The Promised Land Covenant

blog

The unconditional covenant covered here is commonly referred to as the, “Palestinian Covenant.”  This is a misnomer of the highest order due to it being rooted in anti-Semitism.  The Roman Emperor Hadrian renamed Judea, “Palestine” in an attempt to erase the Hebrew claim to the land (135 A.D.).  In modern times, the designation is incorrectly associated more with Arabs than it is with Jews.  It is for this very reason that theologians like Arnold Fruchtenbaum prefer the term, “the Land Covenant.”[1]  Fruchtenbaum is to be highly commended for seeking to break free from an error based on habit.  However, this author prefers to go one step further and use the name, “Promised Land Covenant.”  This emphasizes the fundamental nature behind the Hebrew’s claim to the land via God’s promise.  In addition, even believers (and many who are not) with only a little knowledge of Scripture have heard of the Promised Land.

The Promised Land Covenant is an amplification of the land provision in the Abrahamic Covenant.  It is recorded in Deuteronomy 29:1-30:10 and is made between God and Israel.  Although they are related, Moses makes it clear that the Promised Land Covenant is distinct from the Mosaic Covenant (Deut. 29:1).  This distinction underscores that none should perceive the Promised Land Covenant as being conditional due to wrongly grouping it with the Mosaic.[2]  All of the blessings stemming from the Mosaic Covenant depended on the Hebrews obeying God’s voice and keeping His Covenant (Ex. 19:5).  This is not the case with the Promised Land Covenant which is understood by identifying a few of the clauses.

Moses reminds the people of the great trials, signs and wonders that they had witnessed.  The LORD had not enabled the people to understand what He had done for them (Deut. 29:4).  As a result, the first clause was the act of the LORD uprooting the Hebrews from their land (Det. 29:28).  The rest of the clauses in this covenant concern the reversal of the first.  The people will be enabled to appreciate what God has done for them as they will return to Him (Deut. 30:2).[3]  God promises the return of the Messiah and that He will ingather the Hebrews back into the Promised Land (Deut. 30:3-4; Mark 13:26-27).  God makes some additional promises in Deuteronomy 30:5-9:

And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it.  And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.  And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God will all your heart and will all your soul, that you may live.  And the LORD your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you.  And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I commanded you today.  The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground.  For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, (ESV)

Not only will God bring the Hebrews back into their land, but He promises to make the future inhabitants more prosperous than their ancestors (v. 5).  This promise will be completely fulfilled during the millennial reign of Jesus.  The Messianic Kingdom’s inauguration follows two prerequisites mentioned here.  The first is that God promises to perform a work of grace in the hearts of the Hebrews which will allow them to truly love God, obey Him and live[4] (v. 6).  Second, the LORD will punish Israel’s enemies (v. 7; Joel 3:2; Zech. 14:12).  God will then bless the Hebrews with an abundance of children, animals and produce from the land (v. 9; Amos 9:13-15).  This last promise is fulfilled during the Millennium and speaks to the very nature of that period of time.

THE LORD’S UNFAITHFUL BRIDE

Ezekiel 16:1-63 contains the parable of the adulterous wife.  Unfortunately, this is an all too common description of Israel (e.g. Hos. 1-3; Jer. 2; Isa. 1:21; 50:1).  The narrative is intended to remind Israel of her sins and the blessings that she is nevertheless due.  Israel’s genealogical origin is described here in a way that speaks to her morality (v. 3).  Israel is said to be born out of the Amorites (Canaanites) and the Hittites (a people who practiced paganism).  With the later, Ezekiel seems to be suggesting that it is inherent to Israel’s nature to be adulterous.  Israel’s “adultery” is evidenced by her various sordid relationships with other Gods, idols and countries (vv. 26-29).

Israel is depicted as an infant that was neglected and cast out into a field (Ez. 16:4-6).  The LORD declared that this fledgling nation was to live and He proceeded to greatly increase their numbers (vv. 6-7).  Now that Israel had matured she was taken as the LORD’s bride (vv. 8-14).  However, Israel’s adultery was of such significance that it warranted extensive treatment by Ezekiel (vv. 15-34).  Israel was engaged in truly horrific actions as part of her adultery.  This even included the demonic practice of sacrificing infant children to the pagan god Molech (vv. 20-21).  As just punishment, the Israelites were cast out and dispersed (vv. 35-52).

When speaking about marriage, even Jesus allowed for divorce in the case of the wife committing adultery (Matt. 19:9).[5]  Likewise, it would be perfectly reasonable for God to completely abandon Israel.  Keep in mind that she had already abandoned the LORD via her embrace of false gods and alliances with pagan countries.  Israel even killed her own infant children by burning them to death.  It is hard to imagine a husband maintaining fidelity toward a wife that would do such horrific acts.  However, God’s faithfulness is without end or limit.  The LORD will restore His bride (vv. 53-63).

The parable of the adulterous bride in Ezekiel 16 illustrates a key factor in how the Promised Land Covenant operates.  The Jew’s actual use of the Promised Land was based on their obedience to God.  Thus the Promised Land Covenant does include conditions.  However, the covenant as a whole is fundamentally unconditional because the Jew’s ownership of the Promised Land was based solely on God’s promise.  The time is coming when the Hebrews will enjoy the use of the Promised Land forever because they will be eternally obedient to God.  Specifically, this obedience will be made possible by the Jew’s en masse recognition of Jesus as the Messiah (Zech. 12:10).

This directly relates to the reconfirmation of the Promised Land Covenant in Ezekiel 16:60-63:

…I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant.  Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you all that you have done, declares the Lord God.

As a result of the LORD remembering the Promised Land Covenant[6] that He made with the Hebrew people, another everlasting covenant is to be established: the New Covenant.  The blessings are not to be understood as a result of the Hebrews keeping their side of the covenant (v. 61).  The restoration is only done by the power and good will of God.  He will maintain His Word and keep His promises.

THE DIASPORA CONTINUES

The Israelites were returned to their land after the Babylonian captivity in 538 B.C. (2 Chr. 36:22-23; Is. 44:28).  Remember though that the Promised Land covenant mandated an eternal enjoyment of the land by the Jews (Amos 9:15).  Therefore, the return to the land from the Babylonian captivity cannot be understood as the fulfillment of the Promised Land Covenant.  The Jews were once again dispersed from their land when the Roman army, under Titus, destroyed much of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.  After suffering the atrocities of the Holocaust under Adolph Hitler, the Jews enjoyed the reestablishment of the state of Israel in 1948.  Jerusalem was later liberated from Jordanian occupation in 1967 during the Six Day War.  However, even now the Jews do not control all of the Promised Land.  In addition, the majority of Jews are still dispersed over the face of the earth.  Therefore, the final ingathering of the Jews has yet to occur.  The Promised Land Covenant quite clearly has not yet been fulfilled.  God cannot fail, and as such the Promised Land Covenant will be fulfilled.  This fulfillment will occur during the Millennium.[7]



[1] Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2001), 581.

[2] Paul similarly contrasted the temporary nature of the Mosaic Covenant with the eternal nature of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gal. 3:15-20).

[3] Specifically, this will occurs when the Hebrews come to a saving knowledge of Jesus as their Messiah (Zech. 12:10).

[4] This is likely a reference to eternal life as that is what results in genuinely knowing God and Jesus as Messiah (John 17:3).

[5] Jesus only allows for divorce in such a situation.  Divorce is never mandated as reconciliation is always preferable.

[6] Only the Promised Land Covenant fits the one remembered by God in Ezekiel 16:60.

[7] The blessings of the Promised Land Covenant continue past the Millennium into the Eternal State.

Leave a Reply