God's old promises to Israel about her land

T. J. de Ruiter, Pentecostal pastor and teacher in The Netherlands


On the day that I write this article - Monday, the 19th of January 2009 - withdraws Israel her soldiers out off Gaza and has the Palestinian population for the first time since three weeks a quiet, peaceful night. It was a turbulent time for the inhabitants of Gaza, but also for Israel herself. Israel is still a young nation, but many know that the foundation for Israel’s claim to live as a nation in Palestine - in pre-Israel times this land was called Canaan - are the very old promises of God in the Bible.

In this article I give a review of the first promises given to the first ancestors of Israel. We shall see that these promises are much older than the claims of other peoples on the land of Palestine.
The promises to Abraham

God called Abraham (his name was then Abram) in 2095 before Christ to go from Lower Mesopotamia - an area that is situated in what is now called South Iraq - from the big city of Ur, to go to a country that He would show him.  The journey went first along the Euphrates in a Northwestern direction to the city of Haran. Later on he traveled to the South to Canaan. We read in the Bible in the book of Genesis, chapter 12, verses 4-7 that the LORD appeared to him and promised: “I shall give this land to your offspring.” In Genesis 13:14-18 we read that God spoke again. He said: “All the land that you can see I will give to you and your offspring, for ever.” In Genesis 17:8 God spoke for the third time to Abraham - he had then reached the age of 99 years and had become the father of Ishmael, which Hagar, the slave of Sarah had given birth to - that He would give Canaan to his descendents.

In Genesis 21:1 we read that Sarah had given birth to Isaac. Sarah saw that Ishmael mocked Isaac (verse 9). She could not accept that and asked Abraham to send Hagar and her son Ishmael away. God spoke to Abraham again that Isaac and his descendents would possess the land of Canaan, for Isaac was indeed the son that he had promised him. In Genesis 25:17-19 we read the Ishmael and his descendants went to the desert area, east of Egypt, the peninsula of the Sinai, and dwelled there.

Abraham knew that he dwelled in Canaan as a foreigner (Genesis 23:4). When his wife Sarah died he bought a cave with the surrounding land of the Hittites, who lived in those days there. That cave became the first rightful possession of Abraham and his descendents; Abraham was also buried there (Genesis 25:9,10)

The promise repeated to Isaac

During a famine Isaac intended to go Egypt but the LORD told him to stay in Canaan and said that He would give this land to him and his descendents (Genesis 26:3). So, God repeated to the son of Abraham the promise He had made to his father. In Genesis 28:4 Isaac blessed his son Jacob. In this blessing he referred to the promise God had made to his father. He showed a powerful faith that God would give this land indeed to him and his descendents.

The promise repeated to Jacob and Joseph

Jacob fled for his brother Esau and on his way he dreamed. God said to him: “The land on which you are now sleeping I will give to you and your descendants.” Jacob was very impressed by what he had dreamed and that God had spoken to him. He gave that place the name Bethel, the house of God (Genesis 28:13-19). In Genesis 35 we read that Jacob came in Bethel on his return to Canaan where he had had that remarkable dream. God appeared again to him and assured him that he would give that land to his descendents that he had promised to Abraham and Isaac. We take notice that the LORD God repeated the promise of the land here to the grandson of Abraham (Genesis 35:12).

When Jacob know that the end of his life was approaching he said in his farewell speech that God would give the land forever to his descendents (Genesis 48:4). In Genesis 49:29 we read that the dying Jacob requested his sons to take his body to the land of Canaan and buried it in the gave that Abraham had purchased. In chapter 50 of Genesis we read that Joseph received a special permission to go to Canaan to bury the body of his father Jacob in that cave.

At the end of the book Genesis we read in chapter 50:24 and 25 that when Joseph felt that the end of his life was near - this is dated about 1805 Before Christ - he made his brothers promise by an oath that they would take his body to Canaan when the time of the return had come. He said: “God shall lead you off this country (Egypt) and bring you back to the land that he had promised by an oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

The future borders of the land as described by the prophet Ezekiel

 Ezekiel received his messages in visions, that he wrote down and are preserved up to this day. The last part of his book is filled with messages hat concern situations that are still to be fulfulled up to this day. In chapter 47:13-23 he describes the borders of the land that will belong to Israel. It is useful to compare the boundaries of the land here by Ezekiel described with those promises given to Abraham in Genesis 15:18 and with the borders as Moses described them in Deuteronomy11:24. I make some comments by what Ezekiel wrote down.  In chapter 47 :16 a place called ‘Hamath’ is mentioned. Some think that this is Hamath, situated at the river Orontes, but others think that he did not think of this Hamarth because this town lies too much to the north. Another comment may also be important. In the older descripions of the borders of the land as found Genesis 15:18 and Deuteronomy 11:24 we find that in some translations the word 'perath' is here also meant to idicate the river Euphrates as in Jeremiah 51:63, but the Hebrew word that is used means originally a 'fast flowing - rushing - river.' The word could mean any river that flows rapidly. We have to conclude that the names of some places that are written down by Ezekiel to describe that northern borders of the future land of Israel cannot be localised with certainty.

However it seems that we can be sure about it that it will run somewhere at the northwest of Damascus, (47:17,18).  It is not really certain that wether with the 'Eastern Sea,' (verse 18), the Dead Sea is meant for the Gulf of Aqaba, that lies further to the south, could also have been in the mind of Ezekiel. With the 'river of Egypt' or the 'brook of Egypt' is certainly not the river Nile meant but a brook, a 'wadi', that runs in the peninsula of the Sinai and flows in the Meditterranean Sea. Up to this day this area has never been a part of the land of Israel, though some are living there now.

We can finally conclude that the land that will be given to Israel in the future will  have as its southern border the brook of Egypt and in the north its border will lie somewhere at the norhwest of Damascus. The eastern border will run somehwere at the east of the river Jordan to the Dead Sea or the Gulf of Aqaba

In closing

We have shown from old and sacred Scriptures that the LORD God gave the land of Canaan (Palestine) to Israel as an inheritance longer than 2000 years before Christ was born, and now more than 4000 years ago. The present nation of Israel, descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, can appeal to very old and authoritative promises for possession and dwelling in Palestine.

 T. J. de Ruiter, 19 January 2009, revised 13 March 2011

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