International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
chooz, cho'-z'-n (bachar, qabhal, bara', barah; ek-lego):
I. IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
1. Human Choice
2. God Chooses King of Israel
3. God Chooses Jerusalem
4. Election of Israel
5. Yahweh's Grace
(1) An Act of Sovereignty
(2) For Mankind's Sake
II. IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
1. Various Meanings
2. Of God's Free Grace
3. Ultimate Antinomies
4. Election Corresponds to Experience
The words denote an act of comparison of two or more objects or persons, the preference and selection of one, or of a few out of a larger number for a certain purpose, function, position or privilege.
I. In the Old Testament.
1. Human Choice:
For bachar and its derivatives: men choosing wives (Genesis 6:2); Lot choosing the cities of the Plain (Genesis 13:11); often of kings and generals choosing soldiers for their prowess (e.g. Exodus 17:9 Joshua 8:3 1 Samuel 13:2; 2 Samuel 10:9; 2 Samuel 17:1). The word bachar is often used for "young men," as being choice, in the prime of manhood. The most important uses of bachar are these: of Israel choosing a king (1 Samuel 8:18; 1 Samuel 12:13); of moral and religious choice: choosing Yahweh as God (Joshua 24:15, 22), or other gods (Judges 5:8; Judges 10:14); the way of truth (Psalm 119:30); to refuse the evil and choose the good (Isaiah 7:15, 16); compare David's choice of evils (2 Samuel 24:12).
2. God Chooses King of Israel:
A leading idea is that of God choosing Moses as leader (Numbers 16:5, 7; Numbers 17:5); the Levites to the priesthood (1 Samuel 2:28 2 Chronicles 29:11); Saul as king (1 Samuel 10:24), David (2 Samuel 6:21 1 Kings 11:34), Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:5). All this follows from theocratic idea that God rules personally over Israel as His chosen people.
3. God Chooses Jerusalem:
A more important, but still subsidiary, idea is that of Yahweh choosing Jerusalem as the place of His habitation and worship (Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 20 other times, Joshua 9:27 1 Kings 8:44, 48 Psalm 132:13 Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 2:12; Zechariah 3:2). This was the ruling idea of Josiah's reformation which was instrumental in putting down polytheistic ideas and idolatrous practices in Israel, and was therefore an important factor in the development of Hebrew monotheism; but it was an idea that Hebrew monotheism had to transcend and reject to attain its full growth. "The hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father" (John 4:21).
4. Election of Israel:
But the fundamental idea of choosing, which governs all others in the Old Testament, is that of God choosing Israel to be His peculiar people. He chose Abraham, and made a covenant with him, to give him the land of Canaan (Nehemiah 9:7): "For thou art a holy people unto Yahweh thy God: Yahweh thy God hath chosen thee to be a people for his own possession, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth. because Yahweh loveth you, and because he would keep the oath which he sware unto your fathers" (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). Historically this idea originated in the old conception of Yahweh as the tribal God of Israel, bound to her by natural and indissoluble ties (see GOD). But as their conception of Yahweh became more moral, and the idea of His righteousness predominated, it was recognized that there was no natural and necessary relation and harmony between Israel and Yahweh that accounted for the favor of a righteous God toward her, for Israel was no better than her neighbors (Amos 1; Amos 2). Why then was Yahweh Israel's God, and Israel His people?
5. Yahweh's Grace:
It was by an act of free choice and sovereign grace on God's part. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2). In Hosea the relation is described under the figure of a marriage tie. Yahweh is Israel's husband: and to realize the force of the figure, it is necessary to recall what ancient and oriental marriage customs were. Choice and favor were almost entirely made by the husband. The idea of the covenant which Yahweh out of His free grace made with Israel comes to the forefront in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah. Because He loved her, and for no other reason, He has chosen Israel to be His peculiar people. In Isaiah 40-66 the idea is carried farther in two directions:
(1) An Act of Sovereignty:
Yahweh's gracious choice of Israel rests ultimately on His absolute sovereignty: "O Jacob my servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen: thus saith Yahweh that made thee, and formed thee from the womb" (Isaiah 44:1, 2; compare Isaiah 29:16 Jeremiah 18:6 Isaiah 64:8). For Israel's deliverance Cyrus and his world-empire are in Yahweh's hands as clay in the potter's hands (Isaiah 45:9, 10).
(2) For Mankind's Sake:
"Israel is elect for the sake of mankind." This is the moral interpretation of a choice that otherwise appears arbitrary and irrational. God's purpose and call of salvation are unto all mankind. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else" (Isaiah 45:22). And Israel is His servant, chosen, the messenger He sends, "to bring forth justice to the Gentiles" (Isaiah 42:1, 19; Isaiah 43:10, 12). The idea is further developed in the conception of the SERVANT OF JEHOVAH (which see) as the faithful few (or one) formed "from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him," "for a light to the Gentiles," God's "salvation unto the end of the earth" (Isaiah 49:1-6; Isaiah 52:13-53:12) (compare Isaiah's doctrine of the Remnant: Shearjashub; also, the righteous, the godly, the meek, in Pss; and see Skinner, Isaiah, II, xxxff). As the conception of personality and of individual relation and responsibility to God developed from Ezekiel onward, together with the resulting doctrine of personal immortality, the conditions were prepared for the application of the idea of election to individuals (compare Psalm 65:4).
