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Romans 9:11

ESV though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—
NIV Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand:
NASB for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,
CSB For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to election might stand --
NLT But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes;
KJV (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

What does Romans 9:11 mean?

Paul is building an argument that not everyone born into Israel is truly a child of the promises of God. He is using illustrations from the very beginning of Israel's history to make his case. His first example was that only one of Abraham's children, born to one woman and not the others, was included in the line of promises from God.

Now he takes his argument up a notch by pointing to the twins born to Isaac and Rebekah. Before they were even born, God made a choice about the two boys to serve His own purpose of election. That is, God elected one of the two, through which His line of promise to His chosen people would continue.

Paul wants us to understand that God's choice was not based on behavior, good or bad, since the boys were still unborn. He repeats that it was not because of their works. Clearly, God's choice was not because one was born to one woman and not another. And as the following verse will show, God did not make the choice based on their birth order.

Paul used the word elect in the previous chapter (Romans 8:33) to refer to all of us in Christ chosen by God to be included in His family through faith in Christ. Now he uses the word election to describe God's action in choosing one son of Isaac over another to include in His covenant promises.
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