Chosen people

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Throughout history, various groups of people have considered themselves to be the chosen people of a deity, for a particular purpose. The phenomenon of a "chosen people" is well known among the Israelites and Jews, where the term (Hebrew: עם סגולה / העם הנבחר, romanizedam segulah / ha-am ha-nivhar) originally referred to the Israelites as being selected by Yahweh to worship only him and to fulfill the mission of proclaiming his truth throughout the world.[1] Some claims of chosenness are based on parallel claims of Israelite ancestry, as is the case for the Christian Identity and Black Hebrew sects—both which claim themselves (and not Jews) to be the "true Israel". Others claim that the concept is spiritual, where individuals who genuinely believe in God are considered to be the "true" chosen people. This view is common among most Christian denominations, who historically believed that the church replaced Israel as the people of God.

Anthropologists commonly regard claims of chosenness as a form of ethnocentrism.[2][3]


In Judaism, "chosenness" is the belief that the Jews, via descent from the ancient Israelites, are the chosen people, i.e., chosen to be in a covenant with God. The idea of the Israelites being chosen by God is found most directly in the Book of Deuteronomy,[4] where it is applied to Israel at Mount Sinai upon the condition of their acceptance of the Mosaic covenant between themselves and the LORD God. The decalogue immediately follows, and the seventh day sabbath is given as the sign of the covenant, with a requirement that Israel keep it, or else be cut off. The verb 'bahar (בָּחַ֣ר (Hebrew)), and is alluded to elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible using other terms such as "holy people".[5] Much is written about these topics in rabbinic literature. The three largest Jewish denominations—Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism—maintain the belief that the Jews have been chosen by God for a purpose. Sometimes this choice is seen as charging the Jewish people with a specific mission—to be a light unto the nations, and to exemplify the covenant with God as described in the Torah. This is first prominently outlined in Genesis 12:2.[6]

While the concept of "choseness" may be understood by some to connote ethnic supremacy,[7] Conservative Judaism denies this, as it claims that as a result of being chosen, Jews also bear the greatest responsibility, which incurs the most severe punishment upon disobedience.

"Few beliefs have been subject to as much misunderstanding as the 'Chosen People' doctrine. The Torah and the Prophets clearly stated that this does not imply any innate Jewish superiority. In the words of Amos (3:2) 'You alone have I singled out of all the families of the earth—that is why I will call you to account for your iniquities.' The Torah tells us that we are to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" with obligations and duties which flowed from our willingness to accept this status. Far from being a license for special privilege, it entailed additional responsibilities not only toward God but to our fellow human beings. As expressed in the blessing at the reading of the Torah, our people have always felt it to be a privilege to be selected for such a purpose. For the modern traditional Jew, the doctrine of the election and the covenant of Israel offers a purpose for Jewish existence which transcends its own self interests. It suggests that because of our special history and unique heritage we are in a position to demonstrate that a people that takes seriously the idea of being covenanted with God can not only thrive in the face of oppression, but can be a source of blessing to its children and its neighbors. It obligates us to build a just and compassionate society throughout the world and especially in the land of Israel where we may teach by example what it means to be a 'covenant people, a light unto the nations.'"[8]

Likewise, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits views Jews as a group that has been divinely chosen by Yahweh to contribute to the world in a unique way. Even further, he believes that God has done a similar thing for other ethnic groups.

"Yes, I do believe that the chosen people concept as affirmed by Judaism in its holy writ, its prayers, and its millennial tradition. In fact, I believe that every people—and indeed, in a more limited way, every individual—is "chosen" or destined for some distinct purpose in advancing the designs of Providence. Only, some fulfill their mission and others do not. Maybe the Greeks were chosen for their unique contributions to art and philosophy, the Romans for their pioneering services in law and government, the British for bringing parliamentary rule into the world, and the Americans for piloting democracy in a pluralistic society. The Jews were chosen by God to be 'peculiar unto Me' as the pioneers of religion and morality; that was and is their national purpose."[9][10]

Christianity and derivatives[edit]

Seventh-day Adventism[edit]


In Mormonism, all Latter Day Saints are viewed as covenant, or chosen, people because they have accepted the name of Jesus Christ through the ordinance of baptism. In contrast to supersessionism, Latter Day Saints do not dispute the "chosen" status of the Jewish people. Most practicing Mormons receive a patriarchal blessing that reveals their lineage in the House of Israel. This lineage may be blood related or through "adoption;" therefore, a child may not necessarily share the lineage of her parents (but will still be a member of the tribes of Israel). It is a widely held belief[11] that most members of the faith are in the tribe of Ephraim or the tribe of Manasseh.

Christian Identity[edit]

Christian Identity is a belief which holds the view that only either Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Nordic, or Aryan people and those of kindred blood are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and hence the descendants of the ancient Israelites.[12]

Independently practiced by individuals, independent congregations, and some prison gangs, it is not an organized religion, nor is it connected with specific Christian denominations.[13] Its theology promotes a racial interpretation of Christianity.[14][15] Christian Identity beliefs were primarily developed and promoted by American authors who regarded Europeans as the "chosen people" and Jews as the cursed offspring of Cain, the "serpent hybrid" or serpent seed, a belief known as the two-seedline doctrine.[12] White supremacist sects and gangs later adopted many of these teachings.

