Judea – the Land Promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Canaan, Palestine, Judaea, Judea, the land of Abraham – 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 in present day Iran, a mortal enemy of Israel.[2]

Young Abram married Sarai in Ur of the Chaldees. His father, Terah, then moved his family to Haran in the land of Canaan.[3] One day God appeared to Abram telling him to move his own family to another place that 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 and rescuing 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 first promised Abram’s descendants would inherit the land after first being enslaved in a foreign land for 400 years.[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 lied to their father saying 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 the land of Abraham and moved to Egypt where, over the next 400 years, they became slaves of the ruling Pharaohs.[15]

Moses was then called by God from a burning bush at the base of Mt. Sinai to lead the Hebrews on the Exodus out of Egypt. Back at Mt. Sinai after the exodus from Egypt, God gave the Law to Moses which included five big promises, all tied to 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)

Dead Sea

Canaan, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, spanned from the southern tip of the Dead Seathrough the Negev Desert on the South;

Negev Desert

to the Mediterranean Sea on the West;

Mediterranean Sea, southern Israel
Mediterranean Sea, northern Israel

the headwaters of the Jordan River on the North;

Jordan River headwaters at Tel Dan

and followed the River

Jordan River, East Israel

to the Dead Sea on the East.[17] Inhabitants were certainly not willing for give up their land to the Hebrews – 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 Hebrews to cross on dry ground.[18] As part of their conquests in the land of Abraham, the new Hebrew King David battled the inhabitants of Jebus, formerly known as Salem. Once David established his throne in the City of David, the city became known as Jerusalem encompassing Mt. Zion and Mt. Moriah where the Temple would eventually be built.[19]

Over the next several centuries, David’s kingdom of Israel degraded when successive kings and the Hebrews did not abide by their agreement with God’s covenant presented by Moses at Mt. Sinai. The covenant, a type of contract, had a penalty clause which was enacted by God. Split into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, Israel was destroyed by the 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 Hebrew wise man, Daniel, to serve kings in both Empires.[20] Under decrees by 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 expanding 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 a successful 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 during the reign of King Herod. He traveled throughout 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 geographic land promised by God to Abraham remained essentially unchanged and the same city, known as Salem, Jebus then Jerusalem, remained at the center of this land until Jesus of Nazareth arrived on the scene?

 

Updated September 7, 2022.

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

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> “Ur of the Chaldees.” Penn Museum. n.d. project. <https://www.penn.museum/sites/ur> Wooley, Leonard. “Ur of the Chaldees:  a record of seven years of excavation.” Internet Archives. video. 1952. <https://archive.org/details/urofchaldeesreco00wool>
[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.
[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] Exodus 19:1. 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>
[17] Joshua 15. Giamberini, Mariasilvia; Provenzale, Antonello. “Negev Desert.” EGU Blogs. Photo. 2018.  <https://blogs.egu.eu/geolog/tag/negev-desert> Turnage, Marc. CBN Israel. “Biblical Israel: Dead Sea.” Photo. 2021. <https://cbnisrael.org/2021/04/06/biblical-israel-dead-sea> Amir, Rebecca Stadlen. Israel21c. “10 spectacular photos of sunsets in Israel.” photo. <https://www.israel21c.org/10-spectacular-photos-of-sunsets-in-israel>  “Nahariya Beaches – Northern Israel.” Visions of Travel. photo. 2020. <https://www.visionsoftravel.org/nahariya-beaches-northern-israel> “Israel, The Jordan River Near Tel Dan.” Sonia Halliday Photo Library. photo. 2010. <http://www.soniahalliday.com/category-view3.php?pri=IS19A-13-21.jpg>  “The Jordan River.” Good Shepherd Travels. photo. n.d. <https://www.tourtheholylands.com/holy-land-tour-locations/holy-land-tours/the-jordan-river-7-stories-of-feet-and-an-ax-head> Last accessed 7 Sept. 2022.
[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>

 

Jacob – Relevant to the Messiah?

 

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, is far removed from Jesus of Nazareth having lived some 2000 years earlier. Even two millennia later, there is a strong connection of Jacob to the Messiah and the story of Jesus of Nazareth

Knowing how God viewed Jacob is key, first demonstrated by God’s introduction of Himself. Five times in Exodus this phase is stated with a reference to God:  “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”[1]

Moses was hesitant about being sent to confront Pharaoh and deliver the Hebrews from the bondage of Egypt. When he ventured to ask the Voice coming from the burning bush what he should say if asked who sent him to lead Israel out of Egypt, God’s resounding response:

EX 3:14-15I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’”. (NASB)

Jesus himself quoted these same words from Exodus as proof of resurrection of the dead when God spoke of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the present tense:  “… Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”(NKJV)[2]

Promises made, promises not forgotten. As the backdrop, God had promised Jacob the same blessings given to his father, Isaac, and grandfather, Abraham. In blessing Jacob, God also changed his name: [3]

Gen. 35:10-11 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob. Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” And He named him Israel. And God said to him, “I am the Almighty God; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a multitude of nations shall come into existence from you, and kings shall come forth from your loins.(CJV)

Jacob would be called Israel, in Hebrew, Yisra’el, meaning “God Prevails.”[4] As time went on, Israel’s sons would become known as the fathers of the 12 tribes Israel.[5] To this day 4000 years later, Israel is the name of the Hebrew nation.

