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On the eve of the decision to be made on Palestinian statehood, it is appropriate for Christians of all denominations to remind themselves of the real nature of the biblical mandate of God for the Jewish people with regards to the Land of Israel-Palestine.Please watch my video on the Biblical perspective of ownership of the land of Palestine and read the recent article by Stephen Sizer that he published on his blog.
God Bless Jews and Palestinians
Today the Palestinian Authority will submit a request to be recognised as a sovereign independent state with recognised borders. It has been a long time coming. Many will say, what matters is what God says not the UN and they will quote selective verses from the Hebrew Bible suggesting the promises God made to Abraham about the extent of the land is the exclusive inheritance of the Jewish people today. A simple reading of some key Hebrew passages shows this to be arrogant and presumptuous.
Contrary to popular assumption, the Scriptures repeatedly insist that the land belongs to God and that residence is always conditional. For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23). In Ezekiel, it seems the Lord anticipated the reasoning of those who arrogantly claimed rights to the land because of the covenant originally made with Abraham.
“Son of man, the people living in those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us as our possession.’ Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Since you eat meat with the blood still in it and look to your idols and shed blood, should you then possess the land? You rely on your sword, you do detestable things… Should you then possess the land?’ … I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end.’ (Ezekiel 33:24-26,28-29)
The Hebrew scriptures insist, residence was open to all God’s people on the basis of faith not race. When the people of God returned from exile in Babylon, they were given these instructions:
“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe a foreigner resides, there you are to give them their inheritance,” declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezekiel 47:21-23)
Indeed, the writer to Hebrews explains that the land was never their ultimate desire or inheritance any way. The land was only ever intended as a temporary residence until the coming of Jesus Christ. Our shared eternal inheritance is heavenly not earthly.
“By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God… All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth…. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own…. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one… These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:9-10; 13-16; 39-40)
The New Testament insists the promises God made to Abraham are fulfilled not in the Jewish people but in Jesus and those who acknowledge him.
“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:16, 28-29)
So may God bless Israelis and Palestinians committed to justice, peacemaking and reconciliation and may his curse be upon those who resort to racism and violence to satisfy their greed and achieve their political aims.
Posted by Stephen Sizer at 10:59
The Biblical Understanding of the Relationship of the Jewish People to the Land of Canaan.
Although I have already posted articles on this blog about the relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Israel-Palestine, from a Biblical perspective, I feel it is necessary to revisit this issue once more (and probably not for the last time).
Let me say emphatically what I believe is the black and white teaching on this subject from a Biblical perspective.
The Jewish people do not own the land of Israel-Palestine. They have no entitlement to it by virtue of their Jewishness alone according to the promises made by God to Abraham and the Patriarchs in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, Gary M. Burge, sums up the issue quite accurately:
“God’s remarkable interest in this land can be explained by one undergirding theme. In a profound sense, Israel never “owns” the land of promise. God owns this land. Leviticus uses this idea to explain why the land cannot be sold permanently to others, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.” (Lev 25:23). Israel here is viewed as a tenant in this land, an alien, a renter. The recipient of a gift for use. But not a landlord. Israel must hold this land loosely, because God will determine the tenure of its occupants.” (2010, p. 4)
Burge’s work has been endorsed by Walter Brueggemann, of Columbia Theological Seminary, perhaps the worlds leading Christian authority on the Old Testament.
The term “tenants” in the Leviticus quote above is not there by accident. Tenants do not own the land they live on. Outside of the conditions of their tenancy agreement with the lands owner (in this case, God), the tenants do not have any legitimate claim to the land.
“So let not the land spew you out for defiling it, as it spewed out the nation that came before you.” (Lev 18:28).
“You shall faithfully observe all My laws and all My regulations, lest the land to which I bring you to settle in spew you out.” (Lev 20:22).
The “rent” that the Israelites had to pay for occupation of the land was faithfulness to God via obedience to the ethical and religious traditions of the Law of Moses. Traditions that demanded that Israel treat all its inhabitants with justice and mercy.
