There is no injustice with God, is there?" The grammar expects a "no" answer. How can God hold humans responsible if God's sovereignty is the deciding factor (cf. Romans 9:19)? This is the mystery of election. The key emphasis in this context is that God is free to do what He will with humanity (rebellious mankind), however, God's sovereignty is expressed in mercy (see note at Romans 9:15), not raw power.

It must also be stated that God's sovereign choices are not based on foreknowledge of human's future choices and actions. If this were true then ultimately individual's choices and actions and merits would be the basis of God's choices (cf. Romans 9:16; 1 Peter 1:2). Behind this is the traditional Jewish view of prosperity to the righteous (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28; Job and Psalms 73:0). But, God chooses to bless the unworthy through faith (not performance, cf. Romans 5:8). God knows all things but He has chosen to limit His choices (1) in mercy and (2) in promise. There is a necessary human response, but it follows and ultimately confirms God's life changing elective choice.

"May it never be" This is a rare optative form that was often used by Paul for an emphatic negation usually to his diatribe objector's questions (cf. Romans 3:4, Romans 3:6, Romans 3:31; Romans 6:2, Romans 6:15; Romans 7:7, Romans 7:13; Romans 11:1, Romans 11:11 also 1 Corinthians 6:15; Galatians 2:17; Galatians 3:21; Galatians 6:14). It is possibly a Hebrew idiom.

Romans 9:15 This is a quote from Exodus 33:19. God is free to act according to His own redemptive purposes. Even Moses did not merit God's blessing (cf. Exodus 33:20). He was a murdered (cf. Exodus 2:11-15). The key is that His choices are in mercy (cf. Romans 9:16, Romans 9:18-23; Romans 11:30, Romans 11:31, Romans 11:32).

Romans 9:15-16 "mercy" This Greek word (eleos, cf. Romans 9:15, Romans 9:16, Romans 9:18, Romans 9:23; Romans 11:30, Romans 11:31, Romans 11:32) is used in the Septuagint (LXX) to translate the special Hebrew term hesed (remember the writers of the NT were Hebrew thinkers writing in street Greek), which meant "steadfast, covenant loyalty." God's mercy and election are plural, corporate, (Jews [Isaac], not Arabs [Ishmael]; Israel [Jacob], not Edom [Esau], but believing Jews and believing Gentiles, cf. Romans 9:24) as well as individuals. This truth is one of the keys to unlocking the mystery of the doctrine of predestination (universal redemption). The other key in the context of Romans 9-11 is God's unchanging character-mercy (cf. Romans 9:15, Romans 9:16, Romans 9:18, Romans 9:23; Romans 11:30, Romans 11:31, Romans 11:32), and not human performance. Mercy through selection will eventually reach all who believe in Christ. The one opens the door of faith to all (cf. Romans 5:18-19).


Romans 9:17-18 Verse Romans 9:17 is a powerful universal quote from Exodus 9:16; verse Romans 9:18 is the conclusion drawn from the quote. Pharaoh is said to have hardened his own heart in Exodus 8:15, Exodus 8:19, Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:34. God is said to have hardened his heart in Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3; Exodus 9:12; Exodus 10:20, Exodus 10:27; Exodus 11:10. This example is used to show God's sovereignty (cf. Romans 9:18). Pharaoh is responsible for his choices. God uses Pharaoh's arrogant, stubborn personality to accomplish His will for Israel (cf. Romans 9:18).

Also notice the purpose of God's actions with Pharaoh were redemptive in purpose; and inclusive in scope. They were intended:

1. to show God's power (versus the Egyptian nature and animal gods, as Genesis 1:0 does to the Babylonian astral deities)

2. to reveal God to Egypt and, by implication, the whole earth (cf. Romans 9:17)

Western (American) thought magnifies the individual, but eastern thought focuses on the need of the corporate whole. God used Pharaoh to reveal Himself to a needy world. He will do the same with unbelieving Israel (cf. Romans 11:0). In this context the rights of the one diminishes in light of the needs of the whole. Remember, also the corporate OT examples of

1. Job's original children dying because of God's discussion with Satan (cf. Job 1-2)

2. the Israeli soldiers dying because of Achan's sin (cf. Joshua 7:0)

3. David's first child with Bathsheba dying because of David's sin (cf. 2 Samuel 12:15).

We are all affected by the choices of others. This corporality can be seen in the NT in Romans 5:12-21.

