An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 10 October 2010; Revised 5 August 2022
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. All other Scripture quotations are from the NASB Updated Edition (1995), unless otherwise indicated. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important early Jewish sources include the following:
● DSS: the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online DSS Bible.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online.
● Josephus: The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.), Jewish historian, trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
● Philo: Works by Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher (20 B.C.─A.D. 50), consisting of 45 monographs. Online.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began under Rabbi Akiva (2nd c. A.D.), but completed by scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from the 9th century. Online.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). The meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB;" online at BibleHub.com. See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance reference numbers are identified with "SH" for Hebrew and "SG" for Greek. Strong's Online. Parsing data for Greek words is from Bible Hub Interlinear Bible, 2004-2021, and Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, 1980.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebrew and Jewish nature of the entire Bible I use the terms Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), Torah (Pentateuch, Law), ADONAI (for the sacred name in Tanakh verses), and Besekh (New Testament).
Israelology: God's Covenant Faithfulness, 9:1–11:36
In chapters nine through eleven, Paul addresses the subject of Israelology, a biblical teaching much neglected in Christian theology. Paul affirms that God has not rejected His covenant people as taught in historic Christianity, but in fact will save the Jewish people. David Stern's introduction to this section is important for Christians to hear.
"Chapters 9–11 of the Book of Romans contain the New Testament's most important and complete discussion of the Jewish people. In them God promises that 'all Israel will be saved' (11:26) and commands that Gentile Christians show the Jews God's mercy (11:31). In the face of what these chapters teach, every form of Christian antisemitism stands condemned; and every claim, whether by Jews or Christians, that the gospel is not for Jews must collapse." (385)
With the conclusion of chapter eight Paul has completed his description of how God's righteousness was manifested through the faithfulness of Messiah Yeshua, and the merciful provision of acquittal of sins and divine enablement to walk by the Spirit. However, some of Paul's readers may have concluded that if uncircumcised Gentiles can gain access to the privileges of salvation and many Jews refuse to believe in Yeshua, then how can Jews be certain of God's faithfulness to His covenantal promises. Maybe He will even reject His covenant people. Paul rebuts this false idea in the strongest terms.
Paul first expresses his own heart-felt concern for his fellow Israelites. Just as once Moses had offered himself, Paul would be willing to suffer loss so that his people might be saved. He then proceeds to review the many covenantal blessings Israel had received from God and affirms that God's promises had not failed. He then reminds his readers that the true Israel is not defined by strictly blood descent but by faithfulness to God's covenantal expectations. The proof of this principle is the contrast between Isaac and Ishmael, and then Jacob and Esau.
Paul also uses a parable of the potter to affirm God's right to make sovereign choices of who would receive his favor. God chose to endure "vessels of wrath" with much longsuffering, that He might make known His glorious riches to "vessels of mercy," including both Jews and Gentiles. God's covenantal promises were never intended to be transferred simply on the basis of blood, but to the faithful remnant of Israel and Gentiles who pursued the righteousness based on faithfulness.
Passion for Israel, 9:1-5
The True Children, 9:6-13
The Justice of God, 9:14-19
Parable of the Potter, 9:20-24
Salvation of the Remnant, 9:25-29
The Stone of Stumbling, 9:30–33
Passion for Israel, 9:1-5
1− I speak the truth in Messiah, I do not lie, my conscience confirms with me in the Holy Spirit
Paul takes a triple oath here so strongly is he stirred (Robertson). I speak: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. The verb is in the present tense for dramatic effect. Paul dictated the letter, so the verb illustrates Paul speaking to his secretary Tertius (16:22). the truth: Grk. alētheia, that which is really so, and here means truth as opposed to what is false. In the LXX alētheia translates Heb. emet (SH-571; BDB 54), firmness, faithfulness, truth, first in Genesis 24:27. Emet is often used for truthfulness in God and piety in man.
The Rabbis explain rather pedantically that emet contains the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and that truth ought to be trustworthy through and through (Santala 72). Paul appeals to the Messiah as a witness to the fact that the testimony he about to give is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This phrase (Heb. divrei emet ani medaber imkha) in rabbinic literature often implies that what is being stated carries the weight of a revelation or of a divine conclusion, bringing the definitive point of an argument (Shulam 339). For Paul the truth corresponds to reality and is not an ambiguous term governed by personal perceptions. The concept of truth in Scripture is deeply rooted in the principle of integrity.
in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in," "within" or "among." Messiah: Grk. Christos (from chriō, "anoint with olive oil"), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. The English "Christ" transliterates the Greek title, but does not translate it. In Greek culture christos had no religious connotation at all. Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), "anointed, Anointed One," and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century.
The primary identification of Messiah is the King of the Jews, the son of David. Biblical prophecies speak of his rule over Israel from David's throne in Jerusalem. Yeshua recounted these prophecies to his disciples after his resurrection (Luke 24:44-47). Jews eagerly anticipated the coming of the Messiah to deliver them from their enemies and establish His kingdom on the earth (Luke 1:69-75). Thus, "Messiah" has special meaning as the hope of Israel, whereas the word "Christ" has an alien and even negative meaning to Jews (Stern 1-2). For a discussion of Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.
I do not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. lie: Grk. pseudomai, pres. mid., to state what is false or to endeavor to create a false impression by lying. Paul reverses his oath by stating it negatively, thereby asserting his own integrity. my: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. conscience: Grk. suneidēsis, awareness, consciousness, especially sensitivity to moral or ethical expectations. Paul is not speaking of an inward controlling moral faculty as commonly thought for the word "conscience," but his own awareness of God's standards for integrity and his conformity to those standards. confirms with: Grk. summartureō, pres. part., to offer supportive attestation; confirm. me: Grk. egō. in: Grk. en, prep.
the Holy: Grk. hagios, adj., different, and may mean (1) set apart for dedication to the interests or expectation of God, used of things and persons; (2) in a moral sense, pure, sinless, upright, or holy; or (3) worthy of veneration or worship, especially of God on account of his incomparable majesty (Thayer). The adjective is used here as a pure substantive to denote intrinsic nature. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh (SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. Qadosh is first used of God in Lev 11:44.
Spirit: Grk. pneuma, wind, breath or spirit; here referring to the Holy Spirit. In the Besekh pneuma is used for the human spirit and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Spirit as God's self-expression (Mark 1:10). In the LXX pneuma translates Heb. ruach (Resh-Vav-Chet, SH-7307), which is first used for the Spirit of God (Gen 1:2), then breath (Gen 6:17), and wind (Gen 8:1) (DNTT 3:690). In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit, a name or face of God.
"Holy Spirit" is not the title of a separate being, because God is Spirit (John 4:24). The specific name "Holy Spirit" (Heb. Ruach Qodesh) occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11). The Holy Spirit is identified by three other forms in the Tanakh (Ruach Elohim, Gen 1:2; Ruach YHVH, Judg 3:10; and Ruach Adonai YHVH, Isa 61:1). The Greek text of this verse does not have the definite article for either "Holy" or "Spirit," corresponding to the lack of the definite article in the three passages of Ruach Qodesh. The third part of his oath appeals to the Holy Spirit as validating his claim of personal integrity.
2− that there is great grief to me and unceasing pain in my heart.
that: Grk. hoti, conj., "that, because," and may (1) define a demonstrative pronoun; (2) introduce a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introduce a direct quotation and function as quotation marks; or (4) indicate causality with an inferential aspect. The second meaning applies here to introduce a clause as complementary of the previous verse. there is: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG).
great: Grk. megas, adj., means large or great and may refer to an extension of space in all directions or the measure of something, whether in intensity or quantity. grief: Grk. lupē indicates inner distress, whether mental or spiritual; grief, sorrow. to me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect.
unceasing: Grk. adialeiptos, adj., unceasing or constant, with focus on not discontinuing an activity. pain: Grk. odunē, to be in pain, whether physical or emotional; pain. An apt analogy is the grief of Jews after the destruction of the temple and fall of Jerusalem (Robertson). in my: Grk. egō. heart: Grk. ho kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, used as metaphorically of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. In the LXX kardia renders Heb. lebab (SH-3824), inner man, mind, heart, will (DNTT 2:181). In Hebraic thought the "heart" may stand for the whole person.
The double emphasis of lupē and odunē indicates the severity of Paul's grief. He has unceasing grief, because so many of his fellow Israelites have not believed in Yeshua. He probably expected that by this time the Jews would have universally and unanimously welcomed the good news. The realization that so many Jews had not accepted Yeshua must have seemed inexplicable. How could his fellow Jews fail to understand what he understood?
As a result of Paul's words there has been an historic false mantra in Christianity that the Jews universally rejected Yeshua. During his earthly ministry he certainly had his opponents among the Sadducees and Pharisees. Enough of the Judean rulers were present to conduct a clandestine and illegal trial in the middle of the night to condemn Yeshua and order his death. Later the apostles encountered opposition from unbelieving Jews in various cities of the Diaspora. Nevertheless, Yeshua in his earthly ministry and the later apostolic ministry experienced an incredible positive response from Jews. Multitudes were attracted to Yeshua wherever he went and many named persons followed him.
If the Judean rulers had listened to popular opinion polls of the time Yeshua would have been elected Messiah and King instead of being crucified. Pentecost became like the proverbial small stones starting an avalanche. Beginning with 120 faithful disciples, the number of Jewish adherents swelled quickly to 8,000+ (Acts 2:41; 4:4). Then more multitudes were added (Acts 5:14). Even a great many priests accepted Yeshua (Acts 6:7). Opponents later accepted Yeshua (Acts 9:10-15; 18:7; 1Cor 1:1). The apostolic mission in the Diaspora was extremely successful. By the end of the first decade after Pentecost Luke could record that literally tens of thousands of Jews had accepted Yeshua (Acts 21:20).
So, why was Paul grieving? Stern explains the matter with an old Jewish saying, "If five sons are faithful and two are not, you may cry, 'Woe is me, for my sons are unfaithful!'"
3− For I wish myself to be accursed from the Messiah for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
For: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. I: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. wish: Grk. euchomai, impf. mid., to pray for in regard to a petition to God or in a diminished sense a wish or longing for something. The imperfect tense generally refers to a recurrent activity in past time, but conveys the same force as the present tense. Versions are virtually unanimous in translating the imperfect tense of the verb "I could wish," which in English implies some uncertainty.
Robertson translates the phrase as "I was on the point of wishing." It may be that translators recoil from the concept that Paul would actually consider the proposition he describes. Whether we should translate euchomai as a prayer or a wish matters little since God knows the desires of our hearts and will only answer in accordance with His will. Paul knows that what he wishes is impossible, but that has not stopped him from considering it.
myself: Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The first meaning applies here. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See the previous verse. accursed: Grk. anathema, that which is laid up, a votive offering. In Israelite thought that which is dedicated to God can be subjected either to blessing or curse, with the latter aspect dominating. To be accursed alludes to the Torah provision that people could be put under a ban for utter destruction.
The provision was for someone who impeded or resisted God's work and therefore considered to be accursed before God, such as the seven tribes (Num 21:2-3; Deut 7:2; 1Sam 15:3) and idolaters (Ex 22:20; Deut 13:12-16). It is mind boggling to think that Paul would contemplate being treated as the Torah prescribed for the worst sinners. Of course, he did have a sense of having been a great sinner before his transformative experience on the Damascus Road (1Tim 1:15.)
Jews of that time would consider Paul's words horrific. Even today every Rosh-HaShanah and Yom-Kippur the synagogue liturgy calls for Jews to pray that their sins will be forgiven and their names written in the Book of Life. Yet, Paul, as his fellow Jewish believers, knew that Yeshua was unflinching in presenting the truth of judgment awaiting unbelievers (Matt 23:33; Luke 12:46; John 3:18, 36; 5:29). To reject Yeshua means eternal damnation.
from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation. the Messiah: Grk. ho Christos. See verse 1 above. Paul's shocking wish begs the question, "Why should the innocent die for wicked ungrateful people?" Yet, if being separated from God's mercy forever would bring redemption for all his people, Paul would consider it a fair trade. Paul's wish is akin to Moses' request of ADONAI after the golden calf idolatry: "Now, if you will just forgive their sin! But if you won’t, then, I beg you, blot me out of your book which you have written!" (Ex 32:32 CJB). God did not grant Moses' wish as Yeshua will point out to John that only those who have sinned in rebellion are subject to being blotted out of the book of life (Rev 3:5).
for: Grk. huper, prep., lit. "over, above," used to express a stance of concern or interest relating to someone or something, here emphasizing a supportive aspect; for, in behalf of, in the interest of. my: Grk. egō. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant "brother." Adelphos primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites. In the LXX adelphos renders Heb. ach, a male sibling, whether of mother or father (first in Gen 4:2), a blood relative (Gen 13:8), member of the same tribe (Num 16:10), and members of the same people group that share the same ancestor (Gen 9:5; Ex 2:11). Paul no doubt intends his biological nuclear and extended family of relatives.
my: Grk. egō. kinsmen: pl. of Grk. suggenēs (from sun, "identified with" and génos, "offspring"), adj., akin to, connected by lineage, related, often translated as "relative," "relation," or "kinfolk." Paul could have used this term as a synonym of adelphos, extending to the descendants of Jacob generally, but perhaps more specifically to those with whom he identified as a Pharisee. In context it's crucial to note that Paul is only speaking of Jews who have not come to trust in Yeshua (Stern). according to: Grk. kata, prep., with the root meaning of "down," is generally used to signify (1) direction, 'against, down;' (2) opposition, 'against;' or (3) conformity, 'according to, by means of.' The third usage is intended here.
the flesh: Grk. sarx, flesh, in general usage refers to being alive in an earthly or physical way, including parts of the body, a human being, or a blood relation. Sarx is also used of a condition of human perspective, which may reflect (1) human or mortal nature with its limitations apart from divine influence, (2) personal desire or (3) sinfulness. In the LXX sarx translates Heb. basar (SH-1320), first in Genesis 2:21, and has the same range of meaning (DNTT 1:672). The phrase "according to flesh" can certainly emphasize the genetic relationship, but more likely refers to his physical circumcision which sealed his identification with the Jewish people eight days after birth.
Many Christians, including scholars who write commentaries, make the incredible gaff of assuming that Paul, the rest of the apostles and Jewish disciples in the first century were once Jews, but then became Christians and stopped being Jews. However, Paul continued to identify himself as a Jew as he does here with the triple emphasis of "brethren," "kinsmen" and "flesh" (cf. Acts 21:39; 22:3; 26:4; 1Cor 9:20; Gal 2:15; Php 3:5).
4 who are Israelites, of whom is the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Torah and the service and the promises,
who: pl. of Grk. hostis (from hos, "who," and tis, "a certain one"), relative pronoun, whoever, anyone who, used here as a simple reference to the "brothers" and "kinsmen" in the previous verse. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. The present tense verb indicates that these benefits and privileges are still in force. None of them have been abrogated by the New Covenant. Israelites: pl. of Grk. Israēlitēs, both the covenant name of the chosen people and a reference to the individual biological descendants of Jacob (Gen 32:28). The noun occurs nine times in the Besekh, four of which are spoken by Paul (here; Acts 13:16; Rom 11:1; and 2Cor 11:22 ). No other people group or nation under heaven may claim ownership of the following blessings.
"Israel" and "Israelites" are not code names for the Christian Church or any branch thereof. Christianity hadn't been invented yet, contrary to the mistaken assumption that Paul founded the antisemitic religion of later centuries. The use of "Israelite" here with the present tense offers an inherent rebuttal to a common misbelief that t he ten tribes of the northern Kingdom of Israel were completely destroyed or assimilated into Gentile cultures. The Besekh and other early Jewish literature present strong evidence for the continuity of all the tribes of Israel. Paul himself mentioned the existence of the twelve tribes in his speech to King Agrippa (Acts 26:7). (See my article The Twelve Tribes of Israel.)
of whom is: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. The double emphasis of the two pronouns stresses ownership. These advantages and blessings have never belonged to any other nation. As Moses said,
"32 Indeed, ask now about the former days that were before you, from the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of the sky to the other. Has there ever been such a great thing as this, or has anything like it been heard? 33 Has a people ever heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard—and lived? 34 Or has any god ever tried to come to take for himself a nation from within a nation—by trials, by signs and wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors—like all that ADONAI your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?" (Deut 4:32-34 TLV)
Paul then identifies the eight advantages and blessings to which the twelve tribes viewed as the nation of Israel have exclusive claim. Paul did not have to explain these benefits since he was writing to a congregation consisting primarily of Jews, and Gentile constituents well acquainted with Jewish culture and traditions. However, it's important for modern Christians to understand all that is packed into Paul's list. In rabbinic writings these benefits either existed or were contemplated before the creation of the world.
"Six things preceded the creation of the world; some of them were actually created, while the creation of others was already contemplated. The Torah [Prov 8:22] and the Throne of Glory [Ps 93:2] were created. … The creation of the Patriarchs was contemplated [Hos 9:10]. The creation of Israel was contemplated [Ps 74:2]. The creation of the Temple was contemplated [Jer 17:12]. The name of the Messiah was contemplated [Jer 17:12] (Genesis Rabbah 1:4, quoted in Shulam).
the adoption: Grk. ho huiothesia (from huios, "son," and tithēmi, "to appoint"), condition of one who is legally adopted as a son, with a nuance of special status, here with the focus on the gift of special relationship with God. Adoption indicates a new family relation with all the inherent rights, privileges and responsibilities (Rienecker). The terminology of adoption had a vivid meaning for Roman citizens. According to Roman law a man could create between himself and a person not his biological child the kind of relation that properly belongs only to father and child. In Roman law "adoption" referred to the ceremony, which took two forms, adoptio and adrogatio.
The ceremony of adoptio simply meant that the adopted person passed from the power of his biological parent to the power of the person adopting him. When a person was not in the power of his biological parent, the ceremony of adoption was called adrogatio. In either scenario all the property of the adopted son became the property of the adoptive father. There was also the "adoption by testament," in which though a man or woman might by testament identify an heir, and impose the condition of the heir taking the name of the testator or testatrix. This adoption gave to the adoptive person the name and property of the testator or testatrix. (See Adoption in William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1875).
The legal process of adopting a child by a non-biological parent is unknown to both biblical and Talmudic law. Paul no doubt uses the term here as a metaphor of the relationship between God and Israel, which is often likened to that of father and son (Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; Isa 43:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:19; 31:9; Hos 1:10: Mal 1:6; cf. 2Cor 6:18). Paul sees a similarity to the Roman institution of adoption, perhaps even the adoption by testament. See the following note on "covenants." God's "adoption" of Israel placed them completely under the power and authority of God. They were "holy to ADONAI" (Ex 19:6). God provided an inheritance for His people as sons.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the glory: Grk. ho doxa has four categories of meaning: (1) splendor or radiance in the sense of brightness, (2) magnificence in the sense of what catches the eye, (3) fame, renown, honor or approval, and (4) glorious as in the angelic beings and majesties. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabōd (SH-3519), splendor or brightness, which conveys the majesty of that which belongs to God, to the Messiah or to angels. Kabôd (pronounced "kah-vohd") is particularly used to refer to the luminous manifestation of God's person, His glorious revelation of Himself (Ex 24:16-17). In the Besekh doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45).
