Israel, Jesus in Scripture

Whose Land Is It? (Part 3)

A friend recently asked me: “Does a non-covenant keeping people (Israel) have a divine right to the land?” I answered with a brief comment, but maybe I should have asked which covenant he was referring to. Exodus 24 describes the Mosaic Covenant in which the Law is confirmed. The people tell Moses, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey” (vs 7). And yet the people did not obey.

God foreknew their disobedience and described two different times the children of Israel would be removed from the land. But, as was covered in Part 2,  he also provided assurances that they would be regathered to the Land of Promise.

In Genesis 17:9-14, we read of a different covenant, the Covenant of Circumcision. God told Abraham this was to be an everlasting covenant for both natural born and those brought in through adoption or servanthood, and the descendants of Abraham keep this covenant to this day.

But since the question referred to the Land, the covenant could only be the one found in Genesis 15. Prior to this chapter, God progressively revealed to Abraham the extent of the land he was giving to him and his descendants as an everlasting possession.  

In Genesis 12, the Lord told Abraham “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

In this passage, God promises Abraham a land that will be revealed to him. Abraham leaves with only this vague promise. Further in the chapter, Abraham travels to the land of Canaan and in 12:7, God says, “To your offspring, I will give this land.”‬‬‬‬‬‬

In Chapter 13, God reveals more: “The Lord said to Abraham after Lot had parted from him, ‘Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you‘” (Genesis‬ 13:14-17‬). Abram is told to walk the land, and all that he sees is for him and his descendants. This area includes Hebron, which is a city in Judea and Samaria, the area the world now refers to as the West Bank.

But in Genesis 15, something different happens. The Lord appears to Abraham and promises to protect him and to provide for him. And then Abraham has the chutzpah to remind God that he hasn’t yet given him children. And in an extraordinary exchange, God again promises the land to Abraham and tells him he will take possession of it. But Abraham replies, “how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” (vs 7).

What happens in the following verses is profound and marvelous, and yet the greater church misses it because we don’t understand the historical and cultural context of what is written. God tells Abraham they are going to “cut covenant,” or walk the blood path. This blood path ceremony is one that is still used today in the cultures of the Middle East, but it is an ancient custom that was a common method of ratifying agreements.  

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In the blood path ceremony, covenants were almost always between a greater party and a lesser party. Both parties would agree to the terms and conditions and then animals would be sacrificed to execute the agreement. The animals would be cut in half and arranged opposite each other. The blood from the dead animals would run between the halves and both parties, the greater followed by the lesser, would walk between the animals and through the blood. In doing so, they were vowing fidelity to the agreement and were stating that if they failed to uphold their part of the agreement, they were accepting that they would realize the same fate as the animals through whose blood they had just walked.

Here’s the ceremony described in Genesis 15:

He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (Genesis‬ 15:7-21‬ NIV)‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Abraham brings the animals and arranges them accordingly. Then Abraham fell into a deep sleep and is terrified! Why? Because he realizes what is required of him in walking the blood path, and he recognizes with certainty that there is no way he can meet God’s standard of perfection. He knows he’s a dead man after he walks that path.

Then we understand why God put Abraham in a deep sleep, for Abraham never walks the blood path. Instead, the greater party, Almighty God, as represented by the smoking pot, walks first. This smoking pot symbolizes the Shekinah glory of God as seen throughout scripture. He is the One who set the terms of the covenant. He is the One who promised the land to Abraham and his descendants. He is the One who is effectively saying that if He does not uphold His promise of giving the land to Abraham and his descendants, He will be as these animals are.

Then it’s Abraham’s turn to walk the blood path. But he can’t move. So instead, we see another take his place: a blazing torch, God the Son, Jesus, the Light of the World. God, in an everlasting affirmation of the eternal nature of the promise, took it upon himself to walk both parts of the blood path. And when Abraham and his descendants failed to live up to God’s standards, it was Jesus that was broken, bruised, and sacrificed.

Through this cutting of covenant, God is unconditionally giving Abraham and his descendants the land. God also established another unconditional covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7, in which David and his descendants would rule over Israel and David’s house and kingdom would endure forever (vs 16).

And in a foreshadowing of the future, God tells David, “When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”( 2 Samuel‬ 7:12-16‬)

This is a dual prophecy, for the Temple was built by Solomon, David’s son. And while Jesus was beaten and flogged, and while the line of David endures eternally through Him, God is also promising David that when his descendants sin, they will be punished, but God’s love for them, and His plan for them will not be taken away.