“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” (Ex 22:21-24)
“When an alien (non-Jew) lives with you in your land, do not mistreat or oppress him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native born. Love him as yourself for you were an alien in Egypt. I am the Lord your God “(Lev 20:33, 34. Emphasis added).
Right from the Exodus narrative itself we see that the descendants of Abraham did not have unconditional title to the land God had promised them. Implicit in the promise was that the Jewish people must live up to their end of the bargain or face exile, or, as in the case of Moses and the generation that was delivered from Egypt, not be allowed to enter the land at all. While God promised that they would one day have the land as an everlasting possession, this did not abrogate God’s demand that Israel can only occupy the land while they are living up to their covenantal responsibilities. The Holy land was not simply a homeland. Just as the High Priest had an entitlement once a year to enter the inner most sanctum or the temple (the Holy of Holies) this did not mean he had license to do what ever he wanted while there. He had a strict mandate that carried dire consequences if ignored. God was not “playing around or joking” about the severity of His demands for Israel as they were soon to find out. Nowhere in scripture has God’s demand that Israel can only have legitimate access to Israel-Palestine as a consequence of obedience to the Torah been revoked.
Nowhere in scripture are the Jewish people given license to mistreat non-Jews in the land in order to simply increase Jewish holdings in the land of promise. The inhabitants of Canaan previous to Joshua were not expelled simply because they were in the way of Jewish occupation of the land. Rather God had waited 400 years before expelling them for their own sins. Implicit in these scriptures is that it would have been wrong for God to expell the Canaanites just to make way for the Jewish people (regardless of the promises He made to Abraham) if they had not piled their own sins up to the heavens first.God would not dispossess anyone just for the sake of making way for the descendants of Abraham.
After the exile of Israel in 586 BC, the “second Exodus” occurred only when acknowledged prophets of God let it be known that it was OK to return. Laws about the treatment of non-Jews who had moved into the land while they were in exile are of profound importance to this discussion:
“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezek 47:21-23)
The Jewish people are a people in Exile. No theologically Orthodox Jew anywhere in the world believes that the Exile is over regardless of the status of Zionist Israel. In a personal letter from an Orthodox Rabbi, he said, in response to my claim that Orthodox Jews believe the exile to be still on:
” … you said that “Virtually every Orthodox Jew on earth agrees to the fact that the exile of the Jewish people has not ended. The exile is a spiritual problem and cannot be solved by nuclear arsenals or secular European colonialist ideologies” is absolutely true and I don’t see why any Jew had a problem with it. Every Orthodox Jew, even the Zionist settlers, fasts on Tisha B’av, the Jewish day of mourning for the Temple and the exile, which will be abolished when our redemption comes. Every Orthodox Jew recites the prayers that say, “Because of our sins we were exiled from our land.” (personal communication with Rabbi E. Beck)
Zionist ideology stands outside the covenental responsibilities of the Jewish People while in the land. As such the Jewish people are facing sanctions by God if they do not repent. Rather than egging the Zionist state on in its Godless treatment of Palestinians, we should be reminding them of their responsibilities to God and the dire consequences they face if they continue to ignore them.
The purpose of God’s promises was to “Bless all families of the Earth”, not give legitimization to secular nationalism. God’s desire was that Israel not be “as the nations.”, exactly the opposite of Zionist aspirations for their state today. Christians do not support an ethic that states that “the ends justify the means”, regardless of God’s plans for the Israeli state today, God never calls us to unconditionally support and endorse a regime that is in specific rebellion to His mandates.
Jesus said,“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) and a century earlier Rabbi Hillel (1st century BC) said:
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah.”
As is in complete accord with the voices of the prophetic, the sum of the Law and the Prophets is a statement of ethical responsibility. Not the ravings of a Judaic version of Nostradamus. A wise mans once told me…if your eschatology (end times theology) leads you to a view that rejects or even diminishes the ethical demands of God, then your eschatology is the problem, not the ethical demands of God for you towards those who are oppressed and vulnerable in your world.
