Mal Couch, Ph.D., Th.D.
Israel Divinely Chosen As A Nation
Before going on and seeing what God has planned for the Jewish people as a nation, it must be understood what He has done with them in the past. The Plan for the future, having been determined in God’s providence in the ancient past, is that God will not be dealing with all the descendants of Abraham but only through the line of Isaac. This "election" or selection of God will continue forward. It is important even for the present to determine who is a Jew in God’s eyes! The Old Testament, and now Paul here in Romans, makes it clear that the future promises and blessings given to Abraham will come through Isaac, and then through Jacob and his sons, and they are to be finally fulfilled when the kingdom is established.
But by no means yet has fallen out the Word of God. For not all of the ones out of Israel [are] Israel! (9:6) (Couch, Greek Translation)
9:6 Fallen out comes from two Greek words combined, ek=out, pempo=fall. God’s Word has not collapsed and imploded on this subject. "There is not a ‘falling out’ of the Word of God!" His Word has not failed as to what He has said. Paul uses here a Perfect tense which could be translated. "The force of what God has said in the past, has come all the way up to the present." What He has said about the Jewish people in the past is still applicable, still valid for today. And, just because a Semite has roots back to Abraham does not mean he is part of the covenant promise. God has confined the Abrahamic covenant, in terms of its national promises, only to those in Isaac. God’s Plan is still valid through the line of Abraham-Isaac-Jacob-the twelve tribes! This will be explained further in the next verse.
Neither yet are the seed of Abraham all the children, but [instead] "in Isaac shall be called to you seed." (9:7) (Couch, Greek Translation)
9:7 God made it clear to Abraham that He was differentiating between Ishmael who was born to Hagar the Egyptian handmaiden and the true son God intended, who was born by a miracle to Sarah—Isaac! Many of the tribal peoples of the Middle East come down through Hagar and Ishmael. They are not part of the covenant promises. And these covenant promises mainly, but not exclusively, have to do with the Promised Land, over which the Messiah will someday reign.
Kroll rightly states:
God has always worked on principle of divine sovereignty. Sovereignly God made a distinction between Abraham’s descendants. "Through Isaac your descendants will be named." … One wasn’t a Jew and heir to God’s promises just because he could trace his ancestry to Abraham; only through Abraham’s son Isaac were the promises made. And even then one wasn’t a faithful Jew and heir to God’s promises just because he could trace his ancestry to Abraham through Isaac. (Romans, Kroll, p. 156)
Nicoll correctly concludes:
The words in this verse literally mean that in the line of Isaac/Abraham should have the posterity which would properly bear his name, and inherit the promises made to him by God. Isaac’s descendants are the true Abraham-ites! (p. 659)
That is, [it is] not these the children of the flesh [who] are children of God, but in contrast (alla) the children of the promise, they are logically calculated as (eis) seed. For this [is] the Word of promise, according to the season, I will come, and [it] shall be in Sarah a son." (9:8-9) (Couch, Greek Translation)
9:8 The preterists and amillennialists just love to misinterpret this verse! They wrongly want to say that Paul is denying the Jewish racial issue in what he is writing. They say the apostle is trying to blur or obliterate the Jewish lineage idea out of his thinking. But this is clearly not so, if one reads the entire verse honestly!
When Paul says "not the children of the flesh" he is not denying their flesh! His point is that, while the children are still of flesh, God has sovereignly made a distinction between Hagar and Sarah, and their two sons. Sarah was beyond the point of conception by her age. He pregnancy was by a miracle of the Lord!
Why is Paul working so hard to narrowly limit the promised birth-line? Because of the issue someday as to who owns and occupies the land. He will bring this idea to a conclusion in chapter 11. It is my opinion that Paul did not fully realize there would come someday Replacement Theologians who would try to get rid of Israel, and replace it with the church. However what he says here strikes at the heart of the thinking of the preterists and the allegorical amillennialists!
T. Robertson, though an allegorist, writes like a dispensational premillennialist on this verse. He says:
The promise is not through Ishmael, but through Isaac. Only the children of the promise are ‘children of God’ in the full sense. Paul is not speaking of Christians (bold mine) here, but simply showing that the privileges of the Jews were not due to their physical descent from Abraham. (Word Pictures, p. 381)
For a brief moment of sanity, Robertson is sticking to the text and not allegorizing the passage! He is not claiming here Replacement Theology!
9:9 The apostle now quotes Genesis 18:10, 14 to show that God sovereignly discriminates as He pleases. That discrimination will go even further with the next generation and the birth of Jacob and Esau by Isaac’s wife Rebekah. God is here defining what the nation of Israel is all about. He is drawing the perimeters and determines what constitutes the nation of Israel.
While Ishmael, Hagar’s son, is not mentioned, his name is implied in the background of the passage. Again, Paul is making it clear that no one other than a seed of Sarah and Isaac has a right to the Abrahamic covenant. No later generation of Arabic peoples, many being descendants of Ishmael, can claim the Promised Land!
