To the Romans 9:1-33

9  I am telling the truth in Christ; I am not lying, as my conscience bears witness with me in holy spirit,  that I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were separated from the Christ as the cursed one for the sake of my brothers, my relatives according to the flesh,  who are Israelites. To them belong the adoption as sons+ and the glory and the covenants+ and the giving of the Law+ and the sacred service+ and the promises.+  To them the forefathers belong,+ and from them the Christ descended according to the flesh.+ God, who is over all, be praised forever. Amen.  However, it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who descend from Israel are really “Israel.”+  Neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s offspring;+ rather, “What will be called your offspring will be through Isaac.”+  That is, the children in the flesh are not really the children of God,+ but the children by the promise+ are counted as the offspring.  For the word of promise was as follows: “At this time I will come and Sarah will have a son.”+ 10  Not only then but also when Re·bekʹah conceived twins from the one man, Isaac our forefather;+ 11  for when they had not yet been born and had not practiced anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose respecting the choosing might continue dependent, not on works, but on the One who calls, 12  it was said to her: “The older will be the slave of the younger.”+ 13  Just as it is written: “I loved Jacob, but Eʹsau I hated.”+ 14  What are we to say, then? Is there injustice with God? Certainly not!+ 15  For he says to Moses: “I will show mercy to whomever I will show mercy, and I will show compassion to whomever I will show compassion.”+ 16  So, then, it depends, not on a person’s desire or on his effort, but on God, who has mercy.+ 17  For the scripture says to Pharʹaoh: “For this very reason I have let you remain: to show my power in connection with you and to have my name declared in all the earth.”+ 18  So, then, he has mercy on whomever he wishes, but he lets whomever he wishes become obstinate.+ 19  You will therefore say to me: “Why does he still find fault? For who has withstood his will?” 20  But who are you, O man, to be answering back to God?+ Does the thing molded say to its molder: “Why did you make me this way?”+ 21  What? Does not the potter have authority over the clay+ to make from the same lump one vessel for an honorable use, another for a dishonorable use? 22  What, then, if God had the will to demonstrate his wrath and to make his power known, and he tolerated with much patience vessels of wrath made fit for destruction? 23  And if this was done to make known the riches of his glory on vessels of mercy,+ which he prepared beforehand for glory, 24  namely, us, whom he called not only from among Jews but also from among nations,+ what of it? 25  It is as he says also in Ho·seʹa: “Those not my people+ I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not loved, ‘beloved’;+ 26  and in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”+ 27  Moreover, Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Although the number of the sons of Israel may be as the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved.+ 28  For Jehovah will make an accounting on the earth, concluding it and cutting it short.”+ 29  Also, just as Isaiah foretold: “Unless Jehovah of armies had left an offspring to us, we should have become just like Sodʹom, and we should have resembled Go·morʹrah.”+ 30  What are we to say, then? That people of the nations, although not pursuing righteousness, attained righteousness,+ the righteousness that results from faith;+ 31  but Israel, although pursuing a law of righteousness, did not attain to that law. 32  For what reason? Because they pursued it, not by faith, but as by works. They stumbled over the “stone of stumbling”;+ 33  as it is written: “Look! I am laying in Zion a stone+ of stumbling and a rock of offense, but the one who rests his faith on it will not be disappointed.”+

Footnotes

Study Notes

separated . . . as the cursed one: That is, the one being under a curse from God. Paul is here using a form of hyperbole, or exaggeration. He expresses his willingness to take on himself the curse from God that awaited his brothers, unbelieving Jews, for rejecting the promised Messiah. (Compare Ga 3:13.) Paul’s point is that he was willing to do everything within his power to help them to avail themselves of God’s means of salvation.

a sacred service: Or “a worship.” The Greek word used here is la·treiʹa and refers to acts of worship. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this noun is sometimes used in connection with the Jewish system of worship based on the Mosaic Law. (Ro 9:4; Heb 9:1, 6) However, here Paul uses it in connection with Christian worship. The related Greek verb la·treuʹo (“to render sacred service”) is used both with regard to worship according to the Mosaic Law (Lu 2:37; Heb 8:5; 9:9) and Christian worship (Php 3:3; 2Ti 1:3; Heb 9:14; Re 7:15). At Ro 1:9, Paul showed that an important feature of his sacred service was “in connection with the good news about [God’s] Son,” that is, the preaching of this good news.