Jacob’s role in the story of the Messiah includes a specific blessing and prophecy of his own. Before he died, Jacob blessed each of his sons and foretold their future. Specifically for Judah:[6]

Gen. 49:8-10 Judah, [as for] you, your brothers will acknowledge you. Your hand will be at the nape of your enemies, [and] your father’s sons will prostrate themselves to you. A cub [and] a grown lion is Judah. From the prey, my son, you withdrew. He crouched, rested like a lion, and like a lion, who will rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the student of the law from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him will be a gathering of peoples. (CJV)

Rabbi Rashi, one of Judaism’s most revered scriptural interpreters, identified “Shiloh” as the “King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs” and “the scepter” refers to the royal lineage of “David and thereafter.” [7] According to Rashi, the prophetic blessing of Judah by his father Jacob was a pretext to the establishment of the kingdom of David.

“The scepter” (also interpreted as “the staff”) reappears over 400 years later in another prophecy tied to Jacob. Moab King Balak, an enemy of Israel, sought to have a curse placed on the Hebrew nation by the prophet Balaam. Instead, the response from God through Balaam was a prophecy linked to Jacob, a Star and the Scepter:

Num 24:17 “”I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult.” (NKJV)

In Balaam’s prophecy, Rashi interpreted “the scepter” referred to King David. “The Star” shooting forth from Jacob he interpreted to mean, “As the Targum [Onkelos] renders, an expression similar to ‘He has bent his bow’ (Lam. 2:4), for a star shoots out like an arrow; in old French, destent, as if to say, his good fortune shall rise [prosper].”[8]

Promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were partially fulfilled when Israel conquered the land of Canaan and established a kingdom ruled by King David from the tribe of Judah.[9] At that time, the prophet Nathan prophesied to David that his kingdom would become the throne for the kingdom of God forever. [10]

Hebrew prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Micah and Malachi would add more specific details about the One who would come forth from Jacob.[11] They would include characteristics of the Messiah and predict the circumstances of his birth, life and death.

One more prophecy brought together the promises and predictions about the house of Jacob. It came from God’s own personal messenger, the archangel Gabriel, who announced to Mary:

LK 1:31-33 “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.”

Gabriel proclaimed, according to Luke, that the promise made to Jacob and the prophecies from the prophets would be fulfilled when Mary would give birth to the Son of God who would be given the throne of David to reign over the house of Jacob forever.

Jacob’s name is woven into the story of the Messiah from start to finish. Where would the promise of the Messiah be without a connection to Jacob?

 

Updated September 29, 2022.

Creative Commons License

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

Translations:

NASB: New American Standard Bible
NET: NetBible
NIV: New International Version
NLT: New Living Translation
NKJV: New King James Version
NRSV: New Revised Standard Version

REFERENCES:

[1] Exodus 3:6, 14-16; 4:5; 33:1. NET, NIV, NASB, NLT, NRSV, NKJV.
[2] Matthew 22; Mark 12; Luke 20. CR Matthew 8; Luke 13.
[3] CR Genesis 50; Exodus 33; Deuteronomy 1, 9, 30; I Chronicles 16; Jeremiah 33.
[4] NetBible.org. Hebrew text. Yisra’el <03478> Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/3478.html>  CR Isaiah 43, 45.
[5] I Chronicles 2:1-12; 2 Kings 17.  “Twelve Tribes of Israel.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018. <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Twelve-Tribes-of-Israel>  Posner, Yecheskel. “12 Tribes of Israel: The Shevatim.” n.d. <https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3798842/jewish/12-Tribes-of-Israel-The-Shevatim.htm>  “Ancient Jewish History: The Twelve Tribes of Israel.” Jewish Virtual Library. 2018. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-twelve-tribes-of-israel>
[6] Genesis 49. Lion of Judah (no title). Dahsom’s Blog. photo. 2019. <https://www.morninghope.com/genesis-49-jacob-blesses-his-sons-and-dies
[7] Gensis 49:10. Rashi commentary. The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8244#showrashi=true> Mindel, Nissan. “Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki).” <http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/111831/jewish/Rabbi-Shlomo-Yitzchaki-Rashi.htm>
[8] Numbers 24:17 Rashi commentary. Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9952#showrashi=true>
[9] 2 Samuel 5; 1 Chronicles 11.  Josephus. Antiquites of the Jews. Book VII, Chapter III.2.
[10] 2 Samuel 7:12 CR I Chronicles 17.
[11] Isaiah 2, 9, 10, 11, 20, 44, 46, 49, 58, 59, 60. Jeremiah 23, 30, 31, 33; Zechariah 3, 6, 12. Ezekiel 39. Micah 5. Malachi 3.