Election of the Lesser Son

Election of the Lesser Son: Paul's Lament-Midrash in Romans 9-11

David R. Wallace
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Election of the Lesser Son
    Book Description:

    God chooses Israel (salvation “first to the Jew and then the gentile”), but without showing favoritism? Paul genuinely grieves for Israel as one speaking “in” Christ, yet prays to be cursed, cut off from Christ? Romans 9–11 remains one of the most difficult and contested biblical texts in scholarship today. Theological discussions often limit the focus of this passage to God’s sovereignty, emphasizing that God’s mind is not known, or to Paul’s defense of God’s faithfulness, insisting that Israel has failed. Less attention has been devoted to Paul’s unique form and style, which, rightly understood, resolve significant issues, revealing the merciful and wise character of God in his choice of Jacob, the lesser son. David R. Wallace demonstrates how Paul weaves two distinct Jewish literary forms together––lament and midrash—into a logical narrative concerning Israel’s salvation. Attention is given to Paul’s poetical structures, key literary terms, and use of Old Testament contexts. The result is new insight into the meaning of the letter, and into the theology of Paul.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8751-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    David Wallace
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    When the topic of God’s election of Israel is raised in theological discussion, references to Romans 9–11 most often accompany the conversation. This passage is recognized for its emphasis on the sovereignty of God—for example, that God’s will and reason for choosing Jacob rather than Esau is not known—and for its defense of God’s faithfulness even though Israel has rejected God’s Son. Yet significant aspects of Paul’s argument in Romans 9–11 have been overlooked, leaving the reader puzzled as to why God chooses Jacob over Esau or how God canimpartiallyelect Israel, yet givepriority...

  6. 1 Paul’s Grief for Israel
    (pp. 29-54)

    Like a dark blue patch of material sewn into the middle of an ornate tapestry, Paul’s expression of deep pathos, 9:1-5, arrests the attention of his listeners.¹ Only moments before he rejoiced in Christ’s love, 8:34, yet here sadness fills his soul. Despite this emotional shift, Paul writes in parallel form (vv. 1-2 concern Paul’s veracity and his grief, and vv. 3-4 elaborate on the reason for his grief, his fellow Israelites). He expresses his relationship to Christ and the Spirit concerning the veracity and reason for his grief—the nation of Israel—and includes a list of God’s gifts...

  7. 2 God’s Faithful Election of Israel, 9:6-29
    (pp. 55-104)

    Paul’s style is unlike contemporary rabbinical forms of his time, as evidenced by his succinct yet integrated treatment.¹ Although Paul’s sequence, thematic coherence, and use of the Old Testament show use of midrashic elements,² his arguments evidence a mix of forms.³ This means that one must (1) think step by step with Paul and the Old Testament contexts, (2) follow Paul’s knitting of logical parts to the whole argument, and (3) be observant of his form and subtle use of stylistic devices. With this literary awareness, Paul’s intentions become clear, giving the reader an understanding of God’s salvific plan for...

  8. 3 Israel’s Failure to Hear, 9:30-10:21
    (pp. 105-152)

    After lamenting for Israel, 9:1-5, Paul begins his argument in defense of God’s faithfulness, 9:6-29, by narrating, in a sense, the story of the nation of Israel from Abraham to the Exodus, 9:6-18. And he communicates that a reversal occurs, 9:19-29—the gentiles are part of the called remnant—hinting at Israel’s hardening. In this second midrashic form, 9:30—10:21, Paul depicts the cause of Israel’s stumbling and how they respond unfavorably to God’s word.

    Since Paul’s style is unlike contemporary rabbinical forms of his time, it is important to follow his step-by-step sequence and maintain awareness of his mix...

  9. 4 The Grace of God for Israel, 11:1-32
    (pp. 153-222)

    Paul’s cohesive literary style exhibits intellect. After he demonstrates God’s inclusion of the gentiles, 9:6-29, and the reason for Israel’s fall, 9:30—10:21, Paul clarifies the meaning of his terms that he has used for Israel in a transition section, 11:1-10. He then encases the “mystery” within a poetic structure, 11:11-24, integrating logic, balanced parallels, and extended metaphor.

    11:1-10 Clarification: Remnant Israel and Hardened Israel

    11:11-24 Poetic Structure:

    11:11-15 Balanced Parallels (“Reconciliation”)

    11:16-24 Olive tree metaphor and Imperatives

    11:25-32 Summary Section

    Furthermore, Paul’s summary of the revealed mystery, 11:25-32, thematically brings together the whole argument of Romans 9:6—11:32, an...

  10. 5 Paul’s Praise to God, 11:33-36
    (pp. 223-236)

    Paul’s lament ends with praise to God for his merciful and wise plan for Israel. God elects the son of lower status, Jacob (and his descendants), and demonstrates his love to Israel by showing wrath to the older, rebellious son, Esau (and his descendants, the Edomites). Yet despite this warning, Israel continues to disobey, even to the point of rejecting the Messiah; they place confidence in “works” rather than in a relationship with Christ through faith. Does Israel’s failure suggest that God’s Word or his decision is flawed in any way? Not at all. God’s order of election—to the...

  11. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 237-250)

    God’s heart and mind has been made known to Paul. He grieves unceasingly for Israel, revealing God’s infinite compassion through Christ working within him. And enlightened by the Spirit, Paul reveals the wisdom of God through integrated argument to show how God’s election of Jacob—the son in the “lesser” position—is merciful and impartial to Jews and gentiles.

    Paul’s narrative sequence follows a logical pattern. God’s elects Jacob in the womb when neither son had disobeyed. This merciful decision in electing Israel is also merciful to Esau, requiring both Jacob and his descendants, and Esau and his descendants, to...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-290)
  13. Index of Scripture References
    (pp. 291-310)
  14. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 311-316)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-317)