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The Development and Significance of the Remnant in the Old Testament Prophets

By Lionel Windsor (2003)


There are two concerns fundamental to the prophetic writings. The first is the relationship between the judgment and blessing by God of his covenant people. The second is the meaning of ‘the people of God’. The idea of ‘remnant’ is a key to the exploration and transformation of these ideas in the prophets. This essay takes a synchronic approach to both the Former and the Latter Prophets. It investigates the OT texts in their present form, but aims to be sensitive to the explicit historical character of those texts and the historical framework in which ‘remnant’ is developed in the texts. ‘Remnant’ is a dynamic concept, defined as ‘what is left of a community after it undergoes a catastrophe’ at various stages in Israel’s history.

Remnant has origins in the Deuteronomic covenant, which promises both judgment for disobedience and blessing of the elect people of God. In the Former Prophets, the Elijah-Elisha narrative shows a transformation from national to faithful Israel by means of the ‘remnant’ idea. The pre-exilic writing prophets Isaiah, Micah and Zephaniah trace the transformation of ‘remnant’ from historical to faithful to eschatological through the Syro-Ephraimite, Assyrian and Babylonian crises. The exilic prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel show a stark dichotomy between national Israel (who is left behind and judged) and the exiles, who form a basis for an eschatological remnant. In the post-exilic period, there is a demarcation between the post-exilic community and a future remnant which will survive the coming, eschatological judgment.

In all of this, as God both saves and judges, the meaning of God’s covenant people is transformed from ‘national Israel’ to a faithful group which even includes other nations.


A fundamental concern of Israel’s prophets is the relationship between God and his people. God establishes this relationship in the form of a covenant. Because Israel is God’s elect people, they will be blessed. Yet when they sin, they will be judged. The prophets explore the tension which inevitably arises in Israel’s history between blessing and judgment, and in doing so describe the transformation in the meaning of ‘the people of God’. The key to this transformation is the idea of ‘remnant’.


There has been a variety of approaches to the task of tracing the remnant idea in the OT.1 Diachronic, ‘historical’ approaches attempt to reconstruct the history of Israel’s religious thought by dissecting the OT books and assigning the origin of each section (with its associated concepts) to a particular historical period. Due to the popularity of these approaches, the degrees of antiquity of certain passages, once ‘established’, are widely accepted in the literature as a basis for making conclusions, often unchallenged and frequently not footnoted.2 Taken to the extreme, this has led to the presentation of the remnant idea as little more than a set of varying responses to the accidents of Israel’s history.3 Yet, positively, historical approaches take seriously the OT’s original setting.

Nevertheless, diachronic approaches have a serious disadvantage when they are used to trace the development of an OT idea. Since the evidence for the degree of antiquity of each passage must be found within the text, the historical critic must begin with a theory about how ideas develop (e.g. from simple to complex, or from historical to eschatological). However, the way in which an idea develops is the very object of study in this case; so the premises largely determine the conclusions. For example, one author assigns eschatological remnant thought to the post-exilic period on the basis of post-exilic ‘supplements’ to pre-exilic books, when it appears that their very eschatological flavour is the criterion by which these verses have been labelled ‘supplements’.4

Synchronic approaches to the OT seek to examine the ‘final form’ of the OT books. Childs’ ‘canonical criticism’, which involves reading the OT with regard to the context in which the canon was formed rather than the posited original source’s context, has been influential.5 This ‘final form’ criticism informs Noble’s investigation of ‘remnant’ in Amos6 and Cuffey’s approach to Micah.7 This approach has the advantage of an objective starting point for thematic development, i.e. ‘the text as we have it’.

However, synchronic approaches must not be allowed obscure the historicity of the texts. Most of the Former and Latter Prophets explicitly bind themselves to Israel’s history (e.g. Josh 1:1, Judg 1:1, 1 Sam 1:1, Amos 1:1, Isa 1:1, Mic 1:1, Zeph 1:1, Jer 1:2–3, Ezek 1:1–2; Hag 1:1, 1:15, 2:1, 2:10). Furthermore, many books span large swathes of Israel’s history. For example, Isaiah’s vision spans from Uzziah’s reign to the Eschaton. Isaiah may have been fully compiled before the exile,8 and it was obviously relevant in the canon’s formation. Nevertheless, it must be understood in the context of the expanse of history in which it presents itself.

Therefore this essay will approach the prophets as coherent texts within the broad framework of Israel’s history as presented in those texts. It will attempt to trace the development and significance of the idea of ‘remnant’ in this historical framework, treating each prophetic book in turn as appropriate for the time period it spans. It will examine those books designated both ‘Former’ and ‘Latter’ Prophets in the Hebrew canon (Joshua–Kings and the ‘writing’ prophets).