The CJB translates doxa in this verse with Sh'khinah, but this substitution may be confusing to Gentile readers since Sh'khinah (also spelled Shekinah) does not occur in the Tanakh at all. The term occurs frequently in the Targums and the Talmud to mean "the glorious presence of God," particularly in reference to the glory cloud that led the people out of Egypt and through the wilderness (Ex 16:10), and filled the Holy Place of the Tabernacle (Ex 29:43; 40:34) and later the Temple (2Kgs 8:11). When Moses asked to see the glory of God (Ex 33:18), he was shown the Shekhinah. The term is also used frequently in Jewish writings as a euphemism for the name of God. (See the article Shekinah, Jewish Encyclopedia.)
Paul likely thought of the special presence of God exhibited in the pillars of fire and smoke in the wilderness (Ex 13:31, 33:9; Num 12:5, 14:14; Deut 31:15) and that occupied the ancient sanctuaries (Ex 40:36–38; 1Kgs 8:10-11; Ps 26:8; Ezek 1:28; 3:23; 43:2–5; 44:4) (Stern). All of these manifestations indicated God's immanent presence with the nation of Israel, an advantage and blessing not granted to any other nation in history.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the covenants: pl. of Grk. ho diathēkē (from diatithēmi, "to set out in order"), a formal agreement having complete terms determined by the initiating party, which also are fully affirmed by the one entering the agreement (HELPS). In Classical Greek literature the term diathēkē had a variety of meanings: disposition of property by will, a mystical oracle, the name of an eye salve and a compact or covenant (LSJ). The term appears 33 times in the Besekh, one time of a human agreement (Gal 3:15), and the rest of divine-initiated covenants.
In the LXX diathēkē translates Heb. b'rit (SH-1285), pact, compact, or covenant (BDB 136), used first in Genesis 6:18 of God's covenant with Noah. The term b'rit is also used frequently of a wide variety of human agreements. The divine covenants included both promises and expectations of the recipients. All of God's covenants mentioned in the Tanakh were based on irrevocable decisions (cf. Rom 11:29). The covenant God made with Israel also functioned like a constitution.
The Jewish translators of the LXX might have chosen to use sunthēkē, which only means an agreement, but instead they chose uniformly to translate b'rit with diathēkē (DNTT 1:365). Zodhiates explains that diathēkē was chosen because there was no better word available to express the Hebrew idea of a solemn and irrevocable disposition made by God Himself of His own gracious choice to secure a religious inheritance to His chosen people.
Christians are accustomed of thinking of only one covenant pertaining to the Jews, the Old Covenant (2Cor 3:14). One could say that there is one covenant with a number of versions, just as in computer software there can be different versions of the Windows operating system. While there is much in common between them, each "version" of the covenant introduced something new in terms of expectations, promises and signs. Christians generally miss the significance of this single word and the history it encapsulates.
There are two divine-human covenants that pertain to the entire human race: Adam (Hosea 6:7; Gen 1:27-30; 2:15-17) and Noah (Gen 6:18; 9:1-17; Jer 33:25). However, there are six recorded divine-human covenants that pertain to the Israelite people. Each of these covenants set forth specific expectations, promises, the duration and a sign or perpetual reminder of the covenant.
Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 15:1-21; 17:1-22)
Isaac (Gen 26:2-5, 23-24)
Jacob (Gen 28:10-22; 35:9-12)
Sinai (Ex 19:5-6; 31:16-17)
Moab (Deut 4:13; 6:12-15; 29:1-15; 30:1-6)
● Aaron (Ex 28; Num 18:19-20)
● David (2Sam 7:11-15; 23:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 9:6; 11:1-5; Jer 23:5; 33:14-22).
● New Covenant (Jer 31:31-33; 32:36-40; Ezek 11:17-21)
● Covenant of Shalom (Isa 54:10; 61:8; Ezek 34:25; 37:26-28)
For a detailed discussion of all these covenants see my article The Everlasting Covenants.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the giving of the Torah: Grk. ho nomothesia (from nomos, "law" = Heb. Torah, and tithēmi, "to appoint"), act of legislating with the focus on the result. The term occurs only here in the Besekh and refers to the Torah itself as well as the giving of the tablets of the ten words of God at Mt. Sinai with miraculous signs and great drama. The enactment of the Torah as the constitution and rule of law for the nation was a formative event that shaped the destiny of Israel. Christians often refer to the Torah as the "Mosaic Law" as if Moses invented it. Every word of the Torah was dictated by God, and Moses only served as the messenger to convey divine instruction to Israel.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the service: Grk. ho latreia (from latreuō, "render sacred service") religious service or worship (BAG). In the LXX latreia translates Heb. avodah (SH-5656), labor, service, first in Exodus 12:25. The term is generally used of religious observance and presentation of offerings at the tabernacle or temple. Josephus also uses the term for the divine service at the temple (Wars, II, 17:2). Stern observes that the Temple service was not merely a daily reminder to the Jewish people of God’s concern for them, but was also God's provision for their spiritual survival and continued existence, cleansing the sanctuary from sin through the sacrificial system and maintaining them until the Messiah came.
and: Grk. kai, conj. the promises: pl. Grk. ho epangelia, a reference to the promises made to Abraham (Gen 12:2-3; 13:14-16; 15:5, 13-14; 17:6-8; 22:15-18; 48:4), then to Isaac (Gen 17:19; 25:11, 21-23; 26:2-4, 24), and then to Jacob (Gen 28:13-15; 35:10-12), that
● their descendants (lit. "seed") will be as the stars of the heavens, the dust of the earth and the sand of the seashore;
● Abraham's "Seed" (Messiah) will possess the gates of his enemies (cf. Matt 16:18);
● the Land of Canaan will be their everlasting possession;
● in them all the nations of the earth will be blessed; and
● Israel will be an assembly of nations.
These promises were incorporated into the covenant made with the nation of Israel. In addition, through the Davidic Covenant (2Sam 7:8-17; 23:5; Ps 89:3-4) God promised an everlasting kingdom and in the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-36; 32:40; Ezek 36:27) God promised redemption, reconciliation of Israel and Judah and ultimate victory through the Messiah. As Stern says, the Tanakh is nothing if not a record of God’s promises to the Jewish people.
Textual Note: Covenant
While a small number of manuscripts have the singular form of "covenant" in this verse, including the earliest P46 (c. 200), the majority of manuscripts, including early authorities, have the plural form. Two early church fathers, Origen and Chrysostom, quote this verse with the singular in one MS and plural in another. Also, one version of the Vulgate (405 AD) has the singular form and another version has the plural (GNT 553).
Metzger says that the singular form was probably adopted by copyists on the ground that plural "covenants" involved theological difficulties. Metzger can find no good reason why if the singular was original, it should be changed to plural. Perhaps the simple reason for a change is that copyists read multiple covenants in the Tanakh. Robertson seems to accept the premise of one covenant, but the plural form points to its being often renewed.
whose are: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. the fathers: pl. of Grk. ho patēr, normally used of a male biological parent or male ancestor, as well as frequently in reference to God. In the LXX patēr translates ab (SH-1, "av"), which generally occurs in the human sense, but also of God as father in relation to Israel (Ex 4:22) (DNTT 1:616f). The word "fathers" no doubt refers to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex 3:15-16; Deut 30:20; cf. Acts 13:17). Moreover, God was not ashamed to be identified with any of them (cf. Gen 28:13; 31:42; Ex 3:6, 15-16; 4:5; 5:1). Israelites could look back on the Genesis history of their forefathers with pride because all the patriarchal fathers were models of piety and faithfulness to God.
Shulam suggests the term could include "all the illustrious forefathers of Israel's spiritual genealogy." However, the following clause qualifies the definition of "fathers." and: Grk. kai, conj. from: Grk. ek, prep., which may be used to denote derivation or separation, here the former; from, from out of. whom is: Grk. hos. the Messiah: Grk. ho Christos. See verse 1 above. according to: Grk. kata, prep. the flesh: Grk. sarx. See verse 3 above. The phrase "from whom is the Messiah according to the flesh" is a genealogical reference to the Messianic line, as recorded in Matthew 1:1-16.
Paul alludes to the promise that the Messiah would be the seed of the Woman (Gen 3:15; Gal 4:4), the seed of Abraham (Gen 15:4-5; Gal 3:16) and the seed of King David (2Sam 7:14; Acts 13:22, 34; Rom 1:3), fulfilling covenantal promises. the One: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. Among Jews "The One" was a circumlocution for the sacred name of God (e.g., Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; Acts 17:24; 19:4; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6). "The One" is also shorthand for the early usage in Hebrew culture of "the Holy One" (Qadosh, Job 6:12; Prov 30:3; Isa 40:25; Hos 11:9, 12; Hab 3:3).
being: Grk. eimi, pres. part. See verse 2 above. over: Grk. epi, prep. expressing the idea of "hovering" and may function as a marker for position or location, whether an area, a person or thing; on, upon, over. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every, the whole. In the LXX pas translates Heb. kol (SH-3605), every, all, the whole, first in Genesis 1:21. Shulam suggests that Paul places the Messiah as the head of those things which God contemplated before the creation of the world. Moreover, all the previous seven blessings pointed to the Messiah and his revelation is a far greater blessing that the previous seven blessings combined.
Yet, "over all" may have other shades of meaning. Paul may allude to the revelation declared by David:
"I will declare to you the decree: ADONAI has said to me, 'You are my son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as Your possession." (Ps 2:7-8 BR)
Yeshua is the King of the Jews (Matt 2:2; 27:11; Luke 23:38) and he will reign over all the earth (1Cor 15:25; Rev 20:4). Because Yeshua is the supreme authority he is also over all in judgment since the Father "has given all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22). There is another sense in which Yeshua is "over all." The mention of the Messiah is the eighth blessing in the list of blessings possessed by the Jews. In the symbolic meanings assigned to numbers the number seven, of course, represents completion or perfection, but the number eight (Heb. shemoneh) signifies fullness, beyond perfection, and the fullness of God dwells in the Son (Eph 1:23; Col 1:19).
Blessed be: Grk. eulogētos, adj. (for Heb. barukh), well spoken of, worthy of praise or blessing; blessed. God: Grk. theos, properly, God, the Creator and owner of all things (John 1:1-3). The definite article probably signifies "the one called." In the LXX the singular theos translates the plural Heb. Elohim (SH-430), when used of the true God, the God of creation (Gen 1:1). In Hebrew thought the plural form represents fullness (DNTT 2:67), which excludes the possible existence of any other deity (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). Also, theos is not a philosophical construct for monotheism. God is a Person, and for Paul He is the God of Israel (Acts 13:17). The God of Israel is the only God there is.
The Creator and God of Israel is the source of the blessings mentioned in the previous verse and this verse: the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the Torah, the worship, the promises of offspring and the Land, the patriarchs and the Messiah. Over and over in the Tanakh God promised that He would never forsake Israel and Paul affirms the fact in this letter (11:1-2). In fact, God declared that there is a better chance of the universe blowing up than that He would renege on his promises to Israel (Jer 33:25-26). The promise-keeping God of Israel is the God whom Paul blesses with exuberant praise.
for: Grk. eis, with the root meaning of "in, within" (DM 103), generally focuses on motion or entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit; into, to, towards. When used with a time reference the preposition can also be translated as "for" (Thayer). ever: pl. of Grk. ho aiōn, lit. "into the ages." The term properly means an age or era ("time-span"), an indefinite measurement of time characterized by a specific quality or type of existence (HELPS).
In the LXX aiōn translates ōlam, which means long duration, antiquity or futurity (BDB 761). Olam is also used adverbially to mean "for ever, for all time" (Gen 9:12). Since neither the Greek or Hebrew word in its singular form contains the concept of endlessness, the use of the plural intensive form olamim yields a declaration of ages that will continue without end (cf. Ps 90:2; Isa 45:17; Dan 9:24).
amen: Grk. amēn transliterates the Heb. ’amen, an adverb meaning "verily" or "truly" (BDB 53). Paul's "amen" may summarize Psalm 72:19, "Blessed be His glorious Name forever; may all the earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen" (TLV). The point of this closing doxology is not just a blessing of God for the Messiah but for the whole list of eight blessings possessed by the Jewish people. Paul's repetition of the phrase "blessed forever, Amen" from 1:25 probably alludes to the practice among Israelites from ancient times to bless God at all times. Since Yeshua is "over all," then the phrase would also be a doxology of praise for all that God has given Israel.
Shulam suggests that in this clause Paul alludes to the Messianic prooftext of Psalm 72:17, "May His name endure forever; may His name increase as long as the sun shines; and let men bless themselves by Him; Let all nations call Him blessed" (NASB).
Additional Note: Christian Interpretation of the Doxology
Since the time of the Church Fathers Christian theologians have applied the entire verse, especially the last part of the verse, to Yeshua as God and extended that interpretation to lay the foundation for replacement theology. Harrison reflects this point of view:
"Israel cannot lay claim to Christ in the same way she can claim the patriarchs, even though he entered the human family through the Israelitish gate [sic] (cf. 1:3). Christ is much more than the patriarchs. Only in his earthly origin does he belong to the one nation. Because of his heavenly origin and mission he cannot be claimed exclusively by any segment of the race, seeing he is "God over all."
Harrison's interpretation is supported by the ESV, HCSB, MSG, NCV, NKJV, NIV, and NLT, which have "Christ, who is God" or words to that effect. Robertson concurs that the clause affirms the deity of Yeshua. The TLV appears to give the same interpretation with "the Messiah, who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen." This interpretation is problematic since the Greek text contains no commas or full stops. The Greek text says, "of whom the fathers and from whom the Christos according to flesh the one being over all God blessed into the ages amen" (Marshall). Some of these versions, as the NIV, place "over all" after "God," even though the word order is reversed in the Greek text.
It seems that the above versions have punctuated the verse and arranged the word order in order to reflect a theological interpretation rather than give a straight forward translation. Harrison's argument that "blessed" always precedes "God" in the Tanakh (and therefore "God" refers to Yeshua) may be true as far as it goes, but it was not uncommon for "blessed" to follow "God" in rabbinic prayers and sayings, as the common statement, "the Holy One, blessed be he." Conversely, if "over all" can follow "God," as in the NIV that Harrison uses, then "blessed" could precede "God" and mean "blessed be God."
Shulam points out (as also noted by Metzger) that Paul nowhere else in his writings refers to Yeshua as theos (God) and always carefully distinguishes between the Messiah's possession of divine attributes and the oneness of the God of Israel (340). A quick concordance search indicates that wherever in Romans that Paul mentions either "Messiah" or "Yeshua" and "God" together in the same verse they are clearly distinguished (cf. 1:1, 7-8; 2:16; 3:22; 5:1, 8, 11, 15; 6:11, 23; 7:4, 25; 8:9, 17, 34, 39; 10:9; 14:18; 15:5-8, 16-17, 30; 16:20, 27). The same pattern follows in Paul's other letters. Some of these verses (as Rom 10:9) make a very sharp distinction, often with the title "Son of God," a Messianic title.
There is no equivocation in Pauline writings that Yeshua is the image of the invisible God and agent of creation (2Cor 4:4; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2-3), but Paul does not say, "God is Yeshua." Such a statement might confuse the Son with the Father, even though they are one (John 10:30; 17:11, 21). The enigma of unity of the Son and Father is captured in Philippians 2:6, "although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped."
The application of theos to Yeshua does not mean that all of the preceding argument and what follows in chapters ten and eleven are suddenly null and void. Yeshua being Messiah only has meaning in the Jewish context of the covenantal promises made to the patriarchs and the nation of Israel. Remove Yeshua from that context and he is no longer the promised Messiah, but only a caricature designed to justify Christian antisemitism.
The literal translation and punctuation (as found in the DRA, KJV, NASB, RSV, YLT and WNT) could be interpreted either as referring back to Yeshua or as a doxology distinguishing God (the Father) from Yeshua. The CJB emphasizes the doxology interpretation with: "the Patriarchs are theirs; and from them, as far as his physical descent is concerned, came the Messiah, who is over all. Praised be ADONAI for ever! Amen." The MW has "The fathers are theirs, and the Messiah is physically from them. God, who is over all, be blessed forever. Amen." Only three other versions capture this sense (CEV, GNB, NRSV).
Gruber sums up the truth of these advantages: "God is the God of Israel. Messiah is the King of the Jews. Israel is the ekklēsia of God. The covenants and the promises belong to the Jewish people. So does the right to be God's children. The Scriptures, Genesis to Revelation are Jewish. So are the apostles, the good news, and the kingdom. What did Christianity add?" (187)
The True Children, 9:6-13
6− but it is not such as that the word of God has failed, for not all the ones from Israel are those Israel.
But: Grk. de, conj., used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought, "and, also" (BAG). The first usage applies here. it is not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 1 above. such as: Grk. hoios, relative pronoun introducing a qualifying description or explanation; such as, as. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 2 above. The opening clause is an old idiom that occurs only here in the Besekh (Robertson).
the word: Grk. ho logos is used primarily for a vocalized expression of the mind, as communication ranging broadly in extent of content and variety of form; word, discourse, message or teaching. In the LXX logos primarily translates Heb. dabar (SH-1697), speech or word, and used widely for a message, speech or saying of men (Gen 29:13; 34:18) or of God (Ex 4:28; 19:7) (DNTT 3:1087). of God: Grk. ho theos, the God of Israel. See the previous verse. The phrase "word of God" as used here refers to the prophetic word of Scripture and alludes to the Jewish concept of inspiration, that is, "God spoke and Moses wrote." The same principle applies to the literary works by the Hebrew prophets, Isaiah to Malachi.
has failed: Grk. ekpiptō, perf., as an accounting term, to be in error. Paul succinctly rebuts the notion that Israel's failure reflects negatively on God. for: Grk. gar, conj. not: Grk. ou. all: pl. of Grk. pas, comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. the ones: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article used as a demonstrative pronoun. from: Grk. ek, prep., may be used to denote derivation or separation, here the former; from, out of, out from among. Ek has a two-layered meaning, "out from" and "to," which makes it out-come oriented, i.e., out of the depths of the source and extending to its impact on the object (HELPS).
Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975), the covenant name of the chosen people. The phrase "from Israel" denotes biological descent through the twelve tribes. The name "Israel" first appears in Genesis 32:28 where the heavenly being with whom Jacob struggled said, "From now on, you will no longer be called Ya'akov, but Isra'el; because you have shown your strength to both God and men and have prevailed" (CJB). The name change was later made permanent (Gen 35:9-12).
are those: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. Israel: Paul's use of "Israel" is in relation to the biological descendants of Jacob. Throughout the rest of the Tanakh, Jacob’s descendants are called the "sons of Israel" (Ex 12:37) or "house of Israel" (Ex 16:31). Thus, the Jewish people are the people of God. Paul does not include proselytes who may have been citizens of the nation. It's equally obvious that he is not using "Israel" as symbolic of Christianity or the Christian Church, which officially separated itself from its Jewish roots at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and at the Second Council of Nicaea (A.D. 787) banned all Jewish life in Yeshua.
Christians generally prefer to identify their faith with Abraham instead of Jacob. Many Christians down through history have found little to like about Jacob and have unjustly criticized his decisions and impeached his character. On the contrary there is not the slightest hint of disapproval in Scripture from God regarding any of Jacob's decisions. Paul's reference to Israel the man is quite complimentary, implying that Jacob was a man who did not fail God. (See my article Our Father Jacob.)
Paul declares that not all who can trace their lineage back to Jacob manifest his godly character. "Israel" has a covenantal corporate meaning and Paul distinguishes between the nation and individual citizens. Not all of Jacob's descendants trusted and obeyed the Lord. Thus, not all Israelites will be saved, as he implied earlier in this letter (2:6-13). Many in biblical history were "cut off," such as Korah and his followers. Having the right blood is not enough to share in the Messiah's kingdom (cf. John 1:12-13).
