“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).


Events throughout the Pentateuch as well as the books of the so called Deuteronomic History (DtrH), in fact the entire Torah foreshadows what Paul writes to the believers in Corinth about their new identity: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (5:17, ESV),[1] but this oracle of things to come had already come, in part, as a brief survey of the OT reveals. Again, referring to identity, Paul writes to the Galatians: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (3:29), and Jesus authenticates the Abrahamic identity of Zacchaeus by the blessing He bestows on the tax collector’s house:[2] “And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’” (19:9,10).

More than Skin Deep

Not just any foreigner, but a Moabite, Ruth bodes quite problematic in terms of inclusion and provides a relevant OT intertextual comparison of obedience. “No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation” (Deut 23:3). What is more, even as Edomites and Egyptians are permitted entry into the Promised Land after three generations (Deut. 23:8), Moabites are strictly prohibited to the tenth generation, yet David’s mighty warriors comprise an Ammonite, a Hittite, and a Moabite (1 Chr. 11:39, 41, 46). Yahweh’s approval of Ruth in response to her dedication to Naomi, as well as the multi-ethnic composition of King David’s closest and most trusted warriors, are examples from within the timeframe of the DtrH showing that Yahweh’s love runs deeper than ethnicity.[3] Therefore, to address David Firth’s caution concerning the Gibeonites, whom fall somewhere between dedication and opposition, Lori Rowlett acknowledges that they are spared the usual punishment of death due to their voluntary submission to Joshua and to Yahweh.[4] Consequently, despite their initial deception, the Gibeonites are permitted to live among the Israelites, though they would occupy a lowly place within the social hierarchy of Israel.

In contrast to the faithfulness demonstrated by Rahab, or the more apathetic stance taken by the Gibeonites, one of many episodes of disobedience of the law of ḥērem, or total annihilation, is observed in the beginning of Judges presents a relevant OT intertextual comparison of disobedience. After defeating Adoni-bezek, the Israelites opt to cut off his thumbs and big toes, as the king had customarily done to his foes; however, instead of being executed, as Deuteronomy 7:24 commands, the Israelites only maim the king and allow him to live out his days in Jerusalem. “And Adoni-bezek said, ‘Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.’ And they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there” (Judg. 1:7). The Israelites will go on to pay dearly for their disobedience and the assimilation of the customs of those whom have set themselves up against God.[5]

In response to questions posed by Rowlett: “who is included” and “who is excluded” specifically in the Joshua narrative, for example, the answer is not so much about ethnicity as might be inferred from a superficial reading of the text. Indeed, Scripture demonstrates that God is more concerned with the inward than the outward, which is illustrated by His approval of Rahab and Caleb and His disproval of Achan. In addition to speaking hope to the broken, marginalized, and disenfranchised, God delights in creating, recreating, and redeeming the created order;[6] therefore, the inclusion of those whom do not oppose Yahweh, whether they be Israel by birth or not, is the main theological issue repeated throughout the OT. Instead, Yahweh calls Israel to be “a light to the nations,” with an eschatological vision concerning the end of warfare (Isa. 2:2-4, Mic. 4:I-5).[7] Although its full realization is embodied by Christ, the redemptive effect of God’s grace is present long before the NT era. The book of Joshua demonstrates a theology of justification through faith in that Gentiles are grafted into the family of God; moreover, as with Rahab, even be ordained a place within the fulfillment of the Messianic promise. Consider Paul’s exhortation to the Romans, “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God“ (Josh. 2:29); therefore, someone such as Rahab, a Canaanite, a prostitute, not to mention her aid to the Israelite spies includes repeated incidents of deception, gains entry to the community;[8] whereas, even natural born Israelites, such as Achan, can be excluded for their unfaithfulness.[9]

The Children of God

Therefore, God did not experience a religious conversion just before the NT era; on the contrary, throughout the OT period, God repeatedly calls His people to Himself time and time again, with the promise of forgiveness and transformation, and furthermore, God laments with the heartache when His children turn away to other gods.[10] As Craig Keener explains, “Israel’s loving God, her betrayed and wounded lover, is ultimately fully revealed in Jesus as the God of the cross, the God who would rather bear our judgment than let us be estranged from him forever.”[11] Therefore, episodes such as those with characters like Rahab and Caleb in Joshua, or Ruth, or foreigners amongst the ranks of David’s mighty men, not only foreshadow, but in some ways embody, the messianic promise and the messianic vision that ultimately find fulfillment in Christ. Conversely, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named’” (Rom. 9:6b,7). Paul goes on to clarify, not merely within the NT context but OT as well, that the basis of identity is redemption, based not on the flesh but on the promise. “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Rom. 9:8).

