My Seminary students were never more united than this morning, when they all agreed that my “thought question” for today was not very interesting. Not one to be deterred by a little opposition, I decided to float the idea here.
As you certainly know by now (see here and here), we are going through Isaiah. In today’s lesson we read from Isaiah 43:3-4: “I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” I understand this to be a reminder to the House of Israel of the human cost associated with the formation of the chosen people into a more-or-less unified body.
Why these non-Israelite people were used in this way is not clear to me. In reading the Old Testament, one certainly has the sense that the writers thought these other people were expendable pawns in a much greater scheme (a scheme, by the way, whose primary purpose was to exalt my people). As Isaiah often observes, however, the unified nation did not work out so well. They divided internally, then many of them were scattered, and ultimately all were conquered by one force or another. We have expanded the idea of a chosen people by adding the possibility of adoption, thus placing all humans on roughly equal footing (at least in regard to access to God’s favors).
But the rather depressing history of the House of Israel has caused me to ask this Seminary Thought Question: Why would God execute His plan by using a chosen people?