Whilst ‘remnant’ is related to particular terminology, it is not inextricably bound to this terminology. The Hebrew roots which carry the (verbal and nominal) idea of ‘remnant’, are: shin-aleph-resh (remain, remnant),9 yod-taw-resh (remain, remnant),10 mem-lamed-tet/pe-lamed-tet (escape, deliverance, fugitive),11 sin-resh-yod-dalet (survivor),12 aleph-chet-resh-yod-taw (after-part, end).13 However, the idea is both broader and narrower than this terminology. It is broader because these concepts (and their negations) can appear without the terminology (e.g. Zeph 1:2–3)14. It is narrower, because even when the words appear there is no guarantee that they are referring to something ‘left over’ (e.g. Ezek 48:23). However, there is sufficient overlap between concept and terminology to make word studies worthwhile. Heaton contends that, since shin-aleph-resh is not used consistently by the prophets, we cannot speak of a prophetic ‘doctrine’ of the remnant.15 This is anachronistic, presupposing that the existence of a ‘doctrine’ is accompanied by fixed, well-defined vocabulary in the style of modern systematic theologies.16

The remnant idea develops throughout the prophets, even within prophetic books. In Isaiah, for example, ‘remnant is not a static concept with a single stable semantic content’.17 Hence static definitions are inadequate. We may define remnant as, ‘What is left of a community after it undergoes a catastrophe’18, provided we understand the changing nature of the ‘community’ and the ‘catastrophe’ at various stages of Israel’s history. Hasel, whose work on ‘remnant’ from Genesis to first Isaiah is comprehensive and foundational,19 elsewhere delineates three broad categories of remnant: the historical remnant (survivors of a catastrophe), the faithful remnant (distinguished by a genuine trust in God) and the eschatological remnant (purified and saved through the final end-time judgment).20 Each category, in turn, contains its own internal nuances, which we shall presently explore. Remnant may be negative, denoting the scarcity of survivors, or positive, being the basis for hope.21 As we shall see, there is dispute over the priority of the positive and negative aspects of the remnant in particular contexts.

Origins: history and covenant

The existence of the remnant idea can be found in a wide variety of Ancient Near Eastern literature which predates the OT. Hasel posits that a universal theme is humanity’s existential concern with life and death.22 Some of the earliest OT appearances in Genesis also exhibit an existential concern (e.g. Noah, Abraham/Lot, Jacob/Esau, Joseph) but place the remnant idea within the framework of salvation history.23

It is the book of Deuteronomy, however, which provides the bulk of the conceptual basis of the prophetic ‘remnant’ idea. This is not surprising given that several decades of scholarship have shown the importance of Deuteronomy’s influence on the prophetic writings.24 Deuteronomy presents Israel, poised to enter the promised land, being addressed by Moses. This group is itself a kind of ‘remnant’. Those with whom the Sinai covenant was originally made have now been destroyed for their unbelieving apostasy and this is the next generation who survived, along with the faithful Caleb and Joshua (1:35–39).25 Yet Moses emphatically applies the Sinai covenant to the new generation and their descendants (5:2ff, 29:14–15). The conditional nature of the covenant is clear: obedience to the stipulations will lead to blessing by Yahweh, while disobedience will lead to judgment by Yahweh, including deportation (4:25–28, ch. 28). Yet, despite this terrible judgment, there is hope for those who call upon Yahweh, because Israel is his elect, treasured nation and he will display faithfulness (chesed) to those who obey him (7:6–10). He will not forget the covenant he made with Israel’s fathers (4:29–31). Deuteronomy envisages restoration from the deportation (ch. 30).

This gives rise to two immensely significant questions: Firstly, how can God honour his covenant both to bless his elect people and to judge his rebellious people? Secondly, who are the ‘people of God’, the ‘Israel’ to whom this covenant applies? The prophetic answer to these covenant-related questions is inextricably bound to the idea of ‘remnant’. This essay will argue that, in the prophets, ‘remnant’ is the vehicle by which God faithfully keeps his covenant (in blessing and judgment) and, in so doing, determines the nature of Israel, the people of God.

Remnant in the Former Prophets

The remnant idea appears in a variety of contexts in the former prophets. In Joshua, the terminology is used negatively of the nations Israel invaded: none remained from their military campaigns (8:22, 10:28, 10:30, 10:33, 10:37, 10:39, 10:40, 11:8, 11:11, 11:14, 11:22); but those who did became a snare to Israel (Ch. 23). By contrast, Judges 21 shows the survival of a remnant for Benjamin after the civil war despite the anarchy in the confederacy. Samuel presents David as a fugitive from Saul (1 Sam 25:22) who is prevented from destroying the remnant of his Israelite enemies (1 Sam 25:34, 2 Sam 9:1, 2 Sam 14:7). In all these instances, God’s gracious preservation of his covenant people as a whole is on view.26

