The Remnant of Israel: Romans 11:3-9-God Set Aside a Remnant in Israel and the Rest Were Hardened Because of Unbelief Lesson # 9
In Romans 11:2a, Paul emphatically declares that God has by no means rejected the nation of Israel whom He foreknew.
In Romans 11:2b, Paul poses a question in order to introduce the subject of God setting aside a remnant for Himself in Israel in the days of Elijah.
Romans 11:2 God the Father has by no means rejected His people whom He knew in advance. Or, have you totally forgotten what the Scripture says about Elijah, how he repeatedly pleaded with God the Father against Israel? (My translation)
Next, in Romans 11:3, he cites 1 Kings 19:10 to demonstrate that God has not rejected Israel.
In this passage, Elijah pleaded with the Father against Israel when he was the lone surviving prophet in Israel who was alone in the desert because he was fleeing Jezebel who sought to murder him.
Romans 11:3 Lord, they have murdered Your prophets. They have destroyed Your altars. I myself alone am left. Also, they are making it a top priority to diligently, earnestly and tenaciously seek my life, sparing no expense to do so because it is of great value to them! (My translation)
Paul is citing 1 Kings 19:10 and Elijah’s prayer that is recorded in this passage is repeated by him in 1 Kings 19:14.
In context, Elijah offered this prayer to the Father after two great victories.
The first is recorded in 1 Kings 18:1-40 where he defeated the prophets of Baal with the power of the Lord.
The second is found in 1 Kings 18:41-46 where he prayed for rain to fall in Israel and it did.
After these two great victories, Jezebel, Ahab’s wife got wind of Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal and his execution of them and sends a threatening letter to the prophet and seeks to assassinate him.
Elijah in turn, out of despair for his life, flees to the desert and prays to God against Israel but God responds by telling Elijah that He has set aside for Himself a remnant of believers who will not bow to Baal.
In Romans 11:4, Paul presents the Father’s response to Elijah’s complaint against Israel by citing 1 Kings 19:18, which records God telling him that He had set aside a remnant composed of seven thousand men in Israel that had not bowed the knee to Baal.
Romans 11:4 However, in direct contrast, what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for the benefit of Myself seven thousand men, who are indeed of such character and of a particular class of individuals that have never bowed a knee to Baal.” (My translation)
In Romans 11:4, Paul is not saying that there was a remnant of seven thousand in Israel in his day but rather, he is simply quoting from 1 Kings 19:18 to support his teaching that God has not rejected Israel altogether.
Paul is saying that just as in the days of Elijah when God had reserved for Himself a remnant of at least 7000 believers so in his day in the first century, God had reserved a remnant of believers in Israel, thus demonstrating that He had not rejected Israel altogether.
Then, in Romans 11:5, the apostle teaches that in the same way that God set aside a remnant for Himself in Elijah’s day so He had done so in Paul’s day in the mid first century according to His sovereign grace.
Romans 11:5 Therefore, in the same way also, there is in existence at this particular moment in history, a remnant in accordance with election by means of grace. (My translation)
“A remnant” is the noun leimma, which appears in Romans 9:27 which is related to the verb leipo, “to leave” and speaks of “that which is left, remnant.”
In Romans 9:27, Paul cites Isaiah 10:22 to teach that only a remnant of Jews throughout history will be saved.
Paul in Romans 11:6 argues with his readers that if you agree with me that God had set aside for Himself a remnant in Israel on the basis of grace, then it follows logically that this election of the remnant is never at any time on the basis of meritorious actions otherwise grace never at any time exists as grace.
Romans 11:6 For you see if and let us assume that it is true for the sake of argument that it is on the basis of grace. And we agree that it is true! Then, it is never at any time on the basis of meritorious actions as constituting its source, otherwise grace never at any time exists as grace. (My translation)
In Romans 11:7, we have the second paragraph in the chapter and in this verse, Paul poses a question that is the result of an inference from his teaching in Romans 9:6-11:6.
Romans 11:7 What shall we conclude then? That which Israel has in the past diligently sought after and continues to do so up to the present moment, this they never obtained. However, the elect obtained it but the rest were hardened. (My translation)
His statement in Romans 11:7 teaches that Israel never obtained the righteousness that they diligently sought after in the past and continued to do so up to the time he wrote this epistle.
He then says that in contrast with this group that sought after righteousness through obedience to the Law, the elect remnant obtained righteousness through faith in Christ and the majority were hardened by God for their unbelief.
Romans 11:7 teaches that the majority of Israelites sought after righteousness but never obtained it but the elect remnant did through faith but the majority of Israelites were hardened because of unbelief in Christ.
“Israel” refers to the unsaved citizens of the nation of Israel who are descendants racially of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whose name was changed by the Lord to Israel.
This is indicated in that Paul in Romans 11:7 speaks of Israel not obtaining the righteousness they were seeking, which echoes Paul’s statements in Romans 9:30-10:3.
The majority in Israel attempted to obtain righteousness by being justified through obedience to the Law rather than receive the gift divine righteousness through faith alone in Christ alone.
“The elect” is used by Paul in relation to the election of those racial, descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who exercised faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and help to compose “spiritual” Israel (Romans 9:6) and the remnant in that nation (Romans 9:27-29).
“Were hardened” is used in a figurative sense of the hearts of the majority of unsaved Israelites in Paul’s day, which were “hardened” in the sense that they were unwilling to accept the gospel message by exercising faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.
This is not the same verb that Paul used in Romans 9:18.
Nowhere in Scripture is God said to harden anyone who had not first harden themselves.
The greatest example in Scripture of this hardening is that of Pharaoh of Egypt who refused to obey the command of the Lord through Moses and Aaron to release the nation of Israel from her bondage in Egypt.
The Scriptures teach that God hardened Pharaoh (Exodus 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:8) and there were prophecies that God would do this to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21; 7:3), however, the Scriptures also teach that Pharaoh would harden himself (Exodus 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35).
God’s hardening of Pharaoh is the result of Pharaoh first hardening himself in the sense of rejecting over and again God’s command to release the nation of Israel from her bondage to him in Egypt.
God permitted Pharaoh to exercise his volition repeatedly to reject His command to release the nation of Israel from her bondage in Egypt.
Pharaoh was responsible for his evil actions in that God’s hardening was His response to Pharaoh’s hardening or in other words, it was in response to Pharaoh’s repeatedly rejecting His command to release the nation of Israel from her bondage in Egypt.
God used Pharaoh’s evil actions and negative volition to glorify Himself in the sense that through Pharaoh’s disobedience to His commands, God manifested His omnipotence in delivering Israel from her bondage to Pharaoh’s Egypt.
In Romans 11:8, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10 to support his contention that Israel was hardened because of unbelief.
Romans 11:8 As it stands written for all of eternity, “God the Father caused them to experience an insensitive attitude, eyes that never see as well as ears that never hear up to and during this very day and period of history.” (My translation)
In this passage, he teaches that as a result of their rejection of Christ, the Father caused unregenerate Israel to experience an insensitive attitude towards spiritual truth.
He then explains this by pointing out that unregenerate Israel did not have the capacity to receive and understand spiritual truth as a result of their rejection of Christ and he also teaches that this was continuing to take place up to and during the very day when Paul wrote this epistle.
Then, in Romans 11:9, the apostle quotes Psalm 69:22 as further support for his contention that Israel was hardened because of their rejection of Jesus Christ.
Romans 11:9 Also, David says, “May their table become as a snare and as a trap and as a bait stick of a trap and as a retribution against them.” (My translation)
 Leon Morris, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Epistle to the Romans, page 361; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K., 1996