The biblical notion of “election”—that God chooses a particular people—can be a tough pill to swallow in a modern, globalist society. Those who might not be very familiar with the Bible (and even those who are) sometimes object that the idea of election encourages the “exclusion” of others. However, while the God of Israel “chooses” (בחר; bahar) and “blesses” (ברך; barakh) a specific people (i.e., Israel), that God still blesses the non-elect in much the same way.
For instance, when the Lord chooses Abram (אברם; Avram) to be the “exalted father” (אב רם; av ram) of what would become the nation of Israel, God says, “I will make of you a great nation (גוי גדול; goy gadol)” (Gen 12:2). When Abram has two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, God chooses the latter child to carry on the lineage that would undergird the promise to the Israelite nation (see Gen 21:12). However, this does not mean that God dispenses with the unelected Ishmael.
Rather, the Lord blesses Ishmael in much the same way that God blesses Abram. After Sarah expels Ishmael and his mother Hagar to the wilderness, God rescues these two unelected people from certain death and makes promises to them that mirror the promises to the chosen seed. The angel of the Lord tells Hagar, “Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Rise! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation (גוי גדול; goy gadol)” (Gen 21:18). Thus, while Ishmael is not “elected” or “chosen” in the same way as Isaac, God’s election does not preclude similar blessings to the non-elect. Therefore, the Bible’s understanding of election does not carry with it the idea of “exclusion”; rather, while God can elect a special nation, the Lord still blesses and cares for those who are not a part of that chosen nation.
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