Israel and the Plan of God - Romans 9:1–29 by Douglas Moo


• The Problem: The Conflict between God’s Promises and Israel’s Plight (9:1–5)

• The Nature of God’s Promise to Israel (9:6–29)

  God’s Call and the Patriarchs (9:6–13)

  Excursus: The Justice of God (9:14–23)

  God’s Call and the Prophets (9:24–29)


After reading this chapter, you should be able to

  1. Explain Paul’s purpose in Romans 9–11 and relate that purpose to the theme and development of the letter.
  2. Appreciate afresh the sovereignty of God in working out his plans in the world.
  3. Identify at least two different ways that we can relate Paul’s argument about God’s call of Israel to God’s election of individuals to salvation.
  4. Explain your own position (however tentative) on the issue mentioned in no. 3.

The Holocaust—the Nazi slaughter of Jews during World War II—has left a lasting legacy. The world is still coming to grips with this shattering reminder of humankind’s ability to act inhumanely. For Christians, the Holocaust presents special problems. Some Jews and some Christians claim that the Holocaust is a natural, albeit extreme, outcome of traditional Christian theology, for Christians historically have taught that they have taken the place of the Jews as the chosen people of God. The Jews disenfranchised themselves by refusing to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. Indeed, they hounded him to death. By denying that Jews can claim to be God’s people any more, therefore, Christian theology opens the door to anti-Semitism and even persecution. Christian theologians have reacted in three ways to this analysis. Some see it as accurate and think that the only way forward is to reject those streams of New Testament teaching that disenfranchise the Jews.[1] Others emphasize that the New Testament, while anti-Judaistic, is not anti-Semitic. In other words, while the early Christians did believe that the Jewish religion was no longer a way to reach God, they had nothing at all against the Jewish people. Indeed, most of the New Testament authors were themselves Jews and sought in love to win them to the gospel.[2] Finally, other theologians have argued that some passages in the New Testament teach that the Jewish faith is still a valid way of salvation. Alongside faith in Jesus—the Gentile way of salvation—we need to keep a place for the torah covenant as the Jewish way of salvation. This view is sometimes called bicovenantalism. Its advocates claim that a “special way” (German, Sonderweg) exists for Jewish salvation.[3]

In all these debates, Romans 9–11 is the center of attention. Indeed, the Sonderweg view is based almost entirely on these chapters. What this means is that we need to approach Paul’s teaching in this part of Romans with special care. We need to clear away misconceptions and prejudices, trying to find out exactly what Paul does teach about Israel. In the comments that follow, I will argue basically for the second view described above. Salvation is to be found in Jesus alone, for both Gentiles and Jews. That position, however, does not make Paul anti-Semitic. He agonizes over the failure of so many of his fellow Jews to respond to the gospel (9:1–2; 10:1), and one of his greatest motivations in evangelizing Gentiles is the hope that his own people will by this means come to Christ (11:13–14). How much hope does Paul hold out for a conversion of his fellow Jews? That question will have to wait until we look at Romans 11.

Before we become immersed in the issue of Israel and its future, we need to back up and take a broader view of Romans 9–11. Israel is not, finally, the main topic of these chapters. The main topic is the integrity of God. By the time Paul wrote Romans, the general makeup of the early church had become clear. It was composed of many Gentiles and relatively few Jews. We are so accustomed to this situation that it creates no surprise or shock. But this simple fact was one of the most difficult theological issues that the early church had to face. The Old Testament appears to promise that the messianic salvation will be for Jews, with some Gentiles allowed in. Paul and the other early Christians proclaim that the messianic salvation has come through Jesus of Nazareth. Why, then, is Israel not being redeemed, as the Old Testament promised? Why is the church a mainly Gentile body? Such questions cut right to the heart of the gospel, for if the gospel could not truly be seen as the continuation of God’s plan from the Old Testament, then it would cease to be the “gospel of God” (cf.

1:2). God would seem to have changed his mind or gone back on his promises. In Romans 9–11, Paul tackles this key theological issue. He argues that the situation in his day is quite in keeping with the Old Testament promises of God—when those promises are rightly interpreted. Along the way, he develops a theology that has enduring importance for our understanding of the ways of God with the world and a perspective on history that should challenge and excite us.

