Israel, the land, in the Old Testament.
Picking up from where we left off a few weeks ago….
When we read the Old Testament, it becomes quite clear that the ancient Jewish people, Israel, were given a promise of a homeland. An early figure in the Bible, Abram (or Abraham), was unilaterally called by God to leave his former home, back when he was still a moon worshipper, to settle in this patch of real estate in the Middle East, where he could worship the one true God. This God would give Abraham and his descendants a claim to this land.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3 ESV)
And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” (Genesis 15:5-7 ESV)
Not only that, but many understand this claim to the land to be permanent:
And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God. (Genesis 17:7-8 ESV)
Some say that Joshua’s conquest of the land of Canaan fulfilled the promise in this covenant (Joshua 21:43-45). Throughout history, and to this day, there have always existed at least some Israelites who have inhabited the land.
Others say that Joshua’s conquest of Canaan only partially fulfilled the land promise. But however one understands the outcome of Joshua’s conquest, the unconditional character of the land promise stands out. However, the ability for Israel to actually stay in the land, paradoxically, did have conditions placed on it. This paradox has puzzled readers of the Bible for centuries.1