Romans 9

The Lot of the Jewish People[a]

Chapter 9

Paul’s Love for Israel. 1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying, as my conscience bears witness for me through the Holy Spirit 2 that I have great sorrow and unending anguish in my heart. 3 I would even be willing to be accursed, cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren who are my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites[b] who have the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the Law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, came the Christ, God forever, who is over all.[c] Amen.

The Word of God Has Not Proved False. 6 It is not as though the word of God has proved false. For not all who were Israelites truly belong to Israel, 7 and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that descendants will bear your name.”

8 In other words, it is not through physical descent that people are regarded as children of God. Rather, the children of the promise are those who are counted as descendants. 9 For this is how the promise was worded: “About this time next year I shall return, and Sarah will have a son.”

10 And not only that, but Rebekah became pregnant by one man, her husband Isaac. 11 Yet even before her children had been born or done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might prevail, 12 dependent not on human works but on his call, she was told, “The older shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written,

“I loved Jacob,
but Esau I hated.”[d]

14 Has God Been Unjust?[e]What then are we to say to that? Has God been unjust? Of course not! 15 For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy
on whomever I will have mercy,
and I will have pity
on whomever I will have pity.”

16 Therefore, it does not depend on anyone’s will or exertion but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up so that I may display my power in you and that my name may be proclaimed throughout the earth.” 18 Consequently, he shows mercy to whomever he wills, and he hardens the hearts of whomever he wills.

19 In response, you will say to me, “Why then does he still find fault? Who can resist his will?” 20 But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Can something that is made say to its maker, “Why did you make me like this?” 21 Surely, the potter can mold the clay as he wishes. Does he not have the right to make out of the same lump of clay one vessel for a noble purpose and another for ordinary use?

22 What if God, although wishing to show his wrath and to make known his power, nevertheless with great patience endured the objects of his wrath[f] destined for destruction? 23 He did so in order to make known the riches of his glory to the recipients of his mercy whom he prepared long ago for glory. 24 We are the ones whom he has called not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.

25 Witness of the Old Testament. As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people
I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved
I will call ‘beloved.’
26 And in the very place
where it was said to them,
‘You are not my people,’
there they shall be called
children of the living God.”

27 And Isaiah cries out in regard to Israel:

“Though the number of the Israelites
will be like the sand of the sea,
only a remnant of them will be saved.
28 For the sentence of the Lord on the earth
will be executed quickly and with finality.”

29 Isaiah had foretold previously:

“If the Lord of hosts
had not left us any descendants,
we would have become like Sodom
and been made like Gomorrah.”

30 A Misguided Zeal. What then shall we say? That the Gentiles who did not strive for righteousness have achieved it, that is, righteousness based on faith, 31 but that Israel, who did strive for righteousness based on the Law, did not succeed in attaining it? 32 Why did this happen? Because they did not pursue it by faith but on the basis of works. They tripped over the stone that causes one to stumble, 33 as it is written:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion
a stone that will make people stumble
and a rock that will cause them to fall.
But the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”[g]


  1. Romans 9:1 Paul was born a Jew. In his eyes, Christianity was the historical fulfillment of the destiny and hope of Israel, the authentic conclusion of the Old Covenant, which was destined to shine out brightly in the New Covenant that was inaugurated by the Passover of Christ. But reality confronts him with agonizing problems. It had been necessary to make Jewish Christians understand that the salvation given by Jesus Christ caused a break from the Jewish religious system (see 2 Cor 3; Gal 3; Rom 7). An even more serious problem: Israel had officially rejected Jesus and now rejected the Gospel and the young Church. Paul’s reflections are organized in three stages: first, he stresses the fidelity of God (Rom 9:6-29); he then points out Israel’s responsibility (Rom 9:31—10:21); finally, with the entire plan of God in view, he insists that the infidelity of Israel is only provisional and partial (Rom 11:1-32). A hymn to the wisdom of God (Rom 11:33-36) ends these difficult pages.
  2. Romans 9:4 Israelites: descendants of Jacob, who was named Israel by God (see Gen 32:28). The name originally designated the whole nation of Israel (see Jdg 5:7), but after the division into two kingdoms it was given to the northern kingdom alone. In New Testament times, Palestinian Jews used the term “Israelites” to indicate that they were God’s chosen people.
    Paul shows that God’s promises to them are still in effect: adoption, i.e., as God’s children (see Ex 4:22f; Jer 31:9; Hos 1:1); glory, i.e., God’s presence among them (see Ex 16:7, 10; Lev 9:6, 23; Num 16:19); covenants, e.g., the Abrahamic (see Gen 15:17-21; 17:1-8), the Mosaic (see Ex 19:5; 24:1-10); the Levitical (Num 25:12f; Jer 33:21; Mal 2:4f), the Davidic (see 2 Sam 7; 23:5; Pss 89:4f, 29f; 132:11f), and the New Covenant (prophesied in Jer 31:31-40); and the promises, especially those made to Abraham (see Gen 12:7; 13:14-17; 17:4-8; 22:16-18) and the Messianic promises (e.g., 2 Sam 7:12, 16; Isa 9:6f; Jer 23:5; 31:31-34; Ezek 34:23f; 37:24-28).
  3. Romans 9:5 Came the Christ, God forever, who is over all: another possible translation is: “came the Christ. God who is over all be praised.”
  4. Romans 9:13 Hated: in the Biblical sense of the word, that is, “I preferred Jacob.”
  5. Romans 9:14 Paul thinks with astonishment of the unforeseeable calls of God, who chooses individuals and people from the midst of a sinful world. The image of the potter signifies in the Bible the sovereign freedom of God that defies all expectations. The texts from Hosea (2:25 and 11:10) spoke of the conversion of Israel; Paul interprets them as proclamations of an unprecedented initiative of God: the call of the Gentiles.
  6. Romans 9:22 Objects of his wrath: human beings who by sinning incur God’s anger.
  7. Romans 9:33 This verse uses a combination of two texts from Isaiah that was apparently in common use by the early Christians to defend Christ’s Messiahship (see 1 Pet 2:4, 6-8; see also Ps 118:22; Lk 20:17f).

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