Originals

Romans 9-11, Part 4

Romans 9:24-29

Delimiting the Text

24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

25 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 will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,

29 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.”

29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”

Discussion

Here, Paul takes a step back from the intricacies of election and applies the discussion back to the fate of Israel. The premise that Israel is at least partially rejected, founded in Romans 9:1-5, is confirmed more explicitly here. Paul identifies “us whom he has called” as comprising of both elect Jews and Gentiles.[1]

He cobbles together two quotes from Hosea to prove his point:

“and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’””[2]

Hos 2:23

“​Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.””

Hos 1:10

The passages, in context, refer to a promised salvation for Israel. Hosea is prophesying to the northern kingdom of Israel, that despite their hardness of heart and their rejection of God. However, Paul has applied these verses as support for the assertion that the Gentiles are also called. The rejection and subsequent restoration of Israel that Hosea prophesied about is paralleled in the exclusion and the reception of the Gentiles (Murray, II, 38). The principle established in Hosea is repeating itself in the present day.

Paul does not just quote Hosea as evidence that God is acting consistently with the past. He applies the terms “beloved” and “sons of the living God” to the Gentiles. But this is not to the exclusion of ethnic Israel – for Paul will still address the fate of Israel.

Paul again quotes from the Old Testament, this time from Isaiah:

“For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth. “

Isa 10:22-23

Isaiah refers to the destruction of Israel at the hands of Assyria. In this example, Paul again finds a parallel between what God has done in the past brings it to bear upon the current situation. The passages emphasize that most in Israel will perish, and very few will be saved. The promised salvation of Israel will come only to the remnant of Israel, which Paul will further explore in Chapter 11.

Verse 28 is a little trickier to understand. Isaiah 10:22 is grounded in Isaiah 10:23 by “for”. In the context of Isaiah, verse 23 is meant to convey the nearness of the impending destruction of Israel by Assyria. But this interpretation is not fitting for an Israel that is in the present day consigned for destruction as vessels of wrath. It does not make sense to say that only a remnant of Israel will be saved because God will destroy most of Israel soon. The non-remnant Israelites are vessels of wrath, their fate already sealed by the will of God. Perhaps the best understanding of this verse is to emphasize the completeness and efficacy of the destruction of Israel, which advances Paul’s earlier claim in 9:22-23, that the mercy of God will be painted on the backdrop of his wrath. God will be faithful to his word in destroying most of Israel for the sake of the salvation of a remnant.

“If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.”

Isa 1:9

Verse 29 again quotes from Isaiah, and Paul closes the door on the claim that all Israel is guaranteed salvation because they were the chosen people of God. Paul re-establishes his point that the mercy shown to Israel was by the grace of God, painted on a backdrop of wrath. If God had not intervened, they would have fallen into the same punishment as Sodom and Gomorrah.

God has indeed set forth a plan that not all will be saved. There are some who grumble (evidently to Paul) that God does not intend to save all. And yet a closer examination by Paul reveals that there is a purpose to God’s election, so that we who are being saved may praise God’s mercy on the backdrop of wrath. To say that God is obligated to save all is to rob God of all the praise and glory, for then God is not merciful, but contractually obligated to save.

[1] Here again is proof that Paul is not referring to an election regarding the past and the historical role of Israel, nor is he conducting a thought experiment. The differentiation that between Israel and the true Israel (verse 6) diffuses through the whole passage, coming back together as Paul brings it all together to bear on the concrete situation at hand.

[2] Paul has modified the quotation from Hosea 2:23 more heavily than the following one from Hosea 1:10. The discussion will not focus on the reasons and the significance for the change in wording, since I don’t read Greek. One point to make here – Paul does substitute “beloved” for “mercy”. According to Schreiner, the most probable reason was that the translation that Paul used had beloved instead of mercy.

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