Who Has a Biblical Right To Palestine?

By Louis DeBoer

God, as the Creator, owns the earth and gives it to whomever he chooses. As Psalm 24 puts it…

The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Generally however we only know God’s will for the distribution of the land by his providential actions as he takes it away from nation or people and allows another to claim it. This merely shows God’s secret purposes in history, but provides no real basis for deciding that there is a moral basis or a just reason for a particular nation’s or people’s possession of a specific portion of land. In fact almost all land is owned by right of conquest and those who complain are inconsistent as their ancestors acquired it in the very same way. Occasionally however, God reveals in his word that it is his will and purpose that a specific people possess a specific piece a land at a specific time in history. As long as that remains the will of God that would then form a moral basis for a claim to the land that would transcend the claim of right by conquest which is simply based on “might makes right.”

Although the Scriptures makes statements with respect to God’s decrees of land ownership with respect to several other nations, such as Edom and Moab, we are interested in examining only those with respect to Israel and the land of Canaan.

The first mention of this land in the Scriptures is in Genesis 10 where we have the “Table of Nations” that describes how the earth was divided up between the various clans or peoples that descended from the three sons of Noah.

Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood…And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan…And Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn, and Heth, And the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite, And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad. And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto LashaThese are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations…These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.  Genesis 10:1,6,15-20,32

At this time in history God clearly has ruled that this specific portion of the earth should be inhabited by the various clans that descended from Canaan, the fourth and youngest son of Ham.

The first indication that it should ever be otherwise came centuries later when God revealed to Abraham his intention to someday give the Land of Canaan to his seed.

And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son…and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came…And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto himGenesis 12:5-7

This promise was reiterated by God to Abraham in a special set of circumstances. There had been strife between the Abraham’s herdsmen and those of his nephew Lot, over the best pasturage and water for their respective flocks. They decided to separate and Abraham generously gave Lot first choice of the land for himself. Although God had promised the land to Abraham, Lot chose the best portion for himself, the well watered plain of Jordan. But God blessed Abraham and said to him…

Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. Genesis 13:14-17 Abraham had the faith to patiently await God’s good time when God would give him and his seed the land. In the meantime he was content to be a pilgrim and a stranger on this earth and wait on the Lord. Lot, in his selfishness and impatience, attempted to seize the best part of the land immediately. God blessed Abraham. The last we see of Lot he is in a remote cave, committing incest with his daughters in a state of intoxication, and is homeless and penniless. This should be a lesson for, and a warning to, the present inhabitants of the Land of Canaan who have seized the land in unbelief rather than waiting on the Lord.

Abraham never received the land in his lifetime. The Scriptures clearly testify to that…

And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee…And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. Acts 7:2-3,5 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God…These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Hebrews 11:8-10,13 Abraham was promised the land, personally, but he never received as much as a square foot of it! There are significant theological conclusions that stem from that fact. In our Lord’s day there was division among the Jews over the doctrine of the resurrection. The Pharisees, who held to the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead, did so on the basis of the fact before us. God had promised the land to Abraham and therefore he must receive it. If Abraham didn’t receive it in this life he will therefore have to receive it in the life to come, in the resurrection. He will receive it in Messiah’s day, in the Kingdom of God, during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. Paul, himself raised a Pharisee, seems to allude to this in the Hebrews passage. Abraham himself apparently didn’t expect to inherit the land in this life, but in the Kingdom, as “he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” All those who would claim the land today in the name of Abraham ought to consider the example of him in whose name thy pretend to act!

However, what of Abraham’s seed to whom the Lord also promised that they would inherit the land of Canaan? What of those who were “the heirs with him of the same promise“? Paul tells us that respecting his immediate progeny, that “these all died in faith, not having received the promises.” If fact it was not until additional centuries later that the descendants of Abraham ever possessed the land. And when they did possess the land it was under the Sinaitic Covenant and on a provisional basis. Under that Covenant their possession of the land was based on very specific conditions that they had to meet. And the sanctions of that covenant clearly stated that the failure to keep the conditions would result in their expulsion from the land. The following Scriptures make that abundantly clear.

