Land in the Old Testament |

Land is an important theme in the Old Testament. “Land” is the fourth most frequent noun in the Old Testament. Mankind was created from and is sustained by the land. God gave Israel the land as a gift. Land was always associated with life.

Land In Creation

  • Land is the source of food and life (Genesis 1:9-13).
  • Although the land which God created was good, one particular plot was better: the Garden. God met Adam and Eve in the garden. The garden was the place of heavenly life and intimacy with God, a place where mankind was in harmony and at peace with creation.
  • The garden was the ideal place and is a type of the Holy Land.
  • Mankind had responsibility to cultivate it and their occupancy was contingent on obedience to the Lord’s command.

In the Fall

  • In the fall, there is a connection between man’s sin and the cursed ground.
  • Land is cursed with a force that takes away life. It now produces inedible growth and resists cultivation.
  • Unless you actively fight against them, weeds take over everything.
  • Mankind is banished from the idyllic garden (Genesis 3:22-24).

In Noah’s time

  • The whole earth is judged because of mankind’s sin.
  • The flood destroyed the earth because mankind polluted it with violence.
  • Mankind, alienated under judgment, becomes a wanderer with no permanent place of life, blessing or rest.
  • Mankind is unsettled and has no place of rest without a permanent relationship with God.

In the Patriarchs

  • The Garden of Eden in it spiritual emphasis is revisited in the promised land, as the place where God’s people dwell with Him.
  • The land is the “sworn land” whose recipients are:
Abrahampromised (Gen 12:7; Gen 13:14-16);
covenant sign (Gen 15:7-21; Gen 17:8)
oath (Gen 22:15-18; Gen 24:7)
IsaacGenesis 26:3-4; Gen 26:24
Jacob/IsraelGen 27:3; Gen 28:3-15; Gen 25:9-12
  • The promise and the seed are inseparable. The seed must have land to have life.
  • The extent of the land is never defined with consistent geographic precision, and changes in Israel’s history (e.g. Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:32; Numbers 34:1-10; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:2-4).
  • The duration of possession: forever.

In Mosaic legislation

  • The Lord sovereignly assigns all peoples their lands (Deut 2:5; Deut 2:9; Deut 4:9).
  • The Lord fulfills his promise to the patriarchs in the gift of land.
  • The “sworn” land is “usufruct” — it is the subject of a difficult tension because it belongs to the Lord and Israel (Lev 25:23). It was given to God’s people for their use and enjoyment, but God can retake it if His people abuse it.
  • The land is a “holy land” (set apart). It is a gift where God resides with His people, a place of blessing and a place of rest and life (like the Garden).
  • The reason for the gift: love of the fathers (Deut 4:37-38); the Canaanites were being judged; and it was undeserved (Deut 9:4-5; Lev. 18:24).
  • Entrance to the land is contingent on faith (Numbers 13; Deuteronomy 20; Joshua 7).
  • Occupancy is contingent on obedience (Deut 8:1; Deut 28:1-14); immoral behavior defiles it (Lev 19:29; Number 35:29-34; Deut 21:23; Duet 24:4; Jeremiah 14).
  • Enjoyment of the land depends on moral behavior. Israel will be disciplined by rainfall on the land (Deut 11:8ff; 1 Kings 8; Psalms 4).
  • Israel’s future exile and return predicted. Israel will experience blessing and curses; and ultimately will be regathered, regenerated and restored to prosperity (Deut 30:1-10).

In the Conquest

  • Land is a gift, therefore blessing and obedience are required.
  • Promises are fulfilled (Joshua 1:13; Joshua 11:13: Joshua 21:43-45) but no consummated (Joshua 13:1-7).

In the Monarchy

  • Land is still a gift and a blessing (1Kings 4:20-28)
  • Occupancy still contingent on ethics (1 Kings 9:6-9)
  • More extensively fulfilled (compare Exodus 23:31 and Deuteronomy 8:9 with 1 Kings 4:21), but not consummated (1Kings 9:11-17; Psalm 95)
  • The king is adopted into a father-son relationship with God (2 Samuel 7) and given the earth as an inheritance (Psalm 2:72; Psalm 110).

In the Prophets

  • Prophets Amos, Micah and Isaiah announced that the time of exile was at hand.
  • The exile would be followed by return and restoration to the land.
  • For example: Micah 7:11-13
  • Return to the land is preliminary to the New Covenant (Ezekiel 34:11-25; Ezekiel 36:24-28; Ezekiel 27).
  • Renovation of the land is connected with a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25-36)
  • Land is a place of rest with a covenant of peace (Jeremiah 30-31; Isaiah 40-66; Ezekiel 33-48)
  • Post exile, the people are back in the land but not cleansed (Ezra 9:1-4); Nehemiah 13).
  • Blessing and covenant are still in the future (Malachi 3)

In the New Testament

  • Notable absence of references to the land.
  • Jesus substitutes the kingdom of God for the land; the kingdom is a gift associated with his person.
  • The kingdom of God is a gift (Matt 3:1ff); a blessing (Matt. 6:33) a rest (Matt 11:28-30); received by enduring in faith.
  • Paul refers to life in Christ instead.
  • Christ is a the free gift (Roman 6:23); Blessing is life in the Spirit (Romans 8); perseverance is assured because of the presence of the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).
  • Hebrews: promise of rest in the land is now fulfilled in rest in Christ (Heb 4:1-16).
  • Revelation: vision of a new heaven and a new earth with heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21-22).

More: 03 Did God Lie to Israel? Understanding Ezekiel’s Vision of the Future in Light of its Fulfillment in Christ

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