We see that in a look back at Genesis 15. Jesus was the one who was broken when the descendants of Abraham, and David, sinned.

Aren’t we thankful that Jesus, too, paid the price for us when we couldn’t live up to God’s standard?

God has His own plans and purposes for the descendants of Abraham. We may not always understand what He is doing and accomplishing, and we may not even like or agree with His plan. But His ways are not our ways (as much as we think they should be), and His thoughts are not out thoughts.

Whose Land Is It? (Part 1) is a study of the nation of Israel from 1000 BC to 1948.

Whose Land Is It (Part 2) is an exhaustive look at the scriptures describing two distinctly different separations from the land, each followed by a regathering. 

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Whose Land Is It? (Part 2)

God chose Israel as his own, a nation through which He would demonstrate his faithfulness, his goodness, and his justice. God chose them not because they were great, but because they were small, the smallest of all the nations of the world.

God foreknew Israel’s disobedience. This disobedience results in the conquering of Israel, followed by a regathering and a rebuilding. But again, the nation descends into idolatry and perversion.

The nation experiences defeat again, but this time it proves much more devastating. Many in the church teach that this was the end of God’s covenantal relationship with Israel and that God resolved Israel had gone too far. They instruct that God chose the church as his object of affection, replacing Israel. But they ignore the clear teaching of scripture.

Whose Land Is It (Part 1) presents strong evidence for Israel’s historical and legal right to the land she inhabits. Although discussion from 1947 to present, which also includes the status of Jerusalem, needs more attention, it is appropriate to pause and ponder that God, in His foreknowledge and providence, reveals through scripture what has happened to Israel as a result of sin and disobedience.

Amos 3:7 declares: “Surely the Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” And in Isaiah the Word expresses: “I am God…there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done… before it came to you I showed it to you… new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isaiah 42:9; 46:9-10; 48:5). Certainly then, scripture prophetically unveils the judgement that Israel experiences.

Before establishing Israel as a nation on May 14th, 1948, God knew that Israel would be sown among the nations for almost 1900 hundred years. As students of scripture, it is also imperative to understand that the Bible describes both of Israel’s disbursements, 586 BC and 70 AD, in stark contrast to each other.

The first conquest of Israel was carried out by a nation, Babylon, and the people were carried off to that single nation. During the 70 years of captivity (which Isaiah also reveals), the people were told to be at peace, and to plant, build, marry, and to pray for the prosperity of Babylon.

After the second destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, the people were scattered to the nations of the world, and unlike the first disbursement, there was no definitive time for regathering. Also in contrast to 586 BC, this scattering was significant in that the people were hunted, persecuted, and fearful.

Repeatedly in scripture, God calls for His people to come home from the nations. It is this second regathering that these scriptures speak of. Furthermore, scripture specifically calls on the people to return from the land of the north. And from the north, God has indeed led the Jews home.

Before looking at these prophetic passages, some may argue that all the scriptures calling for the Jewish people to rebuild in the land simply refer to the regathering granted by King Cyrus as seen in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Consider the word of God in Amos 9:14-15: “…and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the Lord your God.”

“Never to be uprooted again from the land I have given them…” This promise is preeminent in understanding God’s plans for Israel, because only for the modern state of Israel can this assurance be valid. They were uprooted twice before (586 BC and 70 AD), but will never be so again!

The First Dispersion: Prophecy

Even before Israel conquered Canaan, Moses told the people of the consequences of disobedience.

The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you.

They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which your trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the Lord your God has given you. (Deuteronomy 28:49-52)

The First Dispersion: Fulfillment

The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC and took the survivors back to Babylon as slaves. Knowing that this first dispersion would only be 70 years, God told the people through the prophet Jeremiah:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. Jeremiah 29:5-7

The First Restoration: Prophecy

As was shown in Part 1, two hundred years before Israel returned under Zerubbabel and Joshua, Isaiah prophesied that a Persian king named Cyrus would allow the Jews to return to the land of Israel and rebuild Jerusalem.

…who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”‘

“Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held — to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut:

‘I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, that they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me.

I am the Lord, and there is no other… (Isaiah 44:28-45:6)

Jeremiah confirms this first restoration:

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.” (Jeremiah 24:4-6)

“This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever.” (Jeremiah 25:11-12)

The First Restoration: Fulfillment

 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,

 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up! (2 Chronicles 36:22-23)

The Second Dispersion: Prophecy

Moses warned that a second dispersion would be much worse than the first…

 You shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven in multitude, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God. And it shall be, that just as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess.

