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?

19 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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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).

  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.

  7. God has a plan and a destiny for His chosen people. Who is God’s chosen people? They are those who believe in and have faith that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world, and also the nation of Israel. Israel has been set apart as the chosen nation of the Lord. There are numerous passage of scripture that reference and prove this: Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6-8, Isaiah 43:1-3, Psalm 135:4, Jeremiah 31:1-11, Hebrews 8:8-13, and so on. Of particular note is the passage of Deuteronomy 7:6-8, where we are told that “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth”, and that God loved Israel and kept the covenant with their forefathers. However, this does not mean that every individual who is Israeli will be saved simply because they hail from Israel. Obviously there are Israeli atheists, agnostics, various other false religions and ideologies, and so on. What it does mean is that for those who do people, God has a special purpose and plan in store for them. He has a special purpose and plan for non-Israeli, non-Jewish believers as well; it is simply a different one.

  8. It seems crazy to me that the people of Israel would reject the idea of Jesus being the Messiah after all that they had seen God do, literally in person! However, the longer I have considered this absurdity, the more I have realized that this lack of faithfulness in what the world cannot see takes place so often in today’s society. As Christians, we are to walk by faith and not by sight, but I know for a fact that every Christian has had a moment of wondering why God isn’t showing up in their lives. In one of my classes, the professor made a great point about how if we feel distant from God, He is not the one who has moved further away, but us! I’m not sure if this directly correlates to Israel’s disbelief, but it holds a similar concept being the lack of faith, even though God has been ever so present in our lives (and in the people of Israel’s). It just shows how imperfect human beings are and how ignorant or numb we can be to God’s blessings in our lives or things He is trying to teach us. Even though God was clearly working in the people of Israel and in their lives, they still had disbelief in His own Son being who He said He was!

  9. In Romans 7 Paul states that the purpose of the law is to show us that we cannot obtain the law. We would not know what sin is without the law. Paul also describes himself as a wretched man when explaining the tug of war within himself to be faithful to God’s commandments or to fulfill the desires of his flesh. These things listed can be recognized as advantages for the Jews, however, it does not automatically make obeying the law any easier, or accepting a Messiah that was crucified as the one they were waiting for. Longenecker points out that the law itself was sinful in that telling someone not to do something often causes them to want to do that very thing (184). It is after this that Paul transitions to the story of God’s redemption in Romans 8. We see here then the weakness of man, and the power of sin and how through Jesus we do not have to follow the law but are saved by grace.

  10. I think that for us as Christians today, we don’t fully grasp the benefit that there was to being a Jew. For Paul “lists many advantages the Jews have as God’s people,” (Long, 97). The Israelites had many benefits, and I believe the biggest one was being God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. In a time where all the other nations are engaged in pagan idol worship, God chose to reveal himself to the Israelites and then to bless them and allow them the first chance at salvation. Sure they were supposed to bring this to other nations, but the reality is in the Old Testament if you were not a Jew you were most likely not going to be saved, let alone even hear about Yahweh. Therefore the Jews were incredibly blessed to be God’s chosen people and then to have the Messiah, the savior of the world be born as a Jew and offer salvation first to the Jews was another incredible blessing. Sadly through God’s divine plan, the Jews reject Jesus, crucify him, and subsequently reject the Holy Spirit, thus squandering their blessings.

  11. The people of Israel were special – God’s chosen people. It is interesting to me that since the Jews knew of the coming signs of the messiah, had the prophecy in hand as well, that they would reject Christ as the messiah. Is it ironic? maybe. I think to some level there is irony because like I said, Israel literally had the description of prophecy in their hands before Jesus was even born, and the fact that Jesus fulfilled all of those prophecies, yet Jews still denied him, does make room for a little bit of irony to be present. I think that Roman believers would have viewed this as a let down for sure. Anyone who does not recognize Christ as messiah is ignoring God’s promise and history with Israel. This ignorance from the Jews is not new to us. Today there are many examples of how people refuse to accept the truth of God’s word. The only thing that we really can do to combat this is to show them grace but give them the truth of the bible – you must accept Christ as your personal savior to inherit heaven.

  12. Clearly the Jewish people of the Old Testament were chosen by God to be his chosen people and one would assume give them an advantage. Paul’s use of adopted language here applies only to the Jewish people unlike his use of adoption in 8:15 which applies to the gentiles.There is an example of this in Hos 11:1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (NIV). This verses is using a type of adoptive language. It is clear early in the Bible and Paul is writing in these verses that the Jewish people at one point in their history did have an advantage over the rest of the world. It feels like Paul is pointing out how the Jewish people have squandered any advantage they did have and no no longer are at an advantage over the gentiles.

  13. Just wanted to note I really like that you include the Greek words that are relevant to your topic. As someone who has taken Greek in the past (though am not learned in it much at all), it always piques my interest.
    The Jewish people have such a close connection with God because they are/were His chosen people. Deuteronomy 14:2 says “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” God specifically chose Israel, having a purpose and plan for what He would use them for and what would come out of them. This all began with Abraham, when God told him he would make a great nation out of him. At the time, Abraham was childless and was past child rearing days, yet God blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son named Isaac. God used the most unlikely of men to create a nation out of, yet from Abraham, God was able to do so many great things. The greatest of all being Christ.
    I think you make a really good and profound point in saying that even with all the “advantages” the Israelites had, they rejected God himself in the form of his Son. They missed the greatest advantage God provided them with.