"For the Scripture says. . ." The personification of Scripture is a way to show it is alive and relevant (cf. Romans 10:6-8). Paul personifies "sin" and "death" in Romans 6-7)!

Verses 19-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Romans 9:19-26 19You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" 20On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? 21Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. 25As He says also in Hosea, "I will call those who were not My people, 'My people,' And her who was not beloved, 'beloved.'" "26And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, 'you are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God."

Romans 9:19 "who resists His will" This is a perfect active indicative, which emphasized a settled fact with continuing results (cf. 2 Chronicles 20:6; Job 9:12; Psalms 135:6; Daniel 4:35). The diatribe continues. Logically, following Paul's diatribe is the best way to outline and understand Paul's thought. See chapter introduction, B., 1. God's will needs to be seen on two levels. The first is His redemptive plans for all of the fallen human race (cf. Genesis 3:15). These plans are unaffected by individual human choice. But on the second level, God chooses to use human instrumentality (cf. Exodus 3:7-9 and 10). People are chosen to accomplish His plans (both positively, Moses, and negatively, Pharaoh).

Romans 9:20-21 This imagery is taken from Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 45:9-13; Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 18:1-12. The metaphor of YHWH as a potter was often used for God as creator because mankind comes from clay (cf. Genesis 2:7). Paul drove home his point of the sovereignty of the creator by the use of three more questions-the first two in Romans 9:20 and the third in Romans 9:21. The last question returns to the analogy of God's positive choice in Moses and negative choice in Pharaoh. This same contrast is seen in

1. Isaac - Ishmael, Romans 9:8-9

2. Jacob - Esau in Romans 9:10-12

3. the nation of Israel and the nation of Edom in Romans 9:13

This same analogy is developed to reflect Paul's contemporary situation of believing and unbelieving Jews. God's positive choice is ultimately expressed in the inclusion of believing Gentiles (Romans 9:24-29, Romans 9:30-33)!

The grammatical form expects

1. a "no" answer to the question of Romans 9:20

2. a "yes" answer to the question in Romans 9:21

Romans 9:22 "if" This is a partial first class conditional sentence which is assumed true from the author's perspective, but with no grammatical conclusion. Verses Romans 9:22-24 are one sentence in Greek. Verse Romans 9:22 expresses the redemptive character of God. God is a God of justice. He will hold humanity accountable for their deeds. But He is also a God of mercy. All humans deserve to die (cf. Romans 1:18-21). Justice is not good news! God's character is primarily mercy, not wrath (cf. Deuteronomy 5:9-10; Deuteronomy 7:9; Hosea 11:8-9). His choices are for redemption (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-33). He is patient with sinful mankind (cf. Ezekiel 18:0). He even uses evil for His redemptive purposes (e.g., Satan, Pharaoh, Witch of Endor, Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, and in Romans 11:0, unbelieving Israel)!

NASB"willing to demonstrate His wrath" NKJV"wanting to show His wrath" NRSV"desiring to show his wrath" TEV"wanted to show his anger" NJB"is ready to show his anger"

God demonstrates His wrath to make known both His power (cf. Romans 9:22) and the riches of His glory (cf. Romans 9:23). God's actions always have redemptive purposes (except Gehenna, which is the final isolation of incalcitrant unbelief and sin).

"vessels of wrath" This term continues Paul's metaphor of the clay from Romans 9:20 and 21. They obviously refer to unbelieving human beings who God uses to further His plan of redemption.

NASB, NKJV"prepared" NRSV"are made" TEV"doomed" NJB"designed"

This is a perfect passive participle. The word is used in the papyri (Moulton and Milligan) of something prepared for its full destiny. Rebellious unbelief will have its day of justice and consequences. However, God chooses to use unbelievers to accomplish His wider, inclusive, redemptive purposes.

