Remnant of Israel

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REMNANT OF ISRAEL (Heb. שְׁאֵרִית יִשְׂרָאֵל), a term denoting the belief that the future of Israel would be assured by the faithful remnant surviving the calamities that would befall the people as a result of their departing from the way of God. On the one hand the prophets foretold the forthcoming exile and destruction of Israel, and on the other they held forth the hope and promise of its survival and eternity. The doctrine of the Surviving Remnant resolved this contradiction. The doctrine is referred to by most of the prophets. Thus Micah (2:12) states, "I will surely gather the remnant of Israel"; Jeremiah (23:3) "and I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries whither I have driven them and will bring them back to their folds, and they shall be fruitful and multiply." Joel promises, "For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape and among the remnant those whom the Lord shall call" (3:5), and the first half of the verse is repeated almost literally by Obadiah (v. 17).

It is in Isaiah, however, that the doctrine is found in its most developed form which greatly affected Israel's thoughts about the future. He gives his son the symbolic name Shear-Jashub ("a remnant shall return," 7:3) and in 10:22 the phrase is repeated as a statement of fact "a remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob." The most detailed description of the doctrine appears in 6:13. The land shall be utterly destroyed, the children of Israel will be "removed far away," only a tenth will remain – even that tenth "shall again be eaten up" but "the holy seed" shall remain. Isaiah's concept of the remnant may have included both the faithful minority and those who would accept God's message, under the impact of the forthcoming disaster. Paul applied Isaiah's teaching to the Church (Rom. 9:27).

In the daily prayers there are included the prayers "Guardian of Israel, Guard the Remnant of Israel, and suffer not Israel to perish."

After World War ii the phrase the "remnant which survives" (she'erit ha-peletah) was applied to the survivors of the Holocaust.


E. Jenni, in: idb, 4 (1962), 32–33, incl. bibl.