The Identity of Israel: New Humanity in a New Eden

Texts: Genesis 12:1-3, 7a; Exodus 6:2-8; Exodus 19:3-6.

Days 14-16 in Around the Bible in Eighty Days.

Who is Israel, and what is her purpose? It is a new humanity in a new Eden to continue and further the mission of God in the world.

Following the collapse of the world into violent imperialism and God’s intervention that scattered humanity across the face of the earth, God decided to create a people as God’s own people from among the nations for the sake of the nations.

God called Abraham as the ancestor of a people who would multiply and fill the land God would give them, and in this land, they would become a light to the nations. 

God, we might say, rebooted the divine mission. What God intended in the creation of Adam and Eve, God now intends in the creation of Israel. Just as God blessed male and female to multiply, so Israel would multiply. Just as God placed them in a Garden, so God would place Israel in a land. Just as God dwelt in the Garden with Adam and Eve, so God would dwell with Israel. Just as God wanted humanity to fill the whole earth, so God would bless all nations through Israel.

Israel is God’s new humanity for the sake of all humanity. The land of Israel became a new Garden of Eden for the sake of blessing all the nations of the earth. God commissioned Israel, just as he had commissioned humanity in the beginning, with a royal and priestly vocation, that is, to be light to the nations and the means of their redemption.

With Abraham, God is starting over and investing in Israel the same vocation that was given to humanity in the beginning. The story continues. Babel was not the end but the beginning of a new trajectory. While Babel wanted to make a name for itself, God decided to make a name for Abraham.

Leave a Reply