Coordinate with the idea of God choosing Israel runs the complementary idea that Israel should prove faithful to the covenant, and worthy of the choice. God has chosen her, not for any merit in her, but of His free grace, and according to His purpose of salvation, but if Israel fails to respond by faithful conduct, fitting her to be His servant and messenger, He may and will cast her off, or such portion of her as proves unworthy. SeeOehler, Old Testament Theology, I, 256, 287.
Three other Hebrew words expressing choice in minor matters are: qabhal, for David's choice of evils (1 Chronicles 21:11); bara', to mark out a place (Ezekiel 21:19), to select singers and porters for the temple (1 Chronicles 9:22; 1 Chronicles 16:41); barah, to choose a man to represent Israel against Goliath (1 Samuel 17:8).
II. In the New Testament.
1. Various Meanings:
The whole conception of God, of His relation to Israel, and of His action in history indicated above, constituted the religious heritage of Jesus Christ and His disciples. The national conciousness had to a considerable extent given place to that of the individual; and salvation extended beyond the present life into a state of blessedness in a future world. But the central ideas remain, and are only modified in the New Testament in so far as Jesus Christ becomes the Mediator and Agent of God's sovereign grace. Eklego and its derivatives are the words that generally express the idea in the New Testament. They are used
(1) of the general idea of selecting one out of many (Luke 14:7);
(2) of choosing men for a particular purpose, e.g. of the church choosing the seven (Acts 6:5); of the choice of delegates from the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:22, 25; compare 2 Corinthians 8:19), cheirotoneo; choose by vote (the Revised Version (British and American) "appoint") (compare Acts 10:41), procheirotoneo;
(3) of moral choice (Mark 13:20): "Mary hath chosen the good part" (Luke 10:42);
(4) of Christ as the chosen Messiah of God (Luke 23:35 1 Peter 2:4 the King James Version);
(5) of Christ choosing His apostles (Luke 6:13 John 6:70; John 13:18; John 15:16, 19 Acts 1:2, 24); Paul (Acts 9:15; compare Acts 22:14 the King James Version), procheirizomai; Rufus (Romans 16:13); and Paul chose Silas (Acts 15:40), epilego;
(6) of God
(a) choosing Israel (Acts 13:17; compare Romans 9:11),
(b) choosing the Christian church as the new Israel (1 Peter 2:9 the King James Version),
(c) choosing the members of the church from among the poor (James 2:5), the foolish, weak and despised (1 Corinthians 1:27-28),
(d) choosing into His favor and salvation a few out of many: "Many are called, but few are chosen' " (Matthew 20:16 (omitted in the Revised Version (British and American)); Matthew 22:14); God shortens the days of the destruction of Jerusalem "for the elect's sake, whom he chose" (Mark 13:20).
2. Of God's Free Grace:
In Ephesians 1:4-6 every phrase tells a different phase of the conception:
(1) God chose (and foreordained) the saints in Christ before the foundation of the world;
(2) according to the good pleasure of His will;
(3) unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself;
(4) to be holy and without blemish before Him in love;
(5) to the praise of the glory of His grace;
(6) which He freely bestowed on them in the Beloved. And in Revelation 17:14, the triumphant church in heaven is described as "called and chosen and faithful." God's sovereign choice governs the experience and testing of the saints at every point from beginning to end.
Thus in the New Testament as in the Old Testament
(1) God's covenant of grace is free and unconditional. It is unto all men, now as individuals rather than nations, and without distinction of race or class. It is no less free and sovereign, because it is a father's grace.
(2) Israel is still a chosen race for a special purpose.
(3) The church and the saints that constitute it are chosen to the full experience and privileges of sonship.
(4) God's purpose of grace is fully revealed and realized through Jesus Christ.
3. Ultimate Antinomies:
This doctrine raises certain theological and metaphysical difficulties that have never yet been satisfactorily solved.
(1) How can God be free if all His acts are preordained from eternity? This is an antinomy which indeed lies at the root of all personality. It is of the essence of the idea of personality that a person should freely determine himself and yet act in conformity with his own character. Every person in practice and experience solves this antinomy continually, though he may have no intellectual category that can coordinate these two apparently contradictory principles in all personality.
(2) How can God be just, if a few are chosen and many are left? And
(3) How can man be free if his moral character proceeds out of God's sovereign grace? It is certain that if God chose all or left all He would be neither just nor gracious, nor would man have any vestige of freedom.
4. Election Corresponds to Experience:
The doctrine describes accurately (a) the moral fact, that some accept salvation and others reject it; (b) the religious fact that God's sovereign and unconditional love is the beginning and cause of salvation. The meeting-point of the action of grace, and of man's liberty as a moral and responsible being, it does not define. Nor has the category as yet been discovered wherewith to construe and coordinate these two facts of religious experience together, although it is a fact known in every Christian experience that where God is most sovereign, man is most free.
For other passages, and the whole idea in the New Testament, see ELECTION.