Understanding the universal motif

Triple_corner_double_shaded_motifs_small-4gGenesis 10, with its passage listing the table of nations, is important for understanding the universal motif of the Old Testament.  Gerhard von Rad described it as the conclusion to the history of the Creation.

One of the fundamental truths of Genesis 1 – 11, is that it is the record of history’s beginning – it is also found in the moving account of history’s end, the book of John’s Revelation.  The very God who revealed Himself to Israel and dwelt among us in Jesus Christ identifies Himself as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.  God is cutting a path directly through the weary and plodding activities of people in history in order to achieve His goals among the nations.

After the Bible finishes its account of God’s judgement of the nations, so graphically described in the Genesis passage about the Tower of Babel, it shifts in chapter 12 to God’s call to Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees.  The “God of the whole earth” seems at first glance to narrow His interests to the private history of one family and tribe only, but in  actuality, nothing could be further from the truth.  In de Groot’s words, “Israel is the opening word in God’s proclaiming salvation, not the Amen.”  For a time Israel, the  “people of Abraham,” is separated from the other nations, but only so that through Israel God can pave the way toward achieving His world-embracing goals.

God chose Israel with the intention that she would speak to the other nations.  Whenever Israel forgot this and turned away from the nations in introverted pride, prophets like Amos, Jeremiah and Isaiah lashed out at the people’s ethnocentric pretension and charged them with subverting God’s actual intentions.

Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah all saw the horizon expanding and bore witness that all nations now fall within the spotlight of God’s promises.  The apocalyptic vision of Daniel predicts the coming of the Son of Man whose kingdom shall put an end to the brutish kingdoms of the world and whose domain shall include all peoples.


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