Israel’s Promised Land
Note: This article is based on the Bible, but much of its format was influenced by the booklet entitled Israel’s Right to the Land! by Dr. David L. Hocking, Senior Pastor of Calvary Church of Santa Ana, California, Multnomah Press, 1987.
Since May 14, 1948, when the Israelis reclaimed the land God promised to them, there has been continued conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the land. This conflict has involved all of the Islamic nations in the Middle East, many nations around the world, and especially the United States of America. A study of the Bible clearly indicates that the Promised Land was given to only the Israelis (Jews), not to the people now known as Palestinians.
The first description of the Promised Land is made in Genesis 15:18-21, as “this land, from the river of Egypt, to the great river, the Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” It is a piece of property that God often referred to as the “land of Canaan,” and its dimensions are best depicted in Numbers 34:1-12, as follows:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance-the land of Canaan to its boundaries. Your southern border shall be from the Wilderness of Zin along the border of Edom; then your southern border shall extend eastward to the end of the Salt Sea; your border shall turn from the southern side of the Ascent of Akrabbim, continue to Zin, and be on the south of Kadesh Barnea; then it shall go on to Hazar Addar, and continue to Azmon; the border shall turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt, and it shall end at the Sea. As for the western border, you shall have the Great Sea for a border; this shall be your western border. And this shall be your northern border: From the Great Sea you shall mark out your border line to Mount Hor; from Mount Hor you shall mark out your border to the entrance of Hamath; then the direction of the border shall be toward Zedad; the border shall proceed to Ziphron, and it shall end at Hazar Enan. This shall be your northern border. You shall mark out your eastern border from Hazar Enan to Shepham; the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain; the border shall go down and reach to the eastern side of the Sea of Chinnereth; the border shall go down along the Jordan, and it shall end at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land with its surrounding boundaries.’”
Although the Israelis only have a foothold in their land at this time, the Bible is clear that the “land of Israel” will eventually all be in the hands of the Israelis and its destiny will be that of host to the Millennium Kingdom, the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church and the King of the Jews.
Today’s Israel is a land that borders the Mediterranean Sea from Egypt to Lebanon; encompassing 20,770 square kilometers, of which 440 square kilometers are water, an area slightly smaller than the State of New Jersey. Its borders run a length of 1,017 km, including Egypt-266 km, Gaza Strip-51 km, Jordan-238 km, Lebanon-79 km, Syria-76 km, and the West Bank-307 km. Its lowest point is the Dead Sea, 408 meters below sea level; and its highest point is Har Meron, 1,208 meters above sea level. It presently has between six and seven million residents.*
* all facts taken from http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/is.html
Ultimate Ownership of the Land
By order of the Creation (Genesis 1:1) and declaration, all of Earth belongs to God.
So Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the LORD'S.” (Exodus 9:29)
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. (Exodus 19:5)
The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me. (Leviticus 25:23)
Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it. (Deuteronomy 10:14)
The earth is the LORD'S, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)
Yet, God has chosen to give it to the “children of men.”
The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD'S; but the earth He has given to the children of men. (Psalm 115:16)
This study will not divulge God’s transfer of His land to the “children of men,” save the particular property called Israel (Ezekiel 37:11, 12) to His chosen people the Israelis.
Because God owns all the earth, He alone has authority to transfer title of any portion of it to whomever He selects.
When we come to the issue of Israel and its land, people ask the question,” What rights does Israel have to its land?” Arguments are continually brought forth concerning the rights of the Palestinians and the rights of the Israelis that seem logical to the people who present them and to the people who want to listen. But a basic question still remains in my mind as I listen to the many conflicting viewpoints concerning Israel’s right to its land: “Who has the ultimate authority to determine what rights Israel has to its land?” The Christian answer to that question is that God alone determines the “rights” that any of us have. Something is right or wrong because of Divine decree, not human feeling or reason. The existence of God previous to the creation of the universe and mankind gives Him the right to determine our “rights.” Morality exists because God exists. Authority exists because God exists. (Israel’s Right to the Land! by Dr. David L. Hocking, 1987)
Regarding the land of Israel, as described in Scripture above, it was God that gave (transferred title of) it unconditionally to the “descendants of Abraham.” The transfer of the title to the land of Israel was part of God’s promise of blessing to Abram (later to be renamed Abraham) when God called him out of the country of Haran, a promise that includes a blessing for anyone (or nation) who supports the Israelis and/or the nation Israel, as well as a curse for anyone who does not. Additionally, the promise assured Abram that all the peoples on earth would be blessed through him, a prophetic look forward to the incarnation, sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Genesis 12:1-7).
