Judea, the Land Promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Canaan, land of Abraham, Palestine, Judaea or Judea – all refer to the same place today known as Israel.[1] Judea’s 2000-year history preceding the era of Jesus of Nazareth began with Abram who was ironically born in the land of Babylon known today as Iran, a mortal enemy of Israel.[2]

Young Abram grew-up and married Sarai in Ur of the Chaldees. His father, Terah, moved his son’s families to Haran in the land of Canaan.[3] One day God appeared to Abram telling him to move to a place God would show him.[4] He also promised Abram, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”[5]

Abram and Sarai along with nephew Lot and his family eventually resettled near Salem. One day, an enemy raiding party captured Lot, his family and their possessions whereupon Abram took up arms and set out on a rescue mission.[6]

Victorious in battle having rescued Lot’s family and possessions, Abram returned home to a hero’s welcome greeted by Melchizedek, priest and King of Salem. He blessed Abram in the name of the most high God, creator of the heavens and earth.[7] Soon thereafter, God reaffirmed His promise giving Abram’s descendants the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River.[8]

Thirteen years later at the age of 99, God blessed Abram changing his name to Abraham; his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah; promised them a son to be named Isaac; and reaffirmed His promise that Canaan would be a permanent possession: [9]

Gen. 7:18-19 “I will give the whole land of Canaan – the land where you are now residing to you and your descendants after you as a permanent possession. I will be their God. (NET)

Gen. 17:19 “…Sarah your wife is going to bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm my covenant with him as a perpetual covenant for his descendants after him.” (NET)

Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah, was blessed by God changing his name to Israel and promised that his descendants would produce an assembly of nations and kings. The sons of Israel became the fathers of the tribes of Israel.[10] Just before Jacob died, he blessed each son and to Judah, he specifically passed on the blessing of his grandfather Abraham foretelling Judah would become the father of the tribe of royalty.[11]

Events took a major detour that lasted some 400 years before God’s promise to Abraham was to be fulfilled. Jacob had a favorite son, Joseph, causing jealousy among his brothers.[12] They ambushed Joseph and sold him as a slave to a passing caravan bound for Egypt, then told their father the boy had been killed by a wild animal.[13]

Many years later during a famine in Canaan, Jacob resorted to seeking food from Egypt and eventually discovered that not only was Joseph alive, he was second in power only to Pharaoh himself.[14] Under the protection of Joseph, all the sons of Israel left Canaan and moved to Egypt where, over the next 400 years, they became slaves of the ruling Pharaohs.[15]

Along came Moses who led the Hebrews on the Exodus out of Egypt. Just weeks later atop Mt. Sinai, God gave the Law to Moses which included five big promises, all dependent on God’s plans for the place in the land promised to Abraham:[16]

EX 23:20, 23 “I am going to send an angel before you to protect you as you journey and to bring you into the place that I have prepared…For my angel will go before you and bring you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I will destroy them completely.”(NET)

EX 33:1-2 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’” (NASB, NKJV)

Canaan, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob spanned from the southern tip of the Dead Sea and the Negev Desert to the Mediterranean Sea in the South; the Mediterranean Sea on the West; the Jordan River on the East; and as far North as the mouth of the Jordan River.[17] Inhabitants of Canaan certainly were not willing for give up their land to the fledgling Hebrew nation – it had to be taken by force.

Poised to return to the land of Abraham, the waters of the Jordan River were miraculously parted allowing the Israelites to cross on dry ground.[18] First to be conquered in the promised land was Jericho followed by many battles over several generations.

Continuing their conquests of Canaan, eventually the new Hebrew King David battled the inhabitants of Jebus, formerly known as Salem. Once King David established his throne in the City of David that encompassed Mt. Moriah where the Temple would eventually be built, the city became known as Jerusalem.[19]

Over the next several centuries and generations, David’s kingdom of Israel degraded when successive kings and the Hebrews did not follow their promised Covenant with God presented by Moses at Mt. Sinai. Split into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, Israel was eventually destroyed by Assyrians, and Judah was conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar and taken away captive to Babylon.

Persia vanquished Babylon while the Hebrews were still in captivity providing the opportunity for the wise man, Daniel, to serve kings in both Empires.[20] Under Persian Kings Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, the Hebrews were allowed to return to the land of Judah and rebuild Jerusalem.[21]

Conquests of Alexander the Great building the Greek Empire included the land now called “Palestine.”[22] In 333 BC, Alexander’s army was met outside of Jerusalem by the Jewish High Priest Shimon HaTzaddik in attempt to prevent the army’s destruction of the Jewish Temple.[23]

Jerusalem was spared and the Jews viewed Alexander as their liberators in part because Hellenism under the new Greek Empire allowed them religious freedom. In fact, Greek eventually became the common language in Palestine.[24]

On the stage of history, the Greek Empire was replaced by the Roman Empire and Palestine picked up a new name, Judea. Caesar Augustus and the senate allowed Judea with Jerusalem as its capital to be ruled by a new ruthless king named Herod.[25]

Jesus of Nazareth of the lineage of Abraham, Judah and King David, was born in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of Herod. He traveled Judea and Samaria teaching and healing until one day during the Passover in Jerusalem, Jesus was captured, tried and crucified.

