Israel as New Humanity

God led the descendants of Abraham into Egypt where they were eventually enslaved. Pharaoh oppressed them and killed Hebrew babies in order to suppress their numbers. Israel found itself living in the moral chaos of Egypt’s imperial power. But God heard their cry and sent Moses to lead Israel out of their slavery into freedom, to lead them from chaos to new life.

The Exodus, the liberation of Israel from Egypt, is the creation of Israel. From the moral and oppressive chaos of Egyptian slavery, God created a new people, a new nation. God gave humanity a new start. God gave birth to Israel, a people through whom God would display God’s glory and call the nations into communion with God’s own life.

God liberated Israel from slavery through God’s creative power. The story of the crossing of the Red Sea is filled with creation language. From the chaos of the waters, God defeated the imperial powers arrayed against Israel, baptized a new people into Moses, and brought them safely through the waters into a new land. The Exodus birthed a new people.

Israel, as the firstborn among the nations, was created to serve as the renewed image of God in the world. In this sense, they were a new humanity. God rebooted the divine intent to fill the earth with the glory of God by forming a people who would embody God’s values and live in covenant relationship with God.

Israel was God’s remnant among the nations. “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth,” God said in Amos 3:2. While the prospects for humanity looked bleak in the early chapters of Genesis, God elected Israel as a nation among the peoples of the earth to reveal God’s identity.

Designed as the renewed image of God in the world, Israel was supposed to become what God envisioned for humanity from the beginning. Just as humanity was originally placed in the Garden of Eden, so God placed Israel in a new Eden in the land God promised Abraham.

The land, flowing with milk and honey, was created out of the moral chaos of Canaan and given to Israel as the place where they could flourish in peace and safety. The rains would water the crops, and they would enjoy the fruit of the harvest. The wild animals would not harm anyone in the land, and the security of the land rested in God’s presence. The promised land was a new Eden for a new humanity, and God graciously lived with Israel and walked among them as their God and they as God’s people, just as God did in Eden. Israel no longer lived east of Eden; they lived in Eden. As a new nation in a new land, God gave them the Torah to guide them in their new life with God. Yet, instead of leaning into God’s wisdom, they chose to follow the ways of the nations, and they repeated the folly of Adam and Eve with corresponding results. They, too, were exiled from the Garden and ended up, once again, living East of Eden with the rest of us.

One Response to “Israel as New Humanity”

  1.   Charles Stelding Says:

    When God placed (“rested”) Israel in its own land after the exile, the Hebrew Bible uses the same word when God place (“rested”) Adam in Eden (Isaiah 14:1 and Genesis 2:15). The two events are thus tied together linguistically, confirming Hick’s representation here in his essay.

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