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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.
ACTION FOR PALESTINE
A Chosen People.
A non religious person asked me the other day,” if the Jewish people are a chosen people, what are they chosen to do?” A pretty good question. One that doesn’t have any particular answer from a secular Zionist perspective, but, then again, Zionism never bought into that stuff about Jews being the chosen people of God. If you listen to Christian Zionists, the only thing Jewish people are chosen for is to hurry up and ethnically cleanse Palestine of Arabs so that the rapture can occur and the non-Christian world can finally get whats coming to it! And about time too…Hallelujah!
Two thousand years of the teachings of Torah Judaism give quite a different picture. Orthodox Judaism teaches that being Jewish historically, up until about 1860, was always about being willing to accept the “yoke” of the Torah. That is, being Jewish was a religious identity. An identity that was intimately tied to a person’s ethics, a person’s responsibility to God and humanity. John Hagee’s version of Jewishness is more about an entitlement to real estate than ethics towards the vulnerable and “despised” in society. Rabbi Hillel (1st century BC), when asked what was the essence of the Torah, said “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah.” Christian Zionism…far more Zionist than Christian, simply has no understanding of what Jewishness is even remotely about.
The Torah teaches Jewish people that just as God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to “Let My People Go!”, so God tells Benjamin Netanyahu to not keep the Palestinians captive in their own land. Ex 22:21 “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.”
God does not love His chosen people in such a manner that banishes all boundaries, giving license to whatever avarice and self righteousness the Jewish people may wish to indulge in. His covenant with the Jewish people in the Land of Israel has never been revoked. It is because of God’s love for His chosen that He resists the Zionist state of Israel. To endorse the Zionist Government would require a reversal of His very character. Something all Christians say can never happen.
If there ever was a people whose religious heritage should cause them to side with those suffering under the rod of oppression, it should be the Jewish people. If ever there was a people who should never be guilty of oppressing a people living with them in their land, it is the Jewish people. This is why anyone with eyes and ears can see why Boaz Evron said…”Zionism is indeed the negation of Judaism”
It is because the Jewish people are God’s chosen people that God is saying to them, of the Palestinian people, “Let My People Go!” The oppressed of the world are God’s chosen people too, the warnings of the Torah are ignored at our peril. The Jewish people are chosen, chosen to be responsible, not to be free from responsibility toward the Palestinian Arabs who live amongst them.
ACTION FOR PALESTINE
Does God Allow Criticism of Israel?
Christian Zionists often have a very strange understanding of God’s attitude towards the Jewish people living in the land of Israel. According to their dogma, anyone criticising the Zionist State of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians is doing so illegitimately, regardless of the truth or untruth of the allegations of mistreatment of non-Jews (Arabs) living under the authority of the State of Israel. Apparently only God, or a prophet sent by God whom the Christian Zionists are willing to endorse, has the right to scold the Zionist State. Any ordinary person caught criticising the Israelis for their treatment of Palestinians is placing themselves under a God ordained curse (see Genesis 12:1-3). The catch-22 is that any Christian who criticised Israel would not be deemed a legitimate prophet of God in the eyes of the Christian Zionists in the first place. In the end, no matter how you tell it, criticism of Israel is forbidden (unless of course the Israelis decided to allow a two state solution and Palestinian Arabs are allowed rights to self determination in the land of their birth).
The truth of the matter, from a Biblical perspective, is that God hears the cry of the alien (non-Jew) living in the land of Israel.
Ex 22:21 “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.
Ex 22:22 “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan.
Ex 22:23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.
The cry of injustice by the non-Jew in the land of Israel is heard directly by God. No prophet need mediate. The only reason that God needs to send a prophet in the first place is that the ordinary Jewish person, and those in authority, have not heard the cries, complaints and criticisms of Israel made by those who have been unjustly forced to suffer at the hand of God’s people in the land of Israel.
Below are some of the many verses in the Old Testament that cry out to Jews living in Israel to care for, and do justice when dealing with, non-Jews in the land of Israel as they (the non-Jews) are loved by God.
Ex 23:9 “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.
Ex 23:12 “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.
Lev 19:33 “ ‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.
Lev 19:34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
Lev 23:22 “ ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’ ”
Lev 24:22 You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.’ ”
Lev 25:35 “ ‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.
Nu 9:14 “ ‘An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’S Passover must do so in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for the alien and the native-born.’
Nu 15:15 The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD:
Nu 15:16 The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.’ ”
Nu 15:29 One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien.
Dt 1:16 And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien.
Dt 10:18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.
Dt 14:21 Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to an alien living in any of your towns, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. But you are a people holy to the LORD your God.
Dt 23:7 Do not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. Do not abhor an Egyptian, because you lived as an alien in his country.
Dt 24:14 Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.
Dt 24:17 Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.
Dt 24:18 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.
Dt 24:19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
Dt 24:20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.
Dt 24:21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.
Dt 24:22 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.
Dt 26:12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.
Dt 26:13 Then say to the LORD your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.
