Allen S. Maller
Allen S. Maller

Qur’an and Torah on Choosing to be Chosen: Abrahamic Religious Relationships

A major misunderstanding of the Biblical concept of God choosing a people or a prophet is caused by the use of the word ‘the’ chosen when a better translation would be ‘a’ chosen people. Relationships are always unique and exclusive, but just as a parent can and should have a loving relationship with several different children; God can and does have unique and exclusive relationships with many religious communities. According to the Bible the relationship between God and Israel is similar to a marital partnership as the following Biblical verses will show.

God proposes a marriage covenant at Sinai.

God said to Moses “Speak thus to the house of Jacob, and tell this to the children of Israel… Now if you listen to me and keep my covenant, then you will be my special possession out of all the peoples, for the whole earth is mine. You will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation. These words you shall speak to the people of Israel” (this is the proposal) “Moses came and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all these proposals as God had commanded him. All the people answered together, “All that God has proposed, we will do. (the acceptance, similar to the “I do” at a wedding) Moses brought this answer back to the Lord.” (Exodus 19:5-8)

Why the Jews? Because God loved their ancestors.

“Only the Lord cared for your ancestors loving them and chose their descendants after them from all nations, as you are this day.” (Deuteronomy. 10:15)

“I will fulfill my covenant between myself and you (Abraham) and your descendants after you, generation after generation, an everlasting covenant, to be your God, yours and your descendants after you.” (Genesis 17:7)

“All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you (Jacob) and your descendants.” (Genesis 28:14)

Why the Jews? Divine love isn’t based on popularity or large numbers. “It was not because you were more numerous than any other nation that the Lord cared about you and chose you, for you are the smallest of nations; it was because of the Lord’s love for you, and his oath to your ancestors.” (Deuteronomy. 7:7-8)

Does being chosen and special make you better? No.Being in a committed loving relationship results in more giving (Mitsvot), more receiving (Torah, Prophets and sages) and more grief (because each cares about the other). “For you alone have I cared among all the nations of the world, therefore I will castigate you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2)

Although the prophet Amos says that God only cares for Israel; he also says that “Israelites are like Ethiopians to me”, This seems to be a logical contradiction; but it reflects the difference between an emotional relationship like love, which is always felt to be unique, and a rational understanding that others can also have unique relationships that are similar to your’ s.

Israel can’t adore any other God but God can and does redeem other nations. “Are not Israelites like Ethiopians to me? Says the Lord. Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Crete and the Aramaeans from Kir?” (Amos 9:7)

Jews are not THE chosen people; they are A chosen people, the first of several monotheistic religions. A parent can have many children but only one is the firstborn. “These are the words of the Lord, Israel is my first-born son.” (Exodus 4:22) The Jewish people was the first community to enter into a sacred relationship with the one God but they are not the only ones to do so. In later centuries other communities were formed that Jews see as our younger siblings.

That process will continue until all nations have a sacred relationship to the one God of Israel and Mankind. “Each nation will walk in the name of its God, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:5) Even in the Messianic Age the other nations will be free to faithfully follow their vision of the one and only God.

What is Israel chosen for? To be an agent of holiness and enlightenment. “You are the children of the Lord your God…You are a people holy to the Lord your God (see Leviticus 19) and the Lord has chosen you out of all the nations on earth to be his special possession.” (Deuteronomy 14:1-2) “I will make you a light for the nations” (Isaiah 49:6) So other nations will also be blessed through their own religions that were sparked in some way by Israel’s covenant with God at Sinai, thus fulfilling the promise to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth.

As the Qur’an states: 5:44, “Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to God] judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of God, and they were witnesses thereto. So do not fear the people but fear Me, and do not exchange My verses for a small price. Whoever does not judge by what God has revealed – then it is those who are the disbelievers.”

And Qur’an 32:23 – 24 states: “And We certainly gave Moses the Scripture, so do not be in doubt over his meeting (with God at Mount Sinai). And We made it guidance for the Children of Israel. And We made from among them leaders guiding by Our command when they were patient and [when] they were certain of Our signs.”

And Qur’an 45:16: states: “And We did certainly give the Children of Israel the Scripture and judgment and prophethood, and We provided them with good things and preferred them over the (idol worshippers of the) worlds.”

Thus, the Qur’an states: 4:162, “Those firm in knowledge among them and the believers believe in what has been revealed to you, and what was revealed before you. And the establishers of prayer and the givers of charity and the believers in God and the Last Day (Judgement) – those We will give a great reward. Indeed, We have revealed to you, as We revealed to Noah and the prophets after him. And (as) We revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the (12 Tribes) Descendants, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David We gave the book [of Psalms].”

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 450 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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