Interesting YOU chose 'potter.' Read it with me:
Rom 9:11 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—
Rom 9:12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”
Rom 9:13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Rom 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means!
Rom 9:15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
Rom 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
Rom 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
Rom 9:18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Rom 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
Rom 9:20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
Rom 9:21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
Rom 9:22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
Rom 9:23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—
Rom 9:24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
Rom 9:30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith;
Rom 9:31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. (answers some of your question to Clete).
Rom 9:32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone,
Rom 9:33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Scripture is scripture is scripture and I will deny none of it/cannot deny any of it. Whatever Paul says and means, I'll not ever argue with Paul. Whatever theology I cling to, it will not be apologizing for Paul. That would be madness. Whatever we believe, it must be embracing Paul. All of him and Him.
You are welcome to explain Romans 9. To date, I simply say "It says what it means (clearly at least to me) and it means what it says (whether I want to agree or not).
The elder of those two children never served the younger, Lon.
That's because the passage wasn't talking about babies, it was talking about nations. All of Paul's immediate audience knew that intuitively because, unlike you, they knew their scriptures and were not only very familiar with the book of Genesis but the exact verse in Genesis that Paul was alluding too...
Genesis 25:23 And the Lord said to her:
“Two nations are in your womb,
Two peoples shall be separated from your body;
One people shall be stronger than the other,
And the older shall serve the younger.”
Also, the use of the terms "loved" and "hated" in such a context is a well known and totally undisputed Hebrew idiom (i.e. figure of speech). The passage isn't saying that God despised the unborn child. It simply means that He blessed one over the other. The idiom is used throughout the bible. Jacob did not hate Leah. He loved Leah but loved Rachel more. Jesus doesn't want you to hate your parents, He wants you to love God more than you love your parents. Get it?