the adoption as sons: This expression is here used figuratively in connection with the fleshly Israelites. Therefore, in this instance, it apparently refers to their unique position while they were God’s covenant people. Accordingly, the Hebrew Scriptures occasionally refer to natural Israel as God’s son or sons. (Ex 4:22, 23; De 14:1, 2; Isa 43:6; Jer 31:9; Ho 1:10; 11:1) Actual sonship, however, would not be possible until the ransom provision was made through Christ Jesus, and it would depend on a person’s accepting and putting faith in that divine arrangement.​—Joh 1:12, 13; 2Co 6:16-18; Ga 4:4, 5.

the sacred service: Or “the worship.” Here referring to the sacred service set out in the Law covenant. At Heb 9:1, 6, Paul used this expression when describing the worship at the tabernacle, which included the sacrifices offered in behalf of Israel when the Law covenant was in effect. At Ro 12:1, Paul again uses this expression, but with regard to a Christian’s worship of God.​—See study note on Ro 12:1.

Amen: Or “So be it.” The Greek word a·menʹ is a transliteration of a Hebrew term derived from the root word ’a·manʹ, meaning “to be faithful, to be trustworthy.” (See Glossary.) “Amen” was said in agreement to an oath, a prayer, or a statement. Writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures often used it to express agreement with some form of praise to God, as Paul does here. (Ro 16:27; Eph 3:21; 1Pe 4:11) In other cases, it is used to emphasize the writer’s wish that God extend favor toward the recipients of the letter. (Ro 15:33; Heb 13:20, 21) It is also used to indicate that the writer earnestly agrees with what is expressed.​—Re 1:7; 22:20.

God, who is over all, be praised forever: This phrase refers to Jehovah God; it is an exhortation to praise him for what he has done for his people, including what is mentioned earlier in this passage. However, some translations render this verse in a way that would identify Christ as Almighty God. For example, “the Christ, who is God over all.” Grammatically, such a rendering is possible, but the context has to be taken into consideration. The preceding passage describes God’s loving provisions for his people. Consider also what follows at Ro 9:6-13. These verses show that the outworking of God’s purpose depends, not on inheritance according to the flesh, but on the will of God. Verses 14-18 refer to God’s message to Pharaoh, as recorded at Ex 9:16, to highlight that God is over all. In verses 19-24, God’s superiority is further illustrated by the analogy of a potter and the clay vessels that he makes. Considering the context, it would therefore be natural for Paul to refer to “God, who is over all.” It is also noteworthy that Paul in his writings most often ascribes such expressions of praise, not to Christ Jesus, but to God. (Ro 11:34-36; 16:27; Ga 1:4, 5; Php 4:20; 1Ti 1:17) Paul clearly distinguishes between Jesus and Jehovah God, as at Ro 15:5, 6, where he urges fellow Christians to “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Co 1:3; Eph 1:3) The main text rendering of Ro 9:5 is also strongly supported by Paul’s words at 1Co 15:27, 28.​—For a further discussion of Ro 9:5, see Kingdom Interlinear, App. 2D, “God, Who Is Over All.”

Amen: A term that is often used in the inspired letters of the Christian Greek Scriptures when the writer has expressed some form of praise to God.​—Ro 16:27; Eph 3:21; 1Pe 4:11; see study note on Ro 1:25.

offspring: Or “descendants.” Lit., “seed.”​—See App. A2.

offspring: Or “descendants.” Lit., “seed.”​—See App. A2.

offspring: See study note on Ro 9:7.

not on a person’s desire or on his effort: Lit., “not on the one who desires nor on the one who runs.” The literal expression “the one who runs” is here used figuratively to refer to one who exerts himself in striving toward a goal. In his letters, Paul often used the metaphor of a runner in a race. (1Co 9:24-26; Ga 5:7; Php 2:16) When Paul discussed God’s choosing of spiritual Israel, he explained that those of natural Israel counted on their fleshly relationship with Abraham and their pursuit of “righteousness” through the Law of Moses. They had been running, or “pursuing” the goal of “righteousness,” in the wrong way. (Ro 9:30-32) The members of the true “Israel” were to depend, not on their own efforts or achievements, but on God’s mercy. (Ro 9:6, 7) They would need to exert themselves in service to God, but without God’s mercy their efforts would be in vain.

name: The personal name of God, represented by the four Hebrew letters יהוה (YHWH) and commonly rendered “Jehovah” in English. In the New World Translation, the name occurs 6,979 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and 237 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (For information on the use of the divine name in the Christian Greek Scriptures, see App. A5 and App. C.) In the Bible, the term “name” at times also stands for the person himself, his reputation, and all that he declares himself to be.​—Compare Ex 34:5, 6; Re 3:4, ftn.

