Don’t the Boundaries Promised to Abraham Imply that Modern Israel is Entitled to More Land?

The boundaries of the land God promised Abraham are given in Genesis 15:18-21:

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” (Gen. 15:18-21 nkjv).

These boundaries included all of the land occupied from the river of Egypt on the south to the River Euphrates on the north. As Israel made preparations to enter the land, they also captured some of the area on the east of the River Jordan, and 2 1/2 tribes were given this area (Num. 34:14-15). The area just west of the River Jordan was occupied by the tribes of Benjamin, Ephraim, Issachar, and one-half of the tribe of Manasseh.

No one can make a certain identification of the “river of Egypt.” Some identify it as the River Nile. But Israel was clearly not in the Promised Land when it was in Egypt. Others think this river is a desert stream that flows during the rainy season. This would concur with Kadesh-Barnea being the southern border. It was from Kadesh-Barnea that the spies entered the land.

At the least, the area promised by God to Abraham would be all of the area west of the River Jordan from Wadi-el-Arish on the south to the Euphrates River on the north. (The area occupied by the 2 1/2 tribes east of the Jordan River was not specifically promised by God.)

Does God’s promise to Abraham entitle modern Israel to expand its territory? We need to remember that God promised to chastise a disobedient Israel by taking away its national sovereignty, place it under foreign rulers, and exile many of its people (Deut. 28:15-68). These warnings were fulfilled first under the Assyrians and Babylonians and then under Rome (ad 70 and 135). Prophecies of the spiritual restoration of Israel in the last days have not been fulfilled.

 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!” (Ezek. 36:27-32 nkjv).

How does this prophecy of Ezekiel relate to modern Israel in its current state of unbelief? It states that at some future time a spiritually repentant and renewed Israel will be given security and peace in her ancestral homeland. However, we can no more assume God’s blessing on the unbelieving state of Israel today than we could have assumed God’s blessing on Israel before its destruction by Assyria, Babylonia, and Rome. God allowed the reestablishment of Israel, but He often permits things He doesn’t approve.

It would be helpful to remember that the rabbis who survived the Jewish-Roman wars of ad 70 and 135 fervently taught that a return to the land should occur only under the leadership of the Messiah himself.

Because of all of this and other reasons the Torah forbids us to end the exile and establish a state and army until the Holy One, blessed He, in His Glory and Essence will redeem us. This is forbidden even if the state is conducted according to the law of the Torah because arising from the exile itself is forbidden, and we are required to remain under the rule of the nations of the world, as is explained in the book Vayoel Moshe. If we transgress this injunction, He will bring upon us (may we be spared) terrible punishment. (“Why Orthodox Jews Are Opposed to a Zionist State,” Neturei Karta International)

This seems wise counsel, given the warnings of Deuteronomy and the disastrous past attempts of Jewish nationalism to achieve independence in the land on its own. In contrast, the atheistic leaders of the Zionist movement1 had little patience with the heavenly ideals of the religious who advocated patience in waiting for Messiah. They employed worldly means—political intrigue, economic influence, propaganda, violence, and terror—to establish and expand the modern state of Israel.

What are we to think? Christians should have a heart of compassion for Israelis and Jews, but genuine compassion involves willingness to confront injustice. We are under no obligation to help an unbelieving and unrepentant national Israel use worldly means to acquire the land promised Abraham. We should take biblical prophecy with great seriousness, realizing we aren’t called to be mere spectators of history. We shouldn’t enable Israeli discrimination, injustice, and violence towards non-Jewish citizens and neighbors any more than we should enable that of other nations towards their citizens and neighbors.

In accordance with the words of the prophets, if the state of Israel continues to pursue a path of unbelief and injustice, it will bring judgment upon itself—and its supporters.

  1. The founders of Zionism were all atheists who denied the Torah. All the Torah sages of that time opposed them and opposed Zionism, saying that Zionism would lead only to destruction. (“Why Orthodox Jews Are Opposed to a Zionist State,” Neturei Karta International) Back To Article
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