What Advantage Has The Jew? Romans 9:4-5

Golden Star of DavidBefore dealing with the problem of God’s faithfulness, Paul lists many advantages the Jews have as God’s people. In Romans 3:1-2 Paul initially raised the question of the advantages the Jewish people have with respect to God. Historically, some Jews were wholly unfaithful to the covenant they were given and even those who were not unfaithful failed to keep the covenant fully. By Romans 7, Paul explained the reason for this failure was the purpose of the Law. But the failure of Israel still stands as a potential objection to God’s faithfulness to his promises. Paul proves his point that God’s present rejection of Israel is not inconsistent with His Promise by looking at the history of Israel

Sons of God by adoption. ἡ υἱοθεσία (“the sonship”) is never used in any Jewish literature including the Septuagint to describe Israel’s relationship to God. For Barrett (Romans, 166), Paul refers to a status of sonship “conferred upon Israel at the Exodus” (Exod 4:22; Isa 1:2; Hosea 11:1). In the previous chapter, Paul his describe the Christian as having the status of “Sonship” using the same word. It is possible that he begins his list of advantages with the status of adoption in order to create continuity between God’s people in the Old Testament and God’s people in the new age.

The sons of Israel were shown his glory, an allusion to the Exodus. Paul has in mind the pillars of cloud and fire at the crossing of the Red Sea (Exod 15:6, 11) and/or the theophany at Mount Sinai (Exod  24:16).

God made the covenants with Israel. There is a textual variant with a singular covenant, the mosaic covenant. But if this is plural, then possibly a reference to “the three covenants within the great covenant of the Exodus—a covenant at Horeb, a second in the plains of Moab, and a third at Mounts Gerizim and Ebal” (Barrett, 166). Perhaps it is not a problem, since the plural “covenants” appears in several documents in the Second Temple period.

Wisdom of Solomon 18:22 He conquered the wrath not by strength of body, not by force of arms, but by his word he subdued the avenger, appealing to the oaths and covenants given to our ancestors.

God gave the law and the temple worship and the promises. The noun “law” in this line is ἡ νομοθεσία, only found here in the New Testament. Jewett refers to a similar usage in 2 Macc 6:23, a reference to “the holy and God-given legislation” honored by Eleazar. The noun translates “temple worship” would evoke sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem, but to a Roman, the word λατρεία “would be understood by the Roman audience as referring to worship” (Jewett, Romans 564).

To Israel belongs “the fathers of the race.” Abraham is normally considered the father of the Israelites, but Isaac and Jacob are also “the fathers”. This anticipates the next section in which Isaac’s children Jacob and Esau will be featured.

Most importantly, from Israel springs the Christ himself. The phrase “according to the flesh” recalls help Paul begin the book of Romans, by declaring that Jesus Christ was in the line of David according to the flesh. It may also anticipate Paul’s argument in the next section. Those who are descended from Esau are “according to the flesh” as opposed to from the spirit.

It is therefore ironic that God’s people rejected Jesus as the messiah, but also that the rejected the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 as well as Paul’s preaching (for example, the synagogue sermon in Acts 13). To what extent would Roman believers (Jewish or Gentile) have understood the failure of Israel to respond to Jesus as Messiah? Were these advantages squandered?

8 thoughts on “What Advantage Has The Jew? Romans 9:4-5

  1. The people of Israel were a special people, set apart. That can never be lost because it was something that happened. Just because that promise now includes gentiles, doesn’t make that time or the things that were experienced any less special or incredible for the people that witnessed them. I think it is Ironic that the Jewish people have rejected all three persons of the Trinity, as you mentioned in class. And because the gentiles had at least general knowledge of the Jews and what they believed about the Messiah they would have at least some idea of the significance but I don’t believe they understood it to the full extent. I think they were squandered. Israel had every opportunity to understand and come to believe in the Messiah but they couldn’t understand because they did not have a full enough understanding of the Messiah.

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  2. I think that since they were Roman believers after the fact that Jesus died, this means that they would have come to accept the fact that Jesus was the Messiah that was prophesied about by the prophets in history of the Israeli people. The fact that the people of Israel were the ones calling for Jesus’ death must be known to the new Roman believers and thus lead them to believe that the chosen of people of God had rejected the one that God sent to them, one who preformed signs that were not done by ordinary people without God’s aid. If the people of Israel truly knew the heart of God they would know that he would not send a Messiah seen as a leader in war against their enemies, because God wanted his creation to know him. Rather God sent them the Messiah that they needed, not the one they wanted. Jesus saved them in a way that they did not quite understand. I don’t think that the Romans had an advantage over the original people of Israel, because after God opened the doors to all who came to believe, the history of Israel was no longer important.

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  3. My own observations are probably similar to my fellow classmates. I would think that because the Jews had prophecy and foreknowledge of a coming Messiah that they of all people would have seen the signs and “known” or maybe understood would be a better word for it, that Jesus was the messiah. Even after his death and resurrection, the Jews would have heard Gentiles converting and proclaiming Christ as the Messiah and it would have been hard to refute Old Testament prophecy after seeing it happen. Maybe the Jews were hard of heart and chose to say that because Jesus did not appear to bet he king that they had hoped for, they rejected him as their savior.

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  4. Since the gospel was largely passed on by word of mouth, I believe that most Jews and Gentiles did not think that the Jews had squandered their history. In addition, it seemed that some in the church still believed that Jews could earn God’s righteousness or be included in the promise by adhering to the Law. In regards to the second question, I believe that one can only take advantage of what the Jews have been blessed with on a personal level. Therefore, those that accept Christ may take advantage of the promises and the history God has with Israel. However, I believe that those that do not accept Christ squander the promises and the history of Israel. I believe Moo says something to the effect that for the Jews, Jesus is either the cornerstone or the stone of stumbling.

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  5. It is ironic that God’s people rejected the messiah, especially after everything they had seen, heard and personally witnessed. This rejection of Jesus in my opinion is a great example of showing how our imperfect human weakness gets the better of us. We often follow what other people say and do when deep down we know we should not. I personally think that God’s people knew deep down that Jesus was truly the Messiah, but they were afraid to admit it and stand up for Him, so they did nothing and instead looked to other people. After Jesus’s death on the cross, I think that the Roman believers, both Jewish and Gentile must have known that Israel failed to respond to the Messiah. Once everything took place, I think there must have been some kind of feeling or realization inside of them that made them realize how wrong they were in what they did. Yet this sacrifice or death of the Messiah needed to take place, it was God’s plan from the beginning. Israel was the chosen people, they were important and personally picked by God to be His, but they rejected Him (Deuteronomy 7:6). Just as Israel was chosen by God, we (Gentiles) became His plan when they rejected Him. We are chosen people as well! We should be honored and rejoice in that. Moo states, “Jews and Gentiles belong to God’s people because God has chosen them; Jews and Gentiles belong to God’s people because they have chosen God (Moo, 3289).

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  6. In the beginning of Romans it is important to have the Jews and Gentiles distinguished because it would be easier for the Jews to accept and listen better to what Paul has to say. As the letter continues it is important for the Jews to accept and deal with that Jesus has come here to die for every person on this Earth making them all adopted into his family. Adoption is something that should be celebrated and glorified. When we accept Jesus into our lives we get to begin a new life. We are able to leave behind our junk and problems and be able to depend on our Heavenly Father to help us get through any more hard times that may come before us. So now a days it does not matter where or what denomination you are coming from, every person on this Earth has an equal opportunity to become adopted into God’s family.

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