Is the election of Israel in the OT an exclusivist outrage?

The election of Israel is an embarrassment of the Old Testament for some. In Deuteronomy 10: 15-16, however, the election of Israel not exclusivist. Rather it is a vital step in the mission of God to the whole world.

Although, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as is the case this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and stiffen your necks no more. (10:14-16)

First, election is paradoxical. The particles ‘although’ and ‘yet’ signify that Israel’s election is paradoxical in the light of Yahweh’s universal reign. It is paradoxical in its particularity: despite the universal scope of Yahweh’s rule, Israel is loved and chosen. This flags the possibility that God’s purposes for the world doesn’t terminate with Israel.

Second election for Israel may be ominous. This section follows the extended rehearsal of Israel’s disobedience that concludes 1:1-10:11. Israel is ‘stiff necked’ (9:6 and 10:16). Dramatically the covenant motif of circumcision, an icon of Israel’s election, becomes a symbol of conditionality. Israel’s election is conditioned upon her faithfulness.

Third Yahweh is King of every nation, thus the possibility is ever open of other nations being loved by Yahweh, and keeping the law faithfully.

Fourth the possibility of other nations coming into the covenant is partially fulfilled in the statements concerning the ‘ger’ (the refugee, or vulnerable outsider) that follow. Israel is to love the ‘ger’ as Yahweh ‘loves’ the ‘ger’ (vs 18).

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

Yahweh loves the outsider and Israel must too. Israel’s own future depends upon her faithfulness to this responsibility. In Israel’s law the ‘ger’ (refugee/vulnerable outsider) is welcome to dwell in the land, in any town in which he/she chooses (Deut 23:15-16). Thus within the nation of Israel God’s missional purposes to renew all of creation is beginning to be fulfilled in the life of his people Israel. Should Israel fail in her responsibility to demonstrate the restorative reign of Yahweh in to the nations, her own election will be in jepardy.

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About Mark Glanville

Mark Glanville is a pastor-scholar who ministers in a missional urban community, Grandview Church, Vancouver. Mark is Professor of Old Testament and congregational studies at the Missional Training Center, Phoenix (missionaltraining.org), and he teaches at Regent College, Vancouver. Mark's research focusses upon the Pentateuch, biblical ethics, and mission. Mark has authored a book on Exodus (Lexham, forthcoming), numerous refereed articles (including in the Journal of Biblical Literature, forthcoming) and chapters on the Pentateuch, mission, and refugee related issues, as well as numerous popular articles. Mark is presently co-authoring a book, "Providing Refuge: A Missional and Political Theology." Mark is regularly called upon to speak on in Canada, the U.S., and Australia. His previous career was as a jazz pianist in Sydney, Australia (Chick Corea and Wynton Kelly are his musical heroes).
This entry was posted in deuteronomy, ethnicity and the bible, justice, old testament, stranger/alien/outsider/refugee and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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