Romans 9:4

"They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises." ESV. My emphasis.

Romans 9:8

"This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring."

  1. Re: Romans 9:8. Are "the adoption" not only "the children of the flesh" but also "the children of the promise?

Exodus 4:22

"Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son."

  1. If "the adoption" are the same as "the firstborn" as per Exodus 4:22, what does "the adoption" term teach us about this group?

Matthew Poole's comment on Romans 9:4 includes,

"we must understand the peculiar privilege of the seed of Jacob..".

  1. Can we say if the adoption starts with either Abraham, Isaac or Jacob? At what point does the adoption start?
  • 5
    The word 'adoption' is not in the Greek text. The word huiothesia means 'place of sons' or, I would strongly suggest 'sonship'. 'Now are we the sons of God' : means exactly what it says. (Not 'adoptees'.) Up-voted +1 - a very good question.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 11, 2022 at 20:02

4 Answers 4


For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. - Romans 8:19-23

In it's fullest sense "the adoption" refers to the entire process which begins, in our experience, with the new birth and goes through sanctification of the spirit unto obedience and finally culminates with the resurrection of our bodies.

This "adoption" belongs to the Israelites (Rom. 9:4) because God chose them to safeguard His Word and to bring forth the Christ but it is also not of the flesh but of promise, as Abraham has shown.

The whole creation, including both Jew and Gentile as well as we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

It is, therefore, proper to understand Romans 9:4 as saying, "To whom belongs the resurrection from the dead...". It belongs to the Jews but they stumbled at the stumbling stone of attaining through faith rather than the works of the law:

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. - Romans 9:30-33


The pertinent word in Rom 9:4 translated "adoption" is υἱοθεσία and occurs only in five places in the NT, Rom 8:15, 23, 9:4, Gal 4:5, Eph 1:5. According to BDAH it means:

adoption, a legal technical term of 'adoption' of children, in our literature, ie, Paul, only in a transferred sense of transcendent filial relationship between God and humans (with the legal aspect, not gender specificity, as major semantic component)

  • (a) of the acceptance of the nation of Israel as sons of God (cp Ex 4:22, Isa 1:2 al., where, however, the word υἱοθεσία is lacking; it is found nowhere in the LXX) Rom 9:4
  • (b) of those who believe in Christ and are accepted by God as God's children, eg, Gal 4:5, Eph 1:5, Rom 8:15, 23 ...

The NT metaphor of adoption is used in some places as a proxy for the privileges of the covenant - a figure taken directly from the OT. That is, by being adopted in the sonship/family of God through Jesus Christ, we gain promises than cannot be alienated. See appendix below.

The metaphor of adoption is further extended in Rom 11 to that of being grafted into the "olive tree" of Israel. Paul sums up his views in Rom 9:8 -

So it is not the children of the flesh who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as offspring.

That is, Christians, followers of Christ are "Children of faith" as Paul states in Gal 3:26-29 by linking adoption with the covenant -

26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

John also alludes to his spiritual adoption in the great preface to his gospel:

John 1:12, 13 - But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God.

Thus, Gal 4:5 speaks of God's adoption of Israel as the chosen people and extends this same idea to the new covenant by saying that converted Christians are adopted as sons of God.

1 John 3:1 - Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.

1 John 5:2 - By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

APPENDIX - Adoption

The idea of sinners being adopted as Sons of God occurs infrequently in the NT and only by Paul (Rom 8:15, 23, 9:4, Gal 4:5, Eph 1:5). However, Jesus appears to unmistakably allude to adoption in John 3:1-8 and 1:12, 13 where we are able to become children of God; Rom 1:7, 2 Cor 1:2, Eph 1:2, 5, Gal 1:3, 4:5, Phil 1:2, 4:20, Col 1:2, 1 Thess 3:11, 2 Thess 1:1, 2, 2:16, 1 Tim 1:2, etc. This is in contradistinction to the Jewish leaders whom Jesus accused of having the Devil as their father, John 8:44.

Thus, adoption is spoken of in the present and future tenses:

  • Adoption in our current life is a metaphor of the reception of the spirit, “the spirit of adoption” (Rom 8:15) signifying a complete change of attitude and way of life which frees us from the constraints of the law, slavery to sin and fear of spiritual poverty, with the added bonus of the promise of future glory in heaven. This process is technically (theologically) called “conversion”, which see.
  • Adoption in the future life (Rom 8:23) is used as a metaphor of glorification when the saints are translated to heaven.

