Tag Archives: Israel

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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Does Modern Israel Have the Right to Use Force to Claim the Land?

Here we must be careful to realize that any nation has a right to defend its legal borders and citizenry. At the same time, we must be careful not to confuse the modern secular state of Israel with the armies and tribes of Joshua. While God’s hand may be seen in the return of large numbers of Jewish people to the land, we must always be careful to distinguish between what God may or may not be doing with the Jewish people, and what the Jewish people are doing without God. It is not at all clear that a spiritually unrepentant state of modern Israel can claim land because of a title deed originally given to the descendants of Abraham, and then revoked until the promised last days of physical and spiritual restoration of Israel.

This distinction is important because when the children of Israel first came into the land, God commanded them to kill or drive out its inhabitants. At that time the God of Israel authorized the complete destruction of Canaanites who were living as a morally bankrupt and an idolatrous people. Their debased religion demanded human sacrifice; their social structure was brutal and dehumanizing; and their total lack of sexual decency lead to continual abuse of women, children, and animals, and, subsequently, widespread disease and death.

When Israel first entered the land under the direct command of God, it was with leaders who were specially selected by God on account of their obedience ( Joshua 1:7-9 ). The Israelites themselves had passed through 40 years of purification in the desert and were not permitted to enter Canaan until a disobedient generation had died. Unlike modern Israel, the ancient Israelites swore faithfulness to God and knew of the consequences of disobedience ( Deuteronomy 30:10,18; Joshua 24 ). Also unlike modern Israel, God miraculously prepared the way for them and supernaturally assisted them, so that they wouldn’t become arrogant and think that they had come into possession of the land by their own strength and cleverness ( Joshua 24:1-20 ).

The ideology of modern Zionism 1 is not based on religious faith. It is primarily agnostic and was founded on the ideology of nineteenth-century romantic nationalism, which is based on notions of “racial purity” and “historic rights to the land.”

As a result of this race-based ideology, the ultimate goals of Zionism didn’t favor peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians, but required plans for their expulsion.
2 Over the decades, “the sins of the fathers”( Daniel 9:16 ) have clearly been found on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Furthermore, the nation of Israel, like the Palestinian people, is not in a state of spiritual repentance as required by the standard of the New Covenant. Therefore we must wonder whether modern Israel has been guilty of many of the same corporate sins that led to her earlier dispersion.

Israel as a people and nation still have an important role in God’s plans. (See the ATQ article,  Does the Bible Really Call the Jews God’s Chosen People? ) However, John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the “greatest of the prophets,” warned Jewish leaders not to feel superior merely because of their racial heritage:

Do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:9-12 NIV).

God dispersed the ancient Jewish nation because of her moral and spiritual failures, and made His concern with justice and righteousness clear:

Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:24 NIV).

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8 NIV).

Jesus declared that Israel would never experience God’s complete blessing until her heart had turned to repentance and obedience:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see Me again until you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:34-35 NIV).

God’s covenant with Abraham implies that Israel will not be restored to her place of blessing in the land at the price of injustice and violence to others. (“You will be a blessing . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”) 3If Israel depends on violence and injustice to take control of the land, she will find herself facing the same consequences her ancestors faced.

  1. Zionism is the name of the international Jewish movement that began in the nineteenth century with the hopes of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Back To Article
  2. Although at least some Zionist leaders realized that it would be politically dangerous to make their plans for ethnic cleansing publicly known, some of their intentions have been documented, and history shows their plans for the expulsion of Palestinians have been consistently implemented. (See, for example, “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem” by Israeli historian Benny Morris, Cambridge University Press; “The Iron Wall, Israel and the Arab World” by Jewish historian Avi Shlaim, W.W. Norton) Back To Article
  3. Before the 1967 War, a majority of American Jews were opposed to Zionism. Orthodox Jews tended to view it as a futile attempt to establish Israel in the absence of Messiah, and liberal Jews saw it as a violation of their commitment to freedom of religion in the context of secular representative democracy. Back To Article
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Who Are the Descendants of Abraham?

Who are the descendants of Abraham through whom “all of the peoples of the earth will be blessed”?

Abraham’s physical descendants include both Jewish and Arab peoples. Through his son Ishmael, Abraham gave the world a rich heritage of Arab culture and achievement. Through his son Isaac, Abraham gave the world a Jewish family line that was chosen by God to be a special servant nation. Through Israel God also gave the world a spiritual revelation of Himself that includes the Old and New Testament Scriptures. However the greatest fulfillment of God’s promise to bless the whole world through Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) was seen in Israel’s long awaited Messiah and Savior who died for the sins of all people and rose again to offer new life to all who would believe in Him.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as He said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us — to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham (Luke 1:68-73 NIV).

And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, “Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed” When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways (Acts 3:25-26 NIV).

Through this Messiah Abraham also has descendants who aren’t part of his physical line. The apostle Paul declares that Abraham’s seed can also be spiritual:

Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7 NIV).

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:29 NIV).

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:1-6 NIV).