M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, vol. 2, says "Not fitted by God for destruction, but in an adjectival sense, ready, ripe for destruction, the participle denoting a present state previously formed, but giving no hint of how it has been formed" (p. 716).

"destruction" See Special Topic at Romans 3:3.

Romans 9:23 "to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy" This purpose clause shows God's eternal intent (i.e., mercy). The verb is an aorist active subjunctive. God made His riches known in sending Jesus!

Paul often refers to the riches of

1. His kindness and forbearance and patience, Romans 2:4

2. His glory to vessels of mercy, Romans 9:23

3. His grace, Ephesians 1:7

4. the glory of His inheritance, Ephesians 1:18

5. His grace in kindness toward us in Christ, Ephesians 2:7

6. Christ to the Gentiles, Ephesians 3:8

7. His glory, Ephesians 3:16

8. the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory, Colossians 1:27

"which He prepared beforehand for glory" This same truth is stated in Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 1:11. This chapter is the strongest expression of God's sovereignty in the NT. There can be no dispute that God is in total charge of creation and redemption! This great truth should never be softened or finessed. However, it must be balanced with God's choice of covenant as a means of relating to human creation, made in His image. It is surely true that some OT covenants, like Genesis 9:8-17 andRomans 15:12-21, are unconditional and do not relate at all to human response, but other covenants are conditional on human response (i.e., Eden, Noah, Moses, David). God has a plan of redemption for His creation, no human can affect this plan. God has chosen to allow individuals to participate in His plans. This opportunity for participation is a theological tension between sovereignty (Romans 9:0) and human free will (Romans 10:0).

It is not appropriate to select one biblical emphasis and ignore another. There is tension between doctrines because eastern people present truth in dialectical or tension-filled pairs. Doctrines must be held in relationship to other doctrines. Truth is a mosaic of truths.

There is surely mystery here! Paul does not draw the logical conclusion to unbelievers prepared (kataptizô) for wrath (Romans 9:22) and believers prepared (proetoimazô) for glory (Romans 9:23). Is God's choice the only factor or is God's choice based on mercy for all, but some reject His offer? Does humanity have any part in their own future (cf. Romans 9:30-21)? There are overstatements on both sides (Augustine - Pelagius). For me the concept of covenant unites them both with the emphasis on God. Humanity can only respond to the initiatives of God (e.g., John 6:44, John 6:65). But for me, God's character is not capricious, but merciful. He reaches out to all conscious human creation made in His image (cf. Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:27). I struggle with this context. It is so powerful, yet it paints in black and white. Its focus is Jewish unbelief, which results in Gentile inclusion (Romans 11:0)! But this is not the only text on the character of God!

"glory" See note at Romans 3:23.

Romans 9:24 This verse shows that the object of God's promise is wider than just racial Israel. God has shown mercy on mankind based on His choice. The promise of Genesis 3:15 is related to all mankind (because there are no Jews until Romans 12:0). The call of Abraham related to all mankind, Genesis 12:3. The call of Israel as a kingdom of priests related to all mankind (cf. Exodus 19:5-6)! This is the mystery of God, which was hidden, but is now fully revealed (cf. Ephesians 2:11-13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).

Paul's assertion in Romans 9:24 will be illustrated by a series of OT quotes (Romans 9:25-29).

Romans 9:1. Romans 9:25, Hosea 2:23

Romans 9:2. Romans 9:26, Hosea 1:10b

Romans 9:3. Romans 9:27, Isaiah 10:22 and/or Hosea 1:10a

Romans 9:4. Romans 9:28, Isaiah 10:23

Romans 9:5. Romans 9:29, Isaiah 1:9

Romans 9:25-26 In context this passage is from the Septuagint (LXX) of Hosea 2:23 (with some modifications) and Romans 1:10, where it referred to the Northern Ten Tribes, but here Paul refers to Gentiles. This is typical of NT authors' use of the OT. They saw the church as the fulfillment of the promises to Israel (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:5-9). In context the passage in Hosea refers to faithless Israel. If God could restore the idolatrous Northen Ten Tribes, Paul saw this as evidence of the love and forgiveness of God that would one day even include the idolatrous pagans (Gentiles).