 “Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known–wood and stone.  And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life (Deuteronomy 28:62-66).

Jeremiah affirms the nature of this disbursement:

 “But now I will send for many fishermen,” declares the Lord, “and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks. My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols.” Jeremiah 16:16-18

“Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “See, I will make this people eat bitter food and drink poisoned water. I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their ancestors have known, and I will pursue them with the sword until I have made an end of them.”” Jeremiah 9:15-16

The Second Dispersion: Fulfillment

Titus and the Roman Tenth Legion destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD. And note, unlike the first dispersion where God instructs the people to build, settle, plant, and eat, the second dispersion marks a time of no rest, trembling hearts, and anguish of soul. Indeed, this plight describes the Jews’ human condition for much of the last 2000 years. Israel has paid a high price for her disobedience.

The Second Restoration: Prophecies

“However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.” Jeremiah 16:14-15 (see also Jeremiah 12:14-15; 23:7-8)

“I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”” Jeremiah 29:14

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “When I gather the people of Israel from the nations where they have been scattered, I will be proved holy through them in the sight of the nations. Then they will live in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. They will live there in safety and will build houses and plant vineyards; they will live in safety when I inflict punishment on all their neighbors who maligned them. Then they will know that I am the Lord their God.” Ezekiel 28:25-26

God has promised to regather the Jews, and, even today, that prophecy continues to hold true. Thousands of Jews immigrate to Israel each year, some to escape persecution, while others for the chance at better employment and the chance to share in Israel’s abundant prosperity. And while the people have returned from all the nations, God has specifically called the people to return from one specific area, the land of the north. One country north of Israel immediately comes to mind:

Russia

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Indeed, no other country has been more important in fulfilling what the scriptures say regarding the regathering of the Jews, and the significance of this immigration from Russia is easily seen. From 1948 to 2012, more than 3 million Jews have immigrated to Israel according to the Jewish Virtual Library. Of those, more than 1.2 million are from the Former Soviet Union (FSU). And of those, over 1 million have immigrated from 1989 as the Soviet Union began to disintegrate rapidly.

Mikhail Gorbachev’s decision to loosen the Soviet grip on the countries of Eastern Europe and of Russia opened a pathway for the Jewish people to heed the call of God and return from “the land of the north.” What the world witnessed with the implosion of the Soviet Union was more than just a realignment of geopolitical relationships. When the Iron Curtain was removed, the floodgates opened and the Jewish people returned to the land God gave them.

Not only are the numbers of immigrants significant, but the role of Russian and eastern European immigrants to modern day Israel cannot be overstated. Along with their descendants, Russian speakers now comprise nearly one-fifth of all Israelis. Many of these Russian speakers have assumed vital roles in the highest echelons of government and business, although many had to settle for different, lower status jobs.

Additionally, much of the new generation of Russian immigrants choose not to identify with the Russian community, and rather try to integrate into Israeli society as much as possible. No other group of immigrants has made such a huge impact in Israeli society as the Russians, particularly in the areas of the military, medicine, and science.

When the Russians first arrived, Israel was ill-prepared to absorb them. Despite being well educated, many highly trained Russian scientists, in order to survive, were forced to take jobs cleaning streets. They had learned how to survive in Russia, and those survival skills carried them through in the land of their forefathers.

Now, unlike those early years of the modern State of Israel, the Russian immigrants are not simply surviving but thriving, which is greatly beneficial to Israel.

Clearly, from scripture, from history, and from the incredible congruence between the two, God has planned for and provided for Israel in spite of, and even because of, her sin and disobedience.

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 7:6-8

And though God loves Israel, He has kept His promises to them not because of them, but rather He did so for His own purposes:

Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. Ezekiel 36:22-23

Finally, when the church or others claim that God’s promises to Israel are no longer valid, or that Israel has disqualified herself, God’s people must listen to what He has to say:

Have you not noticed that these people are saying, ‘The Lord has rejected the two kingdoms he chose’? So they despise my people and no longer regard them as a nation. This is what the Lord says: ‘If I have not made my covenant with day and night and established the laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them. Jeremiah 33:24-26

The promises to Israel and her descendants are not dependent upon anything Israel has or has not done. In Genesis 15, God says to Abraham, “To your descendants I will give this land…”. To this promise, God attached no conditions or exceptions.

Admittedly, the descendants of Abraham rejected God, and they paid a dear price. But God’s foreknowledge and prevenient grace planned and provided way to accomplish His plans and His purposes.

