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>

 

Jacob – Relevant to the Messiah?

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, is far removed from Jesus of Nazareth having lived some 2000 years earlier. How then is Jacob relevant to the Messiah or the story of Jesus of Nazareth?

Knowing how God viewed Jacob is key. First clue are the words of the Voice coming from the burning bush when God introduced Himself to Moses:

EX 3:6 “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (NASB)

Moses was hesitant about being sent to confront Pharaoh and deliver the Hebrews from the bondage of Egypt. Moses ventured to ask the Voice what he should say if they asked, “‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”(NIV)  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)

God directly refers to Himself five times in Exodus as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” to whom He made a promise, a covenant which He affirmed to keep.[1] Jesus of Nazareth quoted these words of God saying “… 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. Appearing first in Genesis and then referenced in the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, I Chronicles, and Jeremiah, God made the same two-fold promise to each of the three patriarchs: [3]

Gen. 17:5-6 “And your name shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings will emerge from you.” (CJB)

Gen. 26:2-4 The LORD appeared to Isaac and said… your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will fulfill the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and will give to your offspring all these lands; and all the nations of the earth shall gain blessing for themselves through your offspring… (NRSV)

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)

Second big clue demonstrating the significance of Jacob is revealed when God gave him a new name – Jacob would be called Israel, in Hebrew, Yisra’el, meaning “God Prevails.”[4] Israel to this day 4000 years later is the name of the Hebrew nation. Israel’s sons would become known as the fathers of the 12 tribes Israel.[5]

Perhaps the biggest clue that Jacob played a key role in the story of the Messiah are the prophecies themselves. Before Jacob died, he blessed each of his sons and foretold their future.[6] Judah’s blessing was two-fold:

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 was a pretext to the establishment of the kingdom of David.

“The scepter” 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 them by the prophet Balaam. Instead, the response from God through Balaam was the 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)

Rashi interpreted “the scepter” or “the staff” as referring 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 initially fulfilled when Israel conquered the land of Canaan and established a kingdom ruled by King David from the tribe of Judah. [9] The prophet Nathan prophesied to David that his kingdom would become the throne for the kingdom of God forever:

2 Sam 7:12-13  “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom 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 made about the house of Jacob. It came from God’s own heavenly 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 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 Jacob?

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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] 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] 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.
[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] NASB.  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.