When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger: I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you. Deuteronomy 4:25-27 Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.  Deuteronomy 5:33 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; And then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you. Deuteronomy 11:16-17 The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it…And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. Deuteronomy 28:21, 63 So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath: Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them: And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 29:22-28 In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that 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, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.  Deuteronomy 30:16-20 And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it. Deuteronomy 32:46-47 These are just a few Scriptures taken from one of the books of Moses. There are countless others testifying to this great truth. And God does not give his warnings lightly. When the Northern ten tribes corrupted themselves and served idols God did root them out and dispossess them of the land. Similarly, when Judah apostatized, they also were driven off the land and went into the Babylonian captivity. And later when they returned and rejected and crucified his Son, rejecting their Messiah, God again implemented these sanctions of the Sinaitic Covenant and sent in the Romans to drive them off the land and end their nation. God is not mocked and it truly is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God!

By the terms of the Sinaitic Covenant Israel according to the flesh has been dispossessed of the land. Since they have returned in unbelief that Covenant is a testimony against them and against their right to possess the land. However, that Covenant is not even in force anymore. God himself has set it aside, as he prophesied he would do through his servant Zechariah.

And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD. And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD. Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. Zechariah 11:10-14

Here the Scriptures declare that in the day that the nation rejected their Messiah and sold him for thirty pieces of silver, in that very day God broke his covenant with them. The Sinaitic Covenant therefore cannot provide any moral or Scriptural basis for their possession of the land. And that brings us back to the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant is still in force, it is an everlasting covenant. And by its terms God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his seed as an everlasting possession. And someday God will redeem that promise and bring it to pass. But, the Abrahamic Covenant was based on faith, on justification by faith, and the present inhabitants of the land have returned in unbelief. So the true Israel of God, those who have the faith of Abraham, (Galatians 3:7,9,29) those who believe in Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, wait like Abraham, for that glorious time in Messiah’s Day when they will possess the land forever in righteousness and peace. Today the land is still under God’s curse. It is wracked with bloodshed, violence, and destruction. It is a land of great wickedness and immorality. This is not the fulfillment of God’s purposes with his people under the Abrahamic Covenant, but a perversion of it. Paul taught, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16). Ultimately, the land belongs to Christ. He is the true seed of Abraham. And only those are Christ’s, those who are united to him by faith as Abraham was, have a right to the land of Canaan. And someday they will possess it as an everlasting possession. Hallelujah!!! And what of the State of Israel now. They possess the land that is true, but not because of any Biblical right or by any theological requirement. They possess it because of an act of the United Nations back in 1948 and by right of conquest in several Arab-Israeli wars. That God has his secret purposes in this and that this may relate to issues of prophecy we admit. However prophecy provides no justification, as the prophecies of the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus Christ clearly establish, for both Judas and Pilate, while fulfilling prophecy will be held accountable for their crimes. I do not mean to intimate that we should have any desire to dispossess the Jews of the land or destroy the State of Israel. What I mean to establish is that they have no Biblical right to the land at this time, no more than any other people or ethnic group. And as a nation we should not blindly support their possession of it any more we support the integrity of any other nation. Frankly, it is none of our business who inhabits Palestine at this point in history and seeking to determine that is not worth one American dollar or the blood of one American soldier. It would be a great tragedy if we as a nation continue to go to war in the Middle East as a result of pressure from both the Israeli lobby and the “Christian” right based on the erroneous and unBiblical conclusion that they have a divine mandate to possess the land. Let us not be like Lot and support those who seek to seize the land now apart from God’s ways. Rather, let us be like Abraham and wait patiently for God to fulfill his promise consistent with his ways and his requirements and with his blessing. Amen!