The Problem: The Conflict between God’s Promises and Israel’s Plight (9:1–5)

With the marvelous celebration of God’s unshakable love for us in Christ (8:31–39), we might think that the doctrinal part of Romans is at an end—time for Paul to move on to the practical ramifications of that doctrine. Of course, he does precisely that in chapter 12. But what are we to think about this long section in between, chapters 9–11? What is its purpose? Augustine, and many others after him, thought that Paul used this material to elaborate the theology he had developed earlier in the letter: predestination (see 8:29–30) or justification by faith. Other interpreters have suggested that the chapters are a kind of personal excursus, as Paul the Jew expresses concern for his kinfolk. But when we remember the overall purpose of Romans, these chapters fit quite naturally into the argument of the letter. Paul is presenting his gospel. He especially wants to show how it embraces Gentiles without breaking continuity with the Old Testament. The relatively small number of Jews that have become Christians is a severe challenge to this continuity. God seems to have abandoned the people he chose and made promises to in the Old Testament in favor of a new people. If this were so, then the connection between Old Testament and New Testament would be broken, and God would be revealed as capricious and undependable. The reader of Romans who is attuned to Old Testament imagery could be forgiven for raising this objection, for Paul himself applies to the church language that was applied to Israel in the Old Testament. The church is the “seed of Abraham” (4:16), the children of God (8:14–17), and the recipient of God’s glory (8:30). Has Israel, then, been abandoned? Has the church replaced Israel and God reneged on his promises to Israel? These are the questions that motivate chapters 9–11. Verses 1–5 introduce these questions.

In this paragraph, Paul contrasts the current plight of Israel (vv. 1–3) with the promises God made to Israel (vv. 4–5). Paul does not state Israel’s plight in so many words. He expresses deep and sincere concern for them (vv. 1–2) and even offers to put himself under a curse on their behalf (v. 3). Paul’s offer resembles the response of Moses when he found the people of Israel fashioning a golden calf and worshiping it:

The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Ex 32:30–32)

But Paul goes further than Moses, asking that the curse earned by Israel fall on him so that the people might be forgiven. Of course, Paul knows that he cannot become, and the Lord never would accept, such a curse. Paul speaks emotionally and hyperbolically to make his point. Nevertheless, the fact that he states the matter in this way reveals that the problem of Israel is its failure to embrace the salvation offered in Christ. By turning their backs on Christ, the Israelites have placed themselves under the curse that comes on all those who are not saved.[4]

As I have emphasized, Israel’s failure to accept Jesus is not simply a matter of Paul’s personal anguish. Far from it. The list of blessings and promises granted Israel by God in verses 4–5 makes clear that Israel’s failure creates an acute theological problem. How can the people to whom God gave so much now be cut off from the eschatological salvation? Israel has received the “adoption as sons.” By choosing Israel from all the nations of the earth to be his own people, God adopted this nation as his own. Strikingly, Paul has just applied this language to Christians in Romans 8 (vv. 16, 23), fueling the tension that Paul deals with in these chapters. Israel also was given the glory (the presence of God among them), the covenants (e.g., the Abrahamic, the Mosaic, the Davidic), the law, the temple worship, and the promises. To them also belong the patriarchs, who naturally are mentioned along with the promises because Paul believes that God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are foundational to salvation history and bear continuing significance for the future of Israel (see

11:28). Finally, and climactically, the Messiah also belongs to Israel, at least in terms of his “human ancestry” (sarx, “flesh” [again the NIVparaphrases]). As John puts it, the Messiah came to “his own” (Jn 1:11). But the Messiah’s human descent is not all that is to be said about him. In a pattern that he follows elsewhere (see esp. Rom 1:3–4), Paul also reminds us of another side of the Messiah’s nature: he is “God over all, forever praised.” Here we find one of the few verses in the New Testament that directly applies to Jesus the title “God” (theos). Or do we? The RSV translates the end of verse 5 this way: “Of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.” The difference, as you can see, is a matter of punctuation. Should we put a comma after “Christ” (NIV; KJV; NRSV; NASB)? Or should we put a period there (RSV)? The earliest Greek manuscripts had no punctuation, so the decision is a matter of exegesis, not textual history. Although scholars are divided over the point, a growing consensus sees the comma as the better alternative (note the shift between the RSV and the NRSV).[5] The general NIV rendering is probably correct, then. Here Paul calls Jesus “God.”