Dt 27:19 “Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”.
Ps 146:9 The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
Jer 7:6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm,
Jer 7:7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.
Jer 22:3 This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
Eze 22:6 “ ‘See how each of the princes of Israel who are in you uses his power to shed blood.
Eze 22:7 In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and the widow.
Eze 22:29 The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.
Eze 22:30 “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.
Eze 22:31 So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
Eze 47:21 “You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel.
Eze 47:22 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.
Eze 47:23 In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign LORD.
Zec 7:10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’
The BDS, (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel was called for by 170 civil Palestinians organisations in Israel and the occupied territories in order to bring the Zionist State of Israel into line with international law with regards to human rights and rights to self determination. The BDS movement is the cry of the non-Jew which has been ignored by the Zionists, Christian or otherwise. God is hearing their cry.
ACTION FOR PALESTINE
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.
ACTION FOR PALESTINE
Lessons from the Exodus
The great redemption event of the Old Testament Scriptures of the Bible is known as the Exodus, the story of which is contained in the book of the same name. To understand the message of this book, as well as the rest of the Pentateuch, is pivotal to a proper understanding of both Judaism and Christianity. The lessons learnt from this book, both theological and political, have far reaching consequences for today’s world. However, the consequences for one particular country, the Zionist State of Israel, are quite probably so dire, that one would assume that the book of Exodus would be required reading for every citizen of that country.
The story of the Exodus is hardly unknown in the western world. From Sunday school to DreamWorks Animation’s, “The Prince of Egypt”, most people have been exposed to the basic story of the Exodus. The Exodus is a physical as well as a symbolic example of Divine redemption. It is a redemption won completely by the hand of the Almighty. An unmerited act of favour bestowed on the descendants of Abraham by virtue of the gracious covenant made by God with the Patriarch some 400 years before.
The land of Canaan, promised to Abraham’s descendants by God, is still inhabited by a people not related to Abraham when the story line is picked up at beginning of the book of Exodus. Abraham is long dead, as is his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Jacob’s twelve sons have also perished and most importantly, a Pharaoh has risen in Egypt that knows nothing of the favoured position that Joseph, Jacob’s favourite son, had enjoyed in the courts of Pharaoh when the children of Israel first moved to Egypt to escape the calamity of an oncoming famine.
The Hebrews had been fruitful and had multiplied in number in Egypt up to a point where the Egyptians feared that the Hebrews large population would put in jeopardy the Egyptian’s majority rule. Egypt was wealthy, powerful and a noble civilisation. It was an empire that shone like a beacon in an otherwise dark and brutal world. Its system of justice and fairness to Egyptians left the other nations in a position of envy. But all that would be put at risk if the Hebrews were allowed to get the upper hand. Egypt would be overrun by uncivilised hoards and her glory would turn to ashes. Something had to be done by Pharaoh.
His answer was a combination of slavery and genocide. The children of Israel were put under the bonds of slavery to work for the Egyptian empire that feared them. But the more oppressed the Hebrews were, the more they multiplied in number and the more the fear of them increased in the hearts of the Egyptians. The more the fear of them increased the more the hatred of them increased. The descendants of Abraham cried out from under the bonds of the pitiless oppression they suffered. They cried out in anguish and God, remembering His promise to Abraham, came to their rescue. He came to their rescue not because they were a righteous people, deserving of mercy by their own virtue, but because of the unmerited compassion and love of the Almighty.
According to the plan of God, Moses was saved from the Pharaoh ordained policy of infanticide against God’s chosen people. But years later Moses, upon seeing the suffering of his people, reacted in anger and killed an Egyptian for abusing one of the Hebrew slave workers. He covered up the murder and fled into the wilderness trying to escape the consequences of his crime.
Years later God called Moses once again and after visiting the famous ten plagues on the Egyptians, the children of Israel were finally driven from their place of torment in Egypt by the edge of the swords of the Egyptians themselves. The Exodus narrative clearly demonstrates that the salvation of God came by grace alone, despite the faithlessness of the Hebrews. The Jewish people complained, “Were there not enough graves in Egypt that we had to be brought into the desert to die?” .At no stage did they display a trust or faith in the God who was saving them from the oppression they cried out from. Yet God in His grace never faltered in His mercy to them. His plan to save them was His choice, not theirs. He desired to take them as a people for Himself; to be a royal priesthood and a Holy nation and through them God would bless all families of the earth in His gracious plan to redeem all of creation.
At Sinai, God gave His people the Law. In numerous places in that Law God reminded His people of the plight He had rescued them from so graciously. He reminded them that all they had was due to the graciousness of God and not won by their own hand or by their own virtue. They were to be a people not like any of the nations of the world; the royal priesthood of the gracious God of Abraham. They were to be the people of grace, justice and mercy: A people who craved the grace and justice of God rather than the power, wealth and status desired by the nations. They were to have no King, God would be their King. Israel was not to be a meritocracy for it was never created by human means. It was to be a kingdom of grace.