The books of Kings present a new development. The political order of the Northern Kingdom is apostate. Two purges of Israelite dynasties occur without leaving a remnant (1 Kgs 15:29, 16:11), which is interpreted as God’s judgment (15:30, 16:13). When the powerful Omride dynasty also turns after Baal, the prophet Elijah confronts it and wins a victory for Yahweh (1 Kgs 18). Yet Elijah has a problem. The nation, he complains, has forsaken the covenant, and he is the only one left (19:10). How can God possibly achieve his purposes when the nation has utterly forsaken him? God’s response (19:11–13), highlighted by the rich Mosaic typology in these chapters, effectively points Elijah back to the Sinai covenant as his basis for hope.27 Elijah himself will constitute a ‘faithful remnant’ along with 7,000 others, and will be the means by which God both judges and restores Israel.28 Elijah is to anoint a new political and prophetic order which will destroy the old. There will be no remnant for the Omrides (19:17–18).

The Elisha narrative demonstrates the implications of the reconstitution of Yahweh’s covenant people on the basis of a faithful remnant. Elisha and those who believe his word are repeatedly shown to be the heirs of the covenant over and against the political order. Elisha’s miracles recall Israel’s wilderness experience, e.g. a new Exodus (2 Kgs 2:14), the miraculous feedings (2 Kgs 4, 7), power over water (2 Kgs 6:1–7) and the revelation of God’s hosts fighting for the nation (2 Kgs 6:8ff). Even the young girl who trusts in Elisha’s powerful word, thus initiating healing and blessing for a foreigner, may be seen as a ‘one person remnant’, in contrast to the completely ineffective king (2 Kgs 5:1–14).29 Jehu eventually destroys the Omrides utterly (2 Kgs 9–10).

Hasel summarises: ‘A religio-cultural threat leaves a remnant after a past catastrophe and climaxes in the survival of a remnant in the future judgment that has characteristics qualifying it to become the nucleus of a new Israel faithful to Yahweh.’30 That is, the catastrophe is religious before it is physical and the remnant is not from the political order but ‘a remnant loyal to Yahwistic covenant faith’.31 This provides a basis for hope in the light on the total destruction of all successive ‘remnants’ of Israel’s political order (2 Kgs 17:18, chs. 19–20, 21:14, 24:14, 25:11–12, 25:26).

Remnant in the pre-exilic prophets

Through Amos, Yahweh promises judgment to a nation that has forsaken his covenant stipulations of justice and pure worship (3:10–15). Refuting the popular ‘remnant’ notion which made the nation feel secure, Amos invests the ‘remnant’ idea with connotations of hopelessness and despair.32 If any remnant survives, it will be insignificant (3:12, 4:2, 5:19, 6:9). Yet there appears to be a possibility of hope for this remnant, should they repent (5:15). The themes of total destruction and hope for a remnant coexist even more starkly later in the book (9:8–15). Noble, using canonical-critical methods, points to this ‘prophetic paradox’ and theorises about its importance for the post-exilic community but cannot see its relevance for Amos himself.33 Hasel, however, points out that this tension can be resolved if we see the remnant as a fundamentally eschatological entity, different to the nation.34 Yahweh will irrevocably judge national Israel, but he will bless the faithful remnant, the new Israel, continuous with yet distinct from the nation.

‘Remnant’ is fundamental to the structure and themes of Isaiah. Webb demonstrates how the whole of Isaiah 1–66 is concerned with the transformation of Zion, and ‘the emergence and eventual perfection of a faithful remnant is the key to the transformation of Zion’.35 ‘Remnant’ therefore takes on a number of meanings as a vehicle to transform the people of God: the historical remnant; the faithful remnant; the eschatological remnant. Following the Syro-Ephraimite declaration of war on Judah, the nation is exhorted to trust Yahweh rather than Assyria. Yet only a small group, which includes Isaiah, his children and disciples, does so (8:16). The name of Isaiah’s son (7:3) is instructive: sh’ar yashub, because of the priority of the noun, literally means ‘it is [only] a remnant that shall return/repent’.36,37 This ‘faithful remnant’, formed around the prophet and trusting God’s word, is significant.38 However, it should be remembered that it is simply a ‘sign’ of God’s redemptive activity, not the direct object of it.39

After Assyria destroys the northern kingdom, a similar judgment is pronounced against Judah, from which will emerge ‘chastened survivors who lean on Yahweh rather than Assyria’ (10:11).40 Following Webb’s analysis, we see that this is fulfilled in two increasingly significant ways. Firstly, the Assyrian invasion of Judah in Hezekiah’s day is thwarted—a chastened historical remnant survives in Jerusalem (37:31ff). However, there is worse to come. Chapters 38–39 record the events leading up to the Babylonian captivity. There will be nothing left (lo-yiwwater) in the storehouses of Jerusalem (39:6–7). The scene is set to look for a remnant beyond the Babylonian exile, and hence beyond the existing structures of national Israel.

