Moses and gave him the assignment of leading the people of Israel up out of Egypt. He also told Moses to tell them that they were his chosen people:
"For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt." (Deut. 7:6-8 NIV)
From that point on, there has been jealousy and rivalry and war among these close relatives, the Arabs and the Israelites. It is a jealousy that goes beyond normal sibling rivalry. It revolves around choices God made and the promises he made to Israel as his chosen people.
Psychologists have written books about 'irregular people' and 'toxic parents' who favor one child over another unreasonably. Is that the sort of parent God was in choosing Jacob's offspring rather than Esau's?
No, God had sound reasons for his special dealings with the nation of Israel. And he engineered things so that the Jews did not, ultimately, have an unfair advantage over the rest of mankind. Their being 'chosen' resulted in many blessings, but also in many tribulations. What other nationality has been persecuted from one country to another, culminating in a holocaust in which six million were killed? When faced with such persecution, the lead character in the play Fiddler on the Roof finds it so painful that he asks God to 'choose someone else next time.'
But why did God 'choose' one people out of all mankind? Primarily, because the Messiah would need to be born in a community that would be able to receive him appropriately. By the time the Christ child was scheduled to be born, the rest of mankind had forgotten about the Creator and his promised "seed." (More will be said about the Promised Seed in the next chapter of this book.) The Jews would have forgotten, too, and would have been worshiping
idols with the rest of the human race, if God had not intervened and made them his Chosen People.
When Moses was still on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the people of Israel had his brother Aaron make them a golden calf and they bowed down and worshiped it. They turned to idolatry just as quickly as all the other nations. God intervened and forced them to destroy that idol. The history of Israel shows that he intervened many, many times in the same way, because the people of Israel had the same sinful tendencies as the other nations to abandon true worship and to fall into idolatry.
The Chosen People were given the Ten Commandments, as well as more than six hundred laws of God, to force them to preserve true worship of the one living and true God, and to preserve some semblance of moral and ethical purity. God could have chosen any nationality to provide this appropriate framework to receive the Messiah. But, he had to choose somebody. So, why not the Jews?
Besides providing a society practicing true worship, in which the Messiah could make an appearance, God also needed a Chosen People to preserve the sacred Scriptures. A pagan society would not have valued the holy writings, and they would have been lost. So, one nation on the earth had to be kept somewhat on the straight and narrow, to act as custodians of the Bible.
"The Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God," according to the Apostle Paul. (Romans 3:2 New Living Translation) "The Jews are the people to whom God's message was entrusted." (Romans 3:2 Jerusalem Bible) Even the Islamic holy book the Koran says that the Jews "were required to preserve the Book of ALLAH" and that "they were guardians over it." (5:45)
So, the Jews were 'chosen' to do a job that needed to be done. Any nation could have been chosen, and if another nation had been instead of the Jews -- say, the Irish, for example -- then people would have asked, "Why the Irish?" in the same way that they now ask, "Why the Jews?"
Ultimately, though, the Jews were not given a permanent advantage over other nations, because God is not the sort of parent who plays favorites. "There