Israel and the Promised Land
"On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, 'To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt [brook of Egypt Ð Wadi el-Arish] as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite."
- Genesis 15:18-21 NAS
The Greater Promised Land
God was very specific about the land that He promised to Abraham and His descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Israel). This is known as the Greater Promised Land, which extends from the Judean Wilderness to the River Euphrates.
God confirmed these boundaries to Moses after Israel had left Egypt and were on their way to the Promised Land:
"And I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea [Eastern branch Ð Sea of Reeds] to the sea of the Philistines [Gaza along the Mediterranean Sea], and from the [Judean] wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you." - (Joshua 1:4 NAS;)
Unfortunately, the first generation of Israelites that came out of Egypt under Moses did not enter the Promised Land, "because of their unbelief (disobedience)" (Heb. 3:19; 4:6, 11,). However, God raised up a new generation under Joshua and reaffirms the Greater Promised Land that they and their descendents will eventually inhabited:
"From the [Judean] wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea [Mediterranean] toward the setting of the sun, will be your territory" - (Exodus 23:30-31 NAS; see also Deuteronomy 11:24)
The Promised Land of Canaan
Although the Greater Promised Land stretches all the way to the Euphrates River, God limits Israel's initial possession under Joshua and the Judges to the Promised Land of Canaan, which lies within the greater Promised Land given to Abraham in Genesis 15. When God separated the nations (Gen. 10), He identified the land of Canaan as the "land of the Canaanites" which had specific boundaries:
"And the territory of the Canaanite extended from Sidon [Lebanon] as you go toward Gerar [South of Gaza], as far as Gaza; as you go toward Sodom and Gomorrah and Admah and Zeboiim [South of the Dead Sea], as far as Lasha [East of the Dead Sea in Jordon]" - (Genesis 10:19 NAS)
The Land of Canaan
God clearly limits the first wave of Israel's inheritance to the Promised Land of Canaan, which He outlines in detail to Moses:
"Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Command the sons of Israel and say to them, "When you enter the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance, even the land of Canaan according to its borders (Gen. 10:19). Your southern sector shall extend from the wilderness of Zin along the side of Edom, and your southern border shall extend from the end of the Salt Sea eastward. 'Then your border shall turn direction from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and continue to Zin, and its termination shall be to the south of Kadesh-barnea; and it shall reach Hazaraddar, and continue to Azmon. And the border shall turn direction from Azmon to the brook [river] of Egypt, and its termination shall be at the sea. 6 'As for the western border, you shall have the Great Sea, that is, its coastline; this shall be your west border. 7 'And this shall be your north border: you shall draw your border line from the Great Sea to Mount Hor. You shall draw a line from Mount Hor to the Lebo-hamath, and the termination of the border shall be at Zedad; and the border shall proceed to Ziphron, and its termination shall be at Hazar-enan. This shall be your north border. For your eastern border you shall also draw a line from Hazar-enan to Shepham, and the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain; and the border shall go down and reach to the slope on the east side of the Sea of Chinnereth. And the border shall go down to the Jordan and its termination shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land according to its borders all around." - (Num 34:1-15 NAS)
The Promised Land of Canaan was portioned out to the twelve tribes of Israel under Joshua after they took possess of it (Josh 13 - 22). As you can see, the boundaries of the twelve tribes fit exactly within the Scriptural boundaries of Canaan (Gen. 10:19).
Distribution of the Promised Land
Taking possession of the Promised Land of Canaan was a picture of entering God's rest, thereby fulfilling the promises that He made to that generation:
"So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers [Num. 34], and they possessed it and lived in it. And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass." - (Joshua 21:43-45 NAS)
Although God gave Israel the Promised Land of Canaan, their possession of the Greater Promised Land was yet to come through their descendants.
Possessing the Greater Promised Land
It was not until King David and his son Solomon came to power that Israel finally possessed the entire land which God promised Abraham in Genesis 15. David led the way by conquering Israel's enemies from Gaza, to East Jordon, to the River Euphrates:
"Now after this it came about that David defeated the Philistines [Gaza] and subdued them; and David took control of the chief city from the hand of the Philistines. And he defeated Moab [West Jordon], and measured them with the line, making them lie down on the ground; and he measured two lines to put to death and one full line to keep alive. And the Moabites became servants to David, bringing tribute. Then David defeated Hadadezer, the son of Rehob king of Zobah [Northeast Syria], as he went to restore his rule at the River [Euphrates]." - (Joshua 21:43-45 NAS)
Possession of the Greater Promised Land was inherited and maintained by David's son, King Solomon:
"Now Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots and 12,000 horsemen, and he stationed them in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. And he was the ruler over all the kings from the Euphrates River even to the land of the Philistines [Gaza], and as far as the border of Egypt [brook of Egypt]." - (2 Chronicles 9:25-26 NAS, see also 1 Kings 4:21)
Greater Promised Land under David and Solomon
Israel Loses the Promised Land
Unfortunately, King Solomon and the children of Israel did not follow the Lord fully and the kingdom was divided. After centuries of disobedience, the 10 northern tribes of the Kingdom of Israel were conquered by Assyria. Many were taken back to Assyria, but most stayed in the land under Assyrian occupation, where interracial marriages between Israelites and the Assyria's produced children known in the Bible as Samaritans.
