Truth, Understanding, Insight

Promised Land

2nd January 2013, hej


1) Promised Land & the Gospel

The apostle Paul, a foremost Christian writer, said that the gospel was preached to Abraham.

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen (nations) through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In you shall all nations be blessed. (Galations 3:8)

In the letter to the Hebrews, Abraham is the exemplar of faith,

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 where 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: (Hebrews 11:8-9).

The passage concludes with this hope as the core of Christian faith,

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: (Hebrews 11:39)

Until all the faithful inherit.


To fill in the picture. There was a flood according to the Bible's chronology approximately 2348BCE (Ussher), that left Noah and his 3 sons and their wives. The descendants Japheth, who seems the eldest went out and settled the isles. Ham's sons were first to prominence building Babel and Nineveh. Another son of Ham was Canaan whose numerous descendants settled first the coast from places still known today, Sidon in Lebanon all the way to Gaza and across to the Dead Sea where Sodom and Gomorrah were (see map).

Shem's sons settled first to the far east of the Middle East from “Mesha to Sephar a mount of the the East”, which is known to be over the Eastern side of the Euphrates. Though already dispersing, all seemed to have been unified at their centre, until they tried to build a tower in the city at Babel. Then their language was confused. After the confusion of language, the various families separated. Approximately 1921 BCE (Ussher) or 1928BCE (Beecher) a descendant of Shem, Abraham, was called to leave Ur of the Chaldees, which was at that time possibly already becoming a centre of idolatry.

The call to Abraham and God's promise is a key passage of the Bible.

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, “Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, unto a land that I will show you: And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

In Genesis chapter 14 we learn that a centre of worship of the God of the Bible was at Salem (later Jerusalem). The Shemites had moved far from that centre, as had the Japhetites, but the descendants of Ham, the Canaanites, hung close. A faithful man from Shem was called from an area descending into idolatry to be closer to a centre of true worship.

When he crosses over from Haran over the Euphrates he is described as entering his (and his children's) future inheritance.

Abraham, his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot travel South to a place called Shechem. It was described as in the land of Canaan. It is still called Shechem (also Nablus).

And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, “Unto your seed will I give this land:”
and there built he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. (Genesis 12:7)

The extent of the land promised is further clarified as to be all the land he could see. At the time he was near Hebron.

Abraham, who was now old and had no son asks how he is to inherit a promise that means he has to have a son. God said he would have a son, though old. Abram believed it would be as God said, and he would have a son. He was told by the God of the Bible,

“Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shall go to thy fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come here again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Genesis 15:13-16)

At that time he is given not just a promise but a covenant, because he believed.

In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto your 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).

Abraham never inherited any land in his lifetime. He earned a livelihood by moving about with cattle on the open areas, as the Bedouin did until recent times. He had to buy a place to bury his wife (Genesis 23).

Abraham had one son named Isaac, by miracle, to his wife Sarah who was 90. Isaac had twin sons Esau and Jacob. Jacob had his name changed to Israel (prince with El) and the promise was repeated to him.

Most people have heard of the nation of Israel and know there is controversy surrounding their land. Israel is a very old nation. In approx 1491BCE (Ussher) or 1489BCE (Beecher) the descendants of Jacob, who was called Israel, leave Egypt where they were foreigners, with great signs led by Moses. In a most famous event they cross the Red Sea which had parted.

The history of Israel record they are told to leave Egypt and go and possess the land of Canaan.

So was the promised land to Abraham the same as that given to the children of Israel when they left Egypt led by Moses? The answer is not really. Some of it was.

It has crucial implication for understanding what land the modern nation of Israel has a solid historic connection to, and by contrast, what part of the promised land the hope of Israel may refer to.

The land Covenanted to Israel

There was a covenant made with the children of Israel which was conditional on their behaviour. If they kept the law they were blessed in the land, if they departed from serving their God he would disperse them. Deuteronomy Chapter 28 is clear as to the conditions. This later national covenant did not negate, or supersede, the previous one made to Abraham (Galations 3).

This later covenant to the nation of Israel was tied to the land, so much so that in dispersion the Law given to Moses could not be kept fully. Like the covenant with Abraham, the later one has defined borders.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan; Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it. (Numbers 33:51-53)

It is the precisely set out. The map shows the area, but we give the full text so that you can see the places.

Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:) Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward:
And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass on to Zin: and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadeshbarnea, and shall go on to Hazaraddar, and pass on to Azmon: And the border shall fetch a compass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt, and the goings out of it shall be at the sea.
And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border: this shall be your west border.
And this shall be your north border: from the great sea ye shall point out for you mount Hor: From mount Hor ye shall point out your border unto the entrance of Hamath; and the goings forth of the border shall be to Zedad: And the border shall go on to Ziphron, and the goings out of it shall be at Hazarenan: this shall be your north border.
And ye shall point out your east border from Hazarenan to Shepham: And the coast shall go down from Shepham to Riblah, on the east side of Ain; and the border shall descend, and shall reach unto the side of the sea of Kinneret (Galilee) eastward:
And the border shall go down to Jordan, and the goings out of it shall be at the salt sea: this shall be your land with the coasts thereof round about. (Numbers 34:2-12)

In addition some areas Israel was not to have.

And command you the people, saying, “You are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore: Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession. (Deuteronomy 2:4-5)


And when you come near over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give you of the land of the children of Ammon any possession; because I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession. (Deuteronomy 2:19)

Both the setting of the border down Jordan, and this prohibition might cast light as to why Jews were not too distressed when Britain gave the part of the Palestine Mandate West of the Jordan to Arabs.

The land given to the children of Lot, seems to be within the area of the land promised to Abraham. As Lot was Abraham's Nephew and went with him, it follows he was regarded as being of the household of Abraham. Though no promise was made personally to Lot, by believing it, he could inherit the same promise initially made to Abraham. Lot's descendants became part of the family tree of the ruling family in Israel (later Judah) (see the book of Ruth).

Also the land marked out at the time of Moses to the children of Israel, and inherited under the leadership of Joshua, is much more defined than that promised to Abraham, and is smaller.

Difference between Israel's Inheritance and the Promised Land

Due to the land being sided by the Great sea, the Mediterranean, to the West and a wilderness to the East the boundaries are defined by the North and South borders. The East boundary of the land promised to Abraham is vague, implying it reaches into the wilderness, by contrast the land given to Israel is well defined to the East. They might be thought as similar, but the North and South boundary seem very different.

The North boundary of the land promised to Abraham is the Euphrates. By contrast the children of Israel's inheritance was defined by a North border from Mt Hor to Tzeded (via the border to Hamat), to Ziphron and Hatzar Einan. There is some debate as to where these places are. But Tzebad is still known by that name (as Sadad) in Syria. If forms a line with the border that went to Hamat and the end of the mountain range in Lebanon.

The South the boundary for the Promised Land is the river of Egypt, by contrast the inheritance of the children of Israel begins from the edge of the Dead Sea on the East and ends at the Wadi of Egypt (Numbers 34:3-5). The Wadi of Egypt seems not to be the river of Egypt. Also the inheritance is defined by five places to draw the border including, Kadesh Barnea and Atzmon. Atzmon seems to be Kesam, Keisam or Quseima near the Wadi el Arish (the Daat Mikra Bible Atlas, English Ed. 2011 p48).

The implication of the difference is that, though the children of Israel led by Moses, then Joshua, obtained an inheritance within the general area, that inheritance at the time of Moses and Joshua was not the very same Land promised to Abraham.

The children of Israel, the inheritors of the Promise to Abraham, at the time of Moses and Joshua did not receive all the land promised to Abraham.

The Implications of Israel not obtaining the promise

As God made a covenant that both Abraham and his seed would inherit the land from the Euphrates to the Sea of Egypt, it follows that it is yet to occur. It was to occur after his descendants were 400 years in Egypt. The New Testament says this,

Seeing therefore it remains that some must enter there (the Land), and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limits a certain day, saying .., “To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest to the people of God. (Hebrews 4:6-9)

This passage goes on to prove that this hope related to the promise to Abraham is part of the core of the faith, or hope of Israel, the gospel.

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40)

Therefore, when will Abraham inherit the land from the Euphrates to the River of Egypt? When he is resurrected (see here). And what role will the natural descendants of Abraham play? Many of them also will be resurrected to inherit, Hebrews 11 makes a long list.

And what effect will it have on the modern nation of Israel when Abraham finally inherits? It is crucially important to understanding the Bible that where the God of the Bible makes a promise or covenant it means it will eventually occur, even thousands of years later.

And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
(1Samuel 15:29)

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