Five Key Biblical Arguments For Israelís Right to the Land{1}

by John S. Kanter, M.A.

  1. The Land{3} belongs to God.
  2. Leviticus 25:23{4} states:

    "The land must not be sold without reclaim because the land belongs to me, for you are foreigners and residents with me."

    Basic to an understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures with respect to the Hebrewsí themselves, is recognition of the vital connection between a specific area of land{5} and a specific people in covenant{6} relationship with God. The preceding context (Lev. 25:8-12) of the above verse (Lev. 25:23) deals with the observance of the year of jubilee, while its surrounding context (Lev. 25:13- 34) discusses the effects of the year on the possession of property. The Israelites were to buy and sell property in view of the upcoming year of jubilee during which time all property would revert to its original tribal leasees. This special year reminded the Israelites that they really didnít own the land themselves but were tenants of God, the true owner. So then one key aspect of the jubilee year is its declaration that the land was ultimately Godís possession, and as such no individual had the inalienable right to sell or incorporate as they saw fit.

  3. The Land was given by God to the descendants of Abraham.
  4. In Genesis 12:7, we read:

    " The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ĎTo your descendants I will give this land."

    This promise of land is one key aspect{7} of the Abrahamic Covenant. In scripture the concept of covenant refers to an agreement or contract between two parties that binds one or both parties to certain obligations and commitments. In several passages the Abrahamic Covenant is expressly portrayed as eternal and therefore unconditional (Gen. 13:15; 17:7, 13, 19; 48:4; 1 Chron. 16:17; Ps. 105:10). This means that it is only binding on the party making the promise. In the Abrahamic covenant God alone commits Himself to a course of action through Abraham and his descendants that cannot be reversed (else God would prove untrue) and cannot be annulled by the failure of either Abraham or his descendants. However, it should also be noted that while the gift or title deed to the land is unconditional, actual enjoyment of the land is conditioned upon obedience. In Deutoronomy 29:2-30:1, Moses prophetically spoke of Israelís coming disobedience to the Mosaic Law and subsequent scattering over the entire world. This is one reason{8} why full restoration of Israel to its land{9}with complete peace and security will require the second coming of Messiahóimmediately prior and scripturally requisite{10} to that great eschatological event is foretold the spiritual regeneration of Jewish physical survivors of the Tribulation resulting in a new capacity to render SpiritĖempowered obedience to God.

  5. This Land was not given to the Descendants of Ishmael, but rather to the Descendants of Isaac{11}.

In Gen. 17:18 "Abraham said to God, Ďthat Ishmael might live before you!" The phrase "might live before you" can also be translated as "might live with your blessing." The point is Abraham himself considered Ishmael as a possible descendant to whom God would give this land. However, in the very next verse (v. 19)"God said, ĎNo, Sarah your wife is going to bear you a son and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm my covenant with him as a perpetual covenant for his descendants after him." In Gen. 17:20 God promised to bless Ishmael and use him to create a great nation, but His covenant to Abraham, (which again prominently included the specific promise of land), was to be accomplished through his son Issac, not Ishmael (Gen. 17:21){12}.

  1. This Land was not given to the Descendants of Esau, but only to Jacob.

As in the previous point, even though God promised to bless Abrahamís descendants, He singled out only one branch of his family for covenant blessing. Romans 9:10-13 stresses that Godís choice Jacob over Esau are for reasons that lay within Himself, not because any human merits election{13}. This is why in Gen. 28:13-15; 35:11-12; and 48:3-4 God Himself through direct revelation is portrayed as convincing Jacob of his covenant destiny specifically in relation to the promise of land.

  1. God is Restoring Jewish People to the Land.

The bible predicts that Israel will initially return to the land of promise in unbelief. Ezekiel 36:24 states, "I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you to your land." The next two verses continue, "I will sprinkle pure water over you and you will be clean from all your uncleanness; I will purify you from all your idols. I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh."

From the sequence of events depicted in these verses it should be noted that the national restoration of the Jewish people precedes the spiritual regeneration of the Jewish people{14}. Therefore, it should not surprise us that Israel was reborn as a secular state by secular Jews for this is a precursor of the day when the entire nation turns in faith to Jesus as Messiah.

This return to the land in stages is also borne out in the vision of a valley of dry bones from Ezekiel 37. In verses 6-10 the bones come to life in stages. First, the sinews or tendons on the bones, then flesh, then skin, and finally the breath of life. Then in verse 11, God tells Ezekiel that "these bones are the house of Israel," and their restoration is illustrative of the way He will bring His people back "to the land of Israel" (v. 12). Thus, the regathering of Israel to its land should not be viewed as a single event but rather a process which culminates in the Jewish people receiving the breath of life by turning to their Messiah.

