Studies in Bible and Feminist Criticism

By Tikva Frymer-Kensky | Go to book overview

8 / Biblical Voices on Chosenness

2001

When people think of the Bible on questions of election and covenant, it is the voice of Deuteronomy that comes through loud and clear, for Deuteronomy emphasizes the special relationship between God and Israel, God's “chosen people.” As Deuteronomy states,

You are a people holy to the Lord your god; the Lord your God chose you from all
the peoples on the earth to be his treasure-people. It is not because you are the most
numerous of peoples that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—indeed, you
are the smallest of peoples. It was because the Lord desired you and kept the oath
he made to your fathers that the Lord freed you with a mighty hand and rescued
you from the house of bondage, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know
therefore that only the Lord your God is God, the steadfast God who keeps his
covenant faithfully to the thousandth generation of those who love him and keep
his commandments, but who instantly requites with destruction those who reject
him (Deut. 7:6–10).

These verses contain most of the components of Israel's ideas about its special relationship with God. God considers Israel God's particular treasure, God's segulah, a term that appears elsewhere in Deuteronomy (Deut. 14:2, 26:18) and is celebrated in song (Ps. 135:4). This special relationship was promised to Israel's ancestors, and is founded on love. God desired Israel's fathers (Deut. 10:15), and God has chosen Israel out of desire and love (Deut. 7:7–8). Like “treasure,” God's love for Israel is also celebrated in song (Ps. 47:4). And the love must be reciprocated: Israel must “love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). The reciprocal nature of this mutual love can be expressed by a formula of bilateralism: Israel is YHWH'S people, and YHWH is Israel's God (Deut. 29:12). This bilateral formula, reminiscent of a wedding formula, appears in Exodus (Exod.6:10) and Leviticus (Lev. 26:12), and is important to Israel's Priestly prophets, Jeremiah (Jer. 7:23; 11:4;

-109-

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