Commentary on Romans 9:10

10 May

The ninth chapter of Romans is not a separate side discussion from the rest of the book of Romans but is integrally linked with the whole theme of the book: the righteousness of God in salvation. Flowing out of the great promises of Romans chapter 8, Paul looks around him at the state of things as they are and expresses, in light of the glories of chapter 8, his grief over his kinsmen in the flesh, the Israelites, who had received so many gifts yet rejected salvation of the giver. Paul is saddened to the core but ultimately his concern is that this reality of Israel’s rejection of Jesus does not lead his readers to question the character of God. So Paul moves from expressing grief in chapter 9 verses 1-5 to an extended defense of the character of God and an explanation of his ways that stretches all the way from chapter 9 verse 6 to chapter 11 verse 32.

Paul’s main point in his argument throughout these chapters is stated right at the start of verse 6, “It is not as though the word of God has failed.” God’s word has not failed. His character is trustworthy, His purposes are still advancing. And the first reason this is so is because we do not see clearly as God does. We see Israel and think of them all the same, but God says no, there is an Israel within Israel, a true Israel and it has always been so. Paul illustrates this first by the example of Isaac and Ishmael. Both were children of Abraham according to the flesh but only one, Isaac, was a child of promise. And this promise was a promise from God so its fulfillment was dependent on God. Isaac, not Ishmael Abraham’s firstborn, would receive the promise. In the same way, there are those in the nation of Israel who are only children of the flesh not children of the promise. They are physically Israelites but they have not trusted in God’s promised Savior, Jesus. So they are lost and Paul grieves over them. We could live with that as an explanation, but Paul is determined to go deeper. In going deeper Paul seems at first to muddy the waters, but in the end, if we will stick with it, we will see that he brings out precious truths here . . .

Let’s take a look at verse 10 . . .
10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,

We see first this phrase, “And not only so.” So we see Paul is connecting this illustration to the last one and he is making it clear that he is going a step further. Not only this, but also this. He is adding to his argument as to why God’s Word has not fallen.
He makes his argument by going to the next generation of Israel, the children of Isaac. The reason he does this is because there is a possible objection to his first illustration that might make it seem to lack value in the minds of his readers. The objection is this: since Ishmael was born of the slave woman Hagar and Isaac was born of the wife of Abraham, Sarah, it would only make sense that Isaac was favored. In other words, there was something intrinsic to Isaac, his bloodline, that made him more worthy to be the child of promise. But this possible objection to God’s free electing grace is blown out of the water with the case of Jacob and Esau.
Here we not only have we an example of the election of a son of Abraham by one woman, and a rejection of his son by another, but also of the election and the rejection of the children of the same woman.
And it is even more dramatic than that, because these two sons are twins. The Greek word here translated “conceived” is referring to the act of intercourse, the idea being that they were conceived at the same time. So their mother is exactly the same, Rebekah, and their father is exactly the same and their time of conception is exactly the same. So all things in verse 10 are equal, yet still there is a distinction. This must mean that the distinction that is to be made must lie outside human will or physical circumstances.
Isaac is mentioned here as our “forefather.” This is to link him certainly to the Jews, as he was one of the patriarchs of God’s people. But also, as the child of promise, he is the forefather of all who trust in the fulfillment of the promise, Jesus.
One more thing to note here in verse 10 . . . remember Rebekah was barren. Sarah had been barren. Later Rachel, Jacob’s wife, would be barren. Yet in each case God enabled them to conceive a child and these children were in each in some way connected to the fulfillment of God’s promises for His people. God made it clear from the very beginning that He was in control. The oldest child, according to cultural expectation, would carry on the promises of the father. But in Genesis it is never like this. It is always a child chosen by God who carries on the promises. This is all illustrating the principle idea of this chapter, the power of God to choose.
We will see this power further fleshed out in verses 11 and 12 . . .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: