Israel, The People Of God, And The Nations -- By: Eckhard J. Schnabel

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 45:1 (Mar 2002)
Article: Israel, The People Of God, And The Nations
Author: Eckhard J. Schnabel


Israel, The People Of God, And The Nations

Eckhard J. Schnabel*

* Eckhard Schnabel is associate professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2065 Half Day Road, Deerfield, IL 60015.

I. The Universal Context For Israel’s Story

Genesis 1 begins with the sentence: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God the Creator has created the entire world (Gen 1), he created mankind (Gen 2). The book of Genesis, which is read by Israel as God’s revelation about his creation, shows again and again that God and his purposes are not limited by the boundaries of Israel: God’s being and God’s purposes are relevant for the entire world and for all human beings. YHWH is the Lord of world history and the Lord of human history. The book of Genesis implies that Israel’s relationship to her God must be understood in this general, universal context.1 The account of God’s revelation as Creator depicts YHWH as God who blesses man. When God blessed and hallowed the seventh day, he expressed the purpose of man’s existence: as the days of the week proceed towards the goal of the seventh day, so man and woman are to serve their Creator in worship, trust, and obedience.

This universal perspective surfaces repeatedly in the history, literature, and liturgy of Israel: in the history of Abraham and his descendants who are to be a blessing for all nations; in the psalms in which all nations and kings are called upon to praise YHWH; in prophecies directed to nations who are sometimes used by God as his instruments; in prophecies about a time when nations will find salvation in YHWH; and in prophecies of a new heaven and a new earth. The parallels between Israel’s language and literature and the languages and cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia are a testimony of the international horizon of Israel.2

The universal dimension of Israel’s faith is expressed in Gen 12:2–3, a significant text of the book of Genesis (cf. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). We note that the focus of Gen 12:1–3 is the unique position which YHWH accords Abraham, i.e. Israel: the first recipients of God’s assurance of his blessing for the families of the earth are Abraham and his descendants. The blessing for the nations become...

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