Shortly after that, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Assyria and took possession of the captives from the ten northern tribes of Israel. Then Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and deported most of Judah back to Babylon, where they were reunited with the captives of 10 northern tribes of Israel now under Babylonian control (Ez. 37:15-23).
Shortly after that, Cyrus of Persia conquered the Medes and formed the Medeo-Persian Empire. Then he conquered Babylon and took possession of all the captives from Israel and Judah and decreed that they should "go up" to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple (2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-11). His successors, Darius and Artaxerxes, continued his decree until the sons of Israel and their possessions were returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 6:13-22). This is when the sons of Israel from both houses (Israel and Judah) returned as "one man" under the leadership of Zerubbabel (Ezra 3:1-2; 4:12; Neh. 8:1-2), where they were all referred to as both "Jews" and as "Israel" for the first time (Ezra 6:14-16; 7:10-13, 28; 10:5).
Israel Loses the Promised Land a Second Time
Even though God restored both houses as promised, Israel continued in its rebellion to God for another 600 years until all 12 tribes were dispersed among the nations by Titus and the Roman legions in 70 A.D. (James 1:1). This dispersion (Diaspora) was foretold by Moses in Deuteronomy 28, when he prophesied to Israel about the blessings for obedience (vs. 1-14) and the cursings for disobedience (vs. 15-64). Part of the cursings envisioned Israel being scattered among the nations for their disobedience to God:
"Moreover, the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known. And among those nations you shall find no rest, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul." - (Deuteronomy 28:64-65 NAS )
Their ultimate disobedience was their rejection of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. For this, Yeshua pronounced that the full measure of the cursings would come upon that generation of Jews, who conspired with the Romans to have Him crucified:
"Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things [cursings] shall come upon this generation." - (Matthew 23:34-36 NAS )
Most assuredly, history has seen the cursings of Deuteronomy 28 poured out on Israel just as Moses and Yeshua (Jesus) prophesied. Yet through all the persecution and attempts to annihilate the Jewish people, God preserved them for the last days when He promises to restore them once again:
"For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God." - (Ezekiel 36:24-29 NAS )
Israel Regathered a Second Time
The prophet Isaiah identifies this restoration as a second regathering of Israel back to The Promised Land. He is careful to point out that both houses (Israel and Judah) return together, and that the jealousy which once existed between them is gone. God uses this miracle has a standard (sign) to the nations that His prophetic word never fails:
"Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people, who will remain, from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He will lift up a standard for the nations, and will assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, and those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim." - (Isaiah 11:11-13 NAS )
In 1947, with sympathy running high for the Jewish people because of the holocaust, the United Nations passed Resolution 181, which declared the creation of a small Jewish State within the boundaries of the ancient land of Canaan. It was enacted on May 15, 1948, and prophecies that were over 3,000 years old came to pass. Since then, millions of Jews from around the world have returned to the Land of Israel in fulfillment of God's word.
Israel's Full Restoration
Unfortunately, the Arab nations object to Israel's restoration and have tried to destroy them numerous times. However, each time they attack Israel, God's chosen people defeat them and gain back more of the Promised Land. If the Arabs launch any additional attacks against Israel in the future, they will undoubtedly see more of the Promised Land restored to Israel in fulfillment of God's word.
Arab hatred toward the Jews and their conspiracy to destroy them are clearly foreseen by King David, who also points out that Yahweh considers their war against Israel as a war against Him (Ps. 83). Consequently, their end is total defeat and destruction as is any nation who comes against God's restoration of Israel to the Promised Land with Jerusalem as its eternal capital (Ez. 25, 38 and 39; Jer. 49, 50 and 51; Is. 17; Zech. 1 and 12).
For this reason we must bless the people of Israel by supporting God's plan to restore them to their Promised Land (Gen. 12:1-3). We must also pray for the peace of Jerusalem, so that we and our children's children will prosper and be blessed forever (Ps. 122:6). Amen!