Peter & Kelly

on The Way

Last modified: 25/11/2018 04:24 GMT   RSS


engelse versie News Prayer Articles Weblog Info Nederlandse versie Dutch version
Peter & Kelly + Lukas + Emmet + Danai

Going to Heaven: The concept of heaven in the Bible and Christian teaching
Research Paper (All Nations Christian College) 2 June 2004 — Peter Passchier

Is participation in Freemasonry wholesome for disciples of Jesus?
Advanced Religions Paper (All Nations Christian College) 7 May 2004 — Peter Passchier

Passages from Colossians and Hebrews compared
Assignment Christology (All Nations Christian College) 5 December 2003 — Peter Passchier

Is Israel's election related to any inherent qualities?
Assignment Old Testament Theology (All Nations Christian College) 28 November 2003 — Peter Passchier

The Gospel and the Religions
Reading Report Theology of Mission (All Nations Christian College) 11 November 2003 — Peter Passchier

Efforts towards unity within the church
Assignment Churchplanting (All Nations Christian College) 27 June 2003 — Peter Passchier

Jesus: transactional or transformational?
Assignment Leadership (All Nations Christian College) 20 June 2003 — Peter Passchier

Isaiah in crises
Assignment History and Literature of the Hebrew Bible (All Nations Christian College) 17 March 2003 — Peter Passchier

Do missionaries destroy cultures?
Assignment Social Anthropology (All Nations Christan College) 6 December 2002 — Peter Passchier

Temple Tumult
Assignment New Testament: Gospels and Acts (All Nations Christian College) 29 November 2002 — Peter Passchier

Acts
Initial Assignment (All Nations Christian College) 1 October 2002 — Peter Passchier

A Narrow Escape
A Narrow Escape (Creative writing) 13 September 2015 — Kelly Passchier



Assignment Old Testament Theology (All Nations Christian College) 28 November 2003 — Peter Passchier

Is Israel's election related to any inherent qualities?

The notion of election is only one among many possible principles —like love, grace, salvation, promise, covenant— that offer a perspective on the relationship between human beings and God. The Old Testament does not speak directly about God, but about the relationship of God with reality, which can qualitatively be described by several central word-fields that need to be both distinguished and seen in their particular relationships to each other (Knierim,1992:475, 1995:425-428). Words like calling, knowing and blessing bear strongly on electing, and 'covenanting' is an important theologically related concept.

The word elect in the Old Testament

To elect (Hebrew: BaCHaR) in the Old Testament simply means to choose people, things or actions by people or God — it does not bear specific theological connotations. Elect —as its Septuagint translation eklegomai— does not have a proper synonym (Mendenhall, in Senior & Stuhlmueller, 1983), and hardly occurs in the Old Testament as a noun, mainly the verbal forms are used, and in a majority of cases God is the One electing. It has overtones of selecting and examining, and by implication the elect are the best fit for the considered purpose. In this essay the discussion of election will be limited to God choosing people —excluding others— for a particular purpose — although in the Bible God also chose places.

Concepts related to electing

Calling (Hebrew: QaRa') —in the sense of calling out of instead of naming— can be viewed as the way election is initially made known to the elect, it is especially used by the prophets, and does not necessarily have the same sense of permanency (for instance, see Isaiah 45:4). Election both presupposes and leads to knowing (Hebrew: YaDa'), and Amos 3:2 illustrates that it is not always enviable to be known to God — it entails responsibilities. Although it is not necessarily a blessing (Hebrew: BaRaK) to be elected and to have God's eye upon oneself, when God's purposes are adhered to He favours His elect, the instruments He wants to use and rely on. In a number of cases God —as the more powerful party— takes the initiative to 'cut' a covenant (Hebrew: BeRITH) with His elect to solidify His commitment in accordance with the Middle-Eastern customs of those times, where the words know and love play an important role in the formulation of the covenant . They can have the character of a grant —promissory— with no human obligations, or be more like a treaty —stipulatory— with conditions that have to be met (Dyrness, 1979:124).

