Friday, July 25, 2014

"This land is mine"

Debates over the Arab/Israeli conflict (which the politically correct dub "Palestinians") often center on the question of whether the Jews have a claim to the land. Richard Tucker, the late great opera tenor and observant Jew, performed a stirring rendition of "The Exodus Song":
Yet it's misleading to say "this land is mine." According to Scripture:
The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me (Lev 25:23).
God is the landlord, while Israelites are tenants and caretakers. 
Although the debate often swirls around the identity of the land (e.g. the borders), the larger theological issue concerns the identity of the people. Ironically, the terms of the Abrahamic covenant are deliberately ambiguous in this regard:
17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
vv2 & 6 allude to Gen 1:28 and 9:1,7. Just as Adam was the progenitor of the human race, Noah is the new Adam, and Abraham is the progenitor of a new race. 
In this passage, is Abraham the father of the Jews, or the father of the gentiles? His national or international descendants? The promise encompasses both referents. 
i) It would obviously be cynical for secular Jews to claim God gave them the land.

ii) The Mosaic covenant is defunct. However, the land promises go back to the Abrahamic covenant, which is not defunct.

iii) Observant Jews who reject the Messiahship of Christ are covenant-breakers. Also, many modern-day Jews aren't ethnic Jews. So that's a complicating factor.

iv) Messianic Jews are arguably in a position to claim the land promises. But I think the ultimate fulfillment lies in the world to come.
v) One can be pro-Israel for geopolitical rather than theological reasons. Muslims are dangerous to themselves and to everyone else. It's foolhardy to support Muslims. 
vi) Some Arab Christians complain that they were dispossessed when the modern state of Israel was established (1948). For all I know, they may have a legitimate grievance. But that's complicated. Palestine has been invaded and conquered for millennia. Successive inhabitants have dispossessed the previous inhabitants. Who are the squatters? 
Arab Christians fare far better under Jewish rule than Muslim rule. It's not as if Arab Christians would be better off absent Jewish "occupation." If they didn't live in Jewish "occupied" territories, they'd live under Muslim occupied territories. See how well that works for Christians in the Mideast. 

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