The God who divided the light from darkness, evening from the morning, the waters under the heavens from those above, the dry land from the sea, different kinds of fish, birds and animals from one another and the animals from man at creation is the God who separated the Jews from the Gentiles in the typical new creation of Old Testament redemptive history. All of this, in turns, serves to emphasize God’s work of separating a people out of every nation from the world for Himself to be a new creation in Christ. The meta-narrative of Scripture is the record of God’s redeeming work of separating a people for Himself out of the world. Genesis 1 and 2 were originally given to the Old Covenant church to help them understand who God was, what He had done for them and what they were to be as a people separate from all the nations on earth. This is, of course, fulfilled in Christ in the New Covenant people of God. In short, we are meant to see in the divisions that God enacts in the creation account His purposes of redeeming a people for Himself out of the world to be separate in holiness.
The history of Israel is the history of Abraham. God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans and from his father’s house. The redemption and calling of Abraham were built on the idea of separation. Jonathan Edwards helpfully pointed out that there was a difference in the way in which God delivered Noah from the corruption of the world and the way in which He delivered Abraham. He wrote:
It pleased God now to separate that person of whom Christ was to come, from the rest of the world, that his church might be upheld in his family and posterity till that time. He called Abraham out of his own country, and from his kindred, to go into a distant country, that God should show him; and brought him first out of Ur of the Chaldees to Haran, and then to the land of Canaan.
It was before observed, that the idolatrous corruption of the world was now become general; mankind were almost wholly overrun with idolatry. God therefore saw it necessary, in order to uphold true religion in the world, that there should be a family separated from all others. It proved to be high time to take this course, lest the church of Christ should wholly be carried away with the apostasy. For Abraham’s own country and kindred had most of them fallen off; and without some extraordinary interposition of Providence, in all likelihood, in a generation or two more, the true religion in this line would have been extinct. And therefore God called Abraham, the person in whose family he intended to uphold the true religion, out of his own country, and from his kindred, to a far distant country, that his posterity might there remain a people separate from all the rest of the world; that so the true religion might be upheld there, while all mankind besides were swallowed up in heathenism.
This was a new thing: God had never taken such a method before. His church had not in this manner been separated from the rest of the world till now; but were wont to dwell with them, without any bar or fence to keep them separate; the mischievous consequence of which had been found once and again. Before the flood, the effect of God’s people living intermingled with the wicked world, without any remarkable wall of separation, was, that the sons of the church joined in marriage with others, and thereby almost all soon became infected, and the church was almost brought to nothing. The method that God then took to fence the church was, to drown the wicked world, and save the church in the ark. Before Abraham was called, the world was become corrupt again. But now God took another method; he did not destroy the wicked world, and save Abraham, and his wife, and Lot, but calls these persons to go and live separate from the rest of the world.
During the time of their bondage in Egypt, the Lord told Israel that he intended to make “a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” One of the first ways that He did this was by not sending all of the plagues on Israel. This certainly did not mean that Israel did not deserve judgment as well. In fact, the Lord showed them in the tenth plague that unless there was the blood of a lamb to stand between them and the Lord they would suffer the same judgment from the destroying angel in the loss of their firstborn. Ultimately, God brought out those who put the blood on the doorposts of their houses. He separated them from the world by bringing them to Himself at the foot of the mountain to be a worshiping community.