The Nature of God’s Promise to Israel (9:6–29)

Paul has implicitly set before us this question: how can the present state of the church be reconciled with God’s promises to Israel? He answers in three stages. In 9:6–29, Paul uses the Old Testament itself to define the promise. Then, after a bit of an excursus in 9:30–10:21, he reminds us that God is continuing to manifest his grace to Israel by calling Jews to be saved (11:1–10). Finally, he holds out hope for a greater bestowal of grace on Israel in the future (11:11–36).

Paul’s first answer focuses on the nature of God’s “call” to Israel. This word is prominent in both verses 6–13 and verses 24–29, where Paul makes his basic point. Verses 14–23 are a slight detour from that argument, as Paul pauses to answer objections to his emphasis on the divine initiative in Israel’s history.

God’s Call and the Patriarchs (9:6–13)

Verse 6a summarizes the basic theological issue in Romans 9–11: the integrity of God’s promises. “It is not as though God’s word had failed” reveals Paul’s deepest concern in Israel’s present dilemma: God himself would be charged with failure. It might seem that God had not delivered what he promised. And so Paul begins by showing just what it was that God had promised.

Verse 6b states the leading idea of verses 6–13—indeed, of all of verses 6–29. Here Paul makes a basic distinction between “Israel” and “Israel.” Not all the physical members of the nation of Israel, Paul claims, belong to “Israel” in the spiritual sense. A very important concept is now introduced: spiritual Israel. Just what is this spiritual Israel? A long and distinguished line of interpretation holds that the New Testament writers “transfer” the title Israel from the nation to the church. Scholars have engaged in strenuous debate over this matter in recent years. Suffice it to say that I think at least one New Testament verse, Galatians 6:16, does use the word “Israel” this way.[6] And so the second “Israel” in verse 6 might also be a reference to the church in general, composed of both Jews and Gentiles. But the application of the word “Israel” to the church is rare in the New Testament, and the immediate context here focuses not on the church but on the way in which God selected a spiritual nucleus from within the larger national entity of Israel. Probably, then, Paul’s point here is that there exists within physical Israel a spiritual Israel or, to use the language Paul introduces later, a “remnant.”

Paul demonstrates his contention about an Israel within an Israel with two key illustrations from the history of the patriarchs: the choice of Isaac over Ishmael (vv. 7–9) and the choice of Jacob over Esau (vv. 10–13). Both choices prove that God has not simply guaranteed his blessing to all the physical descendants of Abraham. Receiving the blessing of that promise has always been a matter of God’s own choosing. It is, as N. T. Wright succinctly puts it, a matter of “grace, not race.” Abraham, we recall, had two sons: Ishmael, whose mother was Hagar, a slave in his household, and Isaac, whose mother was his wife, Sarah. God makes clear that it is through Isaac that Abraham’s “offspring will be reckoned” (v. 7, quoting Gn 21:12). The meaning is that only the descendants of Isaac would be“counted” as those who would receive the promised blessing from God. Ishmael and his children would have no part in those special blessings. They would not be considered to be part of the nation that God was creating. So, Paul concludes, God’s children are not the “natural children” but the “children of promise,” those whom God chooses to be the recipients of his promise.

