Genesis

The book of Genesis offers identity, purpose, and hope to God’s chosen people through the land; this tangible gift from God allows the people to suffer and thrive according to their obedience to Him and commitment to His promise.

God gave to Adam the gift of land in the garden of Eden, to tend it and care for it.  It was in this place where God came to man and walked with him, shared a relationship.  At the time of the falling out, God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden and cursed the ground to which Adam would seek for food (Gen. 3:17).  So sacred was this place that upon being driven from Paradise, God sent a cherubim to guard the land and the tree.

Mankind continued to be fruitful as God commanded, and yet man’s heart was wicked and violent.  These behaviors and corruption angered and saddened God, to which He separated man from the land as a result of the flood.  When the waters receded and man was given another chance, the descendants of Noah populated the land and established their regions.

Like the expulsion from Eden and the flood, the Tower of Babel marked a particular even in which God’s displeasure with the people resulted in their loss of land and home, their anchor.

It was to Abram that God specifically designated a region of land to Abram’s offspring because of Abram’s commitment to the Lord (Gen. 12:7, 13:14-17).  The land was used again to illustrate loss of identity and lack of hope through Abram’s dream (Gen. 15:13).  After the dream, God invoked a covenant with Abram regarding the land.  This land established hope to Abram and assurance of God’s abiding love and devotion to His servant and Abram’s descendants.

The connection of identity with the land was evident when Esau sold his birthright for a cup of soup to his brother, thus marking the domination of Israel over Edom.
God again promised to Jacob that he would be a great nation in Egypt (Gen. 46:4).  The fulfillment of this promise was revealed in Genesis 47:27-28 where Israel established himself and his generation in Egypt.

The blessing of God to His people through the element of land was made final in the last verses of Genesis as Joseph promised hi family that God would save them and restore them to the land promised of their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 50:24-26).

The proof of God’s designation of identity and hope to His people through the land is still evident today as we witness God’s followers strain, fight, and kill for the promise of their birthright.

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  1. The response I gave to a question regarding “The Land” in my Hebrew Bible 2 course. I do not believe I did very well on this….

    As the people of Israel were preparing to cross the Jordan, the “LORD said to Joshua… you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them– to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates– all the Hittite country– to the Great Sea on the west.” (Joshua 1:1-4) The Lord made the promise to Moses in Deuteronomy 11:24 and now, as the people begin to cross the river, they see the beginning of the fulfillment of this promise. The theme of the land that Israel is to possess can be seen throughout the Deuteronomistic History.

    Not only is the land promised to Israel, but it should also be viewed as a gift from God to the people. For example, as the people are preparing to attack Ai “the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land.’” (Joshua 8:1) What can be seen is that the Lord will be fighting for the people of Israel. This idea is confirmed in Joshua 10 when Israel goes up against Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem and the four other kings. After the five kings were captured, Joshua tells the army commanders to put their feet on the necks of the kings and tells them that this is what the Lord will do to all their enemies – put them under their feet. It is not the armies that are winning the battles, but instead it is the Lord. It is also confirmed again later in Joshua (ch. 24), just prior to Joshua’s death when the Lord says, “You did not [take the land] with your own sword and bow. So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.” All these things are a gift from the Lord.

    It is during this time that the land is being conquered that it is also being divided up among the twelve tribes of Israel (Joshua 13-21). The land is divided according to the instructions that were given to Joshua and Moses by the Lord and is in some cases given even prior to the actual conquering of the territory. This is a strong indication that there should be little doubt in the minds of the Israelites that the Lord would fulfill his promise to them.

    Throughout much of Joshua we read of the battles that took place and how one king after another fell before the armies of Israel and how the Israelites conquered the land that the Lord had promised. Near the end of Joshua (ch. 23) the promise that the Lord made to Moses is finally fulfilled. “So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” The fact that there were still areas within the land that were not conquered is not a concern, because this was also part of the Lord’s plan for Israel as well.

    What must be kept in mind though is the fact that the land was a gift to Israel and just as it was given, it could also be taken away because as Joshua 22:19 says, it is the “LORD’s land”. At the outset, just prior to the crossing of the Jordan, the Lord warned the people and told them not to deviate from the Law and if the didn’t they would be prosperous and successful. So that all would know the Law and so that there could be no excuses if the failed to keep it, “in the presence of [all] the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he had written. Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law– the blessings and the curses– just as it is written in the Book of the Law. (Joshua 8:31,34) Although there is a separate theme within the Deuteronomistic History regarding the law, in this instance it is tied to the land and the Lord’s promise that they will be successful and prosperous. Joshua speaks these words of the Lord to the people, “be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you. (Josh 23:6,12-13) In other words, do not do evil in the eyes of the Lord or you will lose this land that I, the Lord, have given to you.

    It should be no surprise to the reader that time and time again the Israelites do evil in the eyes of the Lord. The phrase, “the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord,” appears seven times in the book of Judges. Each time the land was taken from them and the Israelites were made subjects and slaves of the invaders. However, each time that they returned to the Lord and did as the law commanded, the Lord would hear their cries and return the land to them. This cycle would continue until the land was lost all together and Israel is sent into exile. Yes, the land was a gift, an inheritance, to the people of Israel and it was promised to them by the Lord, but what they failed to remember was that it was His for the giving and the taking away.

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