Stern points out that Paul's view reflected non-Messianic Judaism based on the well-known statement in the Mishnah, "All Israel has a portion in the world to come" (Sanhedrin 11:1), which is immediately followed by a list of Israelites who have no place in the world to come. Other leading Sages concurred saying, "when you behave as sons you are designated sons; if you do not behave as sons, you are not designated sons" (Kiddushin 36a).
7− nor because they are seed of Abraham they are all children, but in Isaac seed will be named to you.
Reference: Genesis 21:12.
nor: Grk. oude, conj., negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative. because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 2 above. they are: Grk. eimi, pres., 3p-pl. See verse 2 above. seed: Grk. sperma, a singular noun, which may refer either to the source (e.g. seed, semen) or the product of propagation (e.g., posterity, descendant). The term is used here in a figurative sense to denote descendants, children or posterity.
In the LXX sperma translates Heb. zera (SH-2233), sowing, seed or offspring (BDB 282), first in Genesis 1:11. Like sperma the singular form of zera may have a collective meaning. Sperma occurs twice in this verse, first in Paul's explanation and then in the quote taken from Genesis 21:12. The first usage obviously has a collective meaning since it refers back to the point in the previous verse.
of Abraham: Grk. Abraam, which transliterates the Heb. Avraham. The first Hebrew patriarch became the prime example of faithfulness. He was the son of Terah, a descendant of Noah's son, Shem (Gen 11:27). He grew up in Ur of the Chaldees, a prominent Sumerian city. He was known at the beginning as Abram ("father is exalted," Gen 11:26), but his name was changed subsequently to Abraham ("father of a multitude," Gen 17:5). Abraham was living in Haran when God called him to migrate to Canaan, and during his sojourn there God spoke to him and established a covenant with him. For more information on the great patriarch see my web article The Story of Abraham.
they are all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. children: pl. of Grk. teknon, which refers to a child in relation to father and mother and often used in the Besekh without regard to sex. While the singular noun can be used in a collective sense, the plural form as here is used in the general sense of descendants or posterity (BAG). In the LXX teknon translates Heb. ben (SH-2211), which lit. means "son" or male child of a woman, but in the plural may refer collectively to both male and female children (e.g., Gen 3:16) (BDB 119f). Abraham had children of his concubines (Gen 25:6), but in covenantal terms they are considered "illegitimate" (cf. Deut 23:2).
but: Grk. alla, conj. used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. Paul then quotes from Genesis 21:12. in: Grk. en, prep., lit. "within." The preposition can be taken in a literal physical sense of the capability of propagation (cf. Heb 7:9-10). Isaac: Grk. Isaak, which attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yitzchak ("laughter"). Isaac was the only son of Abraham by Sarah when Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah was ninety (Gen 21:1-6). Isaac was actually Abraham's second-born child, Ishmael being his first-born by Hagar, Abraham's concubine-wife.
God made it clear to Abraham that being the child of promise the Messianic line would go through Isaac (Gen 21:12). Isaac became a child of sacrifice and a type of Yeshua when God commanded Abraham to take his son to the land of Moriah and present a burnt offering (Gen 22:1-14), in the vicinity where Yeshua would be crucified. Later, through the matchmaking efforts of his father, Isaac married his cousin Rebekah (Gen 24). God reiterated the covenant He made with Abraham with his son Isaac (Gen 26:2-5, 23-24; Ex 2:24; 6:4; Lev 26:42).
seed: Grk. sperma. In the context of Genesis 21:12 Heb. zera has a collective meaning of descendants, because in Genesis 21:10 Sarah's concern is for the beneficiaries or legatees of Abraham's estate (the Land and the other promises given to Abraham). However, the singular noun hints at a second meaning. will be named: Grk. kaleō, to identify by name or give a term to, and often in the Besekh means either to call or summon to divine relationship and responsibility. In the LXX of Genesis 21:12 kaleō translates Heb. qara (SH-7121), which may mean to call, proclaim or read (BDB 894). Qara is used in contexts of both commissioning to service and naming someone.
Like zera this verb has two levels of meaning. The first level has to do with naming Abraham's son of promise and the second level points to the Messiah who would be "called" (i.e., "through Isaac your Seed will be called"). The second level of meaning is that taking "seed" in its singular form, both literally and figuratively points to the Messiah who would come from Isaac's loins. Paul asserts this interpretation in his Galatian letter:
"Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It doesn’t say, 'and to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'and to your seed,' who is the Messiah." (Gal 3:16 TLV)
to you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. Stern points out that God decides what his promises mean and how they are to be carried out. God decided that the definition of "seed," for purposes of the promise to Abraham, will be in Isaac, not in Ishmael, of whom the same word, zera, is used in Genesis 21:13, but not in connection with the promise. In the modern debate over the "right of return" some claim that the Land of Israel belongs to those considered descendants of Ishmael (even though the identity of such descendants cannot be determined conclusively).
The claim on behalf of the Ishmaelites (whoever they are) may be refuted on two grounds. First, the entire story of Abraham was preserved by Ishmael (Gen 25:12) in which God's will is abundantly clear. There is no other extant literature left by Ishmael. Second, Paul in this chapter strongly refutes that claim by repeating the Genesis story.
8− That is, the children of the flesh are not these children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as seed.
That: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. Paul intends to clarify what he just said. the children: pl. of Grk. ho teknon. See the previous verse. Underlying Paul's multiple use of the reference "children of" is the multiple meanings of Heb. ben. Stern notes that the Hebrew word ben ("son," or "son of") is commonly used in three distinctive ways in the Bible: (a) ben identifies a man in relation to his immediate biological father; (b) ben can also mean a more distant descendant, as in Matthew 1:1 where Yeshua is identified as a "son of" David and Abraham; and (c) "ben" can be used more broadly to mean "having the characteristics of" (2). All three meanings could be applied in this verse.
of the flesh: Grk. ho sarx, flesh. See verse 3 above. This is both an historical allusion and a spiritual interpretation of that historical event. The allusion, of course, is to the Ishmaelites and possibly even Abraham's children by his other concubines after Sarah died (Gen 25:6). Paul is not using "flesh" here to impugn the decision of Abraham to take Hagar as a wife as Christian interpreters so often do. Paul is simply referring to the Ishmaelites as resulting from a human decision that created a legitimate marriage. Christians may not like Abraham's culturally acceptable decision, but consider the situation from his point of view.
When God promised Abraham a son from his own body (Gen 15:4) and reinforced that revelation with a miracle, He said nothing about accomplishing a miracle in Sarah's body. Since Sarah had been barren for decades Abraham could have taken any number of concubines to have a child. Yet, he must have informed Sarah of the revelation, which explains her action in Genesis 16:1. Little considered by interpreters is that God omitted such a vital fact of His plan and did not reveal it until 14 years later. In the spiritual sense the "children of the flesh" are disobedient Jews who, like the idolatrous Ishmaelites and Edomites, defile the circumcision of their flesh with hypocrisy (2:25) and become children of the devil (John 8:44).
are not: Grk. ou, adv. these: pl. of Grk. houtos. children: pl. of Grk. teknon. of God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 5 above. The expression "children of God" only occurs in the words of the apostles John (John 1:12; 11:52; 1Jn 3:1-2, 10; 5:2) and Paul (Acts 17:29; Rom 8:16, 21; 9:8; Php 2:15). The corollary "sons of God" occurs five times in the apostolic writings. The "children of God" are those belonging to Israel, whether in Judea or the Diaspora (John 11:52), but specifically those who have received Yeshua as Messiah and Savior (John 1:12).
In his Mars Hill sermon Paul uses "children of God' in a generic sense of mankind created by God (Acts 17:29) as a matter of politeness, but he immediately points out the necessity of repentance to avoid divine judgment. In Paul's letters the "children of God" are those who know and serve the God of Israel. The children of God are lights in the world (Php 2:15).
but: Grk. alla, conj. the children: pl. of Grk. ho teknon. of the promise: Grk. ho epangelia. See verse 4 above. Paul alludes to God's two promises to Abraham, "I will make you a great nation…and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (Gen 12:2-3) and then later, "through Isaac your descendants shall be named" (Gen 21:12). In the temporal circumstances these promises were fulfilled in Isaac and his descendants.
are regarded: Grk. logizomai, pres. pass., to count or calculate in a numerical sense, but also to infer, conclude, presume or to think upon, ponder (Mounce). In the LXX logizomai chiefly translates Heb. chashav (SH-2803), to think, account (BDB 362), which is used in the sense of to think in a certain way, to estimate value or to calculate or compute something. Thus Jewish translators used logizomai with the sense of what God thinks about a person, whether regarding as righteous or guilty (cf. Gen 15:6; 2Sam 19:19; Ps 32:2) (DNTT 3:823).
as: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, and used here to emphasize relation. seed: Grk. sperma. See the previous verse. However, Paul is making a spiritual point here. The "children of promise" are those who have the trusting faithfulness of Abraham and Isaac, not simply the right blood lineage. As in Peter's Pentecost sermon, Paul asserts that all of God's promises of blessing and life have their origin in Abraham (Acts 3:25; Rom 4:1-12). Early Gentile believers in Yeshua were not surprised to hear that their origin and hope for the future likewise resided in Abraham, as Paul says, "If you belong to Messiah, you are Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise" (Gal 3:29 TLV).
9− For the word of promise is this: "At this time I will come, and there will be a son to Sarah."
Reference: Genesis 18:10.
For: Grk. gar, conj. the word: Grk. ho logos. See verse 6 above. of promise: Grk. epangelia. See verse 2 above and the previous verse. is this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. Paul then quotes from Genesis 18:10. At: Grk. kata, prep., lit. "according to." See verse 3 above. this: Grk. houtos. time: Grk. kairos may refer to (1) an appropriate or set temporal segment of time; or (2) a period, definite or approximate, in which an event tales place; time, period. Kairos is used here of a God-appointed or predestined time. I will come: Grk. erchomai, fut. mid., 'to come or arrive,' generally with an implication on a position from which action or movement takes place, here in reference to the passage of time.
and: Grk. kai, conj. there will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. a son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben ("son," "son of"), which is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5). (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32), as Yeshua is referred to as the son of David and Abraham (Matt 1:1); or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25; cf. 2Th 2:3).
to Sarah: Grk. ho Sarra, a transliteration of Heb. Sarah ("princess"), the wife and half-sister of Abraham and mother of Isaac (Gen 11:29─25:10). She was named Sarai (Gen 11:29) by her parents but later God changed her name to Sarah (Gen 17:15). She features prominently in several important stories: (1) the sojourn in Egypt where she was abducted by Pharaoh, whom God judged with plagues on his household (Gen 12:10-20); (2) the advocacy of having Abraham take Hagar, the servant of Sarah, as a concubine-wife (Gen 16:1-3); (3) the abduction by the king of Gerar, whom God punishes with barrenness of his wives (Gen 20:1-7); (4) the birth of Isaac (Gen 21:1-8); and (5) confronting Abraham to divorce Hagar because of her disrespect (Gen 21:9-14). Sarah died at the age of 127 in Hebron and was buried in a cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (Gen 23:19). See my article The Story of Abraham for more detail on their history.
Paul combines Genesis 18:10 and 14 from the LXX to reinforce his argument (Robertson). The promise implied a miracle would be performed because Sarah at 89 years of age was "past childbearing" (Gen 18:11). Women then (as now) normally had children when they were young. It should be noted that no inference was made that Abraham and Sarah were past conjugal relations. Harrison suggests that it was only natural that the son of Sarah should be chosen rather than the son of Hagar the bondwoman.
Paul does make the contrast between the bondwoman and free woman in Galatians 4:22-31, but while offering an allegorical interpretation of the patriarchal story he does not conjecture that God's choice was based on social status. Indeed God made a practice of working through women who were different, including Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Hannah, and Bathsheba.
10− And not only, but also Rebekah by having one coitus of Isaac our father.
And: Grk. de, conj. not: Grk. ou, adv. only: Grk. monon, adv. marking a narrow limitation; merely, just, only. but: Grk. alla, conj. also: Grk. kai, conj. Rebekah: Grk. Rhebekka, which attempts to transliterate Heb. Ribqa (pronounced "Riv-kha"), possibly meaning "a snare" in Hebrew. Rebekah was the daughter of Bethuel, Abraham's nephew (Gen 24:15), wife of Isaac (Gen 24:67) and mother of Jacob and Esau (Gen 25:25-26). Rebekah is introduced as a beautiful virgin (Gen 24:16), a willing servant (Gen 24:19), and as hospitable to strangers (Gen 24:25). In obedience to God's will, she left her home in Paddan-aram to be Isaac's wife (Gen 24:58).
Isaac was forty years old at his marriage, making him as much as twenty years older than his wife (Gen 25:19). When distressed by barrenness that had lasted twenty years, Isaac prayed for her and she conceived (Gen 25:21). She had a difficult pregnancy and sought God's counsel. He told her she had two nations in her womb and that the older would serve the younger (Gen 25:22-23). Rebekah delivered the sons when Isaac was sixty years old (Gen 25:26). As the children grew up Rebekah seems to have shown favoritism to Jacob while Isaac favored Esau (Gen 25:28).
She then made a controversial decision to deceive Isaac when he was about to disobey God's expressed will and pass covenantal rights to Esau (Gen 27:1-40). Rebekah's last act was to send Jacob to Haran, with Isaac's consent, to save him from Esau's vengeance (Gen 27:42-46; 28:1-5). Scripture offers no information on the lifespan of Rebekah, but she apparently died while Jacob was in Haran. When he returned he and Esau buried their parents in the cave of Machpelah (Gen 49:31).
by: Grk. ek, prep. one: Grk. heis, the numeral one. coitus: Grk. koitē may mean bed, marriage bed, sexual intercourse, or conception. Some versions insert "man," "twins" or "sons" into the clause, even though none of these words are in the Greek text. The resultant meaning is that both Isaac and Esau were conceived in the same act of sexual intercourse (Stern). Obviously they both had the same father, but that is not the point. having: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application. The present tense of echō alludes to the multiple times Isaac possessed his wife sexually over the course of 20 years until the twins were conceived at last in one sexual act.
Isaac: Grk. Isaak, which attempts to transliterate Heb. Yitschaq ("laughter"), the only son of Abraham by Sarah when Abraham was one hundred years old and Sarah was ninety (Gen 21:1-6). Isaac was actually Abraham's second-born child, Ishmael being his first-born by Hagar, Abraham's concubine-wife. God made it clear to Abraham that being the child of promise the Messianic line would go through Isaac (Gen 21:12).
Isaac became a child of sacrifice and a type of Yeshua when God commanded Abraham to kill his son in a worship ceremony in the "land of Moriah" (Gen 22:1-14), in the vicinity where Yeshua would be crucified. Later, through the matchmaking efforts of his father, Isaac married his cousin Rebekah (Gen 22:15, 51, 57-58, 67). God reiterated the covenant He made with Abraham with his son Isaac (Gen 26:2-5, 23-24; Ex 2:24; 6:4; Lev 26:42).
our: pl. of Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. father: Grk. patēr. See verse 5 above. The term is used here in the sense of ancestor. Scripture records that "Isaac prayed to ADONAI on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. ADONAI answered his plea and his wife Rebekah became pregnant" (Gen 25:21 TLV). One might assume that Isaac prayed and God immediately answered. In checking ages we find that Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah (Gen 25:20) and 60 when she delivered twins (Gen 25:26). Are we to assume that Isaac waited 19 years before praying for his wife?
The verb "prayed" is imperfect and implies that he had been praying for an extended period of time, probably from within a few years after their marriage. We should not assume that Abraham had not prayed for Sarah. He had prayed for King Abimelech that his wife and concubines would be healed of barrenness and God apparently answered (Gen 20:17) and shortly thereafter Sarah conceived (Gen 21:1-2). One might think that Paul is rebutting a supposed ancient belief that twins were conceived of different fathers, but that is not the case.
Multiple births in ancient times were not unknown and the birth of twins was viewed as a portent of prosperity. One of Yeshua's disciples, Thomas, was called Didymus, which in Greek means "twin." The narrative of Genesis 25:21-26 does not make paternity an issue, although given the different physical appearance of the two babies one might wonder how they could have the same father. However, Paul is simply making a contrast with Abraham's two sons who were conceived by different mothers.
Only one of each of the two sets of sons could inherit God's promises to Abraham and this fact sets up his point in the next verse. The historical reference to Isaac here not only affirms that Isaac was the husband of Rebekah, but the plural possessive pronoun "our" emphasizes Isaac as the father of the chosen people. By extension Paul's assertion also means that Messianic Jews rightly claim Isaac as their father even though non-Messianic Judaism treats acceptance of Yeshua as renouncing Jewish identity.
11− For not yet having been born, nor having done anything good or evil, so that the purpose of God according to election might remain,
For: Grk. gar, conj. not yet: Grk. mēpō (from mē, "not," and pō, "up to this time"), adv., thus not yet. having been born: Grk. gennaō, aor. pass. part., cause to come into being; to father, beget children or bear children (BAG). When the verb is in the active voice it emphasizes the role of the father in procreation, and when it is in the passive voice, as here, it normally emphasizes the role of a woman in bearing and/or giving birth to children. nor: Grk. mēde, conj., negative particle used in escalation of negation; not, nor.
having done: Grk. prassō, aor. part., to engage in activity with focus on productivity; do, perform, engage in, carry out. Sometimes the verb prassō is associated with works that might be either good or bad (2Cor 5:10), but most often this verb is associated in other passages with evil conduct, particularly actions worthy of death (Rom 1:32; 2:1-3; 7:15, 19; 13:4; 2Cor 12:21; Gal 5:21). anything: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun generally used of persons and things concerning which the writer either cannot or will not speak more particularly; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything.
good: Grk. agathos, adj., achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful or good. or: Grk. hē, conj., particle involving options, here as a marker of an alternative. evil: Grk. phaulos, displaying insensitivity about what is right and proper; bad, low-grade. BAG adds worthless, evil and base. As with agathos, the adjective phaulos is used as a substantive to refer to a class of actions or works (cf. John 3:20; Jas 3:16). so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that, so that, that.
the purpose: Grk. ho prothesis (from pro, "before," and tithēmi, "to place or set"), may mean (1) setting forth of bread in the holy place of the Tabernacle and Temple (Matt 12:4; Heb 9:2); or (2) setting forth a plan or design in one's mind; purpose, intent. The second meaning applies here. of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 5 above. The purpose of God is that the patriarchs and their Israelite descendants would be "holy to ADONAI," fulfill His covenantal purposes, in contradistinction to the Gentiles who would be the beneficiary and recipient of those purposes.
according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 3 above. election: Grk. eklogē (from ek, "out from," and legō, to speak"), the verbal act of making a choice or selection, and in the apostolic writings used of God's exceptional choice. The noun occurs only seven times in the Besekh, all but two in the writings of Paul (Rom 11:5, 7, 28; 1Th 1:4). Its first occurrence is in reference to God choosing Paul (Acts 9:15). Here the choice alludes to God selecting Jacob over Esau. In the LXX eklogē is completely lacking, since there is no Hebrew word for it to translate (DNTT 1:537).