God reminded the Hebrews of His mercy to them in Egypt whenever He commanded His people about how to treat non-Jews living amongst them. The entire story was to be a lesson in how to treat others different from themselves who shared the land of Canaan with them. Israel was never to behave like Egypt.
Fast forward to the time of Jesus. When asked why He ate and drank with sinners, Jesus told a story that has become one of the most beloved of all the New Testament parables: The Parable of the Prodigal Son. This parable of the father who spoiled his lost, undeserving, sinful, prodigal son when he found him once again was meant to sound strangely familiar to the Jewish religious teachers of the day. Not only was it a story of God’s love for the lost of Jesus day, it mirrored the story of the Exodus. Israel was and always has been the prodigal son of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God had always been redeeming and unconditionally accepting prodigals and Jesus was doing exactly the same as His Father.
Now fast forward to the present day. Has the Zionist state of Israel remembered the commandments of its prodigal son loving God?
In 1948 the Zionist State of Israel was created following the mandate of the United Nations in 1947. In previous generations Jews and Palestinian Arabs had been on good terms. Islam and Judaism had co-existed in the region for 13 centuries. But all that was about to change. In 1948, fifty five percent of the land of Palestine was given to the Zionists when Jews comprised barely a third of the population and officially owned only 6% of the land. But a huge problem remained. The numbers of Arabs in Israel put fear in the hearts of the Zionists. At the time of the creation of the Zionist State, the population of Israel was roughly 499,000 Jews to 510,000 Arabs. The Zionist State desired to be a democracy, a land of freedom that would be a shining example of civilisation in the otherwise barbaric Middle East. But all these Arabs would destroy the glory that was to be the New Zionist Israel. Something had to be done by Ben Gurion and his compatriots.
What they came up with was known as Plan Dalet. The ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The Arab world rejected the partition of Palestine because of the injustice it did to the indigenous Palestinians. Even before one Arab soldier came into Palestine to defend its native people, some 300,000 Palestinians had been dispossessed by Zionist forces. After six months of ethnic cleansing operations, nearly 800,000 Palestinians had been removed from their homes. Now the Zionists had a majority in Israel. The Zionists promptly demolished the houses of the dispossessed Palestinians so they could not return and within 2 years they enacted the Law of Return so that Jews and their spouses from anywhere in the world could come to Israel and gain full citizenship while the indigenous Palestinians, made refugees in 1948, could only watch in dismay. Now Israel could be a true democracy!
No move on to 1967. While stateless Palestinians sheltered in what was now only 22% of their original homeland, Arab nations sought ways to undo the damage done in 1948. In June of 1967, in response to Egyptian troops building up in the Sinai, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on its enemies and in six days it defeated its foes and occupied the remaining 22% of Palestine. Now the Zionists had all of Palestine under their control! But there was a huge problem. The same one they and the Egyptians had faced previously. There were still too many Arabs. Israel wanted to be a shining light of democracy to the world and be a nation of power and wealth and military strength. But these Arabs were a bunch of barbarians and they would tare down the Zionist State and turn it into a sewer of Islamist demagoguery. Something had to be done.
This time they decided not to ethnically cleanse the remaining Palestinians in the occupied territories. No country would take any more refugees and the world was watching this time anyway. This time they would come up with another plan. They would keep the Palestinians in huge open air prisons with Palestinians running the prisons on the inside but Zionists holding all the keys and minding all the exits and standing on all the walls. If the inmates co-operated with their keepers they would be given privileges; they could go out and work in Israel for Israelis (so long as they had a permit). If they rebelled against their jailers, the riot squad would be sent in to deal with the trouble makers. If they did not stop misbehaving, the Zionists would lay siege to the prison until the will of the Palestinians was broken.
Now at last Israel can be a democracy! A shining light of freedom in an otherwise dark world of tyranny and hopelessness. Israel can now be like Egypt! Who better to be the jailers of Palestinian barbarians than the Zionists? Who else could deal with such a dreadful situation in such a civilised manner?
History has been utterly reversed. Now the Zionists sit in the seat of Pharaoh and proceed to strangle the life out of the Palestinians with the same sense of entitlement that motivated the Egyptian Monarch. The Zionist State of Israel has violated all the ethical principals that exist as conditions for the Jewish people’s occupation of Palestine. As Egypt was destroyed and Israel was later twice to be forced into exile by the hand of God, so the current State of Israel moves ever closer to the edge of oblivion as it rebels against its God given mandate to love the alien as one of their own native born. The lessons of the Exodus have been ignored by the Zionists. In reality, its message has been buried under a mountain of secular nationalistic idolatry and justified by the continual bombardment of Zionist interpretations of the meaning of the Shoah. This is no surprise to anyone who knows of the origins of Zionism. A secular nationalistic movement that sought to redefine Jewishness in a way that centred on nationalism rather than Torah values. As the Israeli intellectual, Boaz Evron once said, “Zionism is indeed the negation of Judaism”.
ACTION FOR PALESTINE