In the second half of Isaiah, the exiles are identified as the remnant (46:3). Having been refined and chastened, these exiles will return to Zion (51:11) as a restored community. However, in chapters 56–66, the remnant idea is pushed even further. The returned remnant is distanced from an eschatological remnant by an intervening final judgment (chs. 56 and 57).41 This final judgment will be an ultimate fulfilment of God’s covenant: those who trust him will be blessed; those who reject him will be judged. God’s people will simply be defined in terms of trust (and conversely, rejection) of Yahweh, regardless of nationality (66:16–21). In the meantime, the returned remnant will be Yahweh’s servant who, having suffered, is ready for his purposes, equipped for universal missionary activity (49:1–3, 53:2, 66:18–19).42

Micah presents a similar development of the remnant idea. Cuffey’s analysis of the structure of Micah demonstrates that it is comprised of four sections of judgment, each followed by a promise for a remnant which emerges from that doom.43 Investigating this structure in more detail, we see that the nature and purpose of the remnant is refined in each successive section. In chapters 1–2 we read of the destruction of Israel/Samaria and the almost complete annihilation of Judah/Jerusalem in the Assyrian crisis. Interestingly, the ‘remnant of Israel’ which emerges (i.e. Jerusalem) is identified with ‘all of Jacob’ (2:12). The second section (3:1–4:8) moves beyond the Assyrian crisis. Jacob/Israel is now situated in Zion/Jerusalem, and is thus the remnant of the previous section (3:9–10). However, it will be judged for its own injustice (3:11–12). The ‘remnant’ which emerges from this judgment is, in fact, those who were taken into exile, the afflicted ones (4:6–7). This remnant, with its king, will be a source of blessing for the nations around about (4:1–5). It is eschatological (4:1). In the third section (4:9–5:14) the same remnant appears to be in view, but the remnant’s task is retribution for God’s enemies (e.g. 5:15).44 In the final section (chs. 6–7) the ‘faithful remnant’ is in view. The prophet himself, who waits for God’s forgiveness and salvation in the midst of the judgment of his people (7:7) is a member of the remnant, whom God forgives (7:18). To those who love God’s chesed (6:8), God will display chesed—i.e. faithfulness to his ‘inheritance’ (7:18, 7:20). It is specifically linked to covenant in 7:20: God will show chesed to his promise to Abraham and the fathers of Israel.

Zephaniah, like Amos, exhibits a ‘prophetic paradox’ as he addresses Judah during Josiah’s reign.45 There will be total destruction with no survivors (1:2–3, 1:18, 3:8), but also the possibility (2:1–3), even certainty (2:7, 3:12), of the salvation of a remnant. The remnant is an existing faithful core of the nation which will survive the coming calamity on Judah. Those who will survive the coming calamity are specifically identified as those disadvantaged by the present unjust political system, whose only hope is in Yahweh.46 Again, the ideas of faithful and eschatological remnant are in view.47 The remnant is the basis for hope for the covenant nation; the new, genuine people of Yahweh through whom he intends to accomplish his covenant purposes.48

Remnant in the exilic prophets

The exile marks a crisis for the idea of remnant. Although anticipated by the pre-exilic prophets, the distinction between national Israel and the faithful core which goes into exile becomes acute at this time. There is an entirely negative ‘remnant’: those who stay behind after the exile (e.g. Jeremiah 21:7, 24:8, 38:4, 38:22, Ch. 40, 42:15&17, 44:7, 44:12). There is also a positive remnant invested with future hope: the exiles who will return (e.g. Jer 23:3, 29:1, 31:7). Eschatologically, God will punish Babylon and restore Israel—and the ‘remnant’ of Israel will be pardoned (Jer 50:18–20). Remnant becomes, even more prominently, the vehicle for establishing the new covenant of a forgiven, faithful community from the old covenant with national Israel (31:31–34).49

For Ezekiel, both of these ‘remnant’ ideas exist as proof of Yahweh’s faithfulness. The remnant left in the land is totally destroyed to prove Yahweh’s faithfulness to his threat of judgment: the refrain ‘X will know that I am Yahweh’ occurs in almost all of these contexts (5:10–13, 6:10–14, 7:16 & 27, 9:8–9, 17:21). The ungodly character of the exiled remnant also vindicates Yahweh, the faithful judge (6:8–10, 12:16, 14:21–23, 24:26–27, 33:21–22 & 27–29). However, at significant points in the book, God promises that he will not destroy the remnant but will restore them with a heart of flesh. This occurs at 11:13–25 (the end of a vision sequence) and 39:28 where, just before the vision of the restored temple, the remnant’s restoration is proof that ‘I am Yahweh their God’!