Endnotes

{1}As the title of this paper implies the listing here is selective rather than exhaustive. Other significant scripture-based arguments that in the view of this writer give a solid basis for asserting Israelís right to the Land include the testimony of several O.T. writers that Israelís sin and captivity did not abrogate Godís land promise (Lev. 26:40-45, Deut. 30:1-5, Jer. 16:15; 31:10, Isa. 43:5-7, Amos 9:14-15), and that Godís hesed (Hebrew word denoting covenantal love and loyalty usually translated in English as "faithfulness") to Israel is said to be as certain as the existence and order of the universe itself (Jer. 31:35-37)! For a more complete listing of similar biblical summary statements that are pertinent to this topic see David Hocking, Israel and its Land (Tustin, CA. Hope for Today Ministries, 1983).

{2}The Christian Jew Foundation (www.cjf.org)

{3}Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum correctly notes that even though this land for centuries has been known as Palestine, this is not the most desirable and accurate term for at least three reasons: (1) It was the name given to the land by the Roman emperor Hadrian after the second Jewish revolt under Bar-Kochba (A.D. 132-135), for the purpose of eliminating memory of any Jewish religious and social involvement with the land. (2) Due to the historical/political events in the Middle East in the Twentieth and Twenty-First centuries, the name is associated more with Arabs than Jews. (3) According to Ezekiel 37:11-12 the land that so often (65 times) is called "the land of Canaan" in the bible, in the last days will be called "Israel," ("Palestinian Covenant," in Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, ed. Mal Couch [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1996], 291).

{4}All scripture quotations are taken form The NET BIBLE, (www.netbible.com, Biblical Studies Press, 2001).

{5}In broad general terms Gen. 15:18-21 states that the boundaries of this land extend from the river of Egypt in the West to the Euphrates River in the East, and to the land of the Hittites in the North. For an analysis of this issue see Jeffrey Townsend, "Fulfillment of the Land Promise in the Old Testament," Bibliotheca Sacra 142:568 (October-December 1985): 320-37.

{6}The term covenant is used in this paper to speak of the biblical covenants of promise, (i.e. the Abrahamic, Land, Davidic, and New Covenant), which are derived from an inductive study of the progressive or sequential nature of divine revelation. This approach to the theme of covenant should not be confused with the so-called theological covenants of redemption, works, and grace which methodologically speaking reflect an attempt to deductively organize the entire biblical corpus. In terms of the construction of theological systems the covenants of promise are foundational to Dispensationalism while the theological covenants serve as the interpretive framework for Covenant Theology. For a work that contrasts these two systems see Renald E. Showers, There Really is a Difference! : A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology (Bellmawr, NJ. The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1990).

{7}The other central components in this covenant are the themes of seed and blessing.

{8}At His Second Coming the Lord Messiah will also deliver the Jewish people from their physical attackers (Zech. 14:3-5).

{9}With respect to the full restoration of Israel to its land itís clear that at no point during Jewish history has the landĖpromise been fulfilled in its entirety. Certainly the Euphrates River has never yet been Israelís Border (cf. Gen. 15:18-21). However, since Godís attribute of immutability ensures that He always keeps His promises, it is certain that one day, in the future millennial or 1,000-year earthly reign of Messiah (Rev. 20:1-6), Israel will dwell in all the land that God promised. For a biblical description of the boundaries of the land in the millennium see Ezekiel 47:15-20. For a helpful interpretive summary of Ezekiel 47:15-20 see Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (Tustin, CA. Ariel Press, 1982), 328.

{10}According to Matthew 23:39 Jesus requires Israel to say the traditional Hebrew words of welcome and reception ("Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord") before He returns to them. Jewish people are compelled to relate to Jesus in this way because at the end of Tribulation the nations will gather in Israel and attack Jerusalem (Zech. 12:1-9). And although not explicitly stated, it fits the context to conclude that Israelís leaders will then cry out to God for deliverance because the following verse states that "a spirit of grace and supplication is poured out" enabling recognition of one who was previously "pierced" by the same group of people who are now being spiritually enlightened and physically delivered (Zech. 12:10).

{11}This point is significant because of its link to the origin of the Arab peoples, (Gen. 12:16 - Abrahamís receiving of Egyptian female servants), and the root of the conflict between Jews and Arabs, (Gen. 16:2 - Sarahís insistence that Abraham father a child through her servant Hagar which resulted in the birth of Ishmael and subsequent animosity between ethnically diverse members of Abrahamís household.)

{12}By quoting Gen. 21:12, Hebrews 11:18 also affirms that Godís covenantal promises to Abraham will be realized through Isaac, not Ishmael.

{13}The unconditional character of divine election is also seen in Godís choice of Israel over the nations (cf. Deut. 7:6-8).

{14}The spiritual regeneration referred to here is future and total (cf. Rom. 11:26) in contrast to Godís past and current activity of saving a remnant of Israel (Rom. 11:1-5).

John Kanter is a National Ministry Representative for CJF (Christian Jew Foundation) {2} Ministries and holds a Master of Arts from Dallas Theological Seminary.