Verses 27-29

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Romans 9:27-29 27Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; 28for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly." 29And just as Isaiah foretold, "Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity, We would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah."

Romans 9:27

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NJB"though" TEV"even if"

This is a third class conditional sentence (ean plus the subjunctive mood), which denotes potential action.

Romans 9:27-28 This is a loose quote from the Septuagint (LXX) of Isaiah 10:22-23. The Textus Receptus added a concluding phrase from the Septuagint of Isaiah 10:23. But it is absent from the ancient Greek manuscripts P46, א, A, and B, which shows it was a later addition by a copyist. The UBS4 rates its omission as "certain."

Romans 9:27 "like the sand of the sea" This is part of the metaphorical, hyperbolic language of God's promises to Abraham (cf. Genesis 15:5; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 26:4).

"the remnant that will be saved" The term "remnant" is used often in the OT Prophets to refer to those Israelites who were taken into exile, but would be brought back to the promised land by God. In Paul's use of the term, it refers to those Jews who had a faith relationship with God and/or those who heard the gospel and responded by faith to Christ.

Even within Covenant Israel a spiritual separation occurred, only some were right with God. Israel's election did not exclude the need for an individual faith response (cf. Isaiah 1:16-20).

Paul is using the OT phrase which initially referred to Jewish exiles, only a few of whom returned to Palestine, to refer to those who heard the gospel, but the large number of them did not believe and receive Christ. Only a small percentage of first century hearers (Jews and Gentiles) responded to the gospel message. Paul calls those who did, the remnant.


Romans 9:28

NASB"thoroughly and quickly" NKJV"finish. . .cut it short" NRSV"quickly and decisively" TEV"quickly settle his full account" NJB"without hesitation or delay" REB"will be summary and final" NIV"with speed and finality" NET"completely and quickly"

The two Greek words involve a word play (sun compounds so common in Paul).

1. suntelôn, present active participle of

a. sun

b. teleô

which basically means "to consummate" or "be fully realized" (cf. Mark 13:4; Luke 4:2, Luke 4:13; Acts 21:27; Hebrews 8:8)

2. suntemnôn, present active participle of

a. sun

b. temnô

which basically means "to cut short" or "to execute quickly" (found only here, but a related form is in Acts 24:4)

Where these sound plays are used, only context, not etymology or parallels, is helpful.

God has a purpose and plan for the salvation of His true people and His judgment of all others!

This verse is difficult to interpret so several later scribes tried to add phrases to clarify what they thought it meant. The UBS4 gives the shortest text and "A" rating (certain).

Romans 9:29 This is a quote from the LXX of Isaiah 1:9, which denounces the sinfulness of national Israel.

"Lord of Sabaoth" This was an OT title for YHWH, usually translated "Lord of Hosts" (cf. James 5:4). Depending on the context, this referred to God in a military sense, "captain of the army of heaven" (cf. Joshua 5:13-15), or administrative sense, usually a Babylonian astral polytheism context relating to the heavenly bodies, "Lord of the heavenly bodies." Stars are creations, not gods; they do not control or shape events (cf. Genesis 1:16; Psalms 8:3; Psalms 147:4; Isaiah 40:26).


NASB"unless. . .had left to us a posterity" NKJV"unless. . .had left us a seed" NRSV"had not left survivors" TEV"had not left us some descendants" NJB"not left us a few survivors"

The Hebrew text of Isaiah 1:9 has "remnant," but the Septuagint translated it "seed" (NKJV). God's judgment of Israel always spared (1) the believing remnant or (2) the Messianic line. God spared the few to reach the many.

"Sodom. . .Gomorrah" Verse Romans 9:28 related to God's judgment. This verses specifically mentions two pagan cities which were destroyed by God in Genesis 19:24-26, but they became an idiom for God's judgment (cf. Deut. 29:34; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 20:16; Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40; Amos 4:11).