In the Tanakh the act of choosing the patriarchs and Israel is expressed by the verb bahar (SH-977), to choose, select or prefer (e.g., Deut 7:7; Neh 9:7; Isa 44:1) and translated in the LXX with the verb eklegomai, to pick out, choose, select, elect. The verbal action is performed by God, whose decision is firm and unequivocal.
might remain: Grk. menō, pres. subj., to be in a situation for a length of time, whether of a geographical or structural site, or continuing in a state or condition; remain, stay. In the LXX menō translates 15 different Hebrew words, the most common being amad ('stand, remain') and qum (stand, arise). The verb is particularly used of God to emphasize His constancy (DNTT 3:224).
Paul asserts that the sovereignty of God determined the Messianic line and the recipients of His promises. As the case with Abraham's sons, God's purpose for Isaac's sons was not based on any act or behavior of the sons, although one might claim that Esau made himself unfit by his passion for unnecessarily killing wild animals and his willingness to sell his birthright for a bowl of soup (Gen 25:27-34). God made His choice before both sets of brothers were even conceived, let alone born.
12− not of works but of the One calling, it was said to her that, "the older will serve the younger."
Reference: Genesis 25:23.
not: Grk. ou, adv., particle of strong negation. of works: pl. of Grk. ergon generally means a tangible deed, action or accomplishment that may be observed, whether of man or God, and often reflects a consistent moral character. The noun is used to mean (1) a task or assignment; (2) a deed or action; (3) the passive result of actions; and (4) a thing or matter. In the LXX ergon first translates Heb. malakah (SH-4399), occupation, work, used of God's creative work (Gen 2:2-3), and then several other Heb. words that mean "deed" or "work," whether in reference to human actions or accomplishments of God in His covenant faithfulness (DNTT 3:1148).
In Paul's writings "works" is used of good works that please God (Rom 2:7, 15; 2Cor 9:8; Eph 2:10; 4:12; 2Th 2:17; 1Tim 2:10), as well as legalistic works that subvert God's will (Rom 3:20; 4:2; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:9), and evil works that bring judgment (2Cor 11:15; Eph 5:11). In this context "the works" allude to human actions, which might allude to the mother, or the father as discussed of Abraham in Romans 4:2. However, the previous verse and this one put the focus on the twin boys.
Neither Jacob nor Esau could have done anything to merit or influence God's favor. God's choice was a unilateral sovereign act to call his Messiah through a particular human genealogy, indeed a decision made before the foundation of the earth (Matt 1:1; Luke 3:38; Acts 2:23; Rev 13:8 NKJV).
but: Grk. alla, conj. of: Grk. ek, prep. the One: Grk. ho, definite article used as a demonstrative pronoun. Among Jews "The One" was a circumlocution for God (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6). calling: Grk. kaleō, pres. part., may mean (1) express something aloud; call for, summon; (2) solicit participation; call, invite; or (3) to identify by name or give a term to; call. All these meanings have application because normally God engaged in direct verbal communication to the patriarchs. He invited the patriarchs to be His standard bearers for His plan of redemption, and He gave new names to His chosen men. On this occasion God spoke to the wife of Isaac.
it was said: Grk. ereō, aor. pass., inform through utterance, say, speak, tell. The verb refers to spoken words that could be heard with the ears. to her: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 3 above. The conjunction is used here to introduce a quotation from the Tanakh. the older: Grk. megas, adj., large or great, used here in reference to age as being older. will serve: Grk. douleuō, fut., to function in total obedience to a master, whether in reference to owned property, such as a slave or bond-servant, or with the focus on service rendered to a person in the capacity of total obligation. The verb in this context refers to subservience rather than slavery. the younger: Grk. elassōn, smaller or less, here less in age or younger.
The quotation is from the last clause Genesis 25:23, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from your body will be separated. One people will be stronger than the other people, but the older will serve the younger" (TLV). God's decision contradicted cultural norms of the day when the oldest inherited both the leadership rights of the clan and the majority of the father's estate. However, God's choice is not so unusual in this instance. Seth, Shem, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, & David were all younger sons. In the Messianic line only Abraham and Yeshua were firstborn sons in lists where brothers are mentioned!
13− just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
Reference: Malachi 1:2-3.
just as: Grk. kathōs, conj. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. it has been written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe, generally in reference to a document. In the LXX graphō translates Heb. kathab (SH-3789), to write. The first use of graphō in the LXX is Exodus 24:4, "And Moses wrote all the words of ADONAI." The first use of kathab in the Tanakh is Exodus 17:14, "ADONAI said to Moses, 'Write [LXX katagraphō, "write down"] this for a memorial in the book and rehearse it in the hearing of Joshua" (TLV).
The phrase "it has been written" is the standard formula in the apostolic writings for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, followed by a quote from the Tanakh. This is the seventh time the formula is used in the letter. Paul then quotes from Malachi 1:2-3.
"I loved you," says ADONAI. But you say: "How have you loved us?" "Was Esau not Jacob’s brother?" —it is the declaration of ADONAI—"Yet I loved Jacob 3 and Esau I hated. I made his hills a wasteland and gave his inheritance to jackals of the wilderness." (Mal 1:2-3 TLV)
Jacob: Grk. ho Iakōb, a transliteration of Heb. Ya'akov, grandson of Abraham. The meaning of Jacob's name, "heel-catcher," had no pejorative connotation when first given by Isaac to his son. As indicated by Hosea 12:3, "heel-catcher" illustrated the strength and power he had with God. The story of Jacob is narrated in Genesis 25—50. He was the second born of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, probably at Beer-Lachai-Roi in the Negev (cf. Gen 24:62; 25:11), when his father was 60 (cf. Gen 25:20, 26) and Abraham 160 years old (Gen 21:5).
Jacob has been the victim of Christian defamation for centuries due to the allegation that he stole a blessing from his brother. The truth is Jacob couldn't steal what already belonged to him, but in fact his deceit prevented Isaac from committing a monstrous fraud and rebellion against God. Isaac realized his error and gave a second blessing to Jacob that left no doubt as to his rights. (See my article Our Father Jacob in which I set the record straight.)
Soon afterwards and fearful of Esau's anger, Jacob left for Haran at the suggestion of his parents to find a wife among his relatives, the family of Laban. On the way God revealed to Jacob in a miraculous manner that he had succeeded to the covenant made with Abraham (Gen 12:1-3; 15:1-21; 17:1-22) and his father Isaac (Gen 26:2-5, 23-24) with all its promises (Gen 28:13-16). God assured Jacob that his descendants would possess the land of Canaan, that his descendants would multiply as the dust of the earth and spread out in all directions, that through him all the peoples of the earth would be blessed and that God would never leave him. (See my web article The Everlasting Covenants.)
Jacob's lengthy stay in Haran gained him four wives, eleven sons and a daughter. After spending 20 years in Haran Jacob moved his family back to Canaan (Gen 31). En route to Haran Jacob wrestled with an angel (Gen 32:24-30) and was given the name Israēl ("God prevails" BDB 975). Shortly thereafter Jacob met his brother Esau with whom he gained a reconciliation. Eventually Jacob moved to Bethel where God appeared to him and again affirmed his continuing inheritance of the Abrahamic covenant, specifically mentioning the land promised to Abraham and Isaac and adding a new promise that Jacob would become a "company of nations" (Gen 35:11-12).
Not long after the return to Canaan Rachel died in giving birth to their twelfth son, Benjamin (35:16-20). After the death of Isaac follows the story of Joseph being sold into Egyptian slavery, famine, the removal of the family of seventy into Egypt and the reconciliation between father and sons (Gen 37—47). There in the land of Goshen Jacob lived out the rest of his life, then gave final blessings to his sons (Gen 49) and died at the age of 147 (Gen 47:28).
Jacob's body was embalmed and carried with great ceremony into the land of Canaan, and buried beside his wife Leah in the cave of Machpelah, according to his dying charge. Jacob, son of Isaac, was a great and godly man who held a place of high honor among the people of Israel. It is not surprising then that five different men bear his name in the Besekh:
I loved: Grk. agapaō, aor., which means to have such an interest in another that one wishes to contribute to the other's well-being, even if it means making a personal sacrifice to do so. In the LXX agapaō translates aheb, but aheb is a far more comprehensive word than agapaō. Aheb is like the English word "love" which is used with a variety of meanings. God's love for Jacob was manifested in protection, guidance, revelation of the future and miracles. but: Grk. de, conj., used here to denote contrast.
Esau: Grk. Ēsau, a transliteration of Heb. Esav, the elder fraternal twin son of Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 25:24-26; 27:1, 32, 42; 1Chr 1:34). He is considered the father of the Edomite nation (Gen 26:1; Deut 2:4-29). At birth his body was hairy and red, which easily distinguished him from his brother (Gen 25:25). Esau, the extrovert, was a favorite of his father and as a hunter provided him with his favorite meats. Returning famished from a hunting trip and lacking self-control, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup (Gen 25:30-34). Birthright involved the right as head of the family (Gen 27:29) and a double share of the inheritance (Deut 21:15-17).
By his own choice Esau was stripped of the headship of the people through which Messiah would come. Thus, the lineage became Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Having lost his birthright, he was still eligible to receive from Isaac the blessing of the eldest son. Such a blessing would have nullified the revelation God gave to Rebekah. Rebekah devised a deception whereby Jacob received this blessing (Gen 27:1-30). Esau blamed Jacob for all his problems failing to realize that the character flaw revealed in his selling of his birthright followed him all of his life.
Esau received a blessing, but neither he nor his descendants were to occupy the fertile land of Canaan (Gen 27:39). At age 40 he married two Hittite women (Gen 26:34-35). Years later the two brothers were reconciled when Jacob returned from Haran. Esau had lived in the land of Seir. As Jacob neared Canaan, he made plans for confronting his brother and allaying his presumed anger. Esau, with an army of 400, surprised Jacob and received him without bitterness (Gen 33:4-16). The two reconciled brothers met again for the final time at the death of their father (Gen 35:29).
I hated: Grk. miseō, aor., may mean (1) have strong dislike for some person or thing; hate; or (2) consider unworthy of notice or special interest; disdain. Danker notes that in this context the verb denotes an Israelite view of covenantal choice that has the sense of "have one take a back seat," in contrast to agapaō which would equal "show preference to." In the LXX miseō translates Heb. sanê (SH-8130; "sah-nay"), to hate, which usually indicates an emotional impulse to despise that can result in an action to turn against (e.g., Joseph's brothers, Gen 37:2-8).
Hatred in Scripture also refers to the hostility shown by an enemy (Gen 24:60; Ex 1:10; Num 10:35; Deut 30:7; 2Sam 22:18; Ps 18:17; Matt 24:9; Luke 1:71). However, "hate" may simply mean to love less or put in second place. For example, Genesis 29:31 states that Leah was "hated" (by Jacob), but the context indicates that Leah was not unloved, but rather loved less than Jacob's other wife Rachel. Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife. Notice that the preceding verse specifically says that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. A second illustration of this particular Hebraic shade of meaning of the word "hate" is found in Deuteronomy 21:15: "If a man has two wives, one loved and the other hated…."
Here, too, the context shows that the "hated" wife is only second in affection and not really detested in the English sense of the word (Bivin 18). Yeshua also used "love" and "hate" in a relative sense. In Luke 6:27-32 Yeshua uses "love" to mean a selfish altruistic kind of love among friends, as well as a sacrificial love aimed at enemies. In Luke 14:26 he uses "hate" to describe the priority that he should be given by his disciples over family members.
Rienecker gives the Hebrew idiom as "I prefer Jacob to Esau." It is clear from Scripture that God wanted Jacob to have first place and gave the patriarchal promises to Jacob, not Esau (Gen 28:13-15; 35:11-12; 48:4). While Christians find much to dislike about Jacob the evidence of Scripture provides a very different picture. Here are some specific points to consider.
● Jacob had a blameless character (Gen 25:27; same word as in Gen 6:9; Job 1:1). His name has no negative connotations in Hebrew (cf. Gen 25:26; Hos 12:3). Generally not considered is that Jacob never took any property that Esau claimed to be his.
● Esau was a rebellious son (Gen 27:41; 28:6-9) who sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup (Gen 25:33). The fault lies in Esau's character, not Jacob.
● Isaac was ready to preempt God's sovereign choice for a venison steak (Gen 25:23; 27:2-4, 29). After the deception incident Isaac pronounced the Abrahamic blessing on Jacob before he left for Haran (Gen 28:3-4).
These two famous sons reflect the nations that would be blessed through Abraham (Gen 18:18; 22:18), Jacob representing Israel and Esau representing the Gentile nations. "Esau" was used as a code name for the Gentile nations in Jewish writings from the Mishnaic period. Because he was characterized as a "sinner" and associated with Edom (Gen 25:30; 36:1), the name was adopted as a symbol in rabbinic literature for Rome in view of the Idumean Herod's alliance with Rome (Shulam).
The Justice of God, 9:14-19
14− What then will we say? Is there not injustice with God? Never may it be!
What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. then: Grk. oun, conj. used to denote that what it introduces is the result of or an inference from what precedes; so, therefore, consequently, accordingly, then. will we say: Grk. ereō, fut. See verse 12 above. This is the fifth time Paul uses the interrogative formula to rebut an objection (see 4:1; 6:1; 7:7; 8:31). That a loving God also hates is an enigma (cf. Ps 139:21-22; Isa 40:17; Dan 4:35). Moreover, arbitrary hate against a person or a people seems unjust. Paul introduces the objection and quickly quashes the notion.
Is there not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation, subjective in nature, involving will and thought; not. injustice: Grk. adikia may mean (1) the quality or characteristic of violating a standard of uprightness; wrongdoing, unrighteousness, injustice, partiality; or (2) the act of violating a standard of uprightness, wrongdoing. The noun pictures the unjust man as opposite of the just man. It covers all that offends against morals, custom or decency, all things that are unseemly, unspeakable or fraudulent and is what harms the order of the world.
In the LXX adikia is used to translate 36 different Hebrew words, first occurring in Genesis 6:11 to describe the degenerate world of Noah. Usage of the noun in later passages indicate that sin in ancient Israel was above all an offence against the sacred order of divine justice (1Sam 3:13f) (DNTT 3:573f). Thus, it affects the community, whose existence is most intimately connected with the preservation of divine standards of righteousness and justice. Adikia is ultimately sin against God and the community (cf. 1Jn 5:17).
with: Grk. para, prep. that conveys association; beside, alongside of, with. God: Grk. ho theos, the God of Israel. See verse 5 above. The question in Greek implies a negative answer. There was no injustice to Esau nor is there any injustice to anyone because of God's preference for Jacob and the nation of Israel. Never: Grk. mē. may it be: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. opt., to transfer from one state to another, and here means come to be, become, take place, happen, occur. This is Hebrew's most intense wish for negation. Perhaps Paul thought of the Torah dictum, "The Rock—blameless is His work. Indeed, all His ways are just. God of faithfulness without iniquity, righteous and upright is He" (Deut 32:4 TLV).
15− For to Moses He says, "I will show mercy to whom I might show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I might have compassion."
Reference: Exodus 33:19.
For: Grk. gar, conj. to Moses: Grk. Mōusēs transliterates Heb. Mosheh (Ex 2:10). Born into the tribe of Levi about 1525 BC in Egypt there is no greater figure in the Tanakh than Moses. The story of Moses is found in the extensive narratives from Exodus 1:1 through Deuteronomy 34:1. His life can be easily divided into three 40-year periods, the first being his birth and early life in Egypt (Acts 7:23), the second his years in Midian (Acts 7:30), and the third from the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt through the years spent in the wilderness until his death (Ex 7:7; 16:35; Num 14:33; Deut 2:7; Josh 5:6; Acts 7:36). He had two wives and two sons (Ex 18:2-4; Num 12:1).
During the last third of his life Moses served Israel as deliverer, judge, mediator, lawgiver, priest, elder, prophet and scribe. Moses was privileged to speak with ADONAI "face to face" (Ex 33:11). He was noted for his humility (Num 12:3) and his faithfulness to God (Heb 11:23-29), and being anointed of the Spirit (Num 11:17). He died at the age of 120 in the land of Moab (Deut 34:1-7). Moses left Israel and the Body of Messiah with the rich legacy of the first five books of the Bible (Ex 24:4). Moses was a giant of a man. For a summary of his life and deeds see my article Moses, Servant of God.
He says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above. Paul then explicitly appeals to Exodus 33:19 to assert God's prerogative. I will show mercy: Grk. eleeō, fut., to show concern for one who is in a bad situation or condition; have compassion, show mercy, pity. In the LXX of the quoted verse eleeō translates Heb. chanan (SH-2603), to show favor, or be gracious. to whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 4 above. I might: Grk. an, disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might. show mercy: Grk. eleeō, pres. subj.
and: Grk. kai, conj. I will have compassion: Grk. oiktirō, fut., to have or show compassion. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh, both in this verse. In the LXX of the quoted verse oiktirō translates Heb. racham (SH-7355), to love, or have compassion. on whom: Grk. hos. I might: Grk. an. have compassion: Grk. oiktirō, pres. subj. Paul's purpose in quoting this passage from the Torah is to affirm God as the sole initiator of mercy, whether it be manifested as practical help, forgiveness, or deliverance.
The original context of this divine declaration was God's response to the appeal of Moses to be shown God's glory. The expression of a willingness to have compassion stands in contrast to God's previous declaration of judgment against those guilty of the gold calf idolatry in which He pledged to blot the offenders from His book (Ex 32:33).
16− So then, it is not of the one willing, nor of the one running, but of the One showing mercy, God.
So: Grk. ara, conj., a particle that makes an inference based on preceding matter; so, then, therefore, since. then: Grk. oun, conj. it is not: Grk. ou, adv. of the one: Grk. ho, definite article functioning as a demonstrative pronoun. willing: Grk. thelō, pres. part., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. Paul uses the verb to indicate personal initiative to determine how to satisfy God's expectations.
nor: Grk. oude, conj. See verse 7 above. of the one: Grk. ho. running: Grk. trechō, pres. part., to move forward rapidly, to run. In Greek culture the verb was associated with athletic activity, especially of running a race. Paul employs the verb metaphorically of activity the person thinks will impress God. but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 7 above. of the One: Grk. ho. showing mercy: Grk. eleeō, pres. part. See the previous verse. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 5 above.
Paul insists that salvation and deliverance from wrath is a matter of God's unilateral initiative, His decision from the beginning to save. Salvation does not start with man. God chooses to show mercy to all who will call upon him. The background of this passage is the story of the miraculous deliverance from Egypt. God chose Israel as a nation because they descended from the chosen man, but God acted with initiative to show mercy on the nation languishing in their captivity. His decision to have mercy and compassion on Israel had nothing to do with their merit, but His own promise-keeping character.
17− For the Scripture says to Pharaoh that "for this same thing I elevated you, so that I might show in you My power, and so that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth."
Reference: Exodus 9:16.
For: Grk. gar, conj. the Scripture: Grk. ho graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context meaning the sacred Hebrew Bible (24 books) referred to as the Tanakh, corresponding to the Protestant Old Testament (39 books) and its translation into Greek, the Septuagint. The term "Scripture," which occurs over 50 times in the Besekh, summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired, infallible, inerrant words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi. says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above.
to Pharaoh: Grk. Pharaō, the common title of kings of ancient Egypt. The title is the Hebrew form of the Egyptian term meaning "great house." Scripture never gives the birth name of any Pharaoh. The book of Exodus begins with a historical transition of over a century having passed since the death of Joseph and a "new king," or a new royal government had arisen (Ex 1:8). A tradition as old Josephus states that a Hyksos dynasty was ruling Egypt when Joseph came to the country (Against Apion 1:14). The Hyksos were a Semitic people from the Eastern Mediterranean that migrated into and settled in the Nile delta two centuries before Joseph and eventually gained control of Lower Egypt.