However, someone might object, the status of Abraham’s children is complicated by their different parentage. Isaac and Ishmael had different mothers, so perhaps it is this difference in their physical origin that accounts for their contrasting spiritual states. To counter this objection, Paul takes us down one generation in the patriarchal family tree. Isaac also had two sons, but his sons were born to one woman, Rebekah. And not only that. These two sons were born at the same time—they were twins (vv. 10–11). Nothing in their physical origins distinguished Jacob from Esau. Indeed, if we remember the story in Genesis, Esau was the older of the two, and yet God promised Rebekah, “The older will serve the younger” (v. 12, quoting Gn 25:23). It would be Jacob who would inherit God’s promise and become the father of the nation of Israel. His name, in fact, was changed to “Israel.” Paul summarizes the contrasting states of Jacob and Esau with a quotation from Malachi 1:2–3: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” The language of love and hate reflects the idea of election: God chose Jacob for special blessing, but he rejected Esau from having any part in that blessing. The example of Jacob and Esau, Paul concludes, reveals particularly clearly that election is a matter of God’s choosing and not of human birthright or decision. Jacob and Esau had done nothing at all when God promised Rebekah that Jacob would have the preeminence. They had not even been born yet.

The theological implications of this paragraph are hotly contested. Calvinists traditionally have found in these verses important support for the notion of unconditional election. This notion holds that God chooses, from eternity past, the people who are to be saved.

His choice is “unconditional” in the sense that it is not conditioned by anything apart from his own hidden will. He does not base his choice on anything he knows about us, such as, for instance, whether we will believe or not. For our believing is itself a product of God’s choice. We believe because God chooses us. (Arminians argue, by contrast, that God chooses those whom he foresees as believing.) However, many interpreters are not so sure that the Calvinists can use verses 6–13 to prove this theological point. They note that Malachi 1:2–3, the text that Paul quotes in verse 13, uses “Jacob” and “Esau” to refer, respectively, to the nations of Israel and Edom. And the other passages that Paul cites from Genesis do not refer to the spiritual destiny of individuals; they refer to the way God used these individuals in salvation history. So Romans 9:6–13 is not about the salvation of individuals at all, but rather, about the way God has sovereignly selected nations to carry out his plan in history.[7] Although these objectors have a point, I do not think that they can succeed in overturning the usual Calvinist interpretation of these verses. While the passages from Genesis may not refer directly to the salvation of individuals, Paul applies them to the question of who belongs in the spiritual Israel (v. 6). In other words, the ultimate concern is to show how God has determined who belongs to his people. That means that the issue is, finally, about the salvation of individuals.[8]

Excursus: The Justice of God (9:14–23)

Paul again reveals his sensitivity to the way his teaching will be understood. He well knows that what he has said about God’s sovereignty in election will cause many readers to raise questions about God’s justice and fairness. Indeed, one of the arguments in favor of the view that Paul is talking about unconditional election in verses 6–13 is that he himself raises just the objections that we tend to have when we hear about this doctrine: Is God unjust (v. 14)? How can God still blame people (v. 19)? Paul must have heard such objections many times over a lifetime of gospel preaching. He pauses in his main argument to answer them before gradually turning back to his main line of teaching in verse 24.

Lurking in Paul’s opening, apparently straightforward question—“Is God unjust?”—is an issue critical to our approach to this section.

In asking whether someone or something is “unjust,” we presume a standard of “justness,” or right, that we can use to judge that person or action. What standard do we apply when we ask whether God is unjust? The minute we ask that question, the answer becomes obvious: we finite and sinful human beings can measure God only by the standards that he himself has revealed to us. Imposing our own standards of “right” on the God who created us and stands so far above us would be the height of folly and presumption. Thus, we might rephrase the question: “Has God acted according to his revealed character and will?” Once we refine the question in this way, we can see how Paul does indeed answer the question in the verses that follow.