The minimum requirement of Jewish people to re-enter the land was repentance. There simply is no precedent in scripture for God endorsing a non-repentant Jewish people to take the land legitimately. The Jewish tradition as given by the Three Oaths of the Talmud, also upholds this scriptural legacy as well, if not, even more so. This is why all those of the Christian persuasion who believed in the restoration of Israel in pre-Zionist times demanded that the restoration of Israel could only come after a mass conversion of Jews to Christianity. When the embarrassment of the fact that it was a secular Zionist movement that was charging ahead to colonize Palestine, a quick about face was required by the forerunners of today’s Christian Zionists.
One of Darby’s disciples, W.E. Blackstone, makes an interesting point about the Zionists:
“The Zionists have seized the reins and eschewing the help of Abraham’s God they have accepted agnostics as leaders and are plunging madly into this scheme for the erection of a Godless state. But the Bible student will surely say, this godless national gathering of Israel is not the fulfilment of all the glorious restoration, so glowingly described by the prophets. No indeed! ” (Blackstone, 1916, p. 240)
Suddenly those prophets that were telling us that a restoration of Israel was about to occur were now telling us that the Bible predicted the Zionists all along! But the fact is that the Bible will accord no such fantasy. This type of about face has been a regular fixture for the prophets of Christian Zionism. You may have heard of examples of this yourself.
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Supporters of Zionism are supporters of Colonialism and deniers of Human Rights.
Israeli intellectual Boaz Evron summed up the relationship between Zionism and any Biblical understanding of Jewishness and their relationship to the land of Israel when he said:
“Zionism is indeed the negation of Judaism” .
Professor Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin of Ben-Gurion University is alleged to have once made the sarcastic comment, “Our claim to the land could be put in a nutshell: God does not exist, and He gave us this land.”
Trying to legitimize the colonialist and racist ideology that has dominated the lives of so many Jewish people in the last 100 years, by any type of Biblical means, is a contradiction in terms.
Uriel Zimmer, an Orthodox Jew and former United Nations reporter for several newspapers, states the ultimate goal of Zionism:
“The real aim of Zionism is the one stated innumerable times by the various Zionist thinkers and ideologists from its earliest conception until this day. From the essays of Achad Haam to the speeches of Ben Gurion, we can hear definitions of one goal, in various versions and phrases but with never-changing content: TO CHANGE THE IDENTITY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE!”
(Zimmer, 1961, p. 14)
Defections from the Zionist camp by some of the worlds greatest thinkers, like Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, have inevitably come when the real brutality of the Zionist colonialist project finally showed its true visage.
The famous mathematician and atheistic philosopher, Bertrand Russell, initially embraced Zionism. In 1943, Russell wrote, “The Role of the Jewish State in Creating a Better World”. Calling just before his death in 1970 for ‘an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied in June 1967’, Russell, in a change of heart, particularly deplored the fate of the Palestinians:’ No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their country, how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment nobody else would tolerate?’ (Spokesman, no.2 (Nottingham: April 1970), excerpted in Ronald Clark, The Life of Bertrand Russell (New York: 1975, p. 638). (Finkelstein, 2003, p. 200) Second Edition
Anti- Zionist Orthodox Jewish Rabbis, like those from Neturei Karta and other theologically Orthodox Jews like Professor Yakov M. Rabkin of Montreal University, put the Christian supporters of Zionist Israel to shame when they reach beyond the tragedy of the Holocaust and the injustice of Arab terrorist attacks and proclaim with one voice:
“Its (State of Israel’s) cruel treatment of the Palestinian people is against the Creator’s imperative that we deal justly and kindly with all men. To all our Arab and Islamic brethren around the world, let the message go forth today, that your quarrel is not with the Jewish people, the people of the Torah. We stand with you in your suffering. We feel your pain. We are with you. Let there be no more innocent victims, neither Palestinian nor Jew. Let us pray that the Zionist state will, with God’s help, soon become a distant and dismal memory” (cited in Rabkin, 2006, p. 128).