But, in the century since Joseph's death the Hyksos kings were driven out by native Egyptians. With the political change came a new spirit of nationalism. The new native Egyptian rulers were unsympathetic toward the Semitic people who had come in under the Hyksos rulers. This new king "knew nothing of Joseph," which does not mean he was ignorant of Joseph, because his history and the benefits done by him to the Egyptian nation would no doubt have been in their records. Rather, the new Egyptian king in nationalistic pride had no regard for the memory of Joseph. The new king refused to recognize the benefits Joseph provided to his nation, ungratefully neglected them, and showed no respect to his legacy.
The Pharaoh of Joseph's time decreed that newly born baby boys among the Israelites should be killed (Ex 1:15, 16, 22) and it is at this point that Moses is introduced as the central figure of the book. The Pharaoh who ruled during the infancy of Moses was not the Pharaoh who ruled during the exodus given the passage of eighty years between the two time periods and God's declaration to Moses, "all the men who were seeking your life are dead" (Ex 4:19).
Various proposals have been made for the name of the Pharaoh during the time of the exodus, due to the different dates assigned to the exodus. Archbishop Ussher (17th cent.) gave the date of the exodus as 1491 B.C. (37), whereas conservative scholars of modern times date the exodus in 1446 B.C. (Aschmann; Archer 459; Purkiser 443). Archer and Purkiser nominated Amenhotep II of the 18th Dynasty (1447-1421) as the Pharaoh who opposed Moses. See the article Amenhotep II and the Historicity of the Exodus Pharaoh by Doug Petrovich for a detailed discussion of this subject.
that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 3 above. The conjunction is used here to introduce a quotation from Exodus 9:16. for: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 6 above. same thing: Grk. autos, neut. personal pronoun. See verse 3 above. Most versions translate the pronoun as "purpose" or "reason." The pronoun points back to the action of God in verse 15 and anticipates the action of God in the next verse.
I elevated: Grk. exegeirō, aor., the main sense is to awaken, and may mean (1) raise up from the dead (1Cor 6:14), or (2) to put in a position of authority, which is the meaning here. Quotations of the Tanakh in the Besekh normally follow the LXX, and in this verse the LXX translates Heb. amad (SH-5975), "to stand" with diatēreō, "to keep carefully or continually." Paul offers his own translation using exegeirō instead of diatēreō, which he apparently believed better represented the intent of amad in that verse. The verb amad can mean to appoint to a position (1Chr 15:17; Neh 6:7; 7:3) or to arise, appear, or come on the scene, especially in the book of Daniel (8:22, 23; 11:2, 3, 4, 7, 20, 21; 12:1) (BDB 763).
you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. In the context of Exodus 9 the point of amad could mean that God preserved Pharaoh's life in the midst of so much death and destruction in the plague of hail. However, the verbal phrase "elevated you" points back to Pharaoh's accession to the throne as indicative of God's sovereignty, but more importantly of a special divine purpose, which the rest of the quotation makes clear.
so that: Grk. hopōs, conj. expressing an objective or end in view, in order that. I might show: Grk. endeiknumi, aor. mid. subj., demonstrate or show. HELPS defines the verb as properly, to make fully evident, showing conspicuous proof which demonstrates something as undeniable. In the LXX of the quoted verse endeiknumi translates Heb. ra'ah (SH-7200), to see. in: Grk. en, prep. you: Grk. su; i.e., Pharaoh. My: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. power: Grk. dunamis (from dunamai, "having ability"), an exhibition of a singular capability, a powerful or wondrous deed or miracle.
In the LXX dunamis translates five different Hebrew words, but primarily chayil, (SH-2428), strength, efficiency, wealth, army (Deut 8:17), and then Heb. tsaba (SH-6635), army, war, warfare (Gen 21:22) (DNTT 2:602). In this context dunamis stands for the strength of God that accomplishes great deeds on behalf of His people (Deut 3:24; Ps 68:28). God declared his sovereign purpose of not just putting Pharaoh in power but sparing his life (symbolic of resurrection) when he deserved to die. Pharaoh could have embraced the God of Israel and supported His will for the Israelites to leave for Canaan, but he was swayed by nationalistic pride and the dependency of the Egyptian economy on slavery (Ex 14:5).
and: Grk. kai, conj. so that: Grk. hopōs. My: Grk. egō. name: Grk. ho onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone. In Hebrew literature it also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. might be proclaimed: Grk. diangellō, aor. pass. subj., spread news far and wide, proclaim, tell, inform. In the LXX of the quoted verse diangellō translates Heb. saphar (SH-5608), to recount or relate. in: Grk. en. all: Grk. pas, adj. See verse six above.
the earth: Grk. gē can mean soil (as in receiving seed), the ground, land as contrasted with the sea, and the planet earth in contrast to the heavens (BAG). In the LXX gē translates the Heb. word erets (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets designates either (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (BDB 75).
God's purpose was that his name would be proclaimed among all the nations of the earth and hints at his mission for Israel to be a light to the nations (Isa 42:6). Pharaoh's rebellion did not defeat God's ultimate purpose. In contrast Cyrus, the King of Persia cooperated with God's purpose (Isa 44:28; Jer 29:10) and released the Jews from captivity (Ezra 1:1-4). These stories illustrate how divine sovereignty and human freedom work together.
18− So then, to whom He wills He has mercy, and to whom He wills He hardens.
So: Grk. ara, conj. then: Grk. oun, conj. to whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. He wills: Grk. thelō, pres. See verse 16 above. He shows mercy: Grk. eleeō, pres. See verse 15 above. and: Grk. de, conj. to whom: Grk. hos. He wills: Grk. thelō, pres. He hardens: Grk. sklērunō, cause to be unyielding. In the LXX sklērunō translates the Heb. chazaq, which means to be or grow firm, be strong (BDB 304). Paul takes his argument the next step. These actions of God are accomplished without man's input. If God has mercy on whom he desires, then it must be axiomatic that he also hardens whom he desires.
Since the principle of mercy is found in Exodus 33:19, then this conclusion concerning "hardening" must be an allusion to the repeated references to Pharaoh's heart being hardened, which God promised Moses would happen (Ex 4:21). BDB says that in references to Pharaoh, chazaq meant his heart would grow stout, become rigid or hard with the idea of perversity. The irony of this prediction is that the Exodus narrative reports three times that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex 8:15, 32; 9:34).
Three other times a verse says simply that his heart was hardened without specifying the instigator (Ex 7:13, 22; 8:19), but five times the Scripture specifically says ADONAI hardened Pharaoh's heart (Ex 9:12; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:8). The variation in these verses indicates that "hardening a heart" is an idiomatic expression that focuses on result rather than intention. "Hardening" simply means that Pharaoh stiffened his resistance to complying with God's expressed will, which God knew he would do. God is responsible as a "will-ing" being for the end result, because He set the conditions of Israel's release and imposed increasingly severe penalties for failure to obey.
The question becomes then, on whom does God desire to have mercy? Answer: Those who confess their sins, turn away from their wicked ways and keep his Torah. Then, we must ask, whom does God desire to harden? The nature of the question seems to fly in the face of Peter's comment that the Lord does not wish "for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2Pet 3:9), in which the Tanakh concurs with "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live" (Ezek 33:11).
Rashi, the Medieval Jewish Bible commentator, explained that Pharaoh was given five chances to repent (in connection with the first five plagues) but hardened his own heart, and only after that did God confirm Pharaoh’s decision by hardening Pharaoh's heart (commentary on Exodus 7:3) (Stern). Consider exactly the cause of hardening of the spiritual arteries. Mankind has been resisting God since the beginning as Paul describes in chapter one of this letter. The real question is why should God offer mercy at all? Mankind rebelled against God from the beginning and invented their own gods in order to justify their preferred lifestyle (Rom 1:21-32).
People don't want a holy God telling them how to live. They want their "sin" cake and salvation, too. In order for a person to obtain mercy, God has to do something. God's grace can only be received; it cannot be taken from Him. For man to experience mercy, God must enlighten, convict, convince and then bestow his transformative power on the ready heart (cf. John 16:8, 13). In truth the light of God has gone out into the world to enlighten every person (John 1:8) and His grace is freely available, so the fault lies on man's side.
In contrast to giving mercy, to "harden" a person God doesn't have to do anything. In reality God hardens Himself; that is, He refuses to bend his holy standards to excuse sin. However, He would only withhold the regenerative graces from a confirmed rebel, as in the case of Pharaoh. This is why Yeshua advised his disciples, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces" (Matt 7:6). Mercy is contingent on readiness (cf. Matt 10:11), but justice naturally results from resistance. As Solomon said, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy" (Prov 29:1).
19− Then you will say to me, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His purpose?"
Paul anticipates an objection from a fictive opponent. Then: Grk. oun, conj. you will say: Grk. ereō, fut. See verse 14 above. to me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Why: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. does He still: Grk. eti, adv. expressing continuance of an action; yet, still. find fault: Grk. memphomai, pres. mid., find fault with someone for questionable conduct; blame, censure, criticize, reproach. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Heb 8:8).
For: Grk. gar, conj. who: Grk. tís. has resisted: Grk. anthistēmi, perf., take a position in opposition to, resist, hold one's own, take a stand against, oppose, withstand. His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. purpose: Grk. boulēma, a pre-set fully resolved plan; purpose or will. The noun occurs only three times in the Besekh (also Acts 27:43; 1Pet 4:3). In other words, "If God made me the way I am, then why does he blame me for being me?"
Parable of the Potter, 9:20-24
20− O man, indeed, who are you, the one answering back to God? The thing formed will not say to the one having formed it, "Why did you make me thus?"
Reference: Isaiah 29:16; 45:9.
O: Grk. Ō, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, but used here as an interjection. When the address is intended to carry special force the inflectional particle omega ("ō") is used (DM 71). The special usage of the omega letter with vocative case nouns is found in both classical Greek writings and Jewish literature (BAG). Man: Grk. anthrōpos, voc., human being, man, or mankind, used here of an adult male. The vocative case is used only for direct address. In the LXX anthrōpos translates three Hebrew words: (1) adam (Gen 1:26-27); (2) ish (Gen 2:23-24) and (3) enosh (Ps 8:4-5), which are generally used for a human male or mankind (DNTT 2:564).
The emphatic ō anthrōpe does not occur in the LXX, but the simple vocative anthrōpe occurs eight times in the LXX, six times in addressing a prophet of Israel as "man of God" (1Kgs 17:18; 2Kgs 1:9, 11, 13; 4:16, 39), one time addressing Israel (Mic 6:8) and one time addressing an adversary that that portended the betrayal of Judas (Ps 55:13). Some versions offer the literal translation of "O man" (ASV, AMP, DRA, JUB, KJV, LEB, NASB, NKJV, TLV). Paul uses the interjection of "O Man" as a rhetorical device to address a fictive opponent who boasts of his Jewish orthodoxy and whom Paul confronts concerning his hypocrisy (see my comment on 2:1, 3 and 2:17).
indeed: Grk. menounge (from mén, "indeed;" oún, "therefore;" and gé, "really"), particle used in response with emphatic feeling, properly, "therefore really indeed" (HELPS). who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 14 above. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 2 above. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. the one: Grk. ho, definite article used here as a demonstrative pronoun for the fictive opponent. answering back: Grk. antapokrinomai (from anti, "against, opposite," and apokrinomai, "to answer"), pres. mid. part., express oneself in reply; answer back, have an answer, reply. Mounce translates the verb as "criticize." As used here the verb implies arguing with God.
to God: Grk. ho theos, the God of Israel. See verse 5 above. In typical Jewish fashion Paul answers the opponent's question with a question of his own. In advanced Jewish study of Scripture a rabbi or Sage would engage a student by asking a question (e.g., Luke 2:46); the student would respond in kind with a related question, showing he understood what the rabbi was asking and thereby advancing the discussion (Pryor 25). Perhaps Paul alludes to God's charge to Job,
"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" … "Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it." (Job 38:2; 40:2)
The thing formed: Grk. ho plasma, something given form through molding of material; molded piece, e.g., a potter's vessel. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. will not: Grk. mē, negative particle. say: Grk. ereō, fut. See verse 14 above. to the one: Grk. ho. having formed it: Grk. plassō, aor. part., to give shape through a molding process; form, mold. Why: Grk. tís. did you make: Grk. poieō, aor., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The first meaning applies here.
In the LXX poieō translates chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity. me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. thus: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, in this way or like this.
Paul frames the second part of his answer to the objection by using the analogy of a potter and clay as found in Isaiah 45:9. In context the "thing molded" refers to the fictive Pharisee opponent making the objection. "Why did you choose me out of all the nations if you weren't going to guarantee my salvation?" Stern notes that traditional Judaism takes this viewpoint, as can be seen in this quotation from the weekday morning prayers in the Siddur (Prayerbook): "Who is there among all the works of your hands, among those above or among those below, who could say to you, [God,] 'What are you doing?'"
21− or has not the potter authority over the clay to make out of the same lump indeed one vessel into honor; but one into dishonor?
or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote (1) an alternative, 'or,' or (2) a comparative function, 'than.' The first usage applies here. has: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 10 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. the potter: Grk. ho kerameus, a person who makes pottery, potter. authority: Grk. exousia, the right to speak or act in a situation without looking or waiting for approval; authority, right, jurisdiction. Here the noun refers to the power to decide. The analogy of the potter and clay speaks of God's authority and right as the heavenly potter to do with his creation as he pleases.
over the clay: Grk. ho pēlos, earth in a moistened state; used for both earth (John 9:6, 11, 14-15) and clay used by a potter, as here. to make: Grk. poieō, aor. inf. See the previous verse. out of: Grk. ek, prep. the same: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 3 above. lump: Grk. ho phurama (from phurō, to mix substances), a mass of malleable matter formed by mixing or kneading dry and wet ingredients; used here of the process of pottery manufacture. indeed: Grk. mén, affirming particle used in introducing contrasting clauses; indeed, on the one hand, now. one: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 4 above.
vessel: Grk. skeuos, something that is serviceable in carrying out a function, a vessel or container. into: Grk. eis, prep., a marker of extension relating to a goal, here of an envisaged state or condition. honor: Grk. timē, a high level of respect for special merit or quality, thus, honor, esteem, regard. In the LXX timē is used in reference to valuations of persons (Gen 20:16; Lev 27:2) or things, sometimes without Hebrew equivalent (Gen 44:2; Ex 34:20; Lev 5:15).
Most significant is that timē translates Heb. kabod (SH-3519), honor, glory, occurring in reference to honor given a man by virtue of position among other men (e.g., Ex 28:2, 40; 2Chr 32:33) or by virtue of position in relation to God's creation (Ps 8:5) (DNTT 2:49). In the Tanakh honor is to be given to parents, to the old, to kings, to teachers of Torah, to husbands, to servants and to the poor. In the Besekh timē is used for the value given to things, but generally represents the recognition of the dignity of an office or position. Timē is also used for the exaltation in eschatological salvation (John 12:26; Rom 2:7, 10; 1Pet 1:7; 2:7), which may be the intention here.
but: Grk. de, conj., used here for contrast. one: Grk. hos. into: Grk. eis. See the former definition. Many versions translate the preposition with "for" in the sense of "for the purpose of." The choice of translation presents a conundrum. Is the existence of evil God's fault? I don't believe the preposition expresses intent but rather an ultimate state. dishonor: Grk. atimia, experience of lack of esteem; dishonor, low esteem. Mounce defines as dishonor, infamy, shame, meanness, vileness, and dishonorable use, which he applies to this verse. HELPS defines the noun as dishonor, perceived as without recognized value.
In Greek culture atimia was a technical term for the deprivation of a citizen's rights and put a person outside the community (DNTT 2:49). Atimia was also to act in a manner that brought disgrace to the gods (LSJ). In the LXX atimia is often a character quality of the ungodly or those unfaithful to God (Prov 3:25; 11:16; Jer 3:25; 6:15; Ezek 16:63) and the result of divine judgment (Job 10:15; 12:21; Ps 83:16; Prov 6:33). However, atimia may be removed by instruction (Prov 13:18). In the Besekh atimia has a range of meaning. Long hair is atimia for a man (1Cor 11:14).
Paul uses timē and atimia in a parable of a worthy worker by contrasting household vessels of gold and silver vessels, regarded as timē, and wood and earthenware vessels as atimia (2Tim 2:20). In Romans 1:26 Paul uses atimia to refer to shameful character. Some versions translate atimia in this verse as "common" or "ordinary" use" (AMP, NASB, NIV, NRSV, TLV) in an attempt to give it a less pejorative meaning. However, there is no indication that Paul intended a neutral meaning for atimia. It is the polar opposite of honor. Paul's point is that the containers created by a potter can be put to different uses, some honorable, some dishonorable. The potter is not to blame for the dishonorable use.
Commentators generally assume that Paul is alluding to the time when God ordered Jeremiah to go to a potter's house in order to learn a lesson (Jer 18:1-6). In that situation Jeremiah watched the potter making a vessel, which somehow became spoiled. The potter then remade the unacceptable vessel into an acceptable vessel (Jer 18:4). While this suggestion has merit, Paul makes no mention of Jeremiah and the clay motif is common in Scripture (Job 10:9; 33:16; Isa 29:16; 41:25; 45:9) and other Jewish literature of the time (Qumran Manual of Discipline 11:17-22, cited in Shulam).
Paul's analogy differs from Jeremiah's narrative. Here the potter makes two very different vessels from the same lump. Notice that Paul does not say that God actually makes one lump of clay into an honorable vessel and a different lump into a dishonorable vessel. How can a vessel (which has no sin) be dishonorable? A lump could be made into a bowl that would be sacred in the Temple, ordinary in a household kitchen or defiled in a brothel. However, God gives a man the raw materials of grace, light and love to determine which he will be. Paul well knew the word of Isaiah, "But now, ADONAI, You are our Father. We are the clay and You are our potter, we are all the work of Your hand" (Isa 64:7 TLV).
The reference to the lump may have a variety of applications. Adam would qualify as "one lump" from which came two streams of humanity - the sons of Seth and the sons of Cain, the children of God and the children of the devil. Another application is the contrast between Moses and Pharaoh. God raised Pharaoh up as ruler over the Egyptians, intending him for honor, so that through Pharaoh God's name might be proclaimed throughout the world (verse 17). Pharaoh rejected God's plan and thereby made himself dishonorable, denying himself and his country God's mercy in the process. Still another contrast is between Jacob and Esau (verses 10-13 above). Both men came from one set of godly parents, but lived very different lives, one honoring the God of Abraham (Jacob), and one dishonoring the God of Abraham (Esau).
22− But what if God, willing to show wrath and to make known His power, bore in much patience vessels of wrath having been produced for destruction,
In verses 22-24 Paul crafts a lengthy question to summarize the character and virtues of the God of Israel, particularly His justice and his mercy. The question is not just rhetorical, since the terms Paul employs are unquestionably true. But: Grk. de, conj. what if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker normally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. The conjunction can also be used interrogatively, which seems to be the purpose here. God: Grk. theos, the promise-keeping God of Israel. See verse 5 above.
willing: Grk. thelō, pres. part. See verse 16 above. to show: Grk. endeiknumi, aor. inf. See verse 17 above. wrath: Grk. ho orgē means anger, indignation or wrath. In the Besekh orgē, occurring 36 times, is used of human anger (Eph 4:31; 1Tim 2:8; Jas 1:19-20), but primarily divine wrath at the end of the age (Matt 3:7; Rom 2:5; Eph 2:3; 1Th 1:10; Heb 3:11; Rev 6:16). In the LXX orgē is used to translate eight different Hebrew words for anger (DNTT 1:108). Greek has only two basic words for anger (the other being thumos, e.g., Rom 2:8). Most frequently orgē renders Heb. aph, nostril, nose, face, anger, first in Genesis 27:45 of Esau's anger at Jacob.
