The most insightful book I have read about the Old Testament is “Land and Covenant” by V. Rev. Paul Nadim Tarazi.  I wrote a book review about this book for The WORD Magazine (begins pg. 24 – http://www.antiochian.org/sites/antiochian.org/files/nov._2010_word.pdf).  Besides showing how well the Old Testament and New Testament work together, the book clarified for me the role of Israel in the Old Testament and helped show how God, according to Scripture, has cared for all people and all nations from the beginning.  What I share here is some insight I learned primarily from reading “Land and Covenant.”

When we think of the Old Testament we generally think about the history of Israel–God’s dealings with them and care for them.  This is not surprising since most of the Bible focuses in on the descendants of Abraham, and more specifically the descendants of Jacob (who was re-named Israel).  However, we should give great importance to the fact that the Bible does not begin with the “story of Israel,” but rather with the “story of all humanity.”  In other words, the Bible does not begin with Abraham, it begins with Adam.  And from Adam, through Noah, all peoples are born.

The first 11 chapters of Genesis do not deal specifically with Israel.  They deal with all humanity.  And the much larger story of Israel will unfold the way the summarized story of all humanity unfolded: with the people constantly disobeying God and in need of forgiveness and salvation.  This introduction to the entire Bible is essential because an introduction to any book sets the tone and audience for the book.  So although most of the Old Testament will focus on the story of Israel, the first 11 chapters show us that the story is in the much wider context of all humanity.  In other words, this story is not for Israel alone, but for all people and all nations.  Israel is simply an example.  Any nation would have behaved as they behaved–in fact, they did in Genesis 1-11.

That God is concerned with all of humanity is not seen in Genesis 1-11 alone.  Even after the Bible focuses in on Abraham and the chosen ones after him, God shows He still is the God of all people.  For example, God shows his concern for both Ishmael and Esau later in Genesis, even though it is not through them that the blessing given to Abraham continues.  Moreover, in the prophetic literature, there are numerous references to God reconciling the divisions between Jew and Gentile when the Messiah comes and in the heavenly Jerusalem. Certainly, the New Testament takes off from there with Jesus and His apostles opening up the table of fellowship to the Gentile outsiders so there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile.

Again, although the Old Testament will focus in on Abraham and Jacob’s descendants, the first 11 chapters set both the tone and the audience for the book.  God’s dealings with Israel are an example for all of us.  The instruction in the Old Testament is meant for everyone because God cares for all humanity.

 

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