Christian Identity holds that all non-whites (people not of wholly European descent) will either be exterminated or enslaved in order to serve the white race in the new Heavenly Kingdom on Earth under the reign of Jesus Christ. Its doctrine states that only "Adamic" (white) people can achieve salvation and paradise.[16]


Mandaeans formally refer to themselves as Nasurai (Nasoraeans) meaning guardians or possessors of secret rites and knowledge.[17][18] Another early self-appellation is bhiri zidqa meaning 'elect of righteousness' or 'the chosen righteous', a term found in the Book of Enoch and Genesis Apocryphon II, 4.[19]: 552–553 [20][17][21]: 18 


Based on Jewish biblical tradition and Ethiopian legend via Kebra Nagast, Rastas believe that Israel's King Solomon, together with Ethiopian Queen of Sheba, conceived a child which began the Solomonic line of kings in Ethiopia, rendering the Ethiopian people as the true children of Israel, and thereby chosen. Reinforcement of this belief occurred when Beta Israel, Ethiopia's ancient Israelite First Temple community, were rescued from Sudanese famine and brought to Israel during Operation Moses in 1985.[citation needed][dubious ]

Unification Church[edit]

Sun Myung Moon taught that Korea is the chosen nation, selected to serve a divine mission and was "chosen by God to be the birthplace of the leading figure of the age"[22] and was the birthplace of "Heavenly Tradition", ushering in God's kingdom.

Nation of Islam[edit]

The Nation of Islam teaches that black people constitute a nation and that through the institution of the Atlantic slave trade they were systematically denied knowledge of their history, language, culture, and religion and, in effect, lost control of their lives. Although not the Founder of The Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad was outspoken and called for the establishment of a separate nation for black Americans and the adoption of a religion based on the worship of Allah and on the belief that blacks were his chosen people.

Maasai religion[edit]

The traditional religion of the Maasai people from East Africa maintains that the Supreme God Ngai has chosen them to herd all cattle in the world, and this belief has been used to justify stealing from other tribes.[23][24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chosen People: Judaism". Britannica. Archived from the original on 5 September 2015.
  2. ^ William A. Haviland; Harald E. L. Prins; Dana Walrath; Bunny McBride (2009). The Essence of Anthropology. Cengage Learning. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-495-59981-4.
  3. ^ D. Stanley Eitzen; Maxine Baca Zinn (2003). In conflict and order: understanding society (10th ed.). Pearson. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-205-37622-3.
  4. ^ Clements, Ronald (1968). God's Chosen People: a Theological Interpretation of the Book of Deuteronomy. In series, Religious Book Club, 182. London: S.C.M. Press
  5. ^ Gurkan, S. Leyla (5 December 2008). The Jews as a Chosen People: Tradition and transformation. Routledge. ISBN 9781134037070 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "The Abrahamic Covenant- Bible Story". Bible Study Tools. 2020. Archived from the original on 28 November 2020.
  7. ^ * Dinstien, Yoram (Ed.), Israel Yearbook on Human Rights 1987, Volume 17; Volume 1987, p 29
    • Sharoni, Simona, "Feminist Reflections on the Interplay between Racism and Sexism in Israel", in Challenging racism and sexism: alternatives to genetic explanations, Ethel Tobach, Betty Rosoff (Eds), Feminist Press, 1994, p 319
    • Beker, Avi, Chosen: the history of an idea, the anatomy of an obsession, Macmillan, 2008, p 131, 139, 151
    • Brown, Wesley, Christian Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, p 66
    • Jacob, Jonathan, Israel: a divided Promised Land, p 69
  8. ^ Emet Ve-Emunah: Statement of Principles of Conservative Judaism, JTSA, New York, 1988, p.33–34
  9. ^ qtd. in Mackenzie
  10. ^ slife (27 March 2020). "Jews as The Chosen People". The Spiritual Life. Retrieved 16 February 2023.
  11. ^ Daniel H. Ludlow, "Of the House of Israel", Ensign, January 1991.
  12. ^ a b "Christian Identity". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Bigotry Behind Bars: Racist Groups In U.S. Prisons". Archived from the original on 29 July 2015.
  14. ^ Eck, Diane (2001). A New Religious America: How a "Christian Country" Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 347.
  15. ^ Buck, Christopher (2009). Religious Myths and Visions of America: How Minority Faiths Redefined America's World Role. Praeger. pp. 107, 108, 213. ISBN 978-0-313-35959-0.
  16. ^ Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, Michael Barkun, 1997, pp 115-119.
  17. ^ a b Rudolph, Kurt (7 April 2008). "MANDAEANS ii. THE MANDAEAN RELIGION". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2022.
  18. ^ Drower, Ethel Stefana (1953). The Haran Gawaita and the Baptism of Hibil-Ziwa. Biblioteca Apostolica Vatican.
  19. ^ Rudolph, Kurt (April 1964). "War Der Verfasser Der Oden Salomos Ein "Qumran-Christ"? Ein Beitrag zur Diskussion um die Anfänge der Gnosis". Revue de Qumrân. Peeters. 4 (16): 523–555.
  20. ^ Coughenour, Robert A. "The Wisdom Stance of Enoch's Redactor". Brill: 52. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period Vol. 13, No. 1/2 (DECEMBER 1982), pp. 47-55
  21. ^ Aldihisi, Sabah (2008). The story of creation in the Mandaean holy book in the Ginza Rba (PhD). University College London.
  22. ^ Questions and Answers - The Second Coming - Rev Moon And Korea. Unofficial Notes from International Conferences for Clergy. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  23. ^ Zakaria, Fareed. "Using technology to stop "cattle-rustling"". CNN - Global Public Square. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  24. ^ Wall, Brenda. "MASSAI: AFRICAN TRIBE". Illinois Institute of Technology. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  25. ^ "Photo Essay: Masai's Kinship with Cows". PBS. 26 May 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2021.

Further reading[edit]