Romans 9:12


King James Version (KJV)

It was said to her, The elder shall serve the younger.

American King James Version (AKJV)

It was said to her, The elder shall serve the younger.

American Standard Version (ASV)

it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

Basic English Translation (BBE)

It was said to her, The older will be the servant of the younger.

Webster's Revision

It was said to her, The elder shall serve the younger.

World English Bible

it was said to her, "The elder will serve the younger."

English Revised Version (ERV)

it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

Definitions for Romans 9:12

Elder - Older; greater in age.

Clarke's Romans 9:12 Bible Commentary

The elder shall serve the younger - These words, with those of Malachi, Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated, are cited by the apostle to prove, according to their typical signification, that the purpose of God, according to election, does and will stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; that is, that the purpose of God, which is the ground of that election which he makes among men, unto the honor of being Abraham's seed, might appear to remain unchangeable in him; and to be even the same which he had declared unto Abraham. That these words are used in a national and not in a personal sense, is evident from this: that, taken in the latter sense they are not true, for Jacob never did exercise any power over Esau, nor was Esau ever subject to him. Jacob, on the contrary, was rather subject to Esau, and was sorely afraid of him; and, first, by his messengers, and afterwards personally, acknowledged his brother to be his lord, and himself to be his servant; see Genesis 32:4; Genesis 33:8, Genesis 33:13. And hence it appears that neither Esau nor Jacob, nor even their posterities, are brought here by the apostle as instances of any personal reprobation from eternity: for, it is very certain that very many, if not the far greatest part, of Jacob's posterity were wicked, and rejected by God; and it is not less certain that some of Esau's posterity were partakers of the faith of their father Abraham.

From these premises the true sense of the words immediately following, Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated, Malachi 1:2, Malachi 1:3, fully appears; that is, that what he had already cited from Moses concerning the two nations, styled by the names of their respective heads, Jacob and Esau, was but the same in substance with what was spoken many years after by the Prophet Malachi. The unthankful Jews had, in Malachi's time, either in words or in their heart, expostulated with God, and demanded of him wherein he had loved them? I have loved you, saith the Lord: yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Malachi 1:2-5. To this the Lord answers: Was not Esau Jacob's brother? Yet I loved Jacob and hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever. And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel.

1. It incontestably appears from these passages that the prophet does not speak at all of the person of Jacob or Esau, but of their respective posterities. For it was not Esau in person that said, We are impoverished; neither were his mountains nor heritage laid waste. Now, if the prophet speaks neither of the person of the one nor of the person of the other, but of their posterity only, then it is evident that the apostle speaks of them in the same way.

2. If neither the prophet nor the apostle speaks of the persons of Jacob or Esau, but of their posterity, then it is evident that neither the love of God to Jacob, nor the hatred of God to Esau, were such, according to which the eternal states of men, either in happiness or misery, are to be determined; nor is there here any Scriptural or rational ground for the decree of unconditional personal election and reprobation, which, comparatively, modern times have endeavored to build on these scriptures. For,

1. It is here proved that Esau is not mentioned under any personal consideration, but only as the head of his posterity.

2. The testimony of Scripture amply proves that all Esau's posterity were not, even in this sense, reprobated; nor all Jacob's posterity elected.

3. Neither does that service, or subjugation to Jacob, which the Divine oracle imposed on Esau, import any such reprobation as some contend for; as the servant may be elected, while the master himself is in a state of reprobation.

4. Were it even granted that servitude did import such a reprobation, yet it is certain that Esau, in person, never did serve Jacob.

5. Nor does the hatred of God against Esau import any such reprobation of the person of Esau, because it is demonstrable that it related, not to Esau personally, but to his posterity.

6. The scope of the apostle's reasoning is to show that God is the sovereign of his own ways, has a right to dispense his blessings as he chooses, and to give salvation to mankind, not in the ways of their devising, but in that way that is most suitable to his infinite wisdom and goodness.


1. He chose the Jewish people from all others, and revealed himself to them. Thus they were the elect, and all the nations of mankind reprobate.

2. When the fullness of the time came he revealed himself also to the Gentiles, who gladly received the Gospel: and the Jews rejecting it, were cast off. Thus the elect became reprobate, and the reprobate, elect.

3. He published to all mankind that the pardon of sin could and should be obtained Only by faith in his Son Jesus, and not by any obedience to any law. And the Jews, the descendants of Jacob, who rejected this way of salvation, became precisely like the Edomites, the descendants of Esau; they builded, but God pulled down; their mountains and heritage are Now laid waste for the dragons of the wilderness; and they properly may now be called the border of wickedness, a people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever: they have rejected the Lord that bought them, and so have brought upon themselves swift destruction.


Barnes's Romans 9:12 Bible Commentary

It was said unto her - By Yahweh; see Genesis 25:23.

The elder - The oldest son, which was Esau. By the law of primogeniture among the Hebrews, he would have been entitled to special honors and privileges. But it was said that in his case this custom should be reversed, and that he should take the rank of the younger.

Should serve - Shall be subject to; shall not have the authority and priority, but should be inferior to. The passage in Genesis Gen 25:23 shows that this had reference particularly to the posterity of Esau, and not to him as an individual. The sense is, that the descendants of Esau, who were Edomites, should be inferior to, and subject to the descendants of Jacob. Jacob was to have the priority; the promised land; the promises; and the honor of being regarded as the chosen of God. There was reference here, therefore, to the whole train of temporal and spiritual blessings which were to be connected with the two races of people. If it be asked how this bears on the argument of the apostle, we may reply,

(1) That it settles "the principle" that God might make a distinction among people, in the same nation, and the same family, without reference to their works or character.

(2) that he might confer his blessings on such as he pleased.

(3) if this is done in regard to nations, it may be in regard to individuals. The principle is the same, and the justice the same. If it be supposed to be unjust in God to make such a distinction in regard to individuals, it is surely not less so to make a distinction in nations. The fact that numbers are thus favored, does not make it the more proper, or remove any difficulty.

(4) if this distinction may be made in regard to temporal things, why not in regard to spiritual things? The principle must still be the same. If unjust in one case, it would be in the other. The fact that it is done in one case proves also that it will be in the other; for the same great principle will run through all the dealings of the divine government. And as people do not and cannot complain that God makes a distinction among them in regard to talents, health, beauty, prosperity, and rank, neither can they complain if he acts also as a sovereign in the distribution of his spiritual favors. They, therefore, who regard this as referring only to temporal and national privileges, gain no relief in respect to the real difficulty in the case, for the unanswerable question would still be asked, why has not God made all people equal in everything? Why has he made any distinction among people? The only reply to all such inquiries is, "Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight;" Matthew 11:26.

Wesley's Romans 9:12 Bible Commentary

9:12 The elder - Esau. Shall serve the younger - Not in person, for he never did; but in his posterity. Accordingly the Edomites were often brought into subjection by the Israelites. Gen 25:23.

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