The anatomical term is used for anger because of the change in facial features that occurs from the emotion of anger. The Hebrew words for anger are most often used of the wrath of ADONAI, first against Moses (Ex 4:14), next against Egypt (Ex 15:7), next against Israel for worshipping the golden calf (Ex 32:9), and then later against Israel for grumbling (Num 11:1). In the Tanakh God is often depicted as jealous and angry, all occasioned by out-of-control sinning. God’s wrath began in the Garden of Eden where the first couple received the predicted penalty of disobedience (Gen 2:17; 1Cor 15:22).
Because of being born into Adam’s race all people are by nature "children of wrath" (Eph 2:3). Most of the incidents of God’s wrath in the Tanakh are directed against Israel for sinning, but wrath also awaits the nations (e.g., Isa 34:2; Jer 10:10; Mic 5:15). The eschatological wrath mentioned in the Besekh, including several times in this letter, refers to God’s anger at sin and the resulting eternal punishment that He imposes as a just recompense.
and: Grk. kai, conj. to make known: Grk. gnōrizō, aor. inf., to share information about something; make known, inform about. His: Grk. autos, pers. pron. power: Grk. ho dunatos, adj., may mean (1) having power or competence, mostly of persons; competent, able, powerful; or (2) capable of being realized; possible, realizable. The first meaning applies here in reference to God's power. bore: Grk. pherō, aor., a verb normally associated with physical transport of something, but here is used to mean supporting what is burdensome.
in: Grk. en, prep. much: Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, which may relate to (1) number; many, much, numerous; or (2) high degree of quantity or quality; extensive, great, large, many, much, plentiful. patience: Grk. makrothumia, the capacity for restraint in face of what is provocative; patience, forbearance. In direct contrast of the record of God's wrath is also the fact that the longsuffering of God is well documented in Scripture. The antediluvian generation was given 120 years to repent to avoid destruction (Gen 6:3).
The history of Israel reveals a repetitive cycle: when Israel obeyed, God blessed; when Israel disobeyed, God punished; when Israel repented, God pardoned. And, through all the centuries of confederation, monarchy and exile God punished every one of Israel's enemies. Scripture is a record of God's endurance with an inconsistent and rebellious nation. The fact that God is ready to forgive upon repentance (cf. Rom 2:3-4; 2Pet 3:9) mitigates the following negative description.
vessels: pl. of Grk. skeuos. See the previous verse. of wrath: Grk. orgē. The expression "vessels of wrath" is idiomatic of deserving judgment. As Ezekiel says (chapters 16 and 20), Paul declares that God's wrath is poured out on his disobedient people, but he will not destroy them for his name's sake (his reputation among the nations) (Shulam).
prepared: Grk. katartizō, perf. mid. part., may mean (1) to put in order, restore or put into proper condition; or (2) prepare, design or create an entity; produce. The verb form (katērtismena) can be either middle voice or passive voice, which greatly impacts interpretation. The passive voice describes the subject as receiving the action, whereas the middle voice describes the subject as performing the action or being an active participant in accomplishing the action.
for: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." destruction: Grk. apōleia, destruction, which may be (1) of extravagant expenditure, waste, loss; or (2) of terrible loss one experiences, ruin, destruction, frequently with stress on its eternal aspect. In the LXX apōleia renders several different Hebrew words meaning calamity, distress or destruction, and sometimes used without Hebrew equivalent. Destruction often occurs in the context of divine judgment.
For example apōleia is sometimes used without Hebrew equivalent to give added emphasis to a warning of being destroyed, "by destruction you will be destroyed" (Deut 4:26; 8:19; 30:18), or to a command "by destruction you shall destroy" (Deut 12:2). The final exhortations of Deuteronomy confront the nation with the alternatives of receiving the blessing of a fruitful life through obedience, or the curse of destruction through disobedience (Deut 22:24; 28:20; 30:18).
Although in many writings of the Tanakh destruction is understood in the sense of earthly catastrophe and death, later texts occasionally link "destruction" with the concepts of Sheol and the state after death. In Jewish apocalyptic literature the idea appears of an eschatological destruction of the world in which the ungodly will perish along with the world (DNTT 1:463).
Of special note is that apōleia renders the Hebrew word abaddôn, meaning "destruction, ruin," which often synonymous with "the place of ruin" in Sheol (Job 26:6; Prov 15:11; 27:20), or "death" (Job 28:22), or "the grave" (Ps 88:11). In late Jewish apocalyptic texts and Qumran literature, abaddôn refers to the personification of death (cf. 2Th 2:3; Rev 9:11). It is very possible that Paul uses apōleia here as a personification.
Some interpreters treat the verb form of "prepared" as passive voice with the result that it refers to men whose souls God has so constituted that they cannot escape destruction (Thayer). Treating the verb form as middle voice would indicate that the men prepared themselves for destruction (BAG). These respective interpretations have produced a significant theological divide in Christianity. Some Christian interpreters see in theses verses a picture of double predestination, some elected to heaven and some elected to hell before birth. However, Paul affirms both God's sovereignty and man's responsibility of calling on the name of the Lord for salvation (Rom 10:13). Typical of the Jewish point of view Rabbi Akiva taught, "All is foreseen and free will is given" (Avot 3:15).
We must remember that in Chapters Nine through Eleven Paul is setting forth his Israelology and affirming Israel's election in the strongest terms. In terms of election it is the Gentile nations that are the vessels of wrath (cf. Ps 79:6; Isa 34:2; Jer 10:25; 25:31; Joel 3:2). However, all Jews and all Gentiles are vessels of wrath, because all have sinned and the wages of sin is death (Rom 3:23; 6:23). Yet, the expression, "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction," as in the case of "hardening," does not convey intention, but result. Paul proclaimed the good news of the Messiah first in Jewish synagogues and in Gentile communities in order to offer the mercy of God through Yeshua the Messiah.
23− and in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory,
This verse continues the thought of verse 22. and: Grk. kai, conj. in order that: Grk. hina, conj. See verse 11 above. By saying kai hina, "and in order that," Paul establishes a parallelism with the proposition of the previous verse. He might make known: Grk. gnōrizō, aor. subj. See the previous verse. The subjunctive mood of the verb continues the hypothetical nature of the question. the riches: pl. of Grk. ho ploutos, wealth in a material sense or abundant supply in a non-material sense, here the latter. of His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. glory: Grk. ho doxa represents the LXX translation of Heb. kabôd (SH-3519), splendor or brightness, which conveys the majesty of that which belongs to God, to the Messiah or to angels.
Kabôd (pronounced "kah-vohd") is particularly used to refer to the luminous manifestation of God's person, His glorious revelation of Himself (Ex 24:16-17). In the Besekh doxa is a continuation of the Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45). "His glory" may be a euphemism for God Himself or heaven where God sits on His throne in glory. In either case the "riches of His glory," a phrase Paul uses five times (also Eph 1:18; 3:16; Php 4:19; Col 1:27), can include His kindness, tolerance, patience, wisdom, knowledge, grace and power. His riches are unfathomable (Eph 3:8)!
vessels: Grk. skeuos. See verse 21 above. of mercy: Grk. eleos, kindness expressed for one in need, compassion, mercy or pity. In the LXX eleos normally represents Heb. chesed (SH-2617), which means proper covenant behavior, the solidarity which the partners in the covenant owe one another. Chesed results in one giving help to the covenant partner in his need. So the connotation of eleos meaning chesed may stretch from loyalty to a covenant to kindliness, mercy, and pity, particularly kindness extended to the lowly and needy (DNTT 2:594). "Vessels of mercy" are those individuals who respond to God's favor, embrace His abundant compassion and are transformed into vessels fit for service in the kingdom.
which: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun. He prepared beforehand: Grk. proetoimazō (from pro, "before," and hetoimos, "ready, prepared"), aor., properly, made ready in advance; prepare beforehand (HELPS). The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Eph 2:10). Paul is not saying that God prepared beforehand the "vessels of mercy" in a predestination sense, but the riches of His glory. God never leaves anything to chance, but made His plans for salvation from the beginning.
for: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." glory: Grk. doxa. God's intention is that the "vessels of mercy" would know Him. This is not simply a reference to going to heaven, but experiencing the best life God has to offer (cf. John 10:10). Advocates of replacement theology would say that the term "vessels of wrath" in the previous verse refers to Israel and God only put up with Israel in order to show mercy to the "vessels of mercy," in other words, the Christians and Jews who convert to Christianity. However, Paul does not teach such an aberrant theology.
Rather, the "purpose" of God's sovereignty is to demonstrate, in his forbearance of Israel's disobedience, His compassion also for the Gentiles (Shulam). After all, the New Covenant was for Israel and Judah (Jer 31:31), and yet the redemption of His chosen people would also provide the opportunity for salvation of Gentile nations.
24− whom also He called us, not only out of the traditional Jews, but also out of the nations?
This verse completes the question begun in verse 22. whom: Grk. hos, relative pronoun; i.e., the vessels of mercy. also: Grk. kai, conj. He called: Grk. kaleō, aor. See verse 7 above. Taking the verse as a whole the one doing the calling would be Yeshua. The verb has the sense of being called to covenantal relationship. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The pronoun as a corporate expression refers to the Messianic community of believers and vessels of mercy who have received the riches of glory.
The call was initiated by the Father when He spoke the words from heaven at Yeshua's immersion, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him! (Luke 9:35). Then Yeshua call his disciples into the Kingdom of Messiah and from this group the Messianic community sprang into being (Eph 4:4; Col 3:15; 1Th 2:12; 2Th 2:14). The "us" especially includes Paul whom Yeshua called personally on the Damascus road.
not: Grk. ou, adv. only: Grk. monos, adj. signifying the exclusion of any other entity; alone, only. out of: Grk. ek, prep. the traditional Jews: pl. of Grk Ioudaios, Jew, Jewish, Jewess or Judean (BAG). The noun identifies biological descendants of Jacob, but in the Besekh Ioudaios especially has a sectarian meaning to distinguish "devout" (= Hebrew-speaking Torah/tradition-observant) Jews from non-observant Jews (Acts 2:5). Indeed the noun Ioudaismos, "Judaism," first appears in the Maccabean writings for a way of life devoted to observance of Torah laws (2Macc 2:21; 8:1; 14:38; 4Macc 4:26), and then used by Saul to describe his religion before his life-changing encounter with Yeshua (Gal 1:13-14) (DNTT 2:310).
Traditional Jews revered Moses (John 9:28-29; Acts 6:11), and recognized the authority of the written Torah (John 7:23; Acts 21:20) and the traditions of the Sages (Matt 15:2; 23:2-3; Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28; Gal 1:14; Col 2:8). They faithfully observed the Sabbath, kept God's prescribed festivals, circumcised their children and regarded the Temple in Jerusalem as the only place to worship the God of Israel with sacrifices (John 2:13; 4:20; 5:16; 19:31; Acts 2:5; 16:3; 21:21; 22:3; 24:14). Thus, the term Ioudaios is never used to identify Hellenistic Jews, Samaritan Jews or Qumran Jews. For a complete discussion on the historical background of the term and its particular uses in the Besekh see my article The Apostolic Community.
Paul reminds his readers that Yeshua called disciples into the Messianic kingdom first from those identified with orthodox Judaism. Then, following the pattern established by the great commission that call went out beyond Jerusalem into the Diaspora. but: Grk. alla, conj. also: Grk. kai, conj. out of: Grk. ek, prep. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos has a broad and diverse meaning. The Greek term, often used in the plural (ethnōn or ethnē), humans belonging to a people group. Mounce gives the root meaning as multitude or company. In the LXX ethnos translates Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "nation, people" (DNTT 2:790).
The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations, and then including descendants of Isaac and Jacob and the nation of Israel (cf. Gen 10:5; 12:2; 17:4; 18:18; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1; 42:1, 6; Jer 5:15; Ezek 4:13; 36:13-14; Mic 4:2-3). In the Besekh ethnos in the singular may refer generally to any people group distinguished by language and culture (Matt 24:7; Acts 10:35; Rev 5:9). The plural form of the term as here (ethnōn) is used often in the Besekh in contradistinction to traditional Jews (e.g., Matt 5:47; Acts 2:27; 21:21; 26:17; Rom 3:29; 11:25; 1Cor 1:23; Gal 2:14-15).
Often ethnos is used in a geographical sense with a diverse population that would include descendants of Jacob as residents or citizens (Matt 12:21; 24:14; Acts 17:26; Rom 1:5; 16:26; Gal 2:9; 1Tim 3:16). The noun does not have a particular religious meaning. Paul as appointed as a shaliach (apostle) to the nations (Acts 9:15) and his personal mission was to represent the Messiah and bring about the obedience of the uncircumcised to the Messianic faith (Rom 1:5; Gal 2:7). The majority of versions translate ethnōn here as "Gentiles," but in my view "nations" is a better choice, since the uncircumcised included both Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews, whom traditional Jews regarded as no better than pagan Gentiles.
In the first century many Gentiles expressed a deep interest in learning about Judaism. Wherever there was a Jewish synagogue there was also a devoted body of Gentiles attached to it (Schurer 2:308, 312), which was a testament to the effectiveness of Jewish proselytizing activity, especially by the Pharisees (cf. Matt 23:15). Besides "proselyte" the apostolic writers use three other descriptions to identify Gentiles that demonstrated some level of commitment: Israel-lovers (Grk. agapaō, Luke 7:4-5), God-fearers (Grk. phobeomai, Acts 10:2, 22, 35; 13:16, 26), and God-worshipers (Grk. sebō, John 9:31; Acts 17:17; Lydia, Acts 16:14; and Titius Justus, Acts 18:7).
The distinction between these categories is not always clear, but they all loved the Jewish people, believed in and prayed to the God of Israel, attended synagogue worship, kept at least the moral code and other Jewish traditions in varying degrees, and gave alms and other financial support to the Jews. The important thing to note is that the Gentiles whom Paul taught already had some Jewish influence as intimated at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:21). Salvation of the nations is a major theme of Acts and Romans, as well as Ephesians, which Paul described as a mystery long kept secret but now revealed to the apostles (Eph 3:4-6).
Salvation of the Remnant, 9:25-29
25− As also in Hosea He says: "I will call the one not of my people, 'of my people;' and the one not having been loved, 'having been loved.'"
Reference: Hosea 2:23.
In verses 25 and 26 Paul conflates two verses from Hosea, first from 2:23. As: Grk. kathōs, adv. also: Grk. kai, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. Hosea: Grk. Hōsēe, which transliterates the Heb. Hoshea ("salvation"). The name occurs only here in the Besekh. All that is known of Hosea is contained in the book bearing his name. He was the son of Beeri and he prophesied in the 8th century B.C. during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel (Hos 1:1). At God's direction Hosea married a woman (Gomer) who would be unfaithful to him (Hos 1:2-3).
The expression "wife of harlotry" (Heb. zenunim) could refer to her conduct before marriage or what she became later. Since the name of Gomer's father is given, the latter interpretation is preferred. Gomer bore Hosea two sons and a daughter. From God's point of view Hosea's marriage would serve as a prophetic parable of God's relationship with Israel. Hosea would experience first-hand God's anguish over His unfaithful people. Thus, Hosea prophesied to the northern Kingdom of Israel, identified simply as Ephraim, being the dominant tribe in Israel.
Hosea's message called Israel to repentance for idolatry and warned the nation of the threat of Assyria. He also warned Israel that rebellion would reap the whirlwind, but repentance would bring restoration to God's favor. The book of Hosea also contains Messianic prophecy (2:18-20; 3:4-5; 6:1-2). Noteworthy is that Jewish interpreters connected the "third day" in 6:2 with resurrection (Targum on Hosea, cited by Gill).
He says: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 1 above. The present tense emphasizes that the Scripture quoted still has authority. I will call: Grk. kaleō, fut. See the verse 7 above. Paul leads off with 2:23 probably because of this opening announcement which complements what he just said in verse 24 with respect to being called. the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used as a demonstrative pronoun. The word is singular, but it has a corporate application. not: Grk. ou, adv. of my: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. The pronoun is in the genitive case, so "of" is appropriate.
people: Grk. laos, a group of humans; often used of people groups understood geographically or ethnically, and in Scripture often viewed in contrast with the ruling class. The term corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'aretz, "people of the land," i.e., the people of Israel. This phrase "not my people" occurs only in the book of Hosea and comes from the naming of Hosea's second son, Lo-'Ammi, because the northern kingdom had declared by their backsliding that they no longer wished for God to be their God.
of my: Grk. egō, genitive case. people: Grk. laos. The two contrasting expressions can only be understood in the context of the definition of the people of God. Many times in the Tanakh God refers to the Israelites as "my people," beginning in Exodus 3:7. At Sinai, God declared, "I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people" (Lev 26:12 NASB). Later, when the nation of Israel waited in Moab prior to crossing the Jordan into the promised land God reaffirmed this status even after the nation had rebelled in the wilderness. "Be silent and listen, O Israel—this day you have become a people for ADONAI your God" (Deut 27:9 TLV).
Gentiles do not need to feel second-class because of God's choice, because He intended Israel to bring the Gentiles to Him. God had promised Jacob to make him a company of nations (Gen 35:11), which Paul affirmed (Eph 2:12). Instead of embracing supersessionism ("the Church replaced Israel") Christians should welcome identity with the true people of God as Ruth did, "Your people shall be my people" (Ruth 1:16). There is no Scriptural basis for supersessionism, which developed out of the anti-Jewish bias of the church fathers. Refusing to be identified with the Jewish people can only bring God's disapproval.
Contained in the naming of Lo-'Ammi is a promise that the two kingdoms would one day be reunited to serve the Lord (Hos 1:11; 2:16-23). So, while God would turn away from Israel for a time, He would later bring them back to Himself. Paul does not indicate in any way that the inclusion of the Gentiles means a rejection of Israel. He has already stated in Romans 1:16 that the good news is for the traditional Jew first and then the Hellenistic Jews, representative of the northern kingdom. The original meaning of the Hosea quotation ─ God's faithfulness in spite of Israel's unfaithfulness ─ is what Paul appeals to.
As Gruber pointedly asks, "If God did not mean what He said to the rebellious tribes of Israel, what would be the point of applying His words to the rebellious tribes of Gentiles?" (133).
and: Grk. kai, conj. the one: Grk. ho, again used as a demonstrative pronoun. The article is the fem. form, so most versions translate the word as "her," fig. of Gomer. not: Grk. ou, adv. having been loved: Grk. agapaō, perf. pass. part., to have such an interest in another that one wishes to contribute to the other's well-being, even if it means making a personal sacrifice to do so. In the LXX agapaō normally translates aheb (SH-157), but aheb is a far more comprehensive word than agapaō. The Hebrew word is comparable to the English verb "love," which may be used with a variety of applications.
having been loved: Grk. agapaō, perf. pass. part. This phrase actually appears first in the text of Hosea 2:23. The LXX, which Paul quotes, accurately translates the Heb. racham, which means to love or to have compassion (BDB 933). It is interesting that the LXX translators chose agapaō, "to love sacrificially," rather than eleeō, "to show mercy," which Paul uses in verse 18 above. Various Bible versions translate racham in the Hosea quote with either "compassion" (HCSB, NASB, TLV), "mercy" (CEV, ESV, KJV, NKJV) or "pity" (CJB, NCV, NRSV, RSV), but the NIV, NLT and TEV translate racham with "love." The love which God has for Israel is like that of a husband for his wife (cf. Hos 3:1; Eph 5:25).