Remnant in the post-exilic prophets

Some claim that for Haggai and his postexilic contemporaries, the ‘remnant’ consists of those faithful members of the restored community.50,51 However, another alternative is more in keeping with Isaiah’s distinction between the returned and the eschatological remnants. Heaton helpfully points out that sh’eriyt is more likely to refer to ‘the people as opposed to the leaders’ and has no theological significance ( 1:12, 1:14, 2:2, cf 2 Ch 9:29).52 However, in 2:3, Haggai appeals to another remnant—those taken into exile who have not yet died (hannish’ar) and who remember the temple in its former glory. The admission by the ‘remnant’ that the present temple is disappointing becomes the stepping stone towards the expectation of future glory and the eschatological fulfilment of covenant promises (2:4–5ff).

Zechariah’s and Malachi’s uses of remnant are more explicitly eschatological. In Zechariah, Yahweh will deal with a future remnant differently to the way he dealt with Israel in former times. Cursing and judgment will give way to blessing (8:11–13). Even the Philistines can join this remnant (9:7).53 The remnant is that which survives the eschatological battle against the nations (ch. 14).54 In Malachi, the remnant is identified, not with those who survived the exile, but with those who are faithful in the postexilic community and will thus survive the coming wrath (3:16–18). In this way, God is shown to be faithful to those whose hearts are turned to the fathers’ covenant (4:6).

Conclusion: remnant and covenant

The development in the idea of ‘remnant’ in the prophets is thus a vehicle to develop the ‘covenant’ concept. It shows how Yahweh can be truly Yahweh who is both a just judge, totally destroying his disobedient people, and a faithful saviour, blessing his elect people. The definition of ‘God’s people’ is transformed from national Israel to those who trust and obey Yahweh, including members of the surrounding nations. God’s people are chosen by him and useful for his purposes.55 The historical circumstances of Israel become the vehicle for expressing the prophetic, eschatological hope that a holy remnant will be created by God beyond the post-exilic period.


  • Ashby, Godfrey. ‘The Chosen People: Isaiah 40–55’. Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 64 (1988): 34–38.
  • Brueggemann, Walter. ‘A Brief Moment for a One-Person Remnant (2 Kings 5:2–3)’. Biblical Theology Bulletin 31/2 (2001): 53–59.
  • Campbell, J. C. ‘God’s People and the Remnant’. Scottish Journal of Theology 3 (1950): 78–85.
  • Childs, Brevard S. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. London: SCM, 1979.
  • Cuffey, Kenneth H. ‘Remnant, Redactor, and Biblical Theologian: A Comparative Study of Coherence in Micah and the Twelve’. Pages 185–208 in Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve. Edited by James D. Nogalski & Marvin A. Sweeney. Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series. Atlanta: SBL, 2000
  • Davis, Dale R. Judges: Such a Great Salvation. Focus on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000.
  • Drewett, John. Not Many Mighty: A Study of the Biblical Idea of the Remnant. London: CMS, 1951.
  • Dumbrell, William J. The Search for Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.
  • Elliott, Mark W. ‘Remnant’. Pages 723–26 in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. Leicester: IVP, 2000.
  • Hasel, Gerhard F. ‘The Alleged “No” of Amos and Amos’ Eschatology’. Andrews University Seminary Studies 29/1 (1991): 3–18.
  • _____. The Remnant: the History and Theology of the Remnant Idea from Genesis to Isaiah. 2nd ed. Andrews University Monographs, Studies in Religion, volume 5. Michigan: Andrews University Press, 1974.
  • _____. ‘Remnant’. Pages 735–36 in Supp. Vol. of Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Edited by Keith Crim et. al. Nashville: Abingdon, 1976.
  • _____. ‘Remnant’. Pages 130–34 in vol. 4 of International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Edited by Geoffrey W. Bromley. 4 vols. Completely revised and reset ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.
  • Heaton, E. W. ‘The Root sh’ar and the Doctrine of the Remnant’. Journal of Theological Studies, New Series 3/1 (1952): 27–39.
  • Jenni, Ernst. ‘Remnant’. Pages 32–33 in vol. 4 of Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Edited by George A. Buttrick et. al. 4 vols. New York: Abingdon, 1962.
  • Jones, Rufus M. The Remnant. Volume VIII in The Christian Revolution Series. London: Swarthmore, 1920.
  • King, Greg A. ‘The Remnant in Zephaniah’. Bibliotheca Sacra 151/601 (1994): 414–27.
  • Kronholm, T. ‘Ytr’. Pages 482–91 in vol. 6 of Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Edited by G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren. Translated by David E. Green. 16 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.
  • LaRondelle, Hans K. The Israel of God in Prophecy: Principles of Prophetic Interpretation. Andrews University Monographs, Studies in Religion, Volume XIII. Michigan: Andrews University Press, 1983.
  • Mason, R. A. ‘The Purpose of the “Editorial Framework” of the Book of Haggai’. Vetus Testamentum 27/4 (1977): 413–21.
  • Matthews, Victor H. Old Testament Themes. St Louis: Chalice, 2000.
  • McConville, J. Gordon. Grace in the End: A Study in Deuteronomic Theology. Studies in Old Testament Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993.
  • Meyer, Lester V. ‘Remnant’. Pages 669–71 in vol. 5 of Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by David N. Freedman. 6 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
  • Mulzac, Kenneth. ‘The Remnant and the New Covenant in the Book of Jeremiah’. Andrews University Seminary Studies 34/2 (1996): 239–48.
  • Noble, Paul R. ‘The Remnant in Amos 3–6: A Prophetic Paradox’. Horizons in Biblical Theology: An International Dialogue 19/2 (1997): 122–147.
  • North, Christopher R. ‘Shear-Jashub’. Pages 735–36 in Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Edited by George A. Buttrick et. al. Nashville: Abingdon, 1976.
  • Smith, William R. The Prophets of Israel and Their Place in History. Originally published 1902 by Adam and Charles Black. London: Transaction, 2002.
  • Unger, Merrill F. and White Jr., William (eds.). ‘Remnant’. Pages 326–27 in Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980.
  • Webb, Barry G. The Message of Isaiah. Edited by Alec Motyer. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester: IVP, 1996.
  • _____. ‘Zion in Transformation: A Literary Approach to Isaiah’. Pages 65–84 in The Bible In Three Dimensions. Edited by David J.A. Clines, Stephen E. Fowl and Stanley E. Porter. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 87. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990


