Why did God choose the Jews?

Israelis and Jews have a strong sense of chosenness, but what does the chosenness of Israel consist of? In the Lubavitcher book the Tanya, it is stated: “the souls of the nations of the world derive from the impure kelipot, which contain no good whatsoever.”

The Chabad movement, which is the most influential Hasidic sect to this day, has its roots in a view of Jewish chosenness that sees Jews as mystically distinct from Gentiles in their essence, in such a way that Jews are made from a pure substance while Gentiles from a pure one. 

Yet is this really the case, that the holiness of Israel derives from God using different matter to create Jews as opposed to Gentiles? The Torah explains things differently in Deuteronomy 7:6-8:

Deuteronomy 7:6-8

“For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

What we learn here then is that the reason for God’s election of Israel is due to the Lord’s love, and indeed his oath to the fathers. We can zero in on God’s specific promise to Isaac, that the elder would serve the younger. The Holy Spirit – the author of both the Old and New Testament – provides us with a divine commentary on the election of Israel, telling us in Romans 9:6-16:

Romans 9:6-16

“For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

Here then we see that God not only chose Abraham as a patriarch through whom his promises would come – Abraham being no more naturally or inherently wise than those around him – but more narrowly and specifically, gave the promise through Isaac, and then through Jacob. After all, are not the Israelites children of Jacob specifically, rather than children of Abraham generally (a category that would include Ishmaelites also?).

In God’s preference of Jacob over Esau, as Paul notes, Jacob had not done anything better than Esau, the promise having been made before both children were born. But neither does the Holy Spirit suggest – in either Old or New Testament – that Jews were made from a different substance than Gentiles. Indeed ,this would not make sense, given that both Esau (from whom descend the Edomites) and Jacob (from whom come the Jews) were both made of the same stuff.

They were each descended from the flesh of Isaac and Rebekah. Lest one should err and think that only Gentiles can be evil, or that God created Gentiles from a different substance, consider the many evil children born among the Israelites. We can cite Korah who rebelled against Moses, Achan whose theft cost Israel victory against the Canaanites, Amnon who violated his sister Tamar, Ahab who empowered his wicked wife Jezebel to oppress Elijah and the righteous saints, and Judas who betrayed the Messiah with a kiss. Meanwhile, we see righteous Gentiles in Scripture such as Rahab who hosted the spies in Jericho, the Egyptian midwives who preserved the lives of Israelite infants, and many more besides.

Just as Gentiles are not synonymous with evil, neither are Jews synonymous with good. Therefore, a Jewish-born person cannot rely upon his own Jewishness to be righteous before God. As Paul says in Romans 2, the Jew is just as guilty as the Gentile for his sin:

Romans 2:17-28

“Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.”

Contrary to the Lubavitcher Tanya, Jews and Gentiles are both made of the same substance, and though God created man upright, after the Fall, we are all naturally desperately wicked and in need of God’s grace: Jew and Gentile alike. If you are trusting in your own Jewishness to count on Judgment Day, it won’t save you. As Christ told the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 3:9:

Matthew 3:9

“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”

Don’t trust in your own Jewishness; trust in the Jewish Messiah Jesus Christ instead, who died for the sins of his people. Be a true child of Abraham.

Footnote: https://www.thejc.com/judaism/is-the-lubavitch-book-tanya-really-racist-bo8guw3f and, https://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/1028872/jewish/Chapter-1.htm

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