As these Scriptures show, today’s church represents the spiritual “seed” of Abraham more truly than one who is simply Abraham’s physical descendant without sharing his faith.

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Who Are the Palestinians?

“Palestinian” is the term that identifies non-Jewish people, both Christian and Muslim, who have lived in the Holy Land for generations. During the last 150 years, many of these people found themselves displaced by Jewish settlers returning to their ancestral homeland. As Israeli immigrants returned in steadily increasing numbers, Palestinians responded in various ways. Some made peace with their new Jewish neighbors. Others passively tolerated Palestinian losses. Still others have resorted to violence and force of arms.

It is important to see that even though Palestinians are often thought of simply as “the enemies of Israel” the real Palestinian populace has a complex make-up and history.

When Israel moved into the land under Joshua, it was called the “land of milk and honey.” Because Canaan was such a hospitable and fertile land, it has been inhabited from the earliest times. Archaeology has determined that Jericho is one of the world’s oldest inhabited sites.

When Israel conquered Canaan, many inhabitants were driven out, but large numbers remained. Many Israelites intermarried with Canaanites and people of nearby nations ( Judges 14:1-3; Ruth 1:1-4 ). Consequently, the land was never inhabited by Israelites alone. Further, when the leading classes of Israel and Judea were driven into Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian exile because of unbelief and non-compliance with the Mosaic Covenant, many common people remained in the land. They multiplied and were joined by colonists from other nations. When Israelite leadership returned and regained political control, they did not expel the great numbers of non-Jews or less observant Jews who lived in the land. At the time of Christ, Jews were actually a minority in large areas of the land.

Again, after the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersal of the Jews by the Romans in A.D. 70, many common people remained in the land. They had Israelite ancestry to some degree but hadn’t been part of the rebellion against Rome. (It was under Roman rule that the Holy Land, as a whole, was first called Palestine, a name related to the Phoenician peoples who had long populated the coastal areas.) As Christianity spread through the Roman Empire, many of the descendants of these common people of the Holy Land became either nominal or genuine Christians. Then, in the seventh century, Arabic-speaking Muslim armies conquered Palestine, Egypt, and all of the nominally Christian lands of northern Africa, along with Spain.

Although Muslim armies forced Christians and Jews to submit to Islamic law and imposed taxes and other restrictions that made them “second class citizens,” they spared their lives and permitted them to stay. This included the residents of Palestine. Further, unlike many historical conquerors, the Arabs didn’t send settlers to colonize the lands they conquered, but set up military garrisons in cities established to maintain Muslim rule. Except for a brief period when the Crusaders established a beachhead in the Muslim world, Muslim rule continued in Palestine under successive regimes until the end of World War I, when it came under the control of Great Britain.

During all of this time — from the time of Roman rule into the twentieth century — life continued largely unchanged. The people worked the land, tended their herds, carried on trade, and practiced the simple professions that supported village life. Although the Muslim conquest introduced Arabic as the language of everyday life and offered significant advantages to those who were willing to convert to Islam, Christians and Jews were tolerated as “people of the book” and many Jews and Christians remained in the land, carrying on their own traditions and generally living in peace with their Muslim neighbors.

Today the vast majority of “native Palestinians” are Muslims, but a significant percentage of them are adherents to other religions, including Christianity.

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Does God Side with Modern Israel?

It is one thing to believe that God has plans for Israel, and that He may be bringing her back to her homeland. It is quite another to imply that God approves or is directly responsible for everything that Israel does. Israel, the Palestinians, Turkey, England, neighboring Arab nations, the United States, or any of the participants in the historical and current Middle East conflict — all are responsible for their own actions. The wrongs of the participants, not God, have produced today’s hostilities.

God never approves injustice. ( Genesis 18:25; Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 1:1-20 ). It was the unbelief of Israel — often expressed in injustice — that led to her destruction.

This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not turn back My wrath. Because they have rejected the law of the LORD and have not kept His decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed, I will send fire upon Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.” This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back My wrath. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane My holy name” (Amos 2:4-7 NIV).

Therefore, even though we believe that God has a purpose in His preservation of Israel, she and her allies are responsible before God for their own actions. Israel is responsible for any injustices that that have been carried out against Arab neighbors in the course of re-establishing a homeland. In the same way, Palestinians and their allies will also be responsible for any injustices carried out against Israel. Before God neither side will have a case for returning evil for evil.

Because He is sovereign, God can use the wrongs of people and nations to bring about His good purposes. However, even though the sovereign God can allow and harness evil done by others to further His purposes, He never causes evil or approves of it.

The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 may prove to be the fulfillment of prophecy. What we do know, however, is that today Israel is living in separation from God. Most of her people are either agnostic (not looking for a Messiah) or followers of the Talmud rather than the Old Testament. The day is yet to come when God will restore Israel to her place of blessing: She will be grafted into the olive tree again, and her blindness will be removed (see Romans 11:24-25 ). This will be a time of great blessing for all the world. It will be as “life from the dead” ( Romans 11:15 ).

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