Verses 30-33

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Romans 9:30-33 30What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33just as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed."

Romans 9:30-31 This is the surprising conclusion of God's electing purpose. Verses Romans 9:30-33 are a summary of Romans 9:0 and an introduction to Romans 10:0. Believing Gentiles are made right with God, but not all Jews (cf. Romans 9:6)!

God deals with all mankind in a covenantal way. God always takes the initiative and sets the conditions. Individuals must respond by repentance and faith, obedience, and perseverance. Are humans saved

1. by God's sovereignty

2. by God's mercy through faith in the Messiah's finished work

3. by an act of personal faith?

For "pursue" see note at Romans 14:19.

Romans 9:30 "Righteousness" For this word group see Special Topic at Romans 1:17. The noun is used three times in Romans 9:30 and once in Romans 9:31. The "righteousness" of faith is contrasted with the "righteousness" of the law. Again the contrast between the old covenant and the new covenant. The problems with the old covenant open the door of the gospel for the whole world in Romans 11:0.

Romans 9:32 "by works" The Textus Receptus added "of the law." This was an addition by a later copyist. Paul did often use this phrase "works of the law" (cf. Romans 3:20, Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:2, Galatians 3:5, Galatians 3:10). However, the ancient Greek manuscripts P46, א*, A, B, F, and G omit the term in this verse. The UBS4 rates the shorter text "B" (almost certain).

The key to God's righteousness is not human performance but the character and gift of God through Christ. Righteousness is an impossible attainment by fallen mankind, but it is a freely offered gift through faith in Christ (cf. Romans 3:21-31). However, it must be received (cf. Romans 9:33; John 1:12; John 3:16; Romans 4:1ff; Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8-9). This is the truth that sincere, religious, moral Jews (and all legalists) miss!

George Eldon Ladd in his book A Theology of the New Testament, makes a good point:

"Paul's teaching about the Law is often approached from the perspective of the historical experience either of Paul himself as a Jewish rabbi, or of a typical first-century Jew under the Law. However, Paul's thought must be seen neither as a confession of his spiritual autobiography, nor as a description of the legalistic character of first-century Pharisaism, but as a theological interpretation by a Christian thinker of two ways of righteousness: legalism and faith" (p. 495).

Romans 9:33 This is taken from Isaiah 28:16 combined with Romans 8:14.

"Behold I lay in Zion a stone," 28:16a

"of stumbling and a rock of offense," Romans 8:14b

"and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed," 28:16b

By combining these verses in this way (rabbinical technique) he changes the meaning of Isaiah 28:16 from positive to negative. Paul manipulates the OT for his own purposes.

1. He chooses which translation (LXX, MT, or his own)

2. He changes the references (from exile to Gentiles)

3. He combines texts

4. He changes titles and pronouns, which apply YHWH to Jesus

"he who believes in Him will not be disappointed" This is from Isaiah 28:16b. It is also quoted in Romans 10:11 and is similar to Joel 2:32, quoted in Romans 10:13. The key to salvation is both (1) the object (the cornerstone) and (2) the individual's personal reception (faith in Him). See Special Topic: Believe at Romans 4:5.

"a stone" This was originally a title for God (cf. Psalms 18:1-2, Psalms 18:31, Psalms 18:46; Deuteronomy 32:18; 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalms 28:1; Psalms 31:3; Psalms 42:9; Psalms 71:3; Psalms 78:35), but it came to be a Messianic title (cf. Genesis 49:24; Psalms 118:22; Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 28:16; Daniel 2:34-35, Daniel 2:44-45; Matthew 21:42-44). The key element of God's covenant promise (the Messiah) was misunderstood and rejected (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23). The Jews misunderstood not only the Messiah's purpose, but the basic requirements of God's covenant. Christ became for the Jews a cause to stumble (cf. Isaiah 8:14; Luke 2:34), but for the believers, both Jew and Gentile, He became the foundation stone (cf. Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:6-10).


Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Romans 9". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/romans-9.html. 2021.
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