  • 1 Gerhard F. Hasel, The Remnant: the History and Theology of the Remnant Idea from Genesis to Isaiah (2nd ed.; Andrews University Monographs, Studies in Religion, volume 5; Michigan: Andrews University Press, 1974), 1–40 provides a helpful summary.
  • 2 E. W. Heaton, ‘The Root sh’ar and the Doctrine of the Remnant’, Journal of Theological Studies, New Series 3/1 (1952) dismisses all references to sh’ar in Isaiah as unoriginal on the basis of the unexplained authority of ‘the analysis of scholars’ (p. 35)!
  • 3 Victor H. Matthews, Old Testament Themes (St Louis: Chalice, 2000), 39–62.
  • 4 Ernst Jenni, ‘Remnant’, in Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (ed. George A. Buttrick et. al.; 4 vols.; New York: Abingdon, 1962), 4:32–33.
  • 5 Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (London: SCM, 1979).
  • 6 Paul R. Noble, ‘The Remnant in Amos 3–6: A Prophetic Paradox’, Horizons in Biblical Theology: An International Dialogue 19/2 (1997): 137.
  • 7 Kenneth H. Cuffey, ‘Remnant, Redactor, and Biblical Theologian: A Comparative Study of Coherence in Micah and the Twelve’, in Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve (ed. James D. Nogalski & Marvin A. Sweeney; Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series; Atlanta: SBL, 2000), 185.
  • 8 Barry G. Webb, The Message of Isaiah (ed. Alec Motyer; The Bible Speaks Today; Leicester: IVP, 1996), 33–37, provides a compelling argument for the pre-exilic united authorship of the whole of Isaiah, closely linked to the historical person of Isaiah.
  • 9 Merrill F. Unger and White Jr., William (eds.), ‘Remnant’, in Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980), 326–27.
  • 10 T. Kronholm, ‘ytr’, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren; trans. David E. Green; 16 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 6:482–91.
  • 11 Gerhard F. Hasel, ‘Remnant’, in Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (ed. Keith Crim et. al.; Nashville: Abingdon, 1976), supp:735–36.
  • 12 ibid.
  • 13 ibid.
  • 14 Greg A. King, ‘The Remnant in Zephaniah’, Bibliotheca Sacra 151/601 (1994): 415.
  • 15 Heaton, 27.
  • 16 To complicate matters, Heaton refuses to accept the key texts because they are ‘unoriginal’.
  • 17 Barry G. Webb, ‘Zion in Transformation: A Literary Approach to Isaiah’, in The Bible In Three Dimensions (ed. David J.A. Clines, Stephen E. Fowl and Stanley E. Porter; Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 87; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), 73.
  • 18 Lester V. Meyer, ‘Remnant’, in Anchor Bible Dictionary (ed. David N. Freedman; 6 vols.; New York: Doubleday, 1992), 5:669.
  • 19 Hasel, The Remnant (1974).
  • 20 Gerhard F. Hasel, ‘Remnant’, in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ed. Geoffrey W. Bromley; 4 vols.; Completely revised and reset ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 4:130.
  • 21 Meyer, Anchor Bible Dictionary 5:670.
  • 22 Hasel, The Remnant (1974), 374–86.
  • 23 Hasel, ISBE 4:132.
  • 24 For a summary, see J. Gordon McConville, Grace in the End: A Study in Deuteronomic Theology (Studies in Old Testament Biblical Theology; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993).
  • 25 Hasel, ISBE 4:132.
  • 26 e.g. Dale R. Davis, Judges: Such a Great Salvation (Focus on the Bible; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 226–27.
  • 27 William J. Dumbrell, The Search for Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 77.
  • 28 J. C. Campbell, ‘God’s People and the Remnant’, Scottish Journal of Theology 3 (1950): 81 suggests that the 7,000 is representative of ‘all Israel’ on the basis of the parallel with 20:15.
  • 29 Walter Brueggemann, ‘A Brief Moment for a One-Person Remnant (2 Kings 5:2–3)’, Biblical Theology Bulletin 31/2 (2001): 53–59.
  • 30 Hasel, The Remnant (1974), viii.
  • 31 Hasel, ISBE 4:132.
  • 32 Hasel, The Remnant (1974), 392.
  • 33 Noble, 122–147.
  • 34 Gerhard F. Hasel, ‘The Alleged “No” of Amos and Amos’ Eschatology’, Andrews University Seminary Studies 29/1 (1991): 3–18.
  • 35 Webb, ‘Zion’, 81.
  • 36 Dumbrell, The Search for Order, 86.
  • 37 Hasel, The Remnant (1974), 281–82.
  • 38 It is described as ‘a new thing in the history of religion’ by William R. Smith, The Prophets of Israel and Their Place in History (Originally published 1902 by Adam and Charles Black; London: Transaction, 2002), 274 and a great reform movement by Rufus M. Jones, The Remnant (Volume VIII in The Christian Revolution Series; London: Swarthmore, 1920), 17–22.
  • 39 Campbell, 81.
  • 40 Webb, ‘Zion’, 73ff.
  • 41 ibid., 78.
  • 42 Hasel, ISBE 4:133.
  • 43 Cuffey, 190–92.
  • 44 However, Dumbrell sees an element of blessing in 5:7 (The Search for Order, 80).
  • 45 King, 421.
  • 46 ibid., 417–19.
  • 47 ibid., 427.
  • 48 ibid., 425–26.
  • 49 Kenneth Mulzac, ‘The Remnant and the New Covenant in the Book of Jeremiah’, Andrews University Seminary Studies 34/2 (1996): 239–48.
  • 50 R. A. Mason, ‘The Purpose of the “Editorial Framework” of the Book of Haggai’, Vetus Testamentum 27/4 (1977): 413–21.
  • 51 Hasel, ISBE 4:133.
  • 52 Heaton, 31.
  • 53 Campbell, 82.
  • 54 Dumbrell, The Search for Order, 130.
  • 55 Hans K. LaRondelle, The Israel of God in Prophecy: Principles of Prophetic Interpretation (Andrews University Monographs, Studies in Religion, Volume XIII; Michigan: Andrews University Press, 1983), 82–84.
Published inCovenantRemnant

