The Hebrew culture of Old Testament times was very much a corporate culture. While individuals certainly had personal identities and many patriarchs, prophets, and kings were elevated to significant levels of prominence, the general society coalesced around corporate structures like family, clan, tribe, and nation. The importance placed upon God’s election of Abraham, God’s covenant with Moses, God’s leadership through judges, God’s communication through prophets, and God’s reign through kings was always in the context of the people as the chosen Israel.
The impetus was from the one (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) toward the twelve families and tribes in loose confederation toward one unified nation under a messianic monarch. The goal was for each individual to find identity, love, acceptance, achievement, and legacy within the integrity of the nation as the people of God. That goal was reached when the nation was united under a king. Saul, David, and Solomon brought a unifying identity to the nation as the people of God.
That unity was short-lived. The kingdom divided. The kings sought personal prominence rather than corporate integrity. Though struggles for power, influence, and significance drove deep wedges between the tribes, the hope for a united people of God was never fully abandoned. A united people in a united kingdom under a divinely anointed king became the hope and provided the ideal goal for the future. God’s initiative of grace would find its expression in a chosen people serving God in the world. In a sense, we are trying today to recreate that same vision of a chosen people serving God in the world.