This covenant (promise) of God with Abram was unconditional, as seen by its confirmation ceremony where only God walked between the divided pieces of the sacrificial animals. By excluding Abram from the ceremony (contrary to custom) , God guaranteed that His covenant with Abram regarding the Promised Land was contingent only upon the nature (character) and Word of God, totally apart from the nature and performance of Abram or his descendants.
Then He said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.” And he said, “Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?” So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:7-21)
And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
The sign of the covenant for Abraham and his descendants was circumcision (Genesis 17:11). Although there are those who assert that God’s covenant with Abraham was conditional upon Israel’s faithfulness to God, the Bible teaches otherwise.
If his sons forsake My law And do not walk in My judgments, if they break My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, nor allow My faithfulness to fail. My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me; it shall be established forever like the moon, even like the faithful witness in the sky. (Psalm 89:30-37)
Although God will judge His chosen people if they disobey Him, their disobedience will not forfeit their right to the Promised Land. The promise of the land is based only upon God’s oath and character.
The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:7, 8)
And Abraham said to God, "Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!" Then God said: "No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year." (Genesis 17:18-21)
But God said to Abraham, "Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed [descendants] shall be called. (Genesis 21:12)
Of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called.” (Hebrews 11:18)
Even though Abraham had other sons by his concubines, ancestors of many Arab peoples today, and gave them gifts as he sent them away to the “land of the east,” the Bible is clear about assigning His covenant-promise (including the land) solely to Isaac (Genesis 25:5, 6; 26:3)
And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated." (Romans 9:10-13)
In a dream one night God made it very clear to Jacob that He was to be the conduit of the covenant blessings and promises that were pledged to Abraham.
And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: "I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you." (Genesis 28:13-15)
Again in Genesis 35:9-15, God appeared to Jacob, changed his name to “Israel,” the name of the Promised Land, and reaffirmed His covenant blessings and promises to him.
Also God said to him: "I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land." (vss. 11, 12)
Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 26:44, 45)
Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): "If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever." Thus says the LORD: "If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:35-37)
This writer agrees with the following point ably expressed by Dr. David L. Hocking in his booklet entitled Israel’s Right to the Land!
Many people want to know why Bible-believing Christians all over the world have such a heart for Israel and its land. What brings the Jews and Christians together? How can their hearts beat as one? Have they not disagreed sharply over the Person of Jesus of Nazareth? Have not the Jews suffered terribly at the hands of so-called Christians throughout the history of the Christian Church? What draws the Bible-believing Christian to the support of the people of Israel during this difficult hour in the history of the world? What makes these Christians stand by the nation of Israel when most of the nations of the world refuse to stand by her? There is only one answer! It is because of the Bible itself. If you believe the Bible, then you know, whether you are a Jew or a Christian, that it is through the promise given long ago to Abraham that even the Gentiles of the world will be blessed. Gentile Christians believe that they are spiritual sons of Abraham. They have come to believe that the only hope of the world is the coming of the Jewish Messiah promised by the writers of Scripture.
Zechariah tells us that the Lord will come and place His feet on the Mount of Olives. He will fight for His people Israel against all the nations of the world. All the land of Israel will dwell in safety and peace when the Messiah comes. He will rule and reign from Jerusalem, the Son of David, sitting on His throne. Regardless of Israel’s sins of the past, the Lord will forgive, cleanse, and restore.
A review of Jeremiah 31:31-34; Zechariah 13:1; Isaiah 59:20, 21 and Ezekiel 39:25-29 depicts the final coming of the Messiah to earth to set up His kingdom in the Promised Land with His chosen people Israel. Although today’s “replacement theology” would deny Jews as God’s chosen people, to be substituted by Christians, the New Testament does not support this position. The New Testament recognizes three classes—Jews, Gentiles and Christians (Jewish and Gentile). The day is coming when the nation Israel will repent by recognizing Jesus Christ as its Messiah (Romans 11:25-27). In that day God’s covenant blessings and promises to Abraham will be totally fulfilled.
As Dr. David L. Hocking states in closing out his booklet:
Yes, the day of Israel’s full restoration is near! Messiah will make it possible and we shall all live in peace. Until He comes, we, who believe the Bible is God’s Word, and that every promise of God will come to pass, we must stand and support Israel’s right to its land. It is a Divine right! We are patient with those who do not believe the Bible, nor accept Israel’s right to the land, but with love for all, we must strongly support Israel’s right. We cannot do otherwise and have clear consciences. We cannot say on the one hand that we believe there is a God who has revealed His perfect will in His Holy Scriptures, and on the other hand, deny Israel its right to the land God promised to her!