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

Recent blog posts

  • Entering a tomb in PompeiiWe too: the offenders (Ephesians 2:3)
    Judgmentalism. It’s a bigger problem than we think. Judgmentalism is certainly a danger for God’s people. That’s because God’s people have God’s word. God’s word helps God’s people to see how wonderful God is, and how terrible humanity is in comparison. But Ephesians 2:3 contains two highly significant, emphatic words: “we too”. We too, says Paul, were the offenders. We, too, were the disobedient. These words aren’t talking about all those horrible people “out there”. They’re talking about God’s people. And it’s something we, too, need to hear. These words tell us something incredibly important—something that we ignore at our peril.
  • Photo by Daniel Lienert on UnsplashThe root of the problem (Ephesians 2:1–2)
    I hadn’t visited the dentist for years. Then I felt a tiny amount of pain in one of my teeth. But I ignored it. I didn’t want to bother with a dentist. Anyway, I had my own solution: I’d always brushed my teeth quite thoroughly, and was proud of it. So I just kept brushing. But after a while, the pain came back. This time, it was worse. So I finally visited the dentist. That was painful, too. The root had become so infected that I needed root canal surgery. That was a while ago. But last year, it flared up again, as these things apparently do. And yet I chose to visit the dentist again, even though I knew it might be painful. Why? Because I’d learnt something. I’ve learnt that if I have a problem that goes to the root, and if I know someone who has the solution to the problem, I shouldn’t ignore it or try to fix it myself. I should face up to the root problem, and get help. So I got help. Now, I don’t have a tooth in that spot at all. In Ephesians 2:1–2, Paul seeks to go deep, to the root of the problem. The problem Paul talks about here is incredibly serious. It can be very painful to admit. But Paul can and does admit it—because he also knows the person with the solution. According to Paul, this isn’t a problem to ignore or try to fix ourselves. It’s not something we can educate ourselves out of. This is a problem to face up to, and get help.
  • Captivated by ScriptureCaptivated by Scripture: A personal reflection on D. W. B. Robinson’s legacy for biblical studies
    What made Donald W. B. Robinson such an inspiring and influential teacher for generations of students? His commitment to being captivated by Scripture. This is a paper given by Lionel Windsor at the legacy day and launch of Donald Robinson Selected Works Volume 3: Biblical and Liturgical Studies & Volume 4: Historical Studies and Series Index. Moore Theological College, Sydney, 16 March 2019.
  • The first thing to say about church (Ephesians 1:22–23)
    Here in Ephesians 1:22–23, for the first time in his letter, the apostle Paul uses the word “church”. He’s taken quite some time to get to this point. That might make you think that the church isn’t very important to Paul. But actually, the reverse is true. This is a climactic statement. So far in Ephesians, Paul has poured out his praise to God for his blessings and plans and purposes. He has told his readers how he is praying for knowledge and hope and strength in God. Now, finally, at the highest peak of this amazing prayer, Paul names “the church”. So what is the first thing Paul has to say about the church? What is the word he associates most closely with the church? What matters most to Paul when it comes to the church? The answer is, in fact, obvious. It’s so obvious that you might think it doesn’t need to be said. You might even wonder why Paul bothers saying it, when there are so many other more practical things he could say about the church. But while it might seem obvious, it needs to be said first. Why? Because it’s so easy to assume it. Yet without it, nothing else about the church makes sense.
  • Grave of John BunyanStrength to live (Ephesians 1:19–21)
