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In Isaiah 61:9 it states, "Their race will be famous throughout the nations and their offspring throughout the peoples. All who see them will admit that they are a race whom YHWH has blessed."

Does God view a certain race as his holy people?

Dear Dr. Heller,

In Isaiah 61:9 it states, “Their race will be famous throughout the nations and their offspring throughout the peoples. All who see them will admit that they are a race whom YHWH has blessed.” And in Ezra 9:2 it states, “since they and their sons have married some of their women, as a result of which the holy race has been contaminated by the people of the country.” Based on these verses it would lead me to believe that God has an ideal race or group of holy people. Is it possible that God has an ideal race or group of people picked out to be the chosen people? Are there other places in the Bible where this is stated?

Amy

Dear Amy,

Your first quote speaks about the entire people of God as God's people or God's race. That's what God had promised to Abraham in Genesis chapters 12, 15, 17, 18 and 22. Yes, God picks out a nation among all other nations of the world and puts them in charge of bearing witness of God before the other nations (see Exodus 19: 4-7 or Isaiah 42:4 where God's “servant”, i.e. God's people brings true justice to the nations). Your second quote makes reference to a narrowed down interpretation of God's promise to Abraham. In the book of Ezra, Ezra asks all Jews “to kick out” their pagan women and kids after the return from exile. They opt for a very racist view of Israel. The Bible bears witness to different views or movements within the people of God.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years. Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question for her leave it in the comment section below.

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5 comments

  1. So the stories that indicate to me that God does not see people like we do in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, etc are the parables about the Samaritan that Jesus tells in Luke (?) and the interaction Jesus has with a woman at a well in John. Side note, I am working from the belief that the Gospels are historically viable and that Jesus is the litmus for all things that are God.
    God’s people, since Jesus’ resurrection, are those that follow Jesus and believe in Him. These kind of people cross the road out of love for a wounded person and render aid, regardless of race. These people treat all others like the unimaginably valuable, unique and intrinsically precious creations we all are – they speak with the harlot at the well. Jesus was expressing the importance of spiritual life with God and declaring all the worldly classification we place others and ourselves into as no longer relevant in the light of the kingdom He came to establish.

  2. “God does not see people like we do in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, etc.” – thanks Phillip, I love that.

  3. In the Old Covenant, it cannot be denied that God chose the nation of Israel to be His people through whom He would bless the world. They were not chosen because they were the largest, most impressive, or most religious nation on the face of the earth. They were chosen simply by grace; God chose to show them favor, because He wanted to. Do we deny God that right? In the New Covenant, He has chosen by grace people from all nations, tribes, and languages to be the vehicle through whom He will bless the world. The choosing does not make people special. It is God’s grace that is so amazingly special!

  4. I see three different views emerging on the issue of “chosen race.” I found all three perspectives helpful.

  5. In Romans 9-11, the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul reveals that God will again work with and through the nation of Israel. One of the miracles God has performed in these last days is to bring the Jewish people back into the land given to them by God Himself. Nothing like it in the history of the world! Maranatha!

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