Was it merely a coincidence that over the course of 2000 years, the land promised by God to Abraham remained essentially unchanged where the same city known as Salem, Jebus and Jerusalem, remained at the center this land until Jesus of Nazareth arrived on the scene?

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REFERENCES:

[1] “Palestine.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Palestine>  Niese. B., ed. Flavii Iosephi opera. 1892. J.  Book 5, Section 117 [AJ 5.1], footnote 1. <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0146:book=5:section=1&highlight=palestine> Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book 20, Chapter 11.2.<https://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=Palestine&f=false>
[2] Genesis 11:31,12:1-4; 13:12-17; 15:7. “Historical Timeline.” The Biblical Zionist. BiblicalZionist.com. 2009. <http://www.biblicalzionist.com/timeline.htm>  Uittenbogaard, Arie “Salem meaning | Salem etymology.” Abarim Publications. n.d. <http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Salem.html#.U5SQqCjyTih> Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. Book VI, Chapter X. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[3] Genesis 11:27-31.
[4] Genesis 12:1.
[5] Genesis 12:2. NIV.
[6] Genesis 14:11-16.
[7] Genesis 14:18-20.
[8] Genesis 15:18-19.
[9] Genesis 31:1  CR. Quran. Pickthall translation. Surah 21:72. <http://www.islam101.com/quran/QTP/index.htm
[10] Genesis 35:9-13.  CR. Quran. Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. 40 references to “Children of Israel.” <http://search-the-quran.com/search/Children%20of%20Israel>
[11] Genesis 49:8-10.
[12] Genesis 37:3-4; 18-28.
[13] Genesis 37:18-28.
[14] Genesis 42-46.
[15] Exodus 12:40.
[16] Ryrie. Charles C., ed.  Ryrie Study Bible. New American Standard Trans. 1978. “Laws relating to conquests, [Ex] 23:20-33.” [xvii] Joshua 15.  Mark, Joshua. “Canaan.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 2018. <https://www.ancient.eu/canaan>  “Canaan.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. <https://www.britannica.com/place/Canaan-historical-region-Middle-East>  Jarus, Owen. “Who Were the Canaanites?”  LiveScience. 2016. <https://www.livescience.com/56016-canaanites.html>
[18] Joshua 3:9-17.
[19] Samuel 5:6-9; I Chronicles 11:4-8;  2 Chronicles 3:1;
[20] Ezekiel 1:2-3.
[21] Ezekiel 6:7, 12; 7:12-13, 23, 26.  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XI, Chapter V.1.
[22] “Palestine.” Encyclopædia Britannica.  Maier, Paul L. The New Complete Works of Josephus. Trans. William Whiston. 1999. p 385. <http://books.google.com/books?id=kyaoIb6k2ccC&lpg=PP1&dq=the%20complete%20works%20of%20josephus&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false>  Herodotus. The Histories. 440 BC. English Trans. A. D. Godley, Ed. 1920. Book 7, Chapter 89.<http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126%3Abook%3D7%3Achapter%3D89>  “From Alexander the Great to ad 70 Hellenistic Greece.” Washington State University. 6 June 1999.  Archived URL. Archive.org. 4 Jan. 2011.  <http://web.archive.org/web/20110104072822/http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/ALEX.HTM>
[23] “Palestine.”  Encyclopædia Britannica. 2014.  Spiro, Ken.  “History Crash Course #27: The Greek Empire.” Aish.com. 2001. <http://www.aish.com/jl/h/cc/48939587.html>  Hooker, Richard. “Hellenistic Greece: Alexander the Great.” Washington State University. 1999. <http://web.archive.org/web/20110104072822/http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/GREECE/ALEX.HTM>
[24] “Hellenism.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7535-hellenism>  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XII, Chapter II.1.
[25] Maier. The New Complete Works of Josephus. p 491. “Actium (31BCE).”  Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. 2019. <https://www.livius.org/articles/battle/actium-31-bce/>  Josephus. Antiquities. Book XV, Chapters V-VI; Book XVII, Chapter VIII.1.  “Herod the Great.” Livius.org. Ed. Jona Lendering. <http://www.livius.org/articles/person/herod-the-great/?>  Villalba i Varneda, Pere. The Historical Method of Flavius Josephus. p 14. <http://books.google.com/books?id=kdUUAAAAIAAJ&lpg=PA14&ots=2ek7SgCy2c&dq=josephus%2C%20battle%20of%20actium%2C%20herod&pg=PA14#v=onepage&q=josephus,%20battle%20of%20actium,%20herod&f=false>

 

What Happens When God Names Someone?