Paul’s answer takes the form of two parallel arguments from Scripture (vv. 15–16 and vv. 17–18). In each, Paul quotes Scripture and then draws a conclusion (“therefore”) from it. These quotations reveal the two sides of God’s sovereign decision making. On the one side we find God’s mercy. When Moses asks God to reveal his glory to him, God causes his goodness to pass before Moses, proclaims his name, the Lord, and then asserts his freedom in bestowing mercy on whomever he chooses (v. 15; Ex 33:19). The principle to be derived from this quotation, claims Paul, is that God’s mercy cannot be earned by a human being (v. 16). Nothing we will and nothing we do can force God to be merciful to us. Recall Paul’s emphasis in Romans 4:3–5 on the grace of God. The very nature of God is to be gracious. This means that he must remain absolutely free to act as he chooses. His mercy always is a gift to be gratefully received, never a “wage” that we are owed. The other side of God’s decision making is his “hardening” (see v. 18). Though Paul does not use this word in verse 17, the passage he quotes from Exodus 9:16 refers to the idea. The “hardening” of Pharaoh, or of Pharaoh’s heart, is mentioned almost forty times in Exodus 4–14. It was by the stubborn disobedience of Pharaoh that God displayed his power and glory through him. By refusing to let the people of Israel go at Moses’ bidding, Pharaoh forced God to display miracle after miracle until he agreed to God’s purpose. Paul therefore uses Pharaoh as an example of the contrary side of God’s mercy. As God bestows mercy on whomever he wants to, so also he hardens whomever he wants to harden (v. 18). Sometimes the initiative of God in his hardening is questioned because of the many times in Exodus that Pharaoh is said to harden his own heart (e.g., Ex 8:32, 9:34). So, some interpreters conclude, God’s hardening of Pharaohsimply comes in response to Pharaoh’s prior decision to harden his own heart.[9] But this is not clear. Before Pharaoh is said to harden his own heart, that hardening is predicted by God (Ex 4:21; 7:3), and there are five references to Pharaoh’s being hardened (Ex 7:13, 14, 22; 8:11, 15 in the Septuagint). It is therefore more likely that Pharaoh hardens his heart as a response to God’s prior decision to harden him.[10]

God’s Decisions and Ours

Romans 9 teaches the absolute sovereignty of God in the decisions he makes about the ultimate fate of human beings. That teaching naturally raises questions in our minds. As we have seen, Paul does not really try to answer these questions—at least from our perspective. For him it is enough to know that God has revealed himself as the one who determines these matters. We have no right to stand in judgment of what God does. We can judge him only by the standard of his own revelation, and by that standard, God certainly is “just.”

Nevertheless, Paul plainly believes in the reality of human decisions. We are not puppets or robots. Our decisions matter, and we are responsible to make the right ones—to accept Christ, to live holy lives, to love one another, and so forth. How can our decisions really matter if God decides everything? Theologians and philosophers have debated this issue for centuries. They have discovered no neat logical solution to the problem. We must be willing at this point to live with what we call an “antinomy,” an unresolved tension between two clear truths. God determines what happens; I am responsible for what happens. Scripture teaches both, and therefore I am compelled to believe both, even if ultimately I can’t explain their relationship. Many who have written on this topic use the term “compatibilism” for this general viewpoint. The term refers to the belief that absolute sovereignty and genuine responsibility are not contradictory but “compatible”

with one another.I think that this comes closest to the teaching of Paul in Romans and to the witness of the Bible in general.

See J. Feinberg, “God Ordains All Things,” in Predestination and Free Will, ed. D. and R. Basinger (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1986), 17–43; D. A. Carson, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (Atlanta: Knox, 1981), 201–22.

Do these verses therefore teach what we call “double predestination”? God predestines, “decides beforehand,” who will receive his mercy. Does he also decide beforehand who will suffer wrath? This text, along with verses 22–23, would seem to suggest this idea, but we must voice two reservations before accepting it. First, Paul teaches in Romans 11 that God can remove his hardening. We cannot be certain, then, that the hardening he describes here is a permanent condition. Second, God’s hardening, while not determined by a person’s own decisions, nevertheless is a response to the general condition of human sinfulness. God bestows mercy on people who have done nothing and can do nothing to earn that mercy. He hardens people who have already determined (in the sin of Adam) to rebel against God and to go their own way.

