For you are an holy people to the LORD your God: the LORD your God has chosen you to be a special people to himself, above all people that are on the face of the earth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)An holy people.—Not merely “a holy nation” (as in Exodus 19:6), but “a holy people” i.e., a state of which holiness to Jehovah was the very constitution. If God pleased to establish such a state, manifestly its laws could allow no toleration of anything displeasing to Him. And it is also manifest that nothing but Divine revelation would authorise the establishment of such a constitution.
A special people.—The same word with the “peculiar treasure” of Exodus 19:5 and the “jewels” of Malachi 3:17. The private property of King David is described by the same word (1Chronicles 29:3), “mine own proper good.” (See also Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18; Psalm 135:4 )Deuteronomy 7:13 and Exodus 34:13 note.
the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself above all people that are upon the face of the earth; for special service and worship, and to enjoy special privileges and benefits, civil and religious; though they were not chosen to special grace here, and eternal glory hereafter; at least not all of them, only a remnant, according to the election of grace; yet they were typical of the chosen people of God in a special sense; who are chosen out of the world to be a peculiar people, to be holy here and happy hereafter; to enjoy communion with God in this life and that to come, as well as to serve and glorify him now and for evermore.For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)6. an holy people unto Jehovah thy God] So Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 14:21; Deuteronomy 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:9; cp. Exodus 19:6 (J prob. expanded): an holy nation. As elsewhere in Deut., holy is here used in the formal sense of separated unto, or reserved for, Jehovah, and includes an ethical meaning only by implication, i.e. in so far as traffic with the heathen and the worship of their gods, which Israel, in consequence of his holiness to Jehovah, was forbidden to share, would necessarily involve the people in immoral practices. See the following note.
Holiness in Deut. and other O.T. Writers
The adj. holy (ḳadosh), and the noun holiness (ḳodesh), with the various forms of the verb (prob. denominative) to be holy, and to hallow or sanctify, require a separate note, especially in view of certain phenomena which distinguish the use of these terms in Deut. The meaning of the root ‘ḳ-d-sh’ ‘appears to be physical: ‘cut off,’ ‘separate,’ ‘set apart.’ But in Heb. and other Semitic languages the words derived from it are always used in a religious sense, both of God or the gods and of things and men in their relation to the deity. It is not certain whether they were first applied to deity as separate from, or at a distance above men, and then transferred to men and things belonging to the deity; or whether they were originally used of these as set apart from common use for the use of the god and then transferred to himself. But this is clear, that as the meaning of the terms grew in Israel’s use of them, the chief influence in that growth was the revealed nature of Israel’s God. At first the meaning of holy and holiness was purely formal, without ethical content, and negative. Even in Israel, and even with prophets who had very rich conceptions of the moral and metaphysical nature of God, the terms still often retain their original and negative character. To Hosea God is Holy as the Utter Contrast of man, Hosea 11:9 : God and not man, the Holy One in the midst of thee; to the Prophet of the Exile He is the Incomparable, Isaiah 40:25 : to whom will ye liken me, that I should be equal to him? saith the Holy One. But as these passages show, the terms could not remain negative when used of God, but became positive and equivalent to godhead. In Phoenician (as A. B. Davidson points out) the phrase ‘the holy gods’ just means the divine gods. Similarly in Israel the contents of the term Holy came to be the contents of the nature of Jehovah as these were revealed to the prophets. To Hosea (Hosea 11:9, see above) God’s holiness, His utter contrast with men, is His love and power of forgiving. To Isaiah it is His transcendence, majesty and awful purity, crushing and bewildering sinful man (Isaiah 6:1-5, high and lifted up, the foundations moved … the house was filled with smoke … woe is me, I am undone … a man of unclean lips), and His righteousness or justice (Isaiah 5:16, the Holy One is holy by righteousness); it is parallel to His glory (Isaiah 6:3). Yet ‘none of these attributes are synonyms of holiness strictly, they are rather elements in holiness’ (Davidson).
As applied to things holy simply means that they have been ceremonially set apart for the deity; so of the Sabbath (hallow it), the firstborn (sanctify them to me "" they are mine), the sanctuary (miḳdash), its furniture, priests’ clothing, and foods (virtually equivalent to clean), etc. Similarly men are holy not because of their character, but from their devotion to the deity or His service, e.g. 1 Samuel 21:5 f. of soldiers (of divers characters) consecrated to war (see on Deuteronomy 20:1 ff., Deuteronomy 33:3); of a prophet, 2 Kings 4:9; and frequently in P of priests, Levites and Nazirites. In E, Exodus 22:31, holy is applied to the whole nation: they must not eat flesh torn by beasts of the field and not slain ritually, because they are men holy to Jehovah, His own and set apart for Him; while in Jeremiah 2:3 holy = inviolable: as holiness to Jehovah, early Israel could not be devoured by other nations without guilt falling on these. Here also, however, the character of the God to whom Israel was sacred, gradually ethicised the term holy. This appears as early as J. Exodus 19:5 f. (unless this passage is editorial), where it is announced that the people will be holy if they obey God’s voice and keep His covenant; and it is very clear in the formula, Be ye holy for I am holy, because of its connection with moral requirements, Leviticus 19:1-3; Leviticus 20:7. Even when Israel’s holiness is emphasised as incompatible with attendance on heathen cults, the notoriously immoral character of these implies that the holiness is not merely ceremonial but ethical as well. In Psalms 15, 24 only the upright and pure are fit to dwell in the holy place of God; yet even here holiness may mean no more than an awful sacredness (cp. Isaiah 33:14 f.). On the whole subject see A. B. Davidson, Theol. of the O.T. 144 ff., and J. Skinner, art. ‘Holiness in the O.T.’ in Hastings’ D.B.
