“Dear brother Clem: I am confused about all of the problems of Israel and the Palestinians. I have friends who tell me that the Bible gives Israel the right to all of Palestine. Is this true?
– B.G., OH”
God made several promises to Abraham, of which the main three deal with the nation of Israel, the promised land (Canaan) and the Christ (who was to be “the seed” of Abraham). Let’s look at the promise regarding the land. “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession. And I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8). Moses later spoke of this promise to the nation of Israel, as Abraham’s descendants: “All this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever” (Exodus 32:13). But still later, Moses showed that the “forever” part of this promise was conditional.
God showed Israel that, if they did not do as He directed, the land would be taken away from them: “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil … But if thy heart turn away, and thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish; ye shall not prolong your days in the land, whither thou passest over the Jordan to go in to posses it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19). Notice that God’s promise that the land would belong to Israel was valid only as long as they served God. If they turned their backs on Him, He would allow other people to drive them from that land. And when they did turn from God, they were driven out.
After the death of Moses, God selected Joshua to be the leader of Israel. It was under his leadership that the Israelites were brought into the land of Canaan (what it now called “Palestine”). Near the close of his life, Joshua declared: “So Jehovah gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And Jehovah gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers; and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; Jehovah delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not aught of any good thing which Jehovah had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:43-45) Notice that last part again: “There failed not aught … All came to pass.”
Later, Joshua told Israel, “Ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which Jehovah your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, not one thing hath failed thereof” (Joshua 23:14). Lest some should say, either then or now, that God owed the land to Israel, Joshua forcefully points out that God had kept every one of His promises. He didn’t say simply that God would keep the promises. He said He HAD kept them. All of God’s promises regarding the land of Canaan (Palestine) were fulfilled in Joshua’s lifetime. There remains no more such promises to be fulfilled today.
Some claim that Israel has a “right” to the land of Palestine today because of God’s promises. Now, I am willing to leave the politics of that situation to the politicians. But to claim “right of ownership” based on God’s promises is manifestly absurd. Israel is no longer a “special people” to God. He deals with all nations on the exact same basis, and with the same promises: “In Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28). And note Romans 10:12, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek.” All of God’s blessings for mankind today are bestowed through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3-7), and the land of Canaan is not included.
So far as God’s promises are concerned, Israel has no more right to the land of Canaan than I do. They forfeited their right to the land by turning away from God. The only “special people of God” today are those that are “in Christ” (Galatians 3:24-29). As the apostle Paul shows (in Romans 9, 10 and 11), if the people of Israel will come to Christ, they will “in Christ” again become the people of God. If there is a political settlement possible for that troubled are of the world, I sincerely hope it is found, and soon. But let’s not allow God’s word to suffer perversion for the sake of politics. – Clem Thurman
Excerpted from Volume 53, Number 33 of Gospel Minutes. Gospel Minutes is a publication originating from Forth Worth, Texas; Clem Thurman, Editor, David Thurman, Associate Editor.