Far from “answering” our concern about God’s “justness,” verses 15–18 would seem to have exacerbated the matter. And so Paul raises the issue one more time, from a related angle: how can God blame human beings if they act in accordance with the decisions that God himself has made about them (v. 19)? Once again, Paul offers us no logically compelling response. We want to know how God’s sovereign decision making can be squared with meaningful human decision making. Paul, however, simply reasserts the sovereign power of God. Alluding to several Old Testament passages (Is 29:16; 45:9; Jer 18:6–10; cf. Wis 15:7), Paul compares God to the potter, who works clay into whatever form he chooses (vv. 20–21). Why does Paul not try to explain how God legitimately can blame people who do what he decides they will do? To answer that question, we have to recall our starting point in this section (v. 14). Paul is not explaining how God’s actions might correspond to our sense of justice. Indeed, I suspect that he would reject any idea that God could be judged by our standards. It is by God’s standards that he must be judged. And Scripture, where we discover those standards, reveals that God does act in accordance with his character (vv. 15–18), and that he is the one who has the right to do with human beings whatever he might want to do (vv. 20–21). The search for philosophical/theological explanations of the relation between God’s sovereign decision making and human responsibility is not wrong, but we must begin where Paul and the Bible begin: a vision of a God who is absolutely free to make whatever decision he wants about his creation. Paul would be the last to deny the importance of human decisions. His repeated pleas to people to believe in Christ and to reject sin reveal his belief in real human responsibility. Paul’s purpose, however, is not to offer an explanation of how God’s sovereignty and human responsibility fit together. He affirms both without resolving the tension between them. And perhaps this might offer a clue that they cannot finally be neatly resolved at all (see the sidebar “God’s Decisions and Ours”).

To conclude this excursus on God’s right as the Creator to deal with his creatures in any way he pleases, Paul turns back to the central issue in this passage: God’s activity in creating his own people by accepting some and rejecting others. Verses 22 and 23 ask questions that Paul does not answer. The implication is that we are to supply the answer from verses 20–21. “What if” God has acted in such-and-such a way? That gives us no basis to criticize the potter, does it? Verse 22 focuses on God’s patience in refusing to bring his wrath upon people who disobey him. Why does God display such patience? Paul gives no clear answer. Some think that God waits for those who disobey to repent. Others think that God waits in order to manifest his full power and glory in the judgment of the wicked in the end. No matter how we answer that question, the most important reason for God’s patience becomes clear in verse 23: his desire to make known his glory to “the objects of his mercy,” those whom he has chosen to be his people. God is at work in history to create a people for himself. To do so, he must choose some and reject others. And those who are rejected are, ultimately, judged. But we must remember again that people are judged, finally, because, in Adam, they have chosen to reject God. We never will fully understand the ways of God in moving history along to its intended goal, but always we can trust God to act in complete integrity as he does so.

God’s Call and the Prophets (9:24–29)

Verse 24 is an extension of verse 23: the “objects of mercy” of verse 23 are defined in verse 24 as those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles. It would seem, then, that verse 24 should be kept in the same paragraph as verse 23. But Paul’s syntax in verses 22–24 is very hard to unravel; and, at least in subject matter, verse 24 returns to the main theme of verses 6–13: God’s sovereign “calling” (see v. 12 especially). But if verses 6–13 focused on the story of the patriarchs, verses 24–29 concentrate on the predictions of the prophets. Paul wants to show that the prophets agree with the patriarchal history in confining the true people of God to those whom he has specially called. The new element is the extension of that call to the Gentiles. In verse 24 Paul claims that God calls his people from among both Jews and Gentiles. Then, in verses 25–29, he elaborates on each group, in reverse order. Verses 25–26 quote the prophet Hosea to show that God planned to invite Gentiles to be part of his people (Hos 2:23; 1:10). Through the preaching of the gospel, what Hosea predicted has come true: those who were not God’s people have become God’s people, “sons of the living God.” Those familiar with the Old Testament might wonder at Paul’s application of these prophecies from Hosea to Gentiles, for Hosea was predicting the return of the ten northern tribes of Israel, not the conversion of the Gentiles. This is one example of the many places in which Paul does not seem to quote the Old Testament in accordance with its original meaning. Many scholars have explored this problem and offered all kinds of solutions. All that we can say here is that we must always remember that Paul quotes any part of the Old Testament in light of its fulfillment. What God has done in Christ sheds light on the ultimate significance of many Old Testament passages. Thus, while Hosea referred to the northern tribes as the “not my people,” his prophecy finds its final salvation-historical application in God’s acceptance of the “not my people” par excellence: the Gentiles.