In Deut., in which the use of holy and holiness is not so frequent or characteristic as it is in the Prophets and P, we find only some of the meanings described above; the whole range of them is not covered. The purely ritual sense, applied to things and men consecrated to God, is oftenest expressed: Deuteronomy 5:12 (the Sabbath); Deuteronomy 15:19 (firstling males); Deuteronomy 12:26, Deuteronomy 26:13 (all thy holy things, vows and tithes of the increase of fields and flocks); Deuteronomy 23:14 (the camp, because of God’s presence); cp. Deuteronomy 22:9 where R.V. forfeited, probably the exact meaning, is literally hallowed or consecrated; and Deuteronomy 23:17 f. where the men and women who sacrificed their chastity to the gods are called by the names they bore throughout the Semitic world (Ḳadesh and Ḳedeshah). Five times is Israel called a holy people—a people holy to Jehovah thy God. But in one of these passages, Deuteronomy 26:19, this means a people distinct from other nations, and high above them in renown; and in another, Deuteronomy 28:9 (as the context shows), an inviolable people just as in Jeremiah 2:3, though the condition of such inviolableness is moral, their obedience to all the commandments of Jehovah. In two others, Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 14:21, the phrase is used as the ground for their abstention from mutilation for the dead, and from eating what has not been ritually slain; while in Deuteronomy 7:6 it is given (as we have seen) as a reason for not treating or trafficking with the heathen or engaging in their cults. In these last three cases a moral meaning is doubtless implied in holy, because of the notoriously immoral character of such cults, but it is not explicit. This is strange after what we have seen of the moral contents of the term holy in the Prophets. But stranger still as coming after the Prophets (see above) is the fact that holy is nowhere in Deut. applied to God Himself (though in Deuteronomy 26:15 heaven is called His holy habitation); and He is not Styled as Isaiah so frequently styles Him the Holy One of Israel. Did the deuteronomists purposely avoid the association of this name with Jehovah because of some superstitious use of it (cp. Jeremiah’s repudiation of Isaiah’s conviction of the sanctity of the Temple, when this had become a mere fetish with the people), or because it was also applied to heathen gods?
Jehovah thy God hath chosen thee] The order of the original is much more emphatic: And (so Sam., LXX and some Heb. MSS) thee hath Jehovah thy God chosen. Similarly Deuteronomy 4:37, Deuteronomy 10:15, Deuteronomy 14:2 with Sg., and with Pl. only Deuteronomy 7:7. The idea and its expression are characteristic of D; it is not found in other documents of the Hex. nor in pre-deuteronomic writings (yet cp. Amos 3:2), but occurs frequently after D, in the deuteronomic Jeremiah 33:24, and 1 Kings 3:8; and frequently in Isaiah 41:8-9; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 44:1-2; cp. Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 43:20; Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 49:7; also of God’s restoration of the exiled Israel Isaiah 14:1. We must not impart into the phrase the full meaning of ‘election’ in the N.T. or Christian theology. As the passages in 2nd Isaiah show, ‘election’ by God is election to service (see the writer’s Isaiah xl.–lxvi. pp. 237 f.), and as Jeremiah 18 shows, it may be annulled if the object of it prove to be unworthy; yet, according to Isaiah 14:1, it may, on repentance being shown, be renewed; cp. below Deuteronomy 30:3 ff.
a peculiar people] Lit. a people of special possession; in late O.T. of the privy property of kings, 1 Chronicles 29:3, Ecclesiastes 2:8; in N. H. the verb from which it is derived means to acquire property. Also in Deuteronomy 14:2 and Deuteronomy 26:18, like this passage, in Sg. Not certainly found before D, for Exodus 19:5 is editorial. For details see note on that verse. The adj. has the sense which the noun ‘peculiar’ retains in Eng.
6–11. The reasons for the previous commands to destroy the peoples of the land, and to abstain from traffic with them, leading as this would to participation in their worship of other gods. Israel are for Jehovah alone: to this end He loved, chose, and redeemed them. This is one of the many cases in Deut. in which the principles or ideas offered for certain practices or acts of conduct commanded to Israel are of a far higher standard than these practices themselves, and therefore have endured as the essentials of religion when the practices are either no longer prescribed or actually forbidden (as in Christianity). The passage, which might appear to be founded on Exodus 19:5 f., is not certainly so; for Exodus 19:5 f. (on which see the note) has probably been expanded. The address changes to the Pl. in Deuteronomy 7:7-8, which are probably a later insertion: see below.Verse 6. - An holy people; a people consecrated to God, to be holy as he is holy (cf. Leviticus 11:43-45; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:26; Leviticus 21:6; Deuteronomy 23:14). A special people unto himself; literally, to be to him for a people of property (סְגֻלָּה), a people his own, his peculiar property (cf. Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18; and, for the meaning of the word, 1 Chronicles 29:3, "mine own proper good;" Ecclesiastes 2:8, "peculiar treasure of kings"); LXX., λαὸς περιούσιος, applied by St. Paul to Christians as the chosen and special property of Christ (Titus 2:14:). Above all people; rather, out of or from among all the peoples. Deuteronomy 24:13, this does not prevent the further reference to the "righteousness" also. This righteousness before Jehovah, it is true, is not really the gospel "righteousness of faith;" but there is no opposition between the two, as the righteousness mentioned here is not founded upon the outward (pharisaic) righteousness of works, but upon an earnest striving after the fulfilment of the law, to love God with all the heart; and this love is altogether impossible without living faith.
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