Ruth Blau, wife of a Neturei Karta Rabbi, had this to say only a few days after the ‘67 war was won:
“If the Zionists had even an iota of common sense…,they would invite the Arab states to form, with them, a confederation that would embrace the Palestinians, who thus would recover their rights. Peace should be made when one is strong. Now they, (the Zionists), are strong. But they will not do it, because they are prideful, and will refuse to make the slightest concession. They prefer to put the lives of millions of Jews in jeopardy rather than ever see an Arab as president over such a confederation. By this spectacular, lightning war they imagine they have won. No one can deny that today they are at the height of their power. It is at this point that their downfall will begin. It will not be long before they witness all the problems their conquests will bring. The hatred of the Arabs will deepen, and they will seek revenge. The Zionists now have hundreds of thousands of enemies within their borders. All of us who live here are now in great danger “(cited in Rabkin, 2006, p.121).
No prohibitions exist in the Old Testament regarding the giving of portions of the land of Canaan to non-Jews. The land of Canaan was never meant to be at the disposal of the Jewish people, rather the Jewish people were meant to be at the disposal of God. The land was never theirs, it was always Gods, as revealed by numerous scriptures: King Solomon gave away cities in Galilee to the Phoenicians in order to gain produce he needed for the construction of the Temple.
“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.” (Lev 25:23)
“And I brought you into a plentiful land, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when you entered, you defiled My land, and made My heritage an abomination.” Jer 2:7
“And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double,because they have polluted My land with the carcasses of their detestable things, and have filled Mine inheritance with their abominations.” Jer 16:18
Scriptures detailing how God in fact has given portions of the land of Canaan to non-Jews are conveniently overlooked by Israels Christian cheer squad.
” Then we turned back and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea, as the LORD had directed me. For a long time we made our way around the hill country of Seir. Then the LORD said to me, “You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north. Give the people these orders: ‘You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, but be very careful. Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on. I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own.”" Deut 2:1-5
The region of Seir, is between Mt Horeb and Kadesh Barnea in the Negev. This region was given to the Edomites and the Israelites were forbidden to settle there or to try and expell them. Today’s Zionist government in Israel is trying to colonize the Negev by the forced expulsion of the indigenous Bedouin and is therefore in clear breach of this Biblical statue of God. Don’t hold your breathe waiting for Christian Zionists to demand the literal interpretation of those verses.
Later in the very same chapter of Deuteronomy we see God giving the Israelites further instructions as their wanderings brought them to the region of Moab.
“Then the LORD said to me, “Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them to war, for I will not give you any part of their land. I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.”
… When you come to the Ammonites, do not harass them or provoke them to war, for I will not give you possession of any land belonging to the Ammonites. I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.” Deut 2:9,19
This huge piece of land was also off limits to the Israelites even though it sits within the boundaries of the land that God had promised to Abraham. Today, Amman, the capital of Jordan, is named after their ancestors. The point is that the Kingdom of Israel was always more universal than nationalistic.
Their is not one single verse in the Old or New Testaments of the Bible that can be used to justify the dispossession of even one Palestinian Arab. Christian supporters of the Zionist state of Israel can only do so if they either deny the atrocities of Zionist colonialism or justify them on racial grounds. Either way, the Bible is no friend to their twisted moral equations.
Rabkin, Y. (2006). A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism. Fernwood Publishing: Canada, Zed Books: London.
Zimmer, U. (1961). Torah-Judaism and the State of Israel. Jewish Post Publications, London, England.
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Who Owns the Land of Palestine?
A basic tenant of Christian Zionism is that the Jewish people sovereignly own the land of Palestine. For the Christian Zionists, to even designate the region as, “The Land of Palestine” is to betray ones ignorance of the true status of the ownership of the holy land. The proof texts from scripture used by the proponents of this Zionist position are said to be plain, unequivocal and compelling in the extreme. Followers of Jesus who hold to doctrines at odds with the Christian Zionist position are looked upon by them with a suspicion that borders on outright denunciation of the faith. The most widely known proof text comes from the twelfth chapter of the Book of Genesis.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go 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 families of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:1-3).