In Part 3, I will look at conditions in the land of Israel from 1948 forward, attempting to unravel the conundrums and conflicts that affect the contemporary world.

Whose Land Is It? (Part 1) is a study of the nation of Israel from 1000 BC to 1948.

Whose Land Is It? (Part 3) is a historical, cultural look at the Abrahamic Covenant.

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Whose Land Is It? (Part 1)

Since its rebirth as a nation in 1948, Israel has come under accelerated attack over its sovereign claim to the land it inhabits. The world watches the contest between Israel and the Palestinians, though in reality, the Palestinians are simply a tool or proxy of the greater Arab world. While many in government, the media, academia, and the church demonize Israel, they do so without basis. Historically and legally, Israel has a clear right to the land and to Jerusalem as its undivided Capital.

For many growing up in the evangelical church, unwavering support of Israel has been an integral part of the fabric of theology. God’s promises to the Jewish people and their corresponding right to the land are unmistakable; they are undeniable and unchangeable throughout Scripture. Though the people suffered the consequences of sin and rebellion, culminating in separation from the land of Israel and dispersion among the nations, God remembered his covenant with them, and promised to regather them to “their own land.” (Ez 36:24,28)

Though the weapons garnered against Israel (both economically and militarily) seem worldly in appearance, the motivation and tactics percolate in the spiritual. God’s redemptive plan for the world started in the Garden (Gen 3:15), advanced through a promise to Abraham, and persists to this day through his offspring, namely Jesus.

Even today, the spiritual nature of the conflict remains intact. There are prophecies, yet unfulfilled, regarding Jesus and the land of Israel. If the Jewish people no longer remain in the land, and if the land of historical Israel is not included in the nation of Israel, the prophecies fail.

Around 520 BC, the prophet Zechariah told of a future time when all the nations would be gathered to fight against Jerusalem.

“I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.” Zechariah‬ 14:2-4‬ NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Zechariah writes that on a day yet to come, Jesus himself will rescue the Jerusalem from a confederation of all the nations of the world that will come against her. If no Israel exists, and if there is no Jewish Jerusalem, this prophecy cannot come true.

While Israel confronts existential threats from the likes of Iran and Hezbollah, other exclusionary and economic impedances have arisen too. Increasingly, liberal elements of the church demand that Israel give up its territorial claims and acquiesce to her adversaries in order to achieve peace.

At the forefront of these efforts is the BDS Movement (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction). This initiative started in 2005 by 170 Palestinian NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) with the stated goals to end Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land and the Golan Heights, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respect for the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Activists within the church, academia, business, and government ardently work to delegitimize Israel and force her into an indefensible and untenable situation in a volatile region, surrounded by adversaries on all sides.

At the 2014 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, delegates voted to divest from companies doing business in Israel. And just last month, the General Assembly again passed a series of measures further supporting the BDS Movement and calling on Israel to leave the disputed territories.

The Presbyterian Church is neither alone nor an outlier among faith-based institutions in making this stand. The BDS faith community includes the United Church of Christ, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, Mennonite Central Committee, the Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men, and the Alliance of Baptists.

Furthermore, the entire BDS movement springs from an agenda that denies Israel the land it is entitled to with no basis in fact or history. There is no true understanding of the complexities of the Middle East without having a thorough grasp of the origins of the state of Israel and its historical, legal claims to the land.

One can only assume the dominant media is either ignorant in reporting a slanted, biased narrative (i.e. Israel is an occupying force, denying basic rights to a group of refugees), or they are purposely advancing an agenda to defeat Israel militarily and economically. Neither proposition speaks well of a profession to which truth is supposedly paramount.

Understanding key moments in Israel’s history, and their significance, are essential in understanding present day realities. In 2000 BC God makes an everlasting covenant with Abraham. God promises the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants as an everlasting inheritance (Gen 12:3; 13:14-17; 15;18-21; 17:7-8).

Note: God tells Abraham that his descendants will possess the land, but only after 400 years have passed, “for the sin of the Amorites has not reached its full measure” Gen 15:16. The Amorites, a wholly wicked and immoral people, have 400 years to change from their evil ways, but God knows they won’t. Genesis 15 also details the land as that of “the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (Gen 15:19-21)

1500 BC: The Israelites enter the land of Canaan (the Promised Land). They have spent the last 40 years in the desert. During this time of wandering, they are given the Mosaic Law and God declares them a “distinct people” and “holy nation.” (Ex 19:5-6; Dt 14:2)

Note: After entering the land of Canaan, the Israelites make a treaty of peace with the Gibeonites. Upon hearing this, the five kings of the Amorites joined forces and attack Gibeon. Joshua and the army defeat the Amorites completely (Joshua 9-10). As God has promised, the Israelites now possess the land of the Amorites.