    What do we do when we feel weak in the face of the powers that be? One response might be just to shut down, close ranks and find a bitter satisfaction in our identity as victims. Another response might be to try to fight as hard as we can to exert our power and dominance over others, seeking to turn the tables so that we become the conquerors instead of the oppressors. Both of these responses involve seeking strength and power in ourselves. They are often the way that oppressed individuals and groups in our world respond to the powers that are oppressing them. But is that the way God wants his people to respond to our weakness in the face of power? In Ephesians 1:19–21, the apostle Paul gives us a far better way to respond. Paul’s response involves looking for strength. But it’s not a strength that comes from within ourselves. It’s a strength that comes from God himself.
  • Christ, the Cross and Creation Care ConferenceConference: Christ, the Cross and Creation Care
    I'll be speaking at the "Christ, the Cross and Creation Care Conference", Sydney. 8.30am to 3.30pm, Saturday 22 June 2019. A conference run by A Rocha Australia
  • Palatine Hill from Roman Forum with contrails – Black and WhiteWhat’s the point of theology? (Ephesians 1:17–18)
    The full name of the college I teach at is “Moore Theological College”. That word “Theological” says something important about who we are. It reminds us about what we're on about. Yes, the Bible is at the centre of everything we do. Yes, we seek to train people for ministry. Yes, we're driven by the worldwide mission of Jesus Christ. Yes, we're committed to learning together, and having our characters formed in loving Christian community. But our careful study of the Bible, and our pastorally-motivated ministry and mission training, and our encouragement of one another in our community, all matter because of something more basic: theology. Unfortunately, the word "theology" can be misunderstood. It sometimes gets used to mean something like “technical details about spiritual things that experts argue about and isn’t much practical use to regular people”. But that's just a caricature. It's not what theology is. Theology is something far more profound, far more life-changing, and far more fundamental—not just for people at a college, but for everyone. In Ephesians 1:17–18, Paul prays for his readers—people who have come to believe in and live for Jesus Christ. It's a prayer for more theology.
  • Youth praying, Finchale PrioryPrayer: What are we actually doing? (Ephesians 1:15–16)
    “A Muslim, a Jew and an Anglican Minister walk into a classroom”. This was the advertising blurb for a local Community College seminar I participated in a few years ago. I joined a Muslim educator and a Jewish academic (who is also a friend of mine) to give a series of presentations on different aspects of our three religions to interested people from the community. When we came to the topic of ‘prayer’, I was fascinated to hear what my co-presenters had to say. Even though we were all using the same word, ‘prayer’, the word meant very different things in the different religions. As a believer in Jesus Christ, what did I have to say about what prayer is? What would you have said? Christians, too, can often be a bit confused or unclear about what prayer actually is. That’s where the Apostle Paul really helps us. In these verses in Ephesians, Paul starts telling his readers about his own prayers for them.
  • Photo by Danielle Macinnes on UnsplashThe Holy Spirit: Our security (Ephesians 1:14)
    The Stanford Marshmallow Experiments are a favourite illustration of motivational speakers. The lesson is this: If you can learn how to delay gratification early in life, you’ll do better in later life. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? But unfortunately, like many popular conclusions drawn from famous psychological experiments, it doesn’t stand up to closer scrutiny. The more up-to-date study demonstrates something far more mundane: if you grow up in a secure home where you know there will always be food on the table, you’re more likely to be able to put off eating a marshmallow. This isn’t a particularly useful lesson for motivational speakers. But it’s a great illustration of what it means to be a child of God.
  • Mission. Photo by Ben White on UnsplashThe message is the mission (Ephesians 1:13)
    What is God’s mission? What means is God using to bring about his purposes in Christ? What does that mean for our own mission as Christians and churches?

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