“And he [Abram] believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6). The expression “and he counted it” (וַיַּחְשְׁבֶ֥הָ) is generally rendered as “to reckon” or “to consider,”[12] and Abraham and the righteousness credited him represents another central tenant of Israelite identity. “They [the Jews] answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did’” (John 8:39,40). Although Jesus’ opponents may be offspring in the flesh, He insists that they are not actually Abraham’s at all, but casts them in much the same light as the Joshua narrative casts Achan. The conclusion of the argument of Jesus’ opponents shows how deeply ingrained Jewish identification with Abraham had become between the conquest of Canaan and the first century CE. “So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:59). Besides perhaps Moses, no other patriarch is as elemental to Jewish identity as Abraham,[13] yet the text makes it apparent that Jesus’ opponents failed to grasp what truly makes one Abraham’s decedent. Similarly, God uses The Law throughout the OT to reveal those whom belong to Him and those whom do not. Moreover, the heart, not blood, ultimately determines those for whom the Abrahamic promise has in view, and though the advent of Christ is the fulfilment, one need not wait for the NT to witness the transformative power of God within the pages of Scripture.


The OT consists of example after example that exemplifies God’s providence and faithfulness, and with regard to “who is included” and “who is excluded,” the answer is not bound as strictly on ethnicity as one might initially think in that Scripture demonstrates that God is more concerned with the inward than the outward. Though to respond to skeptics for whom God seems to contradict Himself, E.A. Martens’ illustration may shed light: “A mother is not inconsistent when at one moment she sharply instructs her children not to cut the flowers in the flower garden, yet moments later asks a daughter to cut some flowers for a table bouquet.” [14] What is more, God’s covenant faithfulness, which reformers as John Calvin and Martin Luther affirm a covenant of grace, observed throughout the OT, is a means for which to convey the hope of everlasting life and assurance of adoption into the family of God from the very beginning.[15]

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the English Standard Version.

[2] Tax collectors are hated by the Jews, as they are viewed as collaborators and notorious for charging more than was owed for personal profit. Zacchaeus is an excellent contrast to Achan.

[3] Nina Ranadive Pooley, “Unlikely redeemers,” Sewanee Theological Review 46, no 4 (Sep 2003): 498.

[4] Lori L Rowlett, “Inclusion, Exclusion and Marginality in the Book of Joshua,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 17 no. 55 (Sep 1992): 19.

[5] David G. Firth, Including the Stranger: Foreigners in the Former Prophets (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 2019), 58.

[6] Michael Moore, “Ruth the Moabite and the Blessing of Foreigners,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 60, no 2 (April 1998): 217.

[7] Douglas Earl, “Reading the Book of Joshua Theologically: the Problem of Violence,” Scripture Bulletin 35, no. 2 (Jul 2005): 65.

[8] Some struggle with God’s approval of Rahab seeing as she was not only a prostitute, but actively deceived the King of Jericho and his soldiers in aiding the Israelites; however, further study demonstrates God’s common grace and ultimately Rahab’s redemption, much as we see happen with Abraham in Genesis.   

[9] Referring to Achan, his family and livestock, “And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones” (Josh 7:25b).

[10] Craig S. Keener, “Reading the Torah as the Law of Faith.” Southwestern Journal of Theology 64, no. 1 (Fall 2021): 90.

[11] Ibid., 90.

[12] Mark Sheridan and Thomas C. Oden, Genesis 12-50 (Ed. Mark Sheridan and Thomas C. Oden; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2002), 32.

[13] Thomas Römer, “Abraham’s righteousness and sacrifice: how to understand (and translate) Genesis 15 and 22.” Communio viatorum 54, no 1 (2012): 13.

[14] E. A. Martens, “How is the Christian to Construe Old Testament Law?,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 12, no. 2 (2002): 207.

[15] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009), 274; Martin Luther, Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, Edited by Timothy F Lull, & William R. Russel. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012), 111.

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