1000 BC: King David defeats the Jebusites and conquers Jerusalem, making it the Capital of Israel.

Note: even though Saul, Israel’s first King, reigned 42 years, Jerusalem was not captured nor was it the Capital until David captured it.

Israel controlled Jerusalem for the next couple of centuries until:

920 BC: After the death of King Solomon, the nation becomes a split Kingdom with 10 tribes in the north known as Israel and the two remaining tribes (Judah and Benjamin) known as Judah. Jerusalem remains the Capital of Judah while Samaria becomes the Capital of the 10 Northern Tribes (Israel). These two kingdoms remained separate for 200 years.

722 BC: Because of sin and rebellion, God allows the Assyrians to conquer the 10 northern tribes. Of note, When the Assyrians conquer a people, it is customary for them to remove them from the land and resettle Assyrian people in the new territory. The myth of the 10 lost tribes of Israel persists to this day. Though the population of Israel is around 450,000 at this time, archaeologists have uncovered annals that reveal Sargon only carried away 27,290 people and 50 chariots. Many of the remaining 10 tribes find a safe haven in Judah. There is much evidence to support a complete (12 tribes) nation of Israel in the New Testament. Jesus said he came for “the lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 10:5-6; 15:24); tribes other than Judah participated in the Passover during the time of King Hezekiah, more than 10 years after the Assyrian captivity; 90 years after that, during the reign of King Josiah, 7 of the 10 tribes are mentioned with the implication that all 10 were present; 200 years after the captivity, Ezekiel pens the Valley of Dry Bones prophecy where God says “these bones are the whole house of Israel”; finally in his appeal to King Agrippa, Paul refers to all 10 tribes and James writes his epistle to the “12 tribes scattered abroad.”

Throughout history and to this day, many groups claim that they are these 10 lost tribes. It is not true.

586 BC: King Nebuchadnezzar conquers Judah and destroys the Temple on the 9th of Av, and a final group of exiles is taken to Babylon. A 70 year exile prophesied by Jeremiah begins (Jer 29:10). A remnant of the people remains in the land.

Note: With sin as the catalyst for the Babylonian captivity, the length of the captivity spanned 70 years. The Israelites were in the land 490 years prior to the captivity, and contrary to the Mosaic Law, they did not let the land have a “rest” every seventh year. God condemns the people for this and declares the land will have the 70 years of rest it is owed.

Again, as with the Assyrian captivity of Israel, a remnant remains in the land of Judah.

516 BC:  King Cyrus releases the Jews from Babylon and Jerusalem is rebuilt under Zerubbabel (head of the Tribe of Judah), Joshua (priest), Ezra, and Nehemiah. 200 years before Cyrus is born, Isaiah prophesied that Cyrus will release the Jews to return to the land (Is 44:28-45:13). This prophecy foreshadows the future. Nehemiah tells certain Arab men in the area that they have no claim or historic right to Jerusalem (Neh 2:20).

167 BC:   Antiochus Epiphanes, King of the Seleucid Empire invades Israel and defiles the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. Mattathias Maccabees is a priest who serves in Solomon’s Temple. After the Seleucids invade, he returns to his village where an official of the Seleucid Greek government asks him to offer sacrifices to Greek gods. Mattathias not only refuses, but he kills the apostate priest who steps forward to offer the sacrifice. He then also kills the government official. He escapes with his sons into the desert and starts a revolt. This Jewish revolt (Maccabees) against the Greeks sets a precedent in human history: it becomes the world’s first religious war. No one in the ancient world dies for his or her gods; only the Jews thought that their religion, the only monotheistic religion at the time, is worth dying for.

63 BC:   The last two Hasmonean rulers (from the line of the Maccabees) were two brothers: Hyrcanus and Aristobolus. Warring over who should be King, they both appeal to Rome for support. And thus, in 63 BC, Pompey was invited to move his armies into Israel. It is no small footnote in history that the Romans were invited into the land. General Pompey’s conquest of Jerusalem spelled the end of Jewish independence.

4 BC-30 AD: The earthly life of Jesus.

70 AD: The Jews rebel against Rome, and  General Titus and the 10th Roman Legion destroy the city and burn the temple. This again was on the 9th of AV. The Romans take over the city in its entirety and throw 160,000 Jewish bodies over the wall.  99,700 are taken hostage. In Matthew 24:1-2, Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Temple.

