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Admittedly, I don't mind being contrarian, but it seems that Ancient Israel was very much a modern nation. It was not, and never was, intended as a multicultural society. In fact, it takes this notion a bit further, into true nationalism, by seeking to really serve only Jews. The fact that that definition is more expansive than religious Jews would like, merely reflects that the larger community defines their religious affiliation more expansively, as children of Abraham, which is actually how the Bible would define it. The covenant was with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and there were expectations, and consequences for non-compliance, but no expulsions. Today Israel is obliged to accept pre-existing, non-Jew populations, but it is has been a source of contention and controversy, since Israel's founding in 1948.

Contrary to viewing them through European eyes, Israel is, and was, a model for the modern nation. Whether that's a good thing or not is up for debate, but it's a thing.

No nation, despite it's greatest efforts, is pure, but for both ancient and modern Israel there were different sets of laws and standards for Jews and non-Jews. However, ancient Israel was supposed to be pure--no gentiles. That never wholly worked out. It was also supposed to be a theocracy, which it was, to varying degrees of success, and failure. The question now, particularly from a religious perspective, is that when Abraham went into the Promised Land, who told him to go? The Lord! When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, who told them to go? The Lord! When Jews returned after the Babylonian Exile, who told them to go? The Lord! This time, who told them to go? As you point out, today, Israel is both a secular idea and execution. As for nationhood, it's flawed like any other.

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I dunno . . . seems like Ancient Israel was a nation in the context of the ancient world in the same way that Israel is a nation in the context of the modern world. Then, yes, religion was one of the demarcations defining the boundaries between nations, whereas now, it's more about geography. But in both cases, there was a political entity under common rule, a sense of membership.

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