    ESV Study Bible

  14. I find it extremely interesting that it was much easier for Gentiles to believe that Jesus is the Christ who died and rose for our sins and all of the Old Testament then it was for Jews to believe that God’s promise (that they believed would happen) had been fulfilled. I feel like Roman believers who were Gentiles would struggle understanding the failure of Israel to respond much more than the Jewish Roman believers would. The reason for this is because these Gentiles did not know all of the Old Testament and the promises that came along with it, but the Jewish believers had been studying and following the rules and promises of God. This would cause the Jewish believers to understand the failure of Israel much more. I believe that Israel has given up on the advantages that they had. The reason that I believe this is because God’s grace of new life comes through Jesus and Jesus alone. It does not matter if you were God’s people at one point, you are not granted the gift of eternal life unless you believe in Jesus.

  15. One of the most beautiful and reassuring things about God’s character is his consistency. We know that he stays the same and how he was before is how he is now. If he was faithful in the past, he will still be faithful now. Though we, like Israel, fail God time and time again, even rejecting him at times, he is still faithful. And he has been faithful to Israel, even when they do not see it. One of the first things Paul mentions is the adoption to sonship. The Israelites have the privilege of being children of God. The Israelites are those who saw God’s power in the ten plagues of Egypt, in the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud to guide them and protect them. As children, they bear witness to the glory of the Lord. The Israelites were also the recipients of the covenant. God made a covenant with his people, the Israelites are the recipients of that covenant. Israel has a rich heritage, claiming Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as their founding fathers. These men are pillars of the faith, who established the community and set an example. Israel, also gets the privilege of claiming the heritage of the Messiah. They came from a rich heritage and they are producing a rich heritage for future generations. Christ was from the line of David. Israel is a largely blessed nation that has received the faithfulness of God, even when they have been unfaithful to him, rejecting him. Even the early church, at times, and in ways of varying depths rejected God, weather it was for sexual immorality or for idol worship. And yet God is faithful in it all.

  16. It seems as though the Gentiles would have the advantage over the Jews given the historical context of adoption practices. As you discussed in your other blog post (Adoption Children of God – Romans 8:23-27), the adopted children typically were far less likely to be disowned and therefore far less likely to lose their inheritance. In the case of Gentiles, they have a greater barrier to pass through to be saved (because there will be more societal pressure to follow pagan gods, whereas the Jews are already living amongst other Yhwh followers), and so it is more likely that the Gentiles who convert from paganism are doing so from a solid foundation of reason and understanding, rather than the Jews who may only be following Yhwh because of cultural pressure or family tradition. Gentiles would have had to have their mind changed with reason and their hearts changed with powerful emotion in order to break the barrier and become followers of the true God. Because of this, they are less likely to fall into disfavor with the Father and lose their inheritance.

    I think there is also something to be said about Jesus’ discussion with Thomas in John 20:29 (blessed are those who believe without seeing). The Jews had thousands of years of history that showed the hand of Yhwh guiding them through exile and Exodus, and it was clear from their history that when they followed Yhwh they were blessed, and when they embraced idolatry they were cursed with destruction, slavery, exile, and plagues. The Gentiles, however, had none of this, and so are the ones who are “believing without seeing.” Their faith is generally stronger than that of the Jewish believers.

  17. It is quite interesting the God has chosen the Israelites to be set apart, yet the Israelites refuse to accept Jesus as the Messiah. We can read of God’s influence on Israel as he was present with them and led them through Moses, making covenants with them, taking care of their needs, and asking them to do one thing: To keep his commandments (Deut. 6:25). We can read how the Israelites fell to idolatry time and time again, yet God provided opportunities to repent out of a continued patience with Israel. After this period, we can see many of the Jews reject Jesus Christ as Messiah, maybe because he was not the King that they had expected, and many of them become Pharisees, false leaders or become false prophets. Romans 9:5-4 reaffirms the fact that the Israelites are still the chosen people of God, and Paul is aware of this as a Jew himself. It is also interesting to see God keep his promises to those who led Israel, such as Abraham in Genesis 12. It is shocking to see how Acts 2 many Jews went as far as to mockery by calling those possessed by the Spirit drunk. It was Peter who stood boldly in this passage, declaring truth of Jesus as the Messiah and the Holy Spirit in its power. Through this came repentance, and the Gospel was accepted among the Jews in this passage. This is an example of the boldness we are called to have, as Christ can work through this courage. I believe that the Jews who do not accept Christ have squandered their advantages as chosen people, as God can bless them greatly with their faithfulness. Although God is more powerful than us, and has shown this mercy as he has welcomed Gentiles, which shows that he loves His people and will continually call them to Him regardless of their rejection.

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