Because of this love, the Lord promised Israel, "On that day," says ADONAI "you will call me Ishi [My Husband]; you will no longer call me Ba'ali [My Master]" (Hos 2:16 CJB). The prophecy contains a word play since Ba'ali was a divine name used in the northern kingdom, but here prohibited in Israel's restoration. Ba'ali is formed from ba'al, which in the vernacular was used for "husband" (BDB 127). Other prophets, too, likened God's relationship with Israel and Judah as a marriage (Isa 61:10; 62:5; Jer 2:2, 32; 3:1-10; Ezek 16:32; 23:1-4) and the apostolic writings echo the same theme (Matt 9:15; 25:1; John 3:29; Eph 5:22-32; Rev 19:7-9; 21:2).
26− "and it will be in the place where it was said to them 'you are not of my people,' there they will be called sons of the living God."
Reference: Hosea 1:10.
Paul now quotes from Hosea 1:10. and: Grk. kai, conj. it will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 2 above. The future tense points to an event happening. in: Grk. en, prep. the place: Grk. ho topos, a spatial area, here of a geographical region; place. where: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. it was said: Grk. ereō, aor. pass. See verse 14 above. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. are not: Grk. ou, adv. of my: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. The pronoun is in the genitive case, so "of" is appropriate. people: Grk. laos. See the previous verse.
there: Grk. ekei, adv., 'in that place,' as opposed to here or another place. The Scripture speaks of the location where Hosea prophesied, the Land of Israel. It was in the Land of Israel that God sent his Messiah, where Yeshua called his disciples to service in the Messianic kingdom, where he announced the good news of fulfillment of God's promises to the fathers, where God poured out his Holy Spirit to empower witnesses and create one people to serve him and where the Messianic community became a nurturing mother to the outreach to the nations.
they will be called: Grk. kaleō, fut. pass. See verse 7 above. The verb is used here in the sense of giving a name to. sons: pl. of Grk. huios. See verse 9 above. Here the term is used figuratively in the sense of possessing the characteristics of. of the living: Grk. zaō, pres. part. God: Grk. theos (for Heb. Elohim), the God of Israel. See verse 5 above. The mention of God as "living" emphasizes that only the God who revealed himself to Abraham, Jacob, Moses and the nation of Israel has real existence (Deut 32:39; 2Sam 7:22; Ps 86:10; Isa 43:10-11; 44:6-8; 45:5-6, 21; Dan 3:29; 1Cor 8:4).
The expression "the living God" along with the parallel expression, "as ADONAI [Heb. YHVH] lives," occurs numerous times in the Tanakh. All other deities claimed in the world and worshipped in other religions have no existence except in the imagination of deceived humanity. There is no other God, but the God of Israel. This exact expression "sons of the living God" only occurs in the Hosea quote, but is comparable to "sons of God" (Matt 5:9; Luke 20:36; Rom 8:14, 19; Gal 3:26). Stern suggests that Paul offers a midrash on the Hosea texts.
That is, since Hosea was not referring to Gentiles but to Israel itself, those known as Jews, then one day Israel would be known not simply as "My People," as they were called in the Tanakh, but the very sons of God. Hosea's prophecy had already been partially fulfilled at Pentecost in Jerusalem (in the Land of Israel) and the successful evangelism among Jews in Judea (the Land of Israel), Galilee (the Land of Israel), Samaria (properly the Land of Israel) and then among Jews in the Diaspora.
The inclusion of Gentiles as "sons' does not conflict with Hosea's promise, but may be inferred from it. The complete fulfillment must await God's further sovereign working out of history. The plan and purpose of God are examined in chapter eleven and in the book of Ephesians.
27− And Isaiah cries for Israel: "Though the number of the sons of Israel should be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.
Reference: Isaiah 10:22.
And: Grk. de, conj. Isaiah: Grk. Ēsaias, a Graecized form of Heb. Yesha'yahu ("YHVH is Salvation" or "YHVH has saved"). Isaiah was the son of Amoz of the tribe of Judah and perhaps related to the royal house. The prophet lived during the reigns of the Judean kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and probably the first years of Manasseh. He was contemporary with the last five kings of Israel: Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hosea. Isaiah received his call to ministry in a dramatic fashion c. 740 BC (Isa 6:1), and prophesied for forty years during which he was an adviser (court prophet) to Ahaz and Hezekiah.
Isaiah was contemporary with the prophets Micah and Hosea. He married a prophetess and had two sons (Isa 7:3; 8:3). Jewish tradition says that Isaiah was put to death by King Manasseh by being sawn in half (Yebamoth 49b; Ascension of Isaiah 1:9; 5:2; cf. Heb 11:37). He left a monumental literary work of 66 chapters, the longest of the prophetic books, containing almost half of the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh. Isaiah wrote mostly warnings in the first half of his book and mostly comfort and promise in the second half.
Various scholars have proposed that some unknown author wrote the second half of the book of Isaiah (40─66) and a few scholars have actually suggested a Third Isaiah (56─66). Against this viewpoint are these arguments: (1) for 25 centuries no one doubted that Isaiah was the author of all 66 chapters; (2) there is no evidence that the two (or three) parts of the book ever existed separately; (3) The same style, vocabulary, and figures of speech occur in both sections; (4) all the quotations in the Besekh from parts of Isaiah labeled as "Second” and "Third” Isaiah" attribute those passages to Isaiah the prophet' and (5) the Dead Sea Scrolls include the entire text of Isaiah with no break between chapters 39 and 40.
We are supposed to believe that a book with its many and detailed prophecies of the Messiah was written by someone completely anonymous and unremembered in Judaism. Modern scholars go to incredible lengths to avoid believing in the truth of biblical material, just because they can't accept that God revealed the name of Cyrus (Isa 44:28; 45:1) almost two hundred years before he was born or that Isaiah was given words of exhortation and comfort for a people he knew would go into exile (Isa 39:6). If they can't believe the prophecy about Cyrus, how can they believe the prophecies that named the Messiah (Isa 7:14; 9:6; 46:13; 51:5; 59:16)?
cries: Grk. krazō, pres., to utter a loud cry or to express something with vigorous voice, to call out. The present tense is used for dramatic emphasis. for: Grk. huper, prep. Israel: Grk. Israēl (for Heb. Yisrael). See verse 6 above. Isaiah lived well over one hundred years after the division of the Northern Kingdom and the Kingdom of Judah and yet here Paul uses "Israel" in its original sense of a united nation.
Paul then quotes from Isaiah 10:22, but in so doing condenses the text, inserts a word, and makes a substitution for one word. His quotation may reflect a variant Greek or Hebrew text.
MT: "For though your people be as the sand of the sea a remnant will return; the decreed destruction shall overflow with righteousness." (BHIB)
LXX: "And though the people of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them shall be saved." (Brenton)
Though: Grk. ean, conj. that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. the number: Grk. ho arithmos, number or total, and may refer to a specific number, a total number of something or the numerical value assigned to specific letters of the alphabet. The noun is not found in either the MT or LXX, but Paul made an interpretive decision. of the sons: pl. of Grk. ho huios. See verse 9 above. Paul substitutes "sons" for "people" (Heb. am; Grk. laos). of Israel: Grk. Israēl. The biological descendants of Jacob.
should be: Grk. eimi, pres. subj. See verse 2 above. as: Grk. hōs, adv. the sand: Grk. ho ammos refers to the sand of a beach or sandy subsoil. The noun is singular, which has cumulative effect. of the sea: Grk. ho thalassa (corresponding to Heb. yam) used of both a sea, such as the Mediterranean, and inland bodies of water, i.e., lake. The English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule.
Thalassa (as its Hebrew counterpart) simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. The seas (Heb. yammim) were formed on the third day of creation (Gen 1:10), but the present configuration of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers came about in the aftermath of the Noahic deluge (cf. Job 12:14-15; 14:11-12; 22:15-16; 26:10; 38:8-11; Ps 29:3-10; 65:5-9).
The phrase "sand of the sea" is an idiomatic expression that speaks of a number that is "beyond measure" (Gen 41:49) and occurs in a variety of contexts (Gen 41:49; Job 6:3; Ps 78:27; Jer 15:8; Hos 1:10). Its first and most significant usage is to describe the proliferation of Abraham's seed (Gen 22:17) and is one of three exaggerated metaphors with prophetic meaning for Abraham, along with "dust of the earth" (Gen 13:16), and "stars of the heavens" (Gen 22:17). Moreover, God repeated the metaphor of the "sands of the sea" in reference to the seed of Jacob (Gen 32:12) and later of the seed of David and the Levites (Jer 33:22), all of whom, of course, are of the seed of Abraham.
Scripture points out the obvious that the number of the sands of the seashore cannot be counted (Gen 32:12; Jer 33:22). However, the promise to Abraham implies a correlation between the number of the stars of heaven and the sands of the seashore. Astronomers have estimated there are 1025 (10 million billion billion) stars in the universe. Other passages correlate the number of the children of Israel to the number of stars (Gen 26:4; Ex 32:13; Deut 1:10; 10:22; 28:62; 1Chr 27:23; Neh 9:23; Heb 11:12).
At the time the Torah was written the population of Israel ran into the millions, but these numbers were vastly more than the number of visible stars that may be seen without the aid of a telescope, about four thousand (BBMS 156). Henry Morris then provides this fascinating information:
"Since there are approximately 1015 square feet of area on the earth's surface, and approximately 10 million grains of sand in a cubic foot of sand, if we assume that there is an average of 1,000 feet of unconsolidated sediments around the surface of the earth (probably deeper than this on the ocean bottom, but shallower on the land surfaces), then the number of sand-sized particles would also be calculated as 1025. Although such a calculation may well be considerably in error, it at least shows that the stars and the sand are of about the same order of magnitude in number." (Henry Morris, The Genesis Record, [Baker Book House 1976], 384).
The original Genesis narrative engages in a kind of word play because Abraham is challenged to "count" the stars (Gen 15:5; Heb. saphar, to count or measure, or to number, i.e., take account of, carefully observe and consider, BDB 707). Whether Abraham assumed that he would have descendants equivalent to the number of stars he could see in the nighttime sky is not stated. God may have meant that just as Abraham did not have the ability to count the sand and the stars, he could not possibly comprehend the numbers of his biological and spiritual descendants.
the remnant: Grk. hupoleimma, a small portion surviving out of a larger number; in Israelite usage, of a relatively small proportion of persons left over for realization of benefits not to be enjoyed by the majority. will be saved: Grk. sōzō, fut. pass. (from saos, "free from harm"), fut. pass., deliver out of danger or a hazardous condition and into safety (HELPS). In the Besekh sōzō frequently refers to deliver in the present from the penalty and power of sin by means of the atoning blood of Yeshua (Acts 2:47; 15:11; 16:31; Rom 10:9; Titus 3:5), as well as future deliverance from God's wrath on the Day of the Lord (Matt 24:13; Rom 5:9).
In the LXX sōzō translates no less than 15 different Hebrew verbs, which are used in relation to various external threats and bodily peril, especially enemies (DNTT 3:206). The most important of Hebrew verbs is yasha (SH-3467), to deliver, liberate and save (Deut 33:29; Jdg 2:16; 1Sam 23:5), and malat (SH-4422), to escape, deliver, or save (Gen 19:17; Joel 2:32). Two important principles may be noted in the Tanakh. First, deliverance may come about through men, such as the heroes in the book of Judges. Second, the pious Israelite knew that deliverance comes ultimately from ADONAI Himself (Ps 18:2; 44:3). It is by His power and name that foes are vanquished and evil defeated.
In the Isaiah context "the remnant" referred to the number of the Kingdom of Israel that survived the Assyrian invasion in 722 BC (2Kgs 15:29; 17:6) and subsequent exile. Thousands from the ten northern tribes were carried away and resettled in other parts of the Assyrian Empire. The "remnant" also included those who escaped the invasion and fled to Judah or were already living there at the time of the invasion (Isa 10:20; 2Chr 30:1, 21, 25; 31:1; 34:9, 21; 35:17). Josephus reported that "the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers" (Ant., XI, 5:2).
The Talmud records Rabbinical debates as to whether the northern tribes would ever return to Judea (Sanhedrin 110b). Of course, the Isaiah prophecy does not actually say that a remnant of the Northern Kingdom would return to the Land, but to the Lord God of Israel (Isa 10:20-21). Paul, however, sees the promise of a greater deliverance than escape from the Assyrians, for he uses the future tense of sōzō. says, "will be saved." Harrison, like many Christian interpreters, finds the remnant in the Christian Church:
"Even as he wrote, there was a remnant of Israel to be found in the church. In view of the nation's rejection of Jesus as Israel's Messiah, Messianic Jews should be grateful for the minority of Jews who have embraced the gospel of Christ." [Harrison probably did not realize how offensive this last comment is.]
Harrison's viewpoint amounts to historical revisionism and replacement theology. Paul says "sons of Israel," not sons of the church fathers, any of the numerous Christian theologians or of the 266 popes. Paul's use of the message of Isaiah emphasizes that the term "remnant" refers to those who escaped the enemy. Paul will expand on the concept of the remnant in chapter eleven, but at this point he is clear that not every single Jew who has ever lived will be saved merely by being a descendant of Jacob. Paul echoes the teaching of Yeshua who said in his sermon on the mount that "the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matt 7:14).
Many people, like the early disciples are incredulous that "few," whether Jew or Gentile, will be saved in the end (Luke 13:22-23). Many Evangelicals are very optimistic about the success of evangelism. "If each one would win one the world would be won for Yeshua." Such thinking is naïve and succeeds only in producing guilt for failure. Yeshua made no such promise to his disciples. The reality is that compared to the total world population that has ever lived or ever will live, few will enjoy eternal life with God, perhaps no more than 10%. In reality salvation has always been experienced by the few:
● In the antediluvian world only one family was saved out of billions (Gen 6:5-8, 17-18; 1Pet 3:20).
● God chose Israel, a people few in number, and condemned all other nations. Compare Deuteronomy 7:7 and Ezekiel 31 and 32.
● When Yeshua sent out the seventy he told them to seek those who were worthy, i.e., receptive, and if the message was rejected, then move to the next village (Matt 10:11-14). Disciples are not responsible for those who reject the good news.
28− "For ADONAI will perform His word upon the earth, completing and cutting short."
Paul condenses the text from Isaiah 10:23, which reads as follows:
MT: "For a complete destruction, decreed, the Lord ADONAI of hosts will execute in the midst of the whole land." (BHIB)
LXX: "He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because the Lord will make a short work in all the world." (Brenton)
For: Grk. gar, conj. ADONAI: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. The second meaning applies here. Bible versions translate the noun as "Lord." In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, the great majority of times to replace Heb. YHVH (DNTT 2:511). YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8). In the quoted text "Lord" is YHVH. For more information on the history and usage of YHVH see my article The Blessed Name.
will perform: Grk. poieō, fut. See verse 20 above. His word: Grk. logos. See verse 6 above. The "word" refers to the prophecy given through Isaiah. upon: Grk. epi, prep. the earth: Grk. gē. See verse 17 above. completing: Grk. sunteleō, pres. part., may mean (1) to bring to a close; complete, finish; or (2) bring about in accord with purpose; conclude, bring about, effect. The participle functions as an adverb meaning to effectually bring about in accord with purpose (Danker).
and: Grk. kai, conj. cutting short: Grk. suntemnō (from sun, "with" and temnō, "to cut, divide"), pres. part., to cut short. As used here the verb means to act with dispatch or bring to swift accomplishment. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The omnipotence of God will accomplish more than man can imagine. The prophecy of preservation and deliverance of the remnant will be accomplished in a thorough manner. Just as the Lord kept his promises concerning the Messiah, so the promise of the remnant will be fulfilled as well.
29− And just as Isaiah foretold: "Unless the Lord of Hosts had left to us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah."
Reference: Isaiah 1:9.
And: Grk. kai, conj. just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. See verse 13 above. Isaiah: Grk. Esaias. See verse 27 above. foretold: Grk. prolegō (from pro, "before," and legō, "to say"), perf., tell beforehand or in advance; foretell, predict. Paul then quotes from the LXX of Isaiah 1:9, which reads in the MT as follows.
"Unless ADONAI-Tzva'ot had left to us a remnant we would have become very small like Sodom; we would have been made like Gomorrah." (BHIB)
Unless: Grk. ei mē, lit. "if not." the Lord: Grk. kurios. See the previous verse. of Hosts: Grk. Sabaōth is an attempt to transliterate the Heb. tsva'ot, plural of tsava, which means army, war or warfare (BDB 838). The noun occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Jas 5:4). In the Tanakh the title is usually given as "LORD [YHVH] of Hosts." While many think of God as only a God of peace, He is also a God of war and He is prepared for war. As Yeshua said in the Garden, he could call on twelve legions of angels if needed (Matt 26:53), and that was likely only a personal guard in contrast to the millions of angels in God's service (Dan 7:10; Heb 12:22; Rev 5:11).
had left: Grk. egkataleipō (en, "in"; kata, "down"; and leipō, "to leave"), aor., may mean (1) to leave behind (in a good sense), let remain over; or (2) abandon, forsake or desert, with the suggestion of peril. The first meaning applies here. to us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. a seed: Grk. sperma. See verse 7 above. Some versions translate the singular noun as "descendants" (e.g., CEB, CEV, GNB, NCV, NIV), but other versions have "a seed" (ASV, CJB, KJV, MW, NKJV). Other translations include "offspring" (CSB, ESV), "posterity" (NASB), "survivors" (NJB, NRSV, OJB), "children" (RSV) and "the mere germ of a nation" (NEB).
Paul quotes the LXX accurately, but like so many other passages the LXX interprets as well as translates. The Hebrew text has "a remnant (Heb. sarid, "survivor")." Sperma, though singular in number, does have a collective use and in the context of Isaiah emphasizes not merely physical survivors of an invasion, but representatives of the tribes that would continue the line of Jacob.
we would: Grk. an, particle. See verse 15 above. have become: Grk. ginomai, aor. pass. See verse 14 above. like: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 27 above. Sodom: Grk. Sodoma (a transliteration of Heb. S'dôm), one of five "cities of the valley" (Gen 13:12; 14:2; 19:29) of Abraham's time and a place of Lot's residence (Gen 13:10-12; 14:12; 19:1). The exact location is unknown, but it was probably situated in the Valley of Siddim (Gen 14:3, 8, 10-11) near the Dead Sea. The city was known for the wickedness and sexual perversion of its inhabitants (Gen 13:13; 18:10, 20; 19:4-5)
Because of the depravity of the inhabitants God determined that city should be destroyed and the city was consumed by a fiery judgment in spite of intercession by Abraham (Gen 18:22-32; 19:24). Not even ten righteous men could be found there. The example of God's judgment on Sodom is mentioned in other passages of the Besekh (Matt 10:15; 11:23-24; Luke 10:12; 17:29; 2Pet 2:6; Jude 1:7).
and: Grk. kai, conj. we would: Grk. an. have been made: Grk. homoioō, aor. pass., to cause to be like. like: Grk. hōs. Gomorrah: Grk. Gomorra, another of the five "cities of the valley" (Gen 13:12; 19:29) of Abraham's time. Gomorrah shared the same moral degeneracy of Sodom and suffered the same divine judgment. The traditional site of Sodom and Gomorrah is southeast of the Dead Sea. For scientific information on the location of these cities see the article Sodom and Gomorrah Found!. Archaeologist Dr. Steven Collins has proposed a site north of the Dead Sea, but his theory is problematic. See the rebuttal of the northern site theory by Eugene Merrill.