Finally, Paul turns back to Israel. In verses 27–28, he quotes from one of the fundamental “remnant” texts in the Old Testament. The prophets saw very clearly in their day that not all the people of Israel were faithful to God’s covenant. And so they began insisting that God’s promises of blessing ultimately would apply not to all Israel, but only to those Israelites who were faithful to God. This teaching naturally suits Paul’s purposes very well. The fact that so many Jews in Paul’s day had not accepted Christ does not mean that God’s word had failed (cf. v. 6). For God’s word itself reveals that “only the remnant will be saved” (v. 27). Unfaithful Israelites will be judged (v. 28), but God is faithful to his people in preserving a “seed,” descendants, who would carry on the heritage of Israel’s blessings and mission (v. 29, quoting Is 1:9).

Study Questions

  1. What is Paul’s purpose in Romans 9–11? How does that purpose fit into the purpose and argument of the letter as a whole?
  2. Why would Paul call Christ “God” in this context (v. 5)?
  3. What two different issues might Paul ultimately be talking about in verses 6–13? Explain the significance of each option and try to settle in your own mind which option you prefer.
  4. What concept of “justness” does Paul operate with in verses 14–23?
  5. How does Paul’s reference to the inclusion of Gentiles in the people of God (vv. 24–26) fit into his purposes in this part of Romans?

Key Terms





Chapter 13: Israel and the Plan of God

[1]. See R. R. Ruether, Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism (New York: Seabury, 1974).

[2]. See D. A. Hagner, “Paul’s Quarrel with Judaism,” in Anti-Semitism and Early Christianity: Issues of Polemic and Faith, ed. C. A. Evans and D. A. Hagner (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 128–50.

[3]. This view can be traced back to the nineteenth century. Two prominent exponents in recent years have been K. Stendahl, “Paul among Jews and Gentiles,” in Paul among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), and J. Gager, The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes toward Judaism in Pagan and Christian Antiquity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983).

[4]. I emphasize that the problem is Israel’s exclusion from salvation because a revisionist interpretation has received some support in recent years. According to this interpretation, Paul was not bewailing Israel’s failure to be saved—Israel already is saved by virtue of the torah covenant—but Israel’s failure to support the mission to the Gentiles. See L. Gaston, Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987), 135–50; S. G. Hall III, Christian Anti-Semitism and Paul’s Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 88–93, 113–27.

[5]. On this, see B. M. Metzger, “The Punctuation of Rm 9:5,” in Christ and Spirit in the New Testament: In Honour of Charles Francis Digby Moule, ed. B. Lindars and S. Smalley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), 95–112; M. J. Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 144–72.

[6]. See R. N. Longenecker, Galatians, Word Biblical Commentary 41 (Dallas: Word, 1990), 297–99. For the opposite view, taking “Israel of God” to refer only to Jewish Christians, see P. Richardson, Israel in the Apostolic Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 74–84.

[7]. See C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols., International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: Clark, 1975, 1979), 2.480–81; J. A. Fitzmyer, Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Anchor Bible 33 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1993), 562–63; and, for a broader perspective on election, W. W. Klein, The New Chosen People: A Corporate View of Election (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990).

[8]. See J. Piper, The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1–23 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 45–54; T. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 497–503.

[9]. See Klein, New Chosen People, 166–67.

[10]. See G. K. Beale, “An Exegetical and Theological Consideration of the Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart in Exodus 4–14 and Romans 9,” Trinity Journal 5 (1984): 129–54.


From Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Survey by Douglas J. Moo

By Topic


By Scripture

Old Testament









1 Samuel

2 Samuel

1 Kings

2 Kings

1 Chronicles

2 Chronicles








Song of Solomon


















New Testament







1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians





1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

1 Timothy

2 Timothy





1 Peter

2 Peter

1 John

2 John

3 John



By Author

Latest Links