Commentary on Romans 9:4

31 Mar

4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.

Now Paul names these kinsmen according to the flesh, for whom he is willing to be cut off. “They are Israelites.” They are privileged. The name Israelites here is used, not “Hebrews,” not “Jews” with reference to their nationality (being derived from Judah, after the Babylonian captivity including also Benjamin, the other ten tribes having dispersed by Assyria); but Israelites, the covenant name, given to Jacob.

They had the “adoption.” God called them out as His people, as in Hosea 11:1 (“my son”) and Exodus 4:22, 23 (“my son, my firstborn”).

Connected with the sonship given to Israel was “the glory,” seen in the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night;seen in the “glory of the Lord” that rested in a cloud on the Tabernacle and upon the mercy seat, and later on Solomon’s temple.

“The covenants” is plural, the Abrahamic covenant, repeated to Isaac and Jacob. The Mosaic covenant. The Davidic covenant. The blessing of God’s promises, as we will see, is not something to be taken lightly. The law, the worship, the promises. God gave Israel a way of life. He defined their culture. No other nation in history has been so privileged. But Paul’s agonizing acknowledgement in Romans 9-11 is that these his kinsmen, who had received such blessing from God, even God’s promises, had largely rejected their Messiah Jesus. This juxtaposition of privilege with unbelief is the center of the emotional distress Paul feels for his people and the passion he has for showing that God’s Word has not failed in spite of the failure of His people.

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