The prophecy of Isaiah draws on the well known story of Genesis 18. The intention of sperma is clarified in the contrast being made to the annihilation of the two infamous cities. Only one family, the family of Lot, survived God's judgment, and only three members of that family. The prophet asserts that if it hadn't been for God's grace and mercy to preserve a remnant of faithful Israelites, the whole nation might have been lost.
The Stone of Stumbling, 9:30–33
30− What then will we say? That Gentiles not pursuing "righteousness," attained righteousness, moreover righteousness from faithfulness.
What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. then: Grk. oun, conj. will we say: Grk. ereō, fut. See verse 14 above. This is the sixth time Paul resorts to the formula ("what then will we say") in order to rebut an objection or misbelief (see verse 14 above). Paul begins a line of argument that will continue to the end of the next chapter. In fact, when the Bible was divided into chapters and verses, chapter ten probably should have begun with this verse. That: Grk. hoti, conj. Gentiles: pl. of Grk. ethnos. See verse 24 above. Considering the next verse ethnos is used here in the sense of non-Israelites.
not: Grk. ou, adv. pursuing: Grk. diōkō, pres. part., engagement in pursuit or chase, which may be (1) in a neutral sense of movement; chase, go after; (2) in a negative sense; persecute; or (3) in a positive sense of zealous interest in attaining something important. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with Torah standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, uprightness, righteousness, justice. In the LXX dikaiosunē normally translates Heb. tsedaqah (SH-6666), righteousness, generally as an ethical quality, first used in Genesis 15:6 of Abraham's faithfulness being considered as righteousness.
The noun is often used to describe the character of God (Ps 5:8; 35:24; Isa 5:16; 42:21; Jer 9:24), as well as the Davidic king, the Messiah (Ps 72:1; Jer 23:5) (DNTT 3:354). In the Tanakh the concept of tsedaqah refers to right or ethical character and behavior that is in keeping with the covenantal relationship with God, especially as defined in the righteousness code of the Torah. The righteousness code includes those commandments that prohibit harmful conduct toward others in the community or mandate conduct that strengthen the cohesiveness of families and societal relationships.
The clause "Gentiles not pursuing righteousness" alludes to righteousness as defined by the Pharisees. To many Pharisees almsgiving, long prayers, twice-weekly fasting, tithing and keeping other traditions were the most important components of righteous living (Matt 23:14, 23; Luke 18:12), performed by some of them in a manner designed to gain attention (Matt 6:16:1-2, 5-7, 16). Although Paul was a Pharisee and lived by that strict code he nonetheless returned to the Torah concept of righteousness as Yeshua set forth in the Sermon on the Mount, and insisted that true righteousness is grounded in the expectations of the written Torah.
attained: Grk. katalambanō, aor., may mean (1) to take over, whether in a physical sense to grasp, or in a sense of mental grasping; perceive, comprehend; or (2) a blend in the double sense of grasp as to seize and comprehend. Mounce defines the verb as to lay hold of, obtain or attain, which is appropriate to Paul's usage here. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. Paul asserts that Gentiles manifested true righteousness according to God's will. moreover: Grk. de, conj. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē.
from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 6 above. faithfulness: Grk. pistis (from peithō, "to persuade, be persuaded"), incorporates two primary facets of meaning: (1) that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and (2) trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). Zodhiates says that pistis also includes the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to God (1163). Thayer and the NASBEC also include "faithfulness" in the definition of pistis (1558).
In the LXX pistis translates Heb. emunah (SH-530; BDB 53), firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity, mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4); as well as Heb. emun (SH-529), faithfulness (Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17). Pistis also translates Heb. aman (SH-539), to support (Jer 15:18); amanah (SH-548), fixed support (Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8); and emet (SH-571), firmness, faithfulness, or truth (Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6).
The LXX usage emphasizes that the Hebrew meaning of faithfulness is the intended meaning of pistis. This meaning is reflected in Yeshua's definition of pistis as persistence (Luke 18:1, 8). The apostles build on this meaning and represent emunah-pistis as composed of two elements. The first element of emunah-pistis is confidence or trust: "And without faith[fulness] it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb 11:6; cf. Heb 4:2). True faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts.
The second element of emunah-pistis involves commitment, constancy and obedience, which includes following God's direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10). There is no essential difference between the faith or faithfulness of the Hebrew patriarchs and the faith spoken of by Yeshua and the apostles.
Paul presents what Stern calls "a monumental paradox crying for explanation." How could one attain something without pursuing it? Christian commentators unfortunately read into Paul's words an interpretation totally foreign to the way God conveys righteousness. To illustrate:
Harrison says, "The paradox is sharp, picturing Gentiles who are unconcerned about acquiring righteousness actually getting the prize, even though not competing in the race with the Jews. The prize is justification by faith."
Edwards says, "they [the Gentiles] received the gift of righteousness not after repenting, but in the midst of their unrighteousness."
Their interpretations are based on 5:8 where Paul says that "the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners" (CJB). However, God did not change the rules for Gentiles! Yeshua's death provides the basis for conveying righteousness, but only upon the repentance and trust of the one who calls on the name of the Lord (10:10)! Barclay makes the contrast between Jews performing works for salvation and Gentiles putting their trust in Yeshua for salvation, but this approach, too, misses the point.
In reality Paul engages in a bit of word play, because the righteousness required by the Torah was truncated in the practices of the Pharisees. Paul clarifies the righteousness gained by the Gentiles, meaning of course, the believing Gentiles who have expressed their trust in Yeshua for redemption and exhibited faithfulness to his commandments (Matt 28:20).
31− But Israel, pursuing a torah of righteousness, did not arrive at that torah.
but: Grk. de, conj. Israel: Grk. Israēl. See verse 6 above. The fact that Paul speaks of Israel in a corporate sense does not mean that he was impugning every individual descendant of Jacob, either historically or contemporaneously. It's more likely that he has in mind a particular group within the covenant people as the rest of the verse identifies. See verse 3 above. pursuing: Grk. diōkō, pres. part. See the previous verse. Although the verb is a present participle, it points to a beginning point in the past. As a verbal adjective the participle also says something about the nature of those pursuing.
a law: Grk. nomos, may mean either a principle or standard relating to behavior or codified legislation, i.e. law. The usage of nomos in the Besekh has a much deeper meaning. In the LXX nomos translates torah, which means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" (BDB 435f). In the Tanakh torah generally refers to commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God and given to Moses, who proclaimed to the nation of Israel and then wrote them down for posterity (Ex 34:27; Deut 27:3). Torah sets forth the way a person is meant to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God.
The word nomos occurs twice in this verse and the difference in emphasis indicates that Paul is engaging in word play. Neither occurrence has the definite article, which clearly points to a principle or philosophy rather than a collection of commandments. Yet, many versions translate one or both instances as "the law." Some versions fail to recognize the word play and interpret Paul as saying that certain Israelites pursued a particular law of righteousness, but did not arrive at the goal or particular brand of righteousness they sought (ASV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, RSV). Rather, Paul is saying that the zealous Israelites pursued what they thought Torah meant but never arrived at what Torah actually represented.
of righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē. See the previous verse. On the surface a reader might wonder what law of righteousness Paul could be talking about, since as we have already said, the Torah defined righteousness. However, this manner of speaking is akin to his reference to a "different good news" (2Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6). First came the Torah given to Moses and the prophets, but with the Pharisees came another torah, a very different torah.
Since "of righteousness" modifies "nomos," Paul alludes to the Pharisee philosophy that their concept of traditions faithfully represented Torah observance (cf. Matt 15:2; Mark 7:3; Gal 1:14; Col 2:8). The purpose of these traditions was ostensibly to build "fences" around the Torah in order to prevent violating it (Avot 1:1). Unfortunately, the fences eventually became more important than what was being supposedly safeguarded. When man multiplies rules legalism is very often the result (see Matt 23).
Thus, the first mention of nomos would refer to a legalistic interpretation of Torah. Among Christians the term "legalism" usually means either doing good works to earn salvation and/or imposing narrow pietistic rules on believers. Many Jews in the first century ascribed to the notion of the meritorious nature of certain good works (cf. Tobit 12:8-9; Sirach 3:14-15; Matt 6:1-5; Rom 10:3). Rather, legalism is the misuse of Torah (1Tim 1:8) and this usage of nomos is reflected in several passages (Rom 6:14-15; 1Cor 9:20; Gal 3:23; 4:4-5, 21; 5:18). For a review of the various forms of Jewish legalism in the first century see my article Law vs. Legalism.
did not: Grk. ou, adv. arrive: Grk. phthanō, aor., may mean (1) be first in arriving at a point; be ahead of, precede; or (2) reach a point; arrive, reach. The second meaning applies here. This is a dramatic verb relating to foot movement, and implies a certain competitiveness. at: Grk. eis, prep. that torah: Grk. nomos, i.e., the torah being sought. Yeshua spoke of the "weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matt 23:23) and said that the two greatest commandments summed up the entire Torah (Matt 22:36-40). In this letter Paul writes about the "nomos of faith," the "nomos of my mind," the "nomos of sin," and the "nomos of the Spirit."
The irony and even tragedy is that even though the observant Jews pursued their version of torah, they failed to please God. This analysis does apply to many of the Pharisees. The Sages themselves spoke of seven types of hypocritical Pharisees (Avot 5:9; Sotah 22b). They pursued and failed. Fence-building and fence-keeping failed, from God's point of view, to produce the righteousness He required. Moreover, the pursuers totally missed the real goal of the Torah. Everything in the Torah - the feasts, the sacrificial system, the priesthood, the worship, the sanctuary, and all the commandments - pointed to Messiah.
So, they failed to arrive at the goal they sought because their "legalistic righteousness" could not satisfy the true righteousness intended in the Torah and explained by the Messiah.
Reference: Isaiah 8:14.
Because of: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The second usage applies here. why: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 14 above. Paul poses the obvious question, but his answer is somewhat cryptic. because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 2 above. it was not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 1 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 30 above. Almost all versions translate the noun as "faith," but a few versions have "trusting" (CJB, EXB, ICB, NCV, NLT).
Stern notes that the majority in Israel missed the Messiah because they did not grasp that the first requirement of the Torah is trusting God. The genitive form of the phrase ek pisteōs could have two layers of meaning, perhaps both at the same time. First, the phrase could mean "from God's faithfulness." Paul has been demonstrating since the first chapter that salvation is provided by God's faithfulness. Second, the phrase could mean "from trusting faithfulness." Pistis represents a continuum of belief, trust and fidelity. The righteousness demanded by the Torah is grounded in the trusting faithfulness of the covenant people and this is the same righteousness that the Gentile believers have obtained.
but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 7 above. as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 27 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. legalistic works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 12 above. Paul presents a conundrum for many Christians who believe the Torah was canceled. Pursuing the righteousness of the Torah is actually okay if it is done according to "faithfulness." But, since the Torah prescribes acceptable behavior, how can one keep the Torah by faith without involving "works." Simple. The "works" Paul speaks of here are not the "good works" of Torah obedience that disciples are to manifest (Matt 5:16; Eph 2:10; 1Tim 6:18), but works of legalism, as defined in my note on the previous verse.
This is the sense given in the CJB: "Why, because they did not pursue righteousness as being grounded in trusting but as if it were grounded in doing legalistic works." Paul then uses a descriptive clause drawn from Isaiah 8:14. They stumbled: Grk. proskoptō, aor., 3p-pl., cause to strike against something with the result of experiencing harm. over the stone: Grk. ho lithos was a generic word for stone of various types, whether construction materials, millstones, grave stones, precious stones, tablets or small rocks.
of stumbling: Grk. ho proskomma, the loss of footing as consequence of striking against something. In the LXX proskomma translates Heb. moqesh (SH-4170), a snare or trap, used generally in reference to what would cause someone to trip and fall into sin (Ex 23:33; 34:12). The idiomatic expression occurs six times in the Besekh, all but one in the writings of Paul.
The stone of stumbling is used here figuratively of Yeshua, with regard to whom it especially offended the Judean authorities "that his words, deeds, career, and particularly his ignominious death on the cross, quite failed to correspond to their preconceptions respecting the Messiah; hence, they despised and rejected him, and by that crime brought upon themselves woe and punishment" (Thayer).
The TR (as given in the KJV) adds nomou, "of the law" after "works," probably imitating Romans 3:20, 28; Galatians 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10. The best and earliest manuscripts support the shorter text (Metzger).
33− just as it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense; and the one trusting upon him will not be put to shame."
Reference: Isaiah 8:14; 28:16.
just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. See verse 13 above. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass. See verse 13 above. This is the eighth time the formula "it is written" is used in the letter. Here Paul conflates Isaiah 28:16 and Isaiah 8:14, and in doing so creates a synonymous parallelism.
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed." (Isa 28:16)
"Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem." (Isa 8:14)
Behold: Grk. idou, demonstrative interjection (the aor. mid. imp. of eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek particle, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009, e.g., Gen 1:29), serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG).
I lay: Grk. tithēmi, pres., may mean (1) to arrange for association with a site; place, put, set out, serve, lay down; or (2) to arrange for creation of role or status, make, appoint. The first meaning applies here with a nuance of the second. in: Grk. en, prep. Zion: Grk. Siōn transliterates the Heb. Tsiōn, one of the seven mountains on which Jerusalem was built. Most modern commentators generally relegate the suggestion to legend, but Jerusalem is reputed in Jewish circles to have been built on seven hills (cf. Ps 125:1-2).
Rev. James Neil, formerly incumbent of Christ Church in Jerusalem (1871-1874), from his own observations enumerated on a map the seven hills on which the city was built as Mount Zion, Mount Ophel, Mount Moriah, Mount Bezetha, Mount Acra, Mount Gareb, and Mount Goath (289). Tsiōn was originally the fortress of the Jebusites (Josh 15:63), but was captured by David (2Sam 5:5-7). He later built his residence and headquarters there (1Chr 11:5).
Tsiōn became symbolic of the city of Jerusalem (2Kgs 19:31) and then of the nation of Israel (Ps 149:2; Isa 46:13). Not only was Tsiōn the home of David, but more importantly the dwelling place of the God of Israel (Isa 8:18; 12:6; Joel 3:16). The significance of the location should not be missed. Tsiōn is not the Church and not Christianity.
a stone: Grk. lithos. See the previous verse. of stumbling: Grk. proskomma. See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai, conj. a rock: Grk. petra, rock, which may refer to a rock formation as distinct from a single stone or of a piece of rock as intended here. of offense: Grk. skandalon may mean either (1) something that impedes movement, either as a trap that catches, or a rock that causes a stumble; (2) temptation, enticement to sin or (3) a cause of trouble, ruin, destruction or misery. The first meaning applies here.
In the LXX skandalon translates Heb. mikshol (SH-4383), a stumbling, means or occasion of stumbling, a stumbling block. The term has its origin in the Torah prohibition, "You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind" (Lev 19:14). The noun occurs 15 times in the Besekh, most of which depict the actions of evil persons (Matt 13:41; 16:23; 18:7 [2t]; Luke 17:1; Rom 11:9; 14:13; 16:17; Rev 2:14). The other occurrences describe the reaction by Jewish authorities to the message of a crucified Messiah (1Cor 1:23; Gal 5:11; 1Pet 2:8).
God's action to place a "stone of stumbling" sounds like taking away the responsibility of choice. And, if that were true, how could God blame anyone for rejecting Yeshua (cf. verses 18-20 above)? However, Paul is not implying that God did anything wrong. Certainly spiritual blindness was a characteristic of those who opposed Yeshua (see my note on John 9:39-41 and 12:37-40). Generally not considered is the tendency in the Hebrew of the Tanakh to express a consequence as though it were a purpose (Bruce 100).
The truth is the Judean leaders had constructed an image of the Messiah that suited their own desires but did not reflect the teaching of Scripture. Thus, the consequence of being confronted with the message of the Messiah as a "lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), the Judean elitists were offended. Paul then quotes a line from Isaiah 28:16.
and: Grk. kai. the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. trusting: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part., to have confidence or faith, both in the sense of the trustworthiness of something and believing in and putting trust in someone, i.e., God or Yeshua. The present participle form of the verb indicates both a continuing activity and a description of the sort of person. In the Hebrew concept believing, trusting and being faithful are inseparable. The action begins with the conviction of God's existence, generosity and faithfulness to His promises (Heb 11:6). If one is truly convinced, then one trusts; if one believes and trusts, then one is faithful and produces works of faithfulness (cf. Matt 7:21; Acts 21:20).
upon: Grk. epi, prep.; the root meaning is 'upon.' Since the following pronoun ("him") is in the dative case then epi emphasizes "on the ground of" (Thayer). Many versions translate the preposition as "in," but that is not the meaning of the Greek term. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Stern says that Paul has inserted words these words into the text of the Tanakh, but Paul follows the LXX exactly. The context of Isaiah's message is that a person named Immanu'el ("God with us") would come (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:23). He would be the stone set in Zion with the intention that people could rest on that stone as a sure foundation.
Yet, for those rejecting Immanu'el the stone would become a cause of stumbling (Isa 8:14-15). will not: Grk. ou, adv. be put to shame: Grk. kataischunō, fut. pass., put to shame or expose to disgrace. The prophecy of Isaiah contains a promise in the midst of the warning. Those who choose to accept and trust in the Stone rather than stumble over the Stone will not be humiliated on the Day of Judgment.
Archer: Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Rev. ed. Moody Bible Institute, 2007.
Aschmann: Richard P. Aschmann, Detailed Chronology of the Exodus from Egypt, 2022. Online.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barclay: William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, Westminster Press, 1975.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BHIB: Bible Hub Interlinear Bible, Bible Hub (2004-2021). Online.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bivin: David Bivin, Cataloguing New Testament Hebraisms: Part I, Jerusalem Perspective, 7 Sept 2010; <http://blog.jerusalemperspective.com/archives/000135.html>, accessed 8 Sept 2010.
Brenton: The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament. trans. Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton. London, 1851. Online.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus. InterVarsity Press, 1983.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Edwards: James R. Edwards, Romans, New International Biblical Commentary, Vol. 6. Hendrickson Publishers, 1992.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. (NA25)
Gruber: Daniel Gruber, The Separation of Church and Faith, Volume 1: Copernicus and the Jews. Elijah Publishing, 2005.
Harrison: Everett F. Harrison, Romans, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. Rev. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. German Bible Society, 1994.
Midrash: Midrash Rabbah: Vol. 1, Genesis. Trans. by Rabbi Dr. Harry Freedman. Soncino Press, 1939. Online.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co, 1882.
Pryor: Dwight A. Pryor, Behold the Man: Discovering our Hebrew Lord, the Historical Jesus of Nazareth. Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, 2005.
Purkiser: W.T. Purkiser, ed. Exploring the Old Testament. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1955.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, "Romans," A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, "Romans," Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 4, Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997)
Schurer: Emil Schurer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. 4 vols. trans. Peter Christie. T&T Clark, 1885.
Shulam: Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans, Lederer Books, 1997.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer (1828-1901), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1889). Hendrickson Publishers, 2003. Online.
Ussher: Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656), Annals of the World. E. Tyler, 1650. Online.
Zodhiates: Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009), ed. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. AMG Publishers, 1992, 1993.
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