Isaiah 29:16

Hebrew Bible

14 Therefore I will again do an amazing thing for these people—an absolutely extraordinary deed. Wise men will have nothing to say, the sages will have no explanations.” 15 Those who try to hide their plans from the Lord are as good as dead, who do their work in secret and boast, “Who sees us? Who knows what we’re doing?” 16 Your thinking is perverse! Should the potter be regarded as clay? Should the thing made say about its maker, “He didn’t make me”? Or should the pottery say about the potter, “He doesn’t understand”? 17 In just a very short time Lebanon will turn into an orchard, and the orchard will be considered a forest. 18 At that time the deaf will be able to hear words read from a scroll, and the eyes of the blind will be able to see through deep darkness.

Romans 9:20

New Testament

18 So then, God has mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy, and he hardens whom he chooses to harden. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who has ever resisted his will?” 20 But who indeed are you—a mere human being—to talk back to God? Does what is molded say to the molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use? 22 But what if God, willing to demonstrate his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath prepared for destruction?

 Notes and References

"... The question therefore fits well in the context of the historical argument to this point in Romans 9, and Paul responds by “drawing on a traditional metaphor for God’s relationship to creation, and, more specifically, to his people Israel.” Specifically, through this metaphor, Paul argues that Israel has in fact resisted God, but despite Israel’s past disobedience, God is accomplishing his redemptive purposes through and for Israel by unexpected means. In this respect, Paul’s application of the metaphor is again consistent with the potter/clay passages in the prophets, particularly those of Isaiah. J. Ross Wagner points out that the potter passages in Isaiah 29:16/45:9 (particularly the latter) are in the context of restoration promises, continuing: 'Both of these Isaianic passages set the clay’s challenge to the potter in the context of Israel’s confrontation with God over his chosen means of redemption. Israel is portrayed as blind and deaf, doubting God’s wisdom and resisting his appointed means of redemption, either by relying on their own schemes for salvation or by questioning God’s plan of deliverance.' Significantly, the clay is not portrayed as passive in these passages but rather as challenging its maker, serving as a satirical image for Israel’s rebellion and accusations against YHWH. In this context, as with Jeremiah, the potter/clay images in Isaiah do not suggest that YHWH works irresistibly—the very rebellion that has prompted these oracles demonstrates Israel’s capacity to resist. Instead, these passages rebuke the stubbornness of the people, who should submit to their creator rather than resisting him ..."

Staples, Jason A. Vessels of Wrath and God’s Pathos: Potter/Clay Imagery in Rom 9:20–23 (pp. 1-22) Harvard Theological Review, 2022

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