I have made your name manifest: Jesus’ followers already knew and used God’s name. They saw and read it in the Hebrew Scripture scrolls available in their synagogues. They also saw and read it in the Septuagint​—a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which was used in teaching. (See App. A5 and C.) In the Bible, the term “name” at times also stands for the person himself, his reputation, and all that he declares himself to be. (See study note on Mt 6:9; compare Re 3:4, ftn.) Jesus made known God’s name not just by using it but by revealing the Person behind the name​—His purposes, activities, and qualities. As the one who had been “at the Father’s side,” Jesus could explain the Father in a way that no one else could. (Joh 1:18; Mt 11:27) God’s “name” thus took on greater meaning to Jesus’ early followers.

I have made your name known: At the end of his prayer, Jesus repeats the thought he expressed at Joh 17:6. (See study note on Joh 17:6.) At Joh 17:26, though, a different Greek verb, gno·riʹzo (“to make known”), is used. However, it conveys a similar thought to the verb used at Joh 17:6 (pha·ne·roʹo, “to make manifest; to reveal”), which could also be rendered “make known.” (See ftn. on Joh 17:6.) In the Bible, making known one’s name may involve revealing the name itself as well as what the name stands for​—the person’s reputation and all that he declares himself to be. (See study note on Mt 6:9; compare Re 3:4; ftn.) Jesus made known God’s name not just by using it but by revealing the Person behind the name​—his purposes, activities, and qualities. Here Jesus adds and will make it known, which could also be rendered “and will continue to make it known.” God’s name would thus continue to take on greater meaning to his followers.

the scripture says to Pharaoh: In the words that follow, Paul quotes from Ex 9:16. The words are part of a message that Jehovah commanded Moses to tell Pharaoh of Egypt. (Ex 9:13-19) However, Paul personifies “the scripture,” writing as if the scripture itself spoke these words directly to Pharaoh. Paul uses a similar personification at Ro 3:19, where he says: “All the things the Law says, it addresses to those under the Law.” The use of this figure of speech in these contexts is appropriate because the Hebrew Scriptures, including the Law, were recognized as God’s word​—in effect, God was speaking. In a similar way, Jesus sometimes personified God’s holy spirit, saying that it “will teach” and “will bear witness.”​—Joh 14:26; 15:26.

I have let you remain: Many translations render this expression “I have raised you up,” which may convey the idea that God put Pharaoh into office. However, Paul here quotes from Ex 9:16, where the context clarifies what is meant. When announcing the seventh plague, God said to Pharaoh: “By now I could have thrust my hand out to strike you . . . , and you would have been wiped out from the earth.” (Ex 9:15) But instead of striking Pharaoh, God chose to spare him, telling him: “I have kept you in existence [or “I have let you remain”; lit., “I have kept you standing”].” (Ex 9:16) It is also worth noting that the Greek Septuagint translates Jehovah’s words to Pharaoh as “you have been preserved.” So both the Hebrew Scripture context and the Septuagint rendering support the idea that the Greek term at Ro 9:17 means that God had let Pharaoh remain until God showed him His power.

to have my name declared in all the earth: Paul here quotes from Ex 9:16. The words are part of what Jehovah instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh after the sixth plague. (Ex 9:8-15) In the Bible, the word “name” at times stands for the person himself, his reputation, and all that he declares himself to be. (Ex 34:5, 6; see study notes on Mt 6:9; Joh 17:6, 26.) The Bible consistently emphasizes the sanctification and vindication of God’s name. For example, the psalmist prayed: “May people know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” (Ps 83:18) Over 50 times the book of Ezekiel states Jehovah’s words: People “will have to know that I am Jehovah.” (Eze 6:7; 38:23) Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God’s name be sanctified. (Mt 6:9) The apostle Paul encouraged Christians to declare God’s name publicly (Heb 13:15), and Re 15:4 raises the question: “Who will not really fear you, Jehovah, and glorify your name?”

the potter: A maker of earthenware pots, dishes, and other vessels. The Greek term ke·ra·meusʹ comes from a root meaning “to mix,” perhaps referring to the need to mix water with the soil or clay to prepare it for use. The Hebrew word for potter (yoh·tserʹ) literally means “former” or “one forming.” In the Hebrew Scriptures, the potter’s authority, or right, over the clay is used a number of times to illustrate God’s sovereignty over individuals and nations.​—Isa 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Jer 18:1-12.

the potter: A maker of earthenware pots, dishes, and other vessels. The Greek term ke·ra·meusʹ comes from a root meaning “to mix,” perhaps referring to the need to mix water with the soil or clay to prepare it for use. The Hebrew word for potter (yoh·tserʹ) literally means “former” or “one forming.” In the Hebrew Scriptures, the potter’s authority, or right, over the clay is used a number of times to illustrate God’s sovereignty over individuals and nations.​—Isa 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Jer 18:1-12.