Yet not only [this] but also Rebekah having from conception one man, Isaac the father of us all. (9:10) (Couch, Greek Translation)9:10 Now Paul in his argument segregates Rebekah who is the wife of Isaac. Wrongly some think the apostle is discussing here the issue of the saved vs. the unsaved, but that is not what is in view. He is talking about the line of the covenant from Abraham that marks out the strand of the Jews who own the deed to the Land, and who are the covenant people. Not all the covenant Jews will be saved, but still, the Land promises belong to them. As Paul well states, for legitimate Jews, Isaac is "the father of us all."
While Paul in Galatians will say that Gentiles are children of Abraham by faith, this is not his argument here. "Who owns the covenant promises" is his argument. And the answer is not the Church but the Jews through Jacob! This discussion is about a literal, historic issue: the physical line of the Jews who are the inheritors as determined by God. Isaac was "one man" and the physical father of those who were to receive the promises.
For not yet [the twins] having been born, neither accomplished the good or worthless, in order that according to election the purpose of God might remain, not out of works but out of the calling. (9:11) (Couch, Greek Translation)9:11 While spiritual and personal election may be in view in the verse, that is not Paul’s main point in his argument. He is still showing how God’s covenant promises are working out in God’s divine history and providence. The apostle uses two words for election: The noun out-calling (ek, log-an) and the simple verb to call (used as a present participle), kaleo. Purpose in Greek is two words put together: "to before put in place." God is by His sovereign plan orchestrating history! Human beings are not. This is what the apostle means by saying "not out of works but out of the calling." The word election in both of its forms in this verse can often refer to spiritual election and predestination but here, the point is continuing in Paul’s mind that God is determining the covenant line from Abraham, Isaac, and now Jacob (and not Esau).
Who inherits the covenant from father Abraham, including the eternal ownership of the Land? It is not any of the people of the Middle East unless they are descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and now Jacob!
It was said to her that the greater (older) shall serve the younger. (9:12) (Couch, Greek Translation)
9:12 This poignant story is told in Genesis 25:19-26. The Lord told Rebekah that there were two nations in her womb (v. 23), two peoples, and, "the older shall serve the younger" (v. 23b). Esau came forth from the womb first, but Jacob (meaning the one who supplants), grabbed his brother’s heel, signifying a propensity to be the first, or to take the lead over his older brother (v. 26). This all happened under the direction of God’s providence and sovereignty. And that is the point Paul will make from the story. Referring back to Romans 9:11, we see that the apostle makes it clear God’s work of divine election and choosing is involved. Again, the main point is about the covenant promises before the issue of personal salvation.
The Lord’s choosing of Isaac over Ishmael, and His selection of Jacob over Esau, comes down in history to us today. Who owns the title deed to the Land, and with whom is God working to re-establish the Abrahamic covenant? The covenant issue shades both Old Testament history, and the history of our times. The children of Ishmael and Esau always fought with their kin, the Jewish people who came through Isaac and Jacob. And, the animosity continues today, though God has brought the children of Isaac and Jacob back to inherit the Land. This is part of the root cause of the tension now in the Middle East.
And it has been written, the Jacob I loved but the Esau I have abhorred, detested. (9:13) (Couch, Greek Translation)9:13 "It has been written" is a Perfect Passive Indicative from the verb grapho. This is the common way to show prophetic fulfillment or to indicate that the action of the verb comes down even to that moment! With the Perfect, the action starts in the past and comes up to the present. It could read: "It was written in the past and, what was recorded, comes all the down to today!" What God determined by choosing the younger over the elder impacts us even now, in the present. The impact of God’s determination, concerning His people through the line of Jacob (and not Esau) is still with us in the Middle East! Again, not every Jew of this line will be saved because they must individually make a personal commitment to Christ. But still, the promise of the Land comes through this line of Jacob (not Esau, nor Ishmael).
Though you cannot see it in the English, both personal nouns, Jacob and Esau, have articles in front of them. Thus: "The Jacob," and "The Esau." Both names represent the clans, the families, not simply the individuals. Paul is quoting Malachi 1:2-3. Malachi is addressing the Southern Kingdom of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The prophecy is heavy to the prophet and he writes: "The burden of the Word of the Lord" (v. 1).
On these awesome verses in Malachi the great Old Testament scholar, Dr. Merrill F. Unger, writes:
The Lord is the great Lover of His elect, covenant people, Israel (Deut. 33:3; Jer. 31:3; Hos. 11:1). "I love you above others, even above other descendants of Abraham and Isaac. I love you freely, gratuitously, on the basis of My sovereign choice of you and My covenant grace manifested to you."
Malachi 1:4 may tell us why God so hates Esau (v. 3). Esau’s inheritance was with the jackals (v. 3) because this is what he wanted. He did not prize the Promised Land that in theory he could have had. He was a man of the wilderness, but he wanted Jacob’s territory still because he said: "We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins" (v. 4a). However God answers, "They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory" (v. 4b). Unger adds that when the millennial kingdom comes that is promised to Jacob and his descendants: "When the restored Israelite remnant would see Edom (the land of Esau) irreparably ruined but Jerusalem rebuilt and restored, they would recognize God’s love rather than voice their querulous complaint, "In what way have you loved us?" (v. 2).