The, “land that I will show you”, is universally accepted as relating to the land of Palestine as it was known before the creation of the modern Zionist State of Israel in May of 1948. In fact the land designated in scripture that this covenant promise refers to encompasses a region significantly larger than the Zionist state of Israel and the Occupied Territories. The covenant promise is further revealed a few chapters on in the same book of the Bible.
Abram fell face down, and God said to him, “As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram, your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you and kings will come from you. I will establish My covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”(Gen 17:3–8).
These two passages of scripture stand as the unshakable foundation of Christian Zionist belief. God has given the sovereign title deed to the land of Canaan to the Jewish people and they have an absolute right to take the land that belongs to them in any manner they see fit. That right is conferred upon them by no other condition than their Jewishness, their descent from Abraham, the Children of Israel. This sovereign Jewish ownership of the land is as absolute as any fact could possibly be. It matters not whether the nations of the world recognise it; it is the consummate fact of history by the absolute decree and promise of God Himself. All who fail to recognise this fact and act according to that mistaken premise align themselves, knowingly or unknowingly, with the forces of darkness that seek to thwart the plans of the Almighty God. They become complicit with the plans of the anti-Christ. The land of Canaan is the possession of the Jewish people; even more so than the land bought by private citizens is their possession. It is the everlasting possession of the Jews by the very word of God.
How could this understanding of the relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Canaan possibly be disputed by anyone desiring to be faithful to the Bible as God’s word? Surely no-one who has studied these texts with a desire to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob could ever dispute this most obvious teaching of the scriptures.
The certainty of the Christian Zionist’s conviction in their understanding of the relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Canaan takes its first hit when confronted with the historical fact that for 18 centuries, Orthodox Judaism has not shared this understanding. Rabbis of the Jewish faith have never believed that the Jewish people can take the land of Canaan at anytime, in any manner they see fit. Jewish tradition, derived directly from the Old Testament of the Bible, has always recognised the conditional nature of the Jewish people’s entry and occupation of the land of promise. Torah Judaism has never interpreted the covenant of God with Abraham in the sense that Jewish people have an unconditional right to take the land of Canaan for themselves simply by virtue of their Jewishness. The land does not belong to them.
“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants.” (Lev 25:23)
The land of Israel is a Holy Land. Even by this designation we can see to whom the land really belongs. Holiness in the Bible primarily refers to the concept of ownership rather than moral purity. A piece of land or a space in a temple can hardly be said to have the quality of being morally pure. The term “Holy Land” reveals to us that the land is God’s. The Jewish people, a Holy Nation, belong to God and can never be “as the nations”. As such the land is not a “homeland” but a Holy Land; a land set apart for the purposes of God, not merely the purposes of men, and the Jewish people have a very particular God given mandate as God’s people in this Holy Land. The scriptures reveal this mandate and give further detail and qualification to the covenant promises of God to Abraham and the Jewish people.
The Exodus narrative clearly tells how the first generation of Abraham’s descendants to be redeemed from Egypt were barred from entry into the Promised Land. Had God broken His promise to Abraham by not letting Moses, Aaron and the rest of the Hebrews claim the land of Canaan as their possession? Three millennia of Judeo-Christian teaching have emphatically declared that He had not.
That first generation were halted in their tracks because they had not fulfilled the conditions of obedience and faithfulness to God via obedience to the Law. The Jews were not required to be perfect to enter the land, but they did have to be oriented towards the Lord in faith and obedience for them to find rest in the land of milk and honey. They did not earn their redemption nor were they threatened with having it revoked for their disobedience, but there were conditions that the first rebellious generation, the generation that worshipped the golden calf and tested the Lord on numerous occasions with their disobedience, did not fulfil. Hence they wandered in the desert for forty years until every last one of them, Moses and Aaron included, had perished for their sins. God would not endorse a rebellious Jewish people’s taking of the land He had promised. Implicit in the promise were the ethical conditions that reveal the very heart of God and His purposes in creating the nation of Israel.