vessels: Here Paul continues to use the illustration of a potter. (See study note on Ro 9:21.) The Greek word skeuʹos literally refers to a container of any kind. However, it is often used figuratively in the Scriptures to refer to people. (Ac 9:15; ftn.; 2Ti 2:20, 21, ftns.) For example, Christians are compared to earthen vessels entrusted with a glorious treasure, the ministry. (2Co 4:​1, 7) In the context of Ro 9:21-23, God’s refraining from bringing immediate destruction on wicked people, vessels of wrath, serves to spare rightly disposed ones because it gives them time to be molded as “vessels of mercy.”​—Ro 9:23.

Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: Here and in the following verse, Paul quotes from Isa 10:22, 23. Those verses foretold what happened in 607 B.C.E. when Jehovah used the Babylonian Empire to execute judgment on Israel. The whole land, including Jerusalem, fell to the invader. The Jews were taken captive to Babylon for 70 years. After that, “only a remnant” returned to reestablish true worship in Jerusalem. Here in his letter to the Romans, Paul shows that this prophecy had a further fulfillment in the first century C.E. At that time, a relatively small number of Jews, “a remnant,” became followers of Jesus and returned to Jehovah in a spiritual sense. (Ro 11:4, 5) These were later joined by believing Gentiles, making up a spiritual nation, “the Israel of God.”​—Ga 6:16.

Jehovah: In this quote from Isa 10:23, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text.​—See App. C.

concluding it and cutting it short: Or “executing it completely and speedily.” Paul here quotes from the Septuagint version of Isa 10:22, 23. This prophecy was fulfilled on Jerusalem both in 607 B.C.E. and in 70 C.E. when Jehovah executed judgment completely and speedily.

offspring: Or “descendants.” Lit., “seed.”​—See App. A2.

Jehovah: In this quote from Isa 1:9, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text.​—See App. C.

Jehovah of armies: This expression has its background in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it occurs 285 times (with some variations), starting at 1Sa 1:3. It is a combination of the Tetragrammaton and the Hebrew word for “armies,” tseva·ʼohthʹ. The Greek equivalent of this expression occurs twice in the Christian Greek Scriptures, here and at Jas 5:4. Both Paul and James quote or allude to prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures. In these two cases, the Hebrew word tseva·ʼohthʹ, “armies,” is transliterated Sa·ba·othʹ in Greek. Although Greek manuscripts literally read “Lord Sabaoth” (Greek, Kyʹri·os Sa·ba·othʹ), one lexicon defines Sa·ba·othʹ as “a name applied to God . . . =יהוה צְבָאוֹת [YHWH tseva·ʼohthʹ] Yahweh Lord of the Armies, Lord of Hosts.” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition) Further reasons why the New World Translation uses the name Jehovah in the main text are explained in App. C1.

armies: Or “heavenly armies.” The Greek term Sa·ba·othʹ is a transliteration of the Hebrew word tseva·ʼohthʹ, the plural form of tsa·vaʼʹ, which basically means a literal army of soldiers, or combat forces. (Ge 21:22; De 20:9; see study note on Jehovah of armies in this verse.) It appears that the “armies” signified are primarily, if not exclusively, the angelic forces. The expression “Jehovah of armies” thus conveys the sense of power held by the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, who has at his command vast forces of spirit creatures. (Ps 103:20, 21; 148:1, 2; Isa 1:24; Jer 32:17, 18) However, some suggest that the “armies” in the expression “Jehovah of armies” include not only the angelic forces but also the Israelite army and the inanimate heavenly bodies.

offspring: See study note on Ro 9:7.

on it: That is, on the symbolic stone mentioned at Isa 28:16, from which Paul is quoting. The stone refers to Jesus Christ, which is evident from the way Isaiah’s prophecy is applied at Ro 10:11 and 1Pe 2:6. So the Greek pronoun used here could also be rendered “him.” That is how it is rendered at Ro 10:11, where Paul quotes part of the same prophecy from Isaiah but does not mention the “stone.” Thus the inspired words of Isaiah, Paul, and Peter provide a guarantee that putting faith in Jesus will not lead to disappointment.

will not be disappointed: Paul here quotes from the Septuagint version of Isa 28:16. The Greek phrase basically means “will not be ashamed (put to shame).” This emphasizes that those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ, the symbolic stone mentioned in Isaiah’s prophecy, will not experience the shame and disappointment of those whose faith is shown to be in vain. The same expression is used at Ro 10:11 and 1Pe 2:6.

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