132 AD: Bar Kokhba Revolt. Having just destroyed Jerusalem some 60 years earlier, the Jews were again rebelling. Hadrian was furious at the Jews; he ordered the total destruction of Jerusalem and extermination or expulsion of the Jews.

Hadrian slaughtered 1,900,000 Jews and the rest went into exile. The remnant (old and infirm) remained  in complete isolation; one Jew could not speak to another Jew under penalty of death to both. In Hadrian’s quest to completely destroy the Jews, the land was salted so that it could not produce crops. It became rocky and arid. The climate became hotter, more desert-like. It was no longer a land flowing with milk and honey; it was no longer productive or prolific. Later, under Turkish authority, taxes liability was based on the number of trees one owned. To cut their taxes, many Jews cut their trees down, further denuding the land.

Hadrian changed “Jerusalem” to “Capital of Hadrian” Aelia Capitolina to erase the historical ties of the Jewish people to the land. To speak the name Jerusalem was to invoke the death penalty. To further insult the Jews, he renamed the land Palestine, in honor of the Jews historical enemies, the Philistines. The Philistines, an extinct maritime people of European descent, most likely immigrated from Greece/Crete to 5 cities in Gaza.

1517 – 1917: Turkish domination.

1917: In the waning days of World War 1, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, which called for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. The British capture Jerusalem the following month and divide the area, creating the countries that are there today.

Note: Chemist Chaim Wiseman (who become the first President of Israel) creates the process which produced Acetone (a propellant used in cordite explosives), helping Britain defeat the Germans. Lord Balfour (British Foreign Minister and devout Christian who knew and believed the prophecies regarding the return of the Jews) wanted to thank Wiseman. Wiseman requests that a Jewish homeland be created.

1920 British Mandate: The San Remo Peace Conference gave Great Britain the mandate for the Land of Israel and Transjordan (the land east of the Jordan River).

1920 British Mandate

Note: The British Mandate of 1920 designated all the land of Palestine as the Jewish homeland.

1922: The Arab nations (now numbered at 21) exert pressure on the British. The Arab nations protest the size of the Jewish homeland and Israel’s portion is reduced. Britain (with the approval of the League of Nations) takes 80% of the land (east of the Jordan River) and creates the nation of Jordan. Both Jews and Arabs agree to this new land division and sign a treaty agreeing to the new boundaries.

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1923: This treaty, with the approval of the League of Nations, is the last signed treaty between Jews and Arabs. This left Israel 1/6 of 1% of the size of Arab nations. The Jews, in an effort to appease their Arab neighbors and gain support of the oil-hungry West, willingly give up a majority of the land they were promised.

1947: Partition Plan, November 29th.  Right before the War of Independence, the Arabs again protest Israel’s territory. Britain informs Israel that their territory would again be reduced. This Partition Plan will take away vast chunks of land from what remained in the 1923 agreement. 75% of what the Jews are allotted is desert. But now the Arab mindset is to eliminate the Jews entirely. Israel and the Palestinian population accepted. Arabs nations did not.

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Note: the 1947 Partition Plan divides Israel into an indefensible position. In spite of this, desperate for finality and wanting peace, the Jews accept this plan. The Arabs, having successfully whittled down the Jewish homeland from all of Palestine to a patchwork of territory, refused.

1948: May 14, 6 pm EST,  The British Mandate expires and foreign control of the land ceases. The State of Israel is established by the Israeli Declaration of Independence, creating a sovereign Jewish nation for the first time in 2900 years. At 6:11 pm EST, The United States recognizes Israel’s sovereignty. The Arab nations, opposed to any Jewish State, take military action against the new state. This Arab-Israeli War of 1948 was the first of many armed conflicts between Jews and Arabs.

“Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.” Isaiah 66:8

Summary: from 1500 BC until today, over 3,500 years, a Jewish presence remains in the land. None of the prior people groups that inhabited the land exist, nor have they for millennia. The last agreement between Jews and Arabs recognized the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea as a homeland for the Jews. Clearly, Israel has a historic and legal right to the land. 

But the struggle for the land isn’t finished…


Whose Land Is It? (Part 2) is an exhaustive look at the scriptures describing two distinctly different separations from the land, each followed by a regathering, culminating in the rebirth of the nation on May 14th, 1948.

Whose Land Is It? (Part 3) is a historical, cultural look at the Abrahamic Covenant.

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