When God names someone the few times in Hebrew history, it is associated with greatness and long-term blessings.[1] What does that say about Jesus of Nazareth?

As a 75-year old man, God told Abram to move with his family to the land of Canaan promising “…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”[2] Faithfully, Abram complied and eventually settled near the city of Salem and the mounts of Moriah.

Abram and his wife, Sarai, decided that due to their old age, the only way for him to have a son was to father a child with Sarai’s servant, an Egyptian named Hagar.[3] Once Hagar became pregnant, both women despised each other placing Hagar in difficult position.

Sarai blamed Abram of creating the situation by making Hagar pregnant. Abram told Sarai that since Hagar was her servant, she could do with Hagar as she wished. Hagar was treated harshly to the point she ran away. God sent an angel to Hagar telling her to return and obey Saria, then she would be blessed through her son whom God named Ishmael:

Gen. 16:11-13 “And the Angel of the LORD said to her: ‘Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has heard your affliction…Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand… I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.’”(NKJV) [4]

Hagar gave birth to Ishmael when Abram was 86 years old.[5] The boy lived with his mother as part of Abram’s family for more than 13 years until the time came for the next chapter in Abram’s life. Ishmael went on to get married to an Egyptian girl and was blessed with 12 sons who would become princes of their tribes.[6]

At the age of 99, God appeared to Abram confirming His promise 24 years earlier. Adding to the promise, the message from God was 3-fold:

Gen. 17:5-6 “No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you.” (NASB)

Gen. 17: 15-16 “…As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Gen. 17:19 “…Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”

Renamed by God, descendants of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac included the kingdom of the House of David from whom the Messiah would come according to several future prophecies.[7] God included the names of Abraham and Isaac in His introduction when he spoke to the Hebrew nation. Perhaps the greatest recognition of greatness came about 1300 years later when God called Abraham His friend in present tense:

Is 41:8 “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, The descendants of Abraham My friend.” (NKJV)

Isaac would marry Rebekah to whom was born twins, Esau and Jacob. A famine came upon the land and God warned Isaac not to go to Egypt as his father had once done to escape a famine meanwhile assuring Isaac of His blessing:

Gen. 26:3 “Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”

Living in exile for 20 years hiding from Esau who wanted to kill him for stealing his firstborn birthright blessing, Jacob decided to go back home. Before entering the land of Abraham, Jacob’s family camped at a place called Bethel.[8] That night, Jacob wrestled with a Man who, at the end of the night, said:

Gen. 32:28 “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”(NKJV)[9]

At peace with Esau, Jacob settled and built a house in the land of Canaan. God later sent Jacob back to Bethel instructing him to build an altar. Returning home, he received another message from God:

Gen. 35: 10-12 “God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” … “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”(NRSV)

Gabriel, the archangel known in Biblical history as the messenger of God, appeared to Daniel to interpret visions. In both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Gabriel reappeared first to Mary, then to Joseph.[10]

Mary was informed she would miraculously conceive a baby by God to be named “Jesus” who would be the promised Messiah. Joseph, Mary’s betrothal, received a similar message from Gabriel telling him that Mary’s surprise pregnancy was by the hand of God and the baby was to be named “Jesus”:

LK 1:26-33 “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ … ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.’ And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.’” (NASB)

MT 1:20-21 “…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (NASB)

In two independent appearances by Gabriel months apart, first to Mary, then to Joseph, neither knew about each other’s message from God. Circumstances of the separate announcements met the standard of Jewish Law requiring two witnesses to confirm a fact – God named Mary’s baby, “Jesus.”[11] What does this say about the fulfillment of God’s promises and the blessings to be associated with the babe God named Jesus?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 1883. Book II, Chapter 4.  <http://philologos.org/__eb-lat/default.htm>
[2] Genesis 12 ; Genesis 12:3. NASB, NKJV, NRSV.
[3] Genesis 25.
[4] CR Genesis 17, 21.
[5] Genesis 16.
[6] Genesis 16, 25; I Chronicles 1. “The 12 Tribes of Ishmael.” Nabatea.net. n.d. <http://nabataea.net/12tribes.html>
[7] “Abraham.”  BBC | Religion. 2009. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/history/abraham_1.shtml>  “Analysis: Story of Abraham and His Relevance to Islam, Judaism and Christianity.” NPR. 2018. <https://www.npr.org/programs/totn/transcripts/2002/sep/020924.feiler.html>
[8] Genesis 35.
[9] CR Genesis 35.
[10] Luke 1; Daniel 8, 9. “Uriel.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14606-uriel>  “Gabriel (Archangel).” New World Encyclopedia. 2017. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Gabriel_(Archangel)>
[11] Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Numbers 35:30. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 9a. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_9.html> Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Sanhedrin 30a. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/sanhedrin/sanhedrin_30.html>