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ETHNICITY AND ELECTION
ABRAHAMIC COVENANT: ORIGIN OF THE JEWISH NARRATIVE

ETHNICITY AND ELECTION

14“Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. 15“Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. 16“So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. 17“For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. (Dt 10:14–17 NASB95)

  • “Ancient “monotheism” spoke to the imagined architecture of the cosmos, not to its absolute population. Ancient monotheism means “one god on top,” with other gods ranged beneath, lower than and in some sense subordinate to the high god. People of sufficient education who thought philosophically about relations between levels of divinity might see these lower gods as ontologically contingent on the high god; less philosophical monotheists were content simply to assert that their own god was the biggest, the most powerful, or the best god.” 1

8When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods; 9the LORD’s own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share. (Dt 32:8–9 NRSV cf. Ex. 19:5; Dt. 14:2)

  • 5For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (1 Co 8:5–6 NASB95)
  • 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12 NKJV cf. 1 Cor.15:24-26; Phil. 2:9-11)

5From these the coastlands of the nations were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations. (Ge 10:5 NASB95)

  • Land (geographic territory)
    • 26and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; (Ac 17:26–27 NASB95)
    • for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. (Le 25:23 NASB95 cf. e.g., Exod 15:17; Isa 14:2, 25; Jer 2:7; Ezek 36:5; 38:16; Hos 9:3; Pss 10:16; 85:2)
  • Language
    • 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. (Ge 11:9 NASB95)
  • Kinship (family) (Ex. for Israel in Rom. 9:3-5) [gods are the supreme members of human kinship groups and share in the ethnicity of the peoples who worship them]2
    • “gods of Egypt” (Ex. 12:12), the “gods of the Amorites” (Jos. 24:15), “the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines” (Jdg 10:6), “the gods of the nations,” “the God of Israel”
      • 1Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and speak to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. (Ex 9:1 NASB95 cf. 5:1‘God of Israel’)
      • 22“Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn. (Ex 4:22 NASB95)
  • Custom (worship / protocols for showing respect to gods)
    • Allotment and the formation of customs among the nations – Dt. 4:16-19; 29:26; Rom. 1:23ff
    • Jewish Ways of Worship – There is a distinction between first and second commandments – no other elohim, and secondly, no utilizing the pagan forms of idols to worship any of the elohim (YHWH doesn’t accept pagan forms of worship, even when directed towards Him [ex. Ex. 32:1, 4-5, 7-9; Neh. 9:18; Acts 7:41-42]). Also, custom includes set apart seed (circumcision – Gen. 17:10-14), Sacred Time (Sabbath – Ex.20:10cf. Gen. 2:1-3; Dt. 5:12-15), Sacred Space (Temple – Dt. 12:5-14), etc.
  • At the ~2,000 yr. mark, the disinheritance of the nations / allotting them to other elohim marks a fundamental shift in the way YHWH relates to His creation. Because YHWH is an elohim, but no other elohim are equal to YHWH, and through His election of Abraham, He eternally binds Himself ethnically as “the God of Abraham” and the patriarch’s national offspring: He is the Jewish God. From this point forward, all of His universal redemptive plan will be carried out through His particular covenant commitments with Israel; as the hope of all nations’ hinges on their own relation to Israel as the conduit mediating the blessing of YHWH.
    • Abraham becomes both the recipient and the mediator of divine blessing (Gen. 12:1-3)

1 Paula Fredriksen, “Mandatory Retirement: Ideas in the Study of Christian Origins Whose Time Has Come to Go,” 241.
2 Paula Fredriksen, “How Jewish Is God?: Divine Ethnicity in Paul’s Theology,” Journal of Biblical Literature 137, no. 1 (2018): 193–212.

ABRAHAMIC COVENANT: ORIGIN OF THE JEWISH NARRATIVE

  • Abram called out of Mesopotamia/Babel/other gods (Gen 11:24-32; Josh 24:2; Gen 12:1-3) 3

As we move from the three divine/human rebellions of Genesis 3-11, Yahweh scatters the nations at Babel under the stewardship of divine beings (sons of elohim) and turns His attention to one man, Abram, through whom He will birth and build a great nation (the Jewish nation of Israel). God not only sets His purposes for the earth in this one man/nation, He also binds His name to them as the God of Israel (used over 200 times in the OT). Through this nation, God will also bring forth the seed (Messiah) who will crush the serpent and restore all things in the age to come (Acts 3:19-26). The nations who were disinherited at Babel are welcomed and grafted in alongside Israel (Rom 9-11) through the redemption that is in Messiah Jesus (Gal 3:8, 14; Acts 17:22-31).

  • A Great Nation (Genesis 12:1-3)

As the OT/Tanakh unfolds the very wisdom and plan of Yahweh is established in the development of Israel as a great nation including (people, law, presence of God, land, government).

  • Descendants and Land Inheritance (Genesis 12, 15, 17, 22)

Throughout the life of Abraham, Yahweh comes to him and reiterates over and over His covenant promise of a great nation inclusive of descendants and land (see below) as well to Isaac (Gen 26:4) Jacob (Gen 28:14) and their descendants.

*Note the correlation between Gen 15/Rom 4 justification by faith and Gen 22/James 2 justification by works. The land that is promised to Abraham will be inherited by him, his Jewish descendants and the seed (Messiah Jesus) in the age to come. Messiah Jesus will have dominion from sea (Red) to sea (Mediterranean) and from the River (Euphrates) to the ends of the earth in the age to come (Gen 15:18; Ex 23:31; Deut 1:1-11; Josh 1:1-4; Psalm 2:6-9; 72:1-19; 105:6-11; Zech 9:10; Isa 11; Matt 8:11).

3 “This promissory call is the first recorded speech since God’s word of judgment at the Tower of Babel, resulting in the creation of the nations (Gen 11:5-6,9). This new word to Abram counters the old since it provides for the redemptive plan of ‘all peoples’ (Gen 12:3). By making his descendants a ‘great nation’ (Gen 12:2) who will be a ‘blessing’ (Gen 12:2), the Lord will bring salvation to the scattered nations” K. A. Matthews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, NAC [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2005], 105