The concept of election

Election has a parallel in the choice of a bride (like in Ezekiel 16), and Israel, Jerusalem and the Church are often described in female imagery (Watson, 1992). Election brings all kinds of risks and temptations for the elected, like confidence in the election instead of the Elector, or boasting against the unelected instead of fulfilling your role towards them, but also for the Elector: will the elected live up to the expectations? Usually there will be an element of testing —to assess the risks— in the election process — this is included and suggested in the root meanings (Isaiah 48:10). These testings can be clearly seen in the election of Noah, Abraham, the people of Israel, David, Jesus, and Christ's chosen. Some elections in the Bible are based on merit, like Noah (found grace — Genesis 6:8), Phinehas (righteous killing — Numeri 25:11-13) and the Levites (loyalty — Deuteronomy 33:8-10), and some were unmerited (Brown, 1998): God chose Abram in spite of his idolatry (Joshua 24:2) and Jacob even before his birth (Genesis 25:23). In general, the idea of 'remnant' is closely connected to the concept of election, Noah and his family are the remnants of the pre-flood generations, Abram can be seen as the remnant of the people after the attempt at the tower of Babel (also Wright, 1962:53), and after angels have been appointed over all the other nations, Israel as the remnant-nation is left to God — the One appointing in Deuteronomy 32:8-9. The election of each remnant is the start of something new, the preservation of the —little— good still left in the old. With David, Jesus, and the Church the emphasis seems to be more the preparation of something new. God was preserving a remnant in Israel (1 Kings 19:18), even calling them elect (Isaiah 65:8-9). Newbigin's doctrine of election (Hunsberger, 1998) focuses not on the privilege but on the responsibility of the elect — to act in line with God's character and plans. Failure to live up to the responsibilities could lead to chastisement (Leviticus 26:14-39) and for the election to be revoked, like with Saul (1 Samuel 9:17 versus 16:23) and Eli's house (1 Samuel 2:30 versus 3:12-14). It appears that election can be withdrawn from parties within the larger corpus. Election is not arbitrary, but the revelation of God's loving character, so that there are no grounds for boasting (Rowley, 1956:68) — this angle avoids the 'scandal of particularity' (Bruggemann, 1997:416).

Election history

Election often goes hand in hand with judgement; Noah found favour in the eyes of God (Genesis 6:8), he was chosen to be kept from destruction from among all the inhabitants of pre-flood earth, and after the flood God made a promissory covenant with Noah, all his descendants and the whole earth (Genesis 9:11-17). When the people began building a city and tower to establish a name for themselves, God's judgement consisted of confounding their language and thereby scattering them over the earth. Within a number of generations, God called Abram, promised to bless him (Genesis 12:1-3), and Abram obeyed — God was working on an extensive plan, and made a unconditional covenant with Abraham. After Isaac was born and Ishmael sent away, Abraham was tested in his obedience and character (Genesis 22:1) by the command to offer his son Isaac. God then reaffirmed His promises, and when Abraham died, the Lord started to bless Isaac. Of Isaac's twins, Esau is evaluated negatively, despising his birthright,obnoxious wives, and God had revealed that they would be two very different people (Genesis 25:23). Jacob —not altogether exemplary in behaviour and attitude— is named Israel, after some testing and wrestling. Then Joseph was used by God (Genesis 29:2,23) to rescue Israel —and Egypt!— from the great famine, which is related to the idea of Israel being a remnant (Hasel, 1980). Jacob prophesied over all his sons (Genesis 49:3-27) and had especially blessed Joseph with wealth and strength — later affirmed by Moses (Deuteronomy 33:7-25). Jacob had singled out Judah as the kingly tribe, but did not say anything good about Levi, the tribe that Moses came from. Moses would praise Levi's their loyalty later in his prayer & prophecy, but concerning Judah only ask for strength and that they be united to the others again. Moses was called by God to lead Israel out of Egypt — as an answer to their prayers (Exodus 2:23-25). Later God even proposed to Moses on Sinai to finish of all the Israelites and to make him alone a great nation (Exodus 32:10), but Moses declined, pleading for the Israelites. If God would have done this, only Jacob's prophecy would not have come true, but God's promises to the patriarchs would still be fulfilled — but no doubt Moses' response was pleasing in God's eyes (Exodus 32:14). After Moses died, Joshua —a descendant of Joseph— is chosen by God (Joshua 1:1-9) to lead the Israelites to enter and take possession of Canaan — they never finished the job properly, even during the Judges —from various tribes— that were chosen by God, and the kings that followed. Before Saul as the first king was anointed, God called Samuel as a prophet (1 Samuel 3:4); the priestly system was not functioning so well, and Eli's house was divested by God (1 Samuel 3:12-14). Samuel then anointed Saul of Benjamin, and later David of Judah as kings over Israel. God had loved Solomon from his youth (2 Samuel 12:24) and when Solomon became king after David, God visited him in a dream and blessed him because he desired wisdom. When after Solomon's death Israel split up and Jerobeam —from Ephraim, son of Joseph— took up reign over the Northern kingdom, it never actually says that he was chosen by God, although God endorsed the splitup (1 Kings 12:24). Also Rehobeam —and the other kings of Judah— do not seem to be particularly chosen by God. After Judah's exile it was not really a kingdom any more, even until the diaspora after Jesus' time and beyond. The election of Jesus as God's Messiah is clearly God's hand moving in Israel, but beyond the scope of this essay.

