Did YHWH Condemn The Nations When He Elected Israel? YHWH’s Disposition Toward Non-Israelites In The Torah -- By: Charlie Trimm

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 55:3 (Sep 2012)
Article: Did YHWH Condemn The Nations When He Elected Israel? YHWH’s Disposition Toward Non-Israelites In The Torah
Author: Charlie Trimm


Did YHWH Condemn The Nations When He Elected Israel? YHWH’s Disposition Toward Non-Israelites In The Torah

Charlie Trimm

Charlie Trimm is assistant professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Biola University, 13800 Biola Ave., La Mirada, CA 90639.

Among the prominent themes within the OT, YHWH’s election of Israel to be his special people is especially significant. This motif pervades the individual corpora in the canon; it is given particular expression in the benefactions bestowed on Abram (Gen 12:2), reiterated in the covenant ceremony at Mount Sinai (Exod 19:5), affirmed throughout Moses’ sermons in Deuteronomy (Deut 4:37; 7:6-7; 10:15), proclaimed by the psalmist (Ps 135:4), and maintained by the prophets (e.g. Isa 44:1). However, the idea that YHWH chose one specific group to be his special people has offended many people in the modern world, for whom the ideals of equality and equal opportunity are very important. Some have wondered why YHWH would limit himself to one group of people and not give the same opportunity to other people to serve him. Others have moved beyond the issue of equal opportunity and argued that the idea of election leads to violence because it defines all other nations as the “other” who must be kept at a distance or even destroyed.1 In this view, election creates a binary universe, in which the elect and the non-elect exist in mutually antagonistic categories until one or the other is destroyed.

These observations serve as a backdrop against which to understand the question raised in the title of this essay: Did YHWH condemn the nations when he chose Israel? This question can be answered in a variety of ways, such as examining the significance of the blessing for the nations in the foundational statement of Israel’s election (Gen 12:1-3).2 However, one of the most obvious ways to address the issue is to examine YHWH’s relationship with the nations. Even a cursory examination shows that YHWH dealt graciously with several non-Israelite nations even while he condemned others. This has led Joel Kaminsky to suggest that a third category should be included alongside the elect and the non-elect: the anti-elect, comprising those nations who oppose the elect, including the Amalekites, the Canaanites, and perhaps the Midianites. The non-elect ...

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