Ones left over of a family, nation, tribe, or kind; the survivors of a slaughter or destruction or of some epoch-making event; those remaining faithful to God out of a nation or body of people who have fallen away.
Noah and his family were a remnant of the world of mankind that preceded the Flood. The verb sha·ʼarʹ, “remain,” is used to describe them as the only ones who kept on surviving. (Ge 7:23) Later, in Egypt, Joseph told his brothers: “Consequently God sent me ahead of you in order to place a remnant [that is, survivors to preserve posterity and family line; compare 2Sa 14:7] for you men in the earth and to keep you alive by a great escape.”—Ge 45:4, 7, ftn.
A Remnant of Israel Returns From Exile. The most frequent references in the Bible to a remnant are concerning those who were God’s people. Through his prophets God warned Israel of punishment for their disobedience, but he also gave comfort by foretelling that a remnant would be preserved, would return to Jerusalem and rebuild it, and would prosper and bear fruitage.—Isa 1:9; 11:11, 16; 37:31, 32; Jer 23:3; 31:7-9.
After King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried captives off with King Jehoiachin of Judah in 617 B.C.E., Jehovah gave the prophet Jeremiah a vision. Good figs in the vision represented the exiles of Judah who were taken to Babylon and whom Jehovah would in time restore to their land. Bad figs represented King Zedekiah, his princes, and others like them that were not then taken into exile (actually the larger number of Jerusalem’s and Judah’s inhabitants) as well as those living in Egypt. In 607 B.C.E. nearly all those in Judah were killed or exiled at the final destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. And later the ones in Egypt, including those who fled there after 607 B.C.E., suffered when Nebuchadnezzar made a military excursion into that land.—Jer 24:1-10; 44:14; 46:13-17; La 1:1-6.
Jehovah promised the faithful remnant, those who repented of their sins for which he let them go into exile, that he would collect them together as a flock in a pen. (Mic 2:12) This he did in 537 B.C.E., with the return of a remnant of the Jews under Zerubbabel. (Ezr 2:1, 2) They were formerly “limping,” but Jehovah gathered them, and (even though they were under Persian domination) because of having Governor Zerubbabel over them and because true worship was reestablished at the temple, God was again their real King. (Mic 4:6, 7) They would become like “dew from Jehovah,” which brings refreshment and prosperity, and they would be courageous and strong like “a lion among the beasts of a forest.” (Mic 5:7-9) This latter prophecy apparently had a fulfillment during the Maccabean period, resulting in the preservation of the Jews in their land and the preservation of the temple, until the Messiah’s coming.
The name of the prophet Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub incorporated the noun sheʼarʹ (verb, sha·ʼarʹ) and meant “A Mere Remnant (Those Remaining Over) Will Return.” The name was a sign that Jerusalem would fall and its inhabitants would go into exile but that God would have mercy and bring back a remnant to the land.—Isa 7:3.
No Remnant Left to Babylon. Babylon was used by God to punish his people, but she went beyond what was necessary and took delight in oppressing and mistreating them and intended to hold them in exile forever. This was actually because Babylon was the chief exponent of false worship and hated Jehovah and his worship. For these reasons God declared: “I will cut off from Babylon name and remnant and progeny and posterity.” (Isa 14:22) Eventually, Babylon became a complete and permanent desolation, with no remnant to return to rebuild her.
A Remnant of Israel Accepts Christ. When Jesus Christ came to the nation of Israel the majority rejected him. Only a remnant expressed faith and became followers of him. The apostle Paul applies certain prophecies of Isaiah (10:22, 23; 1:9) to this Jewish remnant when he writes: “Moreover, Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Although the number of the sons of Israel may be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved. For Jehovah will make an accounting on the earth, concluding it and cutting it short.’ Also, just as Isaiah had said aforetime: ‘Unless Jehovah of hosts had left a seed to us, we should have become just like Sodom, and we should have been made just like Gomorrah.’” (Ro 9:27-29) Again Paul uses the example of the 7,000 left in Elijah’s time who had not bowed to Baal, and he says: “In this way, therefore, at the present season also a remnant has turned up according to a choosing due to undeserved kindness.”—Ro 11:5.
The Spiritual Remnant. In Revelation (12) John recorded his vision of a woman in heaven, and a dragon, and concluded that part of the vision, saying: “And the dragon grew wrathful at the woman, and went off to wage war with the remaining ones [loi·ponʹ] of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” These “remaining ones” who have “the work of bearing witness to Jesus” are the last ones on earth of the brothers of Jesus Christ, living on earth after the hurling of the Devil down to the earth and the announcement: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.” The Devil, the dragon, wars against this remnant of Christ’s spiritual brothers by means of the ‘wild beasts’ and “the image of the wild beast,” described in Revelation chapter 13. But the remnant are victorious, as Revelation chapter 14 discloses.—See SEED.