A Unique Situation

The affirmation that the Lord has “chosen” (bachar) Israel is one of the more important teachings of Deuteronomy. The choice which the Lord made of Israel is manifest in the divine intervention to free it from Egypt and in the gift of the land. Deuteronomy explicitly denies that the divine choice was motivated by Israel’s greatness or its moral perfection: “Know that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people” (9:6). The only basis for God’s choice was his love and faithfulness: “It is because He loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors” (7:8).

Chosen by God, Israel is called a “holy people” (Dt 7:6; 14:2). The word “holy” (qadôš) expresses, negatively, a separation from what is profane and, positively, a consecration to God’s service. By using the expression “holy people”, Deuteronomy emphasises Israel’s unique situation, a nation introduced into the domain of the sacred, having become the special possession of God and the object of his special protection. At the same time, the importance of Israel’s response to the divine initiative is underlined as well as the necessity of appropriate conduct. In this way, the theology of election throws light both on the distinctive status and on the special responsibility of a people who, in the midst of other peoples, has been chosen as the special possession of God, to be holy as God is holy.

In Deuteronomy, the theme of election not only concerns people. One of the more fundamental requirements of the book is that the cult of the Lord be celebrated in the place which the Lord has chosen. The election of the people appears in the hortatory introduction to the laws, but in the laws themselves, divine election is concentrated on one sanctuary … To the idea of election, Second Isaiah attached the idea of service in presenting Israel as “the servant of the lord”  destined to be “the light of the nations” (49:6). These texts clearly show that election, the basis of hope, brings with it a responsibility: Israel is to be, before the nations, the “witness” to the one God. [1].

[1]. The Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible (2002), nº 33.