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Did Israel ever Own the "Land of Israel?"

Did Israel even own the "Land of Israel?


"Israel" was a people, not real-estate.


Even though the Jews often referred to the land where they lived as "Israel," God never called any piece of real estate by that name. The land was called "the Land of Israel," or the land where Israel lived. This understanding is critical when studying prophecy.


Today we have the same problem when we speak of "church." Without thinking, we have become accustomed to thinking of "church." as a building. We say we go to church. In reality "church" is the people who are called out from the ways of the world, and who like Jacob, have made their peace with God. "God no longer dwells in temples made with hands." Acts 7:48. Also see 1 Corinthians 3:16 where the saints are defined as the church, or temple in whom God dwells by His Holy Spirit.
"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?"


Just as the term "church" has been misconstrued, so also the title "Israel" has, through common usage, been misapplied to a piece of land rather than to a people who lived there. There always was, and there remains a vast difference between the two.


What about the land where Israel lived?
Regarding the land God entrusted to Israel's care, He said:
The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Leviticus 25:23.


The fact that God never transferred title to the land where Israel lived, to any human beings, is confirmed in passages such as Psalm 24:11 and 1 Corinthians 10:26. God had given to the Jews, who were called Israel, a base in the Middle East from which to carry His message of love to the nations. The truth that the Creator never gave up ownership, or title to that land was confirmed by Jesus when later He fired the tenants to whom He had entrusted His property. God never did give title to the lands in the Middle East to the Jews or to any other people. In the words of Scripture, they were mere tenants. This was proved by Jesus when He cancelled the tenancy, and took away their privilege to continue living there.


The constitution regarding Israel's inheritance.


This constitution was recorded in the documents from Mount Sinai. For a people chosen by God to represent Him before the nations of the world, it detailed Israel's responsibility in both spiritual and physical matters. The Year of Jubilee celebration was a summary of teaching concerning the ministry of the coming Messiah. But first, let us define the term "Israel," a name we so loosely apply to a piece of real-estate.


What, or who was Israel?
Originally, "Israel" was a title conferred on Jacob after he repented of his greediness and made his peace with God. Israel meant "over-comer," or "a prince with God." After a night of fighting and resisting God's messenger, Jacob finally overcame his own stubbornness, and confessed who Jacob really was. He was a swindler who lied to his father, cheated his brother and was a ruthless businessman. Now, under pressure he faced the truth and made his peace with God. See Genesis 32:22-32. Repentance was a pre-requisite to receiving the title "Israel."


When the desperate Jacob clung to the angel and said, "I will not let you go until you bless me," The angel came straight to the point and asked him, "What is your name?" In other words, when you look into the mirror of your soul, Jacob, what do you see? A life of deception, and fraud, and shrewdness stared him in the face. He broke and confessed his desperate and naked state. He finally overcame his self-righteous pride. At that moment, as he opened his heart, his guilt and sin were gone. The old Jacob was dead. Israel was born. He was a new man, a "prince with God." For a detailed account of Jacob's repentance and conversion see chapter 4 in our book Abraham - Messenger to the 21st Century. Also see Genesis chapter 32: 22-32 and 35:9-13.


Was Israel's tenancy permanent or was it conditional?


Because they had become self-serving, and abused their privileges just as Jacob had done before his conversion, Jesus cancelled their lease and dismissed them with the words:
Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Matthew 21: 43.


Please read Jesus' story of the tenants in Matthew 21:33-44. This is more than a parable. It was God's judgment on a people who had failed in their God-assigned mission. The eviction of the Jews from the land of Israel was executed when God sent Titus, the Roman general, in 70 AD to level the city of Jerusalem and scatter the inhabitants to the four winds. Since then, for nearly two thousand years the Jews were not allowed to return to the land they had forfeited.


Now that they have returned, under the banner of the god of war rather than the Prince of Peace, do they recognize the true Owner or do they still claim exclusive title to that land? There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that since the cross, one piece of real estate is more "holy" in the sight of God than the rest of God's creation! Evidence? Read Jesus' words in John 4: 19-24. It is the true Israel who are joint heirs with Christ in His kingdom that encompasses the whole world!


Yes, the Jews were an exclusive people at one time. They were chosen to do a specific job! They were called to help bring the light of God's grace to a world lost in sin. They were given a specific task to complete the commission God had presented to Abraham in Genesis 17: 3-6. After nursing them for centuries with no results, God's patience ran out. In the words of Christ, because they reneged on their mission, the work of promoting the kingdom was given to a new inclusive Israel, "a people who will produce its fruit." Matthew 21:43. These are the true children of God, the true Israel, who like Abraham, have their faith anchored in Christ! Let us serve carefully lest we follow those who failed and were dismissed from the Master's vineyard. See 1 Corinthians 10:11.
Romans 9:6-9 and Ephesians 2:11-22 sees all believers as one united family in Christ.


In the words of Jesus and the apostles, who often used marriage as an illustration of the union between Christ and the church,
Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. Matthew 19:6.


Samuel Pestes See our web site at

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