And while occupying the land, the descendants of Abraham had similar conditions to live up to in order for them to avoid the dreaded consequences of disobedience while living in the land of Canaan; exile.
‘“You are to distribute the land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord’ (Ezek 47:22-23).
“You are to have the same law for the alien and the native born.” (Lev 24:22).
“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.” (Ex22:21).
“So let not the land spew you out for defiling it, as it spewed out the nation that came before you.” (Lev 18:28).
“You shall faithfully observe all My laws and all My regulations, lest the land to which I bring you to settle in spew you out.” (Lev 20:22).
“When an alien (non-Jew) lives with you in your land, do not mistreat or oppress him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native born. Love him as yourself for you were an alien in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev 20:33, 34.).
Thus says the Lord God of Israel: You shed blood, yet you would keep possession of the land? You rely on your sword, you do abominable things…yet you would keep possession of the land?…I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so that no one will cross them. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done. (Ezek. 33:25-29)
The Israelites were to learn, very painfully, that God meant what He said. Twice in history the Jewish people have been expelled from the land for their disobedience. The conditions of their tenancy being continually violated, they were forced into exile until repentance was found in the Israelites once more.
Tenants do not own the property they live in. So how do we understand God’s promise to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession in the light of this revelation? The answer lies in realising that the ethical traditions of Judaism supersede the traditions of the land. This comes from the understanding of God’s plan of redemption which intimately involves the Jewish people. Biblical redemption is redemption from the sinfulness of humanity. The covenant of God regarding the land can not be separated from God’s righteousness and desire for humanity’s redemption and consequent obedience to God. God’s concern is for all of humanity and a great part of the Jewish ethical tradition concerns the treatment of the stranger, the alien, the non-Jew and all the vulnerable in the land of Canaan.
Assuming that the promise regarding the land meant the land literally, and did not have a dual meaning relating to the Kingdom of Heaven in general, we can make some suggestions as to how we can reconcile God’s promise to Abraham and the implicit ethical requirements of Israel to remain in the land. For the land of Canaan to be an everlasting possession of the Jewish people, those very Jewish people must live up to the ethical conditions required of them forever. This could never happen outside of the ultimate reality of God’s final and total redemption from sin and this is what is at the heart of God’s plan for the Jewish people. The Jewish people can no more live eternally in Canaan while still sinning against the Lord than Christians believe they can live with God eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven in a sinful state. The everlasting possession of the land by the Jewish people is really pointing to what God really desired for the Children of Israel; that they live with a righteousness that is their eternal possession. Occupation of the land by Jewish people can not be separated from this ultimate requirement and desire of the heart of God.
The purpose of God in creating the Jewish people was to make a people for Himself; a royal priesthood and a Holy nation; through whom all families of the earth would be blessed according to His redemption plan. An occupation of the Holy Land by the Jewish people outside of this heavenly vision is against the very heart of God and cannot stand.
The Jewish people DO NOT OWN the land of Palestine. The Lord God owns this Holy Land and the Jewish people are his tenants and are aliens in the land. The currency of this everlasting “rental” agreement is adherence to the ethical traditions of Judaism. Traditions that demand equality and justice for all in Israel.
A grave question mark hangs over the Zionist State of Israel. According to Christian Zionists, the very idea of an illegitimate possession and control of the land of Israel by Jewish people is a contradiction in terms, but in truth finds verification in both the Old Testament and the traditions of Torah Judaism. The Oaths of the Talmud, forbidding Jews to retake Palestine by either force or political activism, clearly speak to us of the reality of the possibility of Jewish control of the land of Canaan being in actual fact illegitimate. Oaths need not be taken for the prohibition of something that God Himself has vowed never to allow to eventuate in any shape or form. God has placed the responsibility of the prohibition to never re-enter Canaan on masse, on the Jewish people themselves. He has never said that he will bar them from entry if they try and break those oaths. To do so would be to annul the oaths that He Himself has caused the Rabbis to take.
What will become of this false taking of the land by the rebellious Zionists is known only to God. Let us pray that God would have mercy upon them.
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