What was special about the biblical promised land?

In regards to the land that God has promised Israel, “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” Genesis 15:18

God later confirms this promise to Abraham’s son Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob (whose name was later changed to Israel).

When the Israelites were about to invade the Promised Land, God reiterated the land promise. “From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.” Joshua 1:4

According to Genesis 15:18 and Joshua 1:4, the land God gave to Israel included everything from the Nile River in Egypt to Lebanon (south to north) and everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River (west to east). So, what land has God stated belongs to Israel?

All of the land modern Israel currently possesses, plus all of the land of the Palestinians (the West Bank and Gaza), plus some of Egypt and Syria, plus all of Jordan, plus some of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Israel currently possesses only a fraction of the land God has promised.

In Genesis the Lord says to Abraham, “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12:1–3

This blessing included land that, at the time the promise was made, belonged to other people. There are several reasons why this transfer of ownership was appropriate. First, “The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1.

As the Creator of the earth, God has the right to do with it as He pleases. He can take land away or give it according to the counsel of His will (Psalm 135:6).

The land pledged to Abraham was part of God’s provision for the Jewish people. After the Exodus from Egypt, the Jews were given the Promised Land, confirming God’s power to predict the future and fulfill His promises.

Second, giving the land to Abraham’s descendants was, in part, a judgment on the sinful Canaanites. In Genesis 15:16 the Lord gives a timeframe for the transfer of the land, as well as a reason for it: “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”

This statement shows that God had a reason for wresting the land from the Canaanites—namely, their sin. At the edge of the Promised Land, Moses told the children of Abraham, “Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee.” Deuteronomy 9:4

Abraham did not inherit the land immediately because it was not time yet for judgment to fall. God eventually took the land from the idolaters and turned it over to His children.

Third, the prosperity promised to Abraham required much land. Prosperity in Abraham’s time involved acquiring land and having much livestock. God’s promise to make Abraham prosperous would virtually require giving him large amounts of land.

Fourth, the geographical portion of the Abrahamic Covenant served as the historical basis for Israel’s eventual settlement of the land. Though there were many nations living in Canaan when Israel crossed the Jordan River, God’s promise to Abraham was Israel’s claim to the land. In Genesis, God further defined the borders of the land promised to Abraham:

“In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” Genesis 15:18-21

God promised Abraham land that belonged to others. The reasons for this transfer of land include the need to punish the Canaanites’ sin and the need for God’s chosen people to have a land of their own, eventually to become the birthplace of the Messiah.

In Deuteronomy the Lord gave the Israelites this command: “Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever. Deuteronomy 4:40

Does this mean God gave Israel the Promised Land in perpetuity?

This passage contains a conditional offer. Israel would have the Promised Land as they kept God’s “decrees and commands.” The Israelites had to obey God’s statutes in order to remain in the land. History reveals that the Israelites often disobeyed, resulting in temporary times of exile from their land.

However, the end of this passage notes that God is giving Israel the Promised Land “for all time.” The Hebrew phrase translated “for all time” is a general statement, likely in reference to God’s original promise of a land to Abraham in Genesis 12.

There are both a conditional and unconditional aspect to God’s promise. God offered blessings within the Promised Land conditionally, related to the Israelites’ obedience. Yet God also made an unconditional vow that Israel would have the Promised Land “for all time.”

How long is “for all time”? In the book of Revelation, we see Israel as a central focus. In the end times, Israel faces many difficulties, yet that tribulation concludes with the Messiah reigning from His throne in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. The book concludes with a new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem.

The promise of Deuteronomy 4:40 is a far-seeing promise, extending to the end of this world’s existence and even into the time of the new earth.

Many other passages of Scripture support the fact that Israel will possess the Promised Land forever. For example, God spoke to Isaac in Genesis, saying, “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;” Genesis 26:3

The Lord also spoke to Jacob in Genesis with similar words: “And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 28:13–14

See also Psalm 132:14; Isaiah 14;1; and Zechariah 2:3–5, 10–13.

Because of God’s promises to Israel concerning the Promised Land, Christians should support the modern nation of Israel without reservation. Christians have many reasons to support the people of Israel, but this does not mean Christians must agree with every political decision made by the modern Israeli government. Instead, the focus is on God’s spiritual restoration of Israel Romans 11:26 and the enduring promise to His chosen people.

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© Tony - W.A.M