The election of Israel

Deuteronomy 7:6 is the classical formulation of the election of Israel (Vriezen,in Von Rad, 1975:178). Israel's election is not specifically mentioned within the Tetrateuch, but developed in Deuteronomy, Deutero-Isaiah and some Psalms — probably not too long before Judah's exile. The idea of election presupposes a universalistic view of history, only evidenced in Israel in the late Deuteronomic period (Dahl, in Von Rad, 1975:178). Childs (1985:93) compares the datings of Eichrodt —the covenant is central and constituive— (taking a form-critical, traditio-historical stance) with Perlitt's late-Deuteronomic (8 or 7th centry BC) view (from a redaction-critical viewpoint) and concludes that the latter has little foundation. Preuss (1995) argues that election is central to Israel's faith, even if it appears later. Israel was set apart —holy— in order to serve God's special purposes with them and reflecting His character, which gave rise to higher norms as compared to the nations around them (2 Samuel 13:12). The concept of Israel's election in Chronicles focused on the temple service, emphasizing Levi, Jerusalem and David —no covenant theology— as opposed to Deuteronomy's covenant theology, focussing on God's purposes with Israel. Deuteronomy stresses on the one hand the worthlessness of Israel, stubborn, the least of all nations, but on the other hand God's love for them and His faithfulness in fulfilling the promises to the patriarchs. Deutero-Isaiah focuses on the exodus instead of Sinai's covenant, and looks forward to the new David (Eichrodt, 1964:61). Israel was not right in thinking their (and the temple's) election would continuously protect them (Jeremiah 7:1-15); this cannot be attributed to the treaty character of God's covenant with Israel, because also God's grant to David (2 Samuel 7:16) was revoked during Judah's exile and beyond (Senior & Stuhlmueller, 1983). Even though the Mosaic covenant was stipulatory, breaking the laws would not negate election (Kaiser,1978:111-113). Israel is an utterly unique nation, concommittant with God's originary commitment (Brueggemann, 1997:414), which is expressed in the story of Israel's ancestors (Genesis 12-36) and the exodus-narrative (Exodus 1-24), and tied together in Deuteronomy 10:15 — love for the ancestors expressed in the election of their seed. Abraham's, Isaac's (Genesis 21:5-13) and Jacob's elections were unmerited, but they were chosen because of God's love for them, and so was Israel.

The purpose of Israel's election

The reasons for Israel's election are formulated both negatively, not because of their numbers (Deuteronomy 7:7) or uprightness of heart, in spite of their stubbornness and rebellion (Deuteronomy 9:5-7), and positively, because of God's love for them (Deuteronomy 7:8) and their fathers (Deuteronomy 4:37) and His oath to them (Deuteronomy 9:5). The ultimate reason for Israel's election is God's love (Snaith, 1962:131-142), and the reason for Israel to obey the covenant conditions should be love too (Eichrodt, 1964:94); love is often synonymous with choosing (Eichrodt, 1964:257)! The goal of the election according to Deuteronomy and Deutero-Isaiah is for Israel to be a kingdom of priests, set apart for the servant work of mediation (Zimmerli, 1978:45). God furthermore intended for Israel to clear Canaan — executing His judgement on the nations living there (Deuteronomy 7:17-26) and cleaning the land for themselves —and God!— to live in. Four stated purposes can be distinguished in the Old Testament for Israel's election: service, salvation, blessing, and witness (Brown, 1998). Invariably, God wants to use those He chooses, He intents them to become servants of His purposes, be they craftsmen or kings, warriors or priests. Abraham and his seed were to be God's channel of blessing to all nations, Israel a kingdom of priests, God's servants and witness (Isaiah 43:10), and in Isaiah's servant passages we see God's broader plan of salvation shine through (for example Isaiah 49:5-11) — the Servant of God is the personification of the election of Israel, sharing the idealized qualities and purposes. This idealization stands in contrast with the manifest defects of Israel in living up to God's will: social injustice within Israel (Knierim, 1995:445), the breakdown of government, the lack of love and dedication for God.