Adoption is used as a figure of the privileges of sinners under the protection of God in the Christian life, but Gal 4:5 links the idea to redemption and hence to atonement. Thus, it is more a symbol of the change of life from sinner and assurance of heaven (that is conversion) than of only atonement. The latter (psychologically) creates the former. That is, a person of royalty is free from fear of slavery and poverty, but must be generous to those in need.

Indeed, God is frequently spoken of as the “Father” of the Israelites throughout the OT, Deut 32:6, Ps 89:26, Isa 63:8-10, 16, 64:8, Mal 1:6. In the NT writers frequently refer to God as “the Father”, Gal 1:1, Eph 1:3, 5:20, 6:23, Phil 2:11, 1 Thess 1:1, 1 Cor 15:25, 2 Cor 1:3, 11:31, James 1:27, 1 Peter 1:2, 3, 2 Peter 1:17, 2 John 3, etc; or “My Father”, Matt 11:27, 12:50, 18:35, 20:23, 26:53, Luke 10:22, 15:58, John 5:17, 8:19, 54, 10:17, 18, 29, 14:21, 23, 15:18, etc. The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father”, Matt 6:9, see also Gal 1:4, 1 Thess 3:11, 2 Thess 2:16, Titus 1:4, Col 1:3, Phil 1:2, 4:20, etc.

The metaphor of adoption is used as a proxy for the promises of the covenant in Rom 9:4, Eph 1:5, Gal 3:26-29, 4:5; this is apt as the covenant and adoption grant great privileges.

The metaphor of adoption is extended by the New Testament’s repeated idea of Christ being our brother (Heb 2:11-13, 17, Ps 22:22, Isa 8:17, 18, Matt 12:48, 49, John 20:17, Rom 8:29) following adoption.


Romans 9:3-4

"For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises". ESV . My emphasis.

Helps word-studies: "hyiothesia"-hyios/son, tithemi/to place.

Romans 9:8 has "children by physical descent" and "children of the promise". There are two sorts of children for Abraham, and in Thayer there are two sorts of "adoption".


A. "that relationship which God was pleased to establish between himself and the Israelites in preference to all other nations Ro 9:4.

B. "...the true disciples of Christ, receiving the Spirit of God...". Ro 8:15; Gal4:5; Eph 1:5.

In Ro 9:3-4 the adoption belongs to a physical nation. They are Paul's kinsmen according to the flesh. They are descended from "one who will come from your own body shall be your heir". Gen 15:4.

In Ro 9:3-4 "adoption" is firstly adoption into the foreshadowing that takes place in the flesh. Later on it will be those who live by faith.

Exodus 13:21 The Israelites saw in the flesh "by day a pillar of cloud to lead the way and by night in a pillar of fire". A foreshadowing of John 16:13 "He will guide you into all truth".

In Exodus 16:32 "the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness" was physical bread to sustain their flesh as a foreshadowing of John 6:35 and Jesus saying "I am the bread of life".

Ro 9:4 "the law". Moses received two tablets of stone "written by the finger of God". Exodus 31:18. The law was given to Israel and not some other nation.

Adoption of the flesh did not bring about that which it was foreshadowing. It foreshadowed but it was not that which it foreshadowed.

"Bible Project"

"Just like God spares Isaac, God spares humanity because he takes the cross upon himself".

I think that in Ro 9:4 adoption means God putting upon Israel foreshadowings which they experience in the flesh of their nationhood. These will at another and different adoption Ro 8:15, become spiritual realities with Christ and the church.


Adoption is the process by which a person who does not belong naturally to a family is formally brought into it and made a full legal family member with the social, emotional, and legal rights and responsibilities of a family member. The apostle Paul used the term to illustrate the truth that believers have been given the status of “sonship” in the Heavenly family. We have a privilege that is not so with Israel. That's right, we can call God, our “Father.”

  • Romans 8:15 "you have received the Spirit of adoption". Here "you" refers to Christians living after Pentecost. But Romans 9:4 is about the O.T. nation of Israel. Does adoption mean the same in both cases?
    – C. Stroud
    Nov 11, 2022 at 18:40

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