Why was God so patient and gracious toward Israel in the Old Testament?

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In the Old Testament God is patient and gracious towards everybody, not just his own people Israel. For example, in Genesis 6 through 9, I mean, God waits so long before he sends the flood. God was gracious towards Adam and Eve, he was gracious towards Cain, but finally people are just killing each other, so God cracks down. But even then, he waits long until he sends the flood. In Genesis 15 Abraham is told that it's going to be four hundred years before his descendants can take the land — "until the iniquity of the Amorite is complete." So, God was very patient with everybody, but he's especially patient with Israel because he had a covenant with Israel. He said, "I haven't done this for you, O Israel, because you were so righteous, or because you were the greatest of all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples." He says, "I did this for you because I loved you and because I made a promise to your ancestors." Also, Israel was to be the vehicle through whom God was to reveal himself to the nations. God said to Abraham that he had chosen Abraham so that he would raise his descendants in the right way so that they would follow God's covenant. So, all through, God is patient, but God was especially patient with Israel because of his covenant with them and because God had a purpose to bless all the nations through the seed of Abraham.

Answer by Dr. Craig S. Keener

Dr. Craig Keener teaches New Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.