Conclusion

God's truth —Israel's message— is universal, as the books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Jonah clearly testify — repentance is required, but no strict adherence to God like Israel. In the Hexateuch, the Prophets & many of the Psalms (for instance 2, 110 and 132) on the other hand, Israel's election as the fount of blessings —and potential curse— for the nations is central. If Israel's election would be exclusionary, then that would contradict God's universal justice (Knierim, 1995:451). Is God's love, grace or salvation related to any inherent qualities in those He chooses to bestow it on? It needs to be kept in mind that the God who elects is also the creator of the universe, and that all men have been created in His image — election is an exclusive act with an inclusive intent, as opposed to sheer favouritism (Wright, 2001). Interestingly, God is not revealed outside of Israel (Smend, in Brueggemann, 1997:413) — the keeper of God's self-revelation, even Jesus —God's ultimate revelation— was of Israel. The fact of Jesus being born within Israel is no coincidence — this event is uniquely monumental, not just for Israel or even all humanity, but for the whole creation. It cannot be seen separately from the election of Israel, and whatever future purpose Israel —and those grafted into it— might have, it is inextricably intertwined with the person of Jesus the Messiah. I would argue that the main purpose of the election of Israel is to serve as a vehicle for God's revelation to humankind, recipient and keeper of His words (Eichrodt, 1964:257), and ultimately serving as the cradle-nation for Jesus, His final Word. When the seed had died and born fruit, the Church started in Israel with Jewish believers and writers of the New Testament scriptures. The qualities of Israel are inseparable from God's achievement in Jesus, although they were not yet revealed at the moment of election and seemingly absent in the light of Israel's apparent failure. From God's love for Israel's patriarchs until God's love for the world — His election might seem arbitrary, but His purpose is to bless all the nations of the earth in His seed (Genesis 26:4).

Bibliography

Brown, A.P. (1998) 'Election in the Old Testament' at <http://pages.prodigy.net/apbrown2/election.htm>, November 2003.

Brueggemann, W. (1997) Theology of the Old Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress).

Childs, B.S. (1985) Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context (London: SCM).

Dyrness, W. (1979) Themes in Old Testament Theology (Exeter: Paternoster), ch.6.

Eichrodt, W. (1964) Theology of the Old Testament, Volume I (London: SCM).

Hunsberger, G.R. (1998) Bearing the Witness of the Spirit: Lesslie Newbigin's Theology of Cultural Plurality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), ch.3.

Hasel, G.F. (1980) The Remnant (Berrien Spring, MI: Andrews).

Kaiser, W.C. (1978) Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan).

Knierim, R.P. (1992) Systematic Old Testament Theology, in The Flowering of Old Testament Theology, B.C. Ollenburger, E.A. Martens & G.F. Hasel (eds.) (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns).

Knierim, R.P. (1995) The Task of Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

Preuss, H.D. (1995) Old Testament Theology, Volume 1 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark).Rowley, H.H. (1956) The Faith of Israel (London: SCM).

Senior, D. & Stuhlmueller, C. (1983) The Biblical Foundations for Mission (London: SCM), ch.4.

Snaith, N.H. (1962) The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament (London: Epworth), ch.6.

Von Rad, G. (1975) Old Testament Theology (London: SCM), pp.46-48.

Watson, D.F. (1992) Elect Lady, in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 2, D.N. Freedman (ed.) (New York: Doubleday), p.433-434.

Wright, G.E. (1962) The Old Testament Against Its Environment (London: SCM), pp.46-54.

Wright, C.J.H. (2001) 'Christian Mission and the Old Testament: Matrix or Mismatch?' at <http://www.martynmission.cam.ac.uk/COldTest.htm>, November 2003.

Zimmerli, W. (1978) Old Testament Theology in Outline (Edinburgh: Knox), pp.43-48.


CanaDutch flagTop of page


If you have any comments about this website, please go to the Information page. Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Valid CSS 2.0