Divine Election in the Hebrew Bible

Here’s a new book that may be of interest.

cov652To citizens of the modern world the idea that someone or something might be especially elected by God seems problematic. If someone is elected, someone else is not elected. Does the God of all people have preferences? The idea that one particular nation should be elected by God is particularly difficult to accept.

Nevertheless, as this study intends to show, divine election is a central theme in the Hebrew Bible, and present in all its main parts. There are central acts of elections and less central acts of election. Abraham is elected as the founder of the people of Israel. Moses is elected as the ancestor of the religious and political people of Israel. David is elected as first of the Davidic kings. The election of these persons represents something more important than the persons themselves.

There are also other significant acts of election in the Hebrew Bible, especially the election of the land of Israel and of the city of Jerusalem. As well, there is the election of individuals such as the prophets. And even the Assyrians, the Babylonians and King Cyrus of Persia are presented as elected by God for special tasks.

A new full-length study of the important concept of divine election in the Hebrew Bible is long overdue, and Hagelia’s readable and balanced monograph can be expected to bring the topic back into contemporary conversation.

A review copy arrived some time back and here are my views:

Hagelia’s well presented monograph provides readers with the most thorough investigation of the concept of ‘election’ in the Hebrew Bible yet published.  Beginning with an introduction in which he sets out the reasons for his study, through the second chapter where terminology is examined and then on into the following chapters where, part by part, H. shows how the notion of election works in

  • The Primeval Story
  • The Patriarchs
  • Moses and Joshua
  • David and Solomon
  • The Land
  • Jerusalem
  • The People of Israel
  • Israel’s Remnant
  • Other Elections
  • Election Related Matters

And finally, the interesting question as to whether election can be lost.  The volume ends with a summary of the argument, a bibliography, an index of references, and an index of authors.

This brilliant tome has its tone set in the very first sentence of the book:

Divine election is a controversial matter.

To put it mildly!  H. then continues

Can we accept the idea that some people, or one particular people, are exclusively elected by God- at the expense of others?

H. uses the following pages to answer that question in a careful, methodical, insightful, and brilliant way.  With sublime learning and a depth of familiarity with primary and secondary texts one seldom finds in scholarship, H. makes the case that the notion of election is found in most of the Hebrew Bible and that it, in its many manifestations, it is centrally important.

All in all, divine election is a basic theme in the HB, on several levels.  It is one of the important keys to understanding biblical theology.

And then, brilliantly

Claimed to being elect in no way makes the elected judicially immune, which the history of Israel itself confirms.

This book makes a real contribution to the field of Hebrew Bible studies.  Students and Professors alike will benefit immensely from reading it.  You are urged, good reader, to make use of this book, because doing so will be richly rewarding.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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