What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
This is a direct promise of not only Abraham's children's owning of the land, but also of Abraham's personal ownership of it. Yet the only land he ever truly owned was Sarah's burial plot—certainly not all the land he could see! For him to receive this promise, and for him to receive it “forever,” means that he and his descendants will live forever.
Now eternal life has entered the picture. Eternal life includes a spirit body that will not decay and a nature that is appropriate or fitting for endless life, one that is sinless and not continually incurring the death penalty. Only in the resurrection of the dead at Christ's return will the called of God—including Abraham—be raised incorruptible and given immortality, such that death is swallowed up in victory (see I Corinthians 15:42-54). Then, Abraham and his spiritual descendants will inherit the Promised Land, retaining it forever.
Romans 4:13 expounds on the promise of the land: “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” God's promise to Abraham was not based on perfect obedience to the law, but on the imputed righteousness that comes by faith, which happened when Abraham “believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). This took place well before the covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17:1-14). Abraham's faith produced good works, as true faith always will; in Genesis 26:5, God says, “Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” But his righteousness in God's eyes was shown in his belief in God's faithfulness, not in anything he did or did not do.
Clearly, God's promise of the land to Abraham goes far beyond physical inheritance—it is, rather, an eternal inheritance, bestowed on those who have become his spiritual descendants through receiving the faith of Abraham. The patriarch, though, was among those who “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them” (Hebrews 11:13). So significant are these promises that God confirmed them with a covenant that condemned Him to destruction if He failed to fulfill the terms. Not only that, the timing of Christ's sacrifice coincided with the preparations for God's covenant with Abraham, for it is His sacrifice that allows us—Abraham's spiritual seed, his “great nation”—to begin to receive these promises.
David C. Grabbe
Why Was Jesus Not Crucified as Passover Began? (Part Two)
God's command was, "You will wander thirty-eight more years in the wilderness, and your bodies will be strewn all over the place. And, since you refused to go into the Land, I'm not going to allow you to go in at all. The next generation will take your place." Moses says that their futile attempt to go into the Promised Land is refusing the command of the Lord. Disobeying. Transgressing.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The forty years of wilderness wandering were about over. The Israelites had spent all this time coming out of Egypt, wandering from camp to camp, sometimes staying quite long in one place and perhaps just a night in another, moving again, sometimes coming back to stay at a place where they had been then moving onward again. Nevertheless, they were always marching inexorably toward the Promised Land—Canaan.
At this time, they camped across from Jericho, just steps away from going into the Promised Land. They were ready to cross the Jordan, and begin the conquest.
As recorded in Numbers 21, they had just defeated the Amorites under King Sihon, and they had smashed them—crushed them! Sihon and the Amorites were the big power on the East Bank of the Jordan, but their defeat was like swatting a fly to Israel.
Then they went next to Bashan and defeated King Og and his armies. They decimated them. In this way, the whole East Bank of the Jordan River became Israelite territory. Also on the East Bank, farther south on the east side of the Dead Sea where the Jordan enters it, was the country of Moab. The Israelites had marched right along their northern border, opposite Jericho.
Israel was nothing like we see on the movie The Ten Commandments (or some other Bible movie about the Exodus), where the depict the entire children of Israel as about 15 people with maybe four or five sheep. Realistic estimates conclude that Israel consisted of perhaps 2 to 3 million people, plus all the livestock and all the gear that they had brought with them. This was a train of people that stretched for miles! It took them a day or two to pass any one point from the first to the last person. Isreal was a huge, mobile nation! Moab was perhaps about the same size as the children of Israel, and they watched all these people pass through northern reaches of their territory. They had heard what Israel had done to Sihon, Og, and all their people. They were frightened witless!
As Isreal approached this region, God had told them not to mess with the Moabites and the Edomites because they were distant relatives of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 2:8-9). Evidently, the Moabites and the Edomites were not aware of God's edict because they figured that these 3 million people were a threat to them.
While they were camped across from Jericho, Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy. He would also go up Mount Nebo and view the land Israel was to inherit (Deuteronomy 32:48-52). After that, he would die, and God would bury his body in a valley opposite Beth Peor (Deuteronomy 34:6).
Many events were to happen in these final months while the Israelites were camped next to Moab. Much had to be done before they went in. This is the time setting of the events concerning Balaam.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 1)
God connects the basket of summer fruit (Amos 8:2) with its lesson of remembrance in Deuteronomy 26:1-10. We should note several factors.
The Setting: The Israelites, having endured decades of Egyptian slavery and wilderness wanderings, are poised on the threshold of the Promised Land. Moses instructs them: "And it shall be, when you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground . . . and put it in a basket" (verses 1-2).
The Symbol: a basket of the woven, wicker sort, filled with summer produce. We might visualize a cornucopia. God instructs the Israelite to bring the basket "to the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide" (verse 2b), and there he is to make two declarations, the first to the priest, the second to God.
The Ritual: To the priest, the offerer briefly declares, "I have come to the country which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us" (verse 3). The declaration succinctly affirms that God has honored His promise to the patriarchs. After handing the basket to the priest, who places it before the altar (verse 4), the offerer makes his second declaration, this one to God. This affirmation recognizes God's faithfulness to carry out what He has promised: "My father was a Syrian about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous" (verse 5).
The declaration also rehearses Israel's "affliction and our labor and our oppression" (verse 7) in Egypt, and mentions God's deliverance "with great terror and with signs and wonders" (verse 8). Then comes that timeless characterization of the Promised Land:
"He has brought us to this place and has given us this land,'a land flowing with milk and honey': and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O LORD, have given me." Then you shall set it before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God. (verse 9-10)
The basket of summer fruit served as tangible evidence of God's faithfulness to deliver them. Its existence stood firm proof that He was "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). Remember, God promised the patriarchs land (Genesis 12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21; 17:8). But what He actually gave His people was so special, so grand, that only "a land flowing with milk and honey" could properly describe it.
The "worship" mentioned in Deuteronomy 26:10 was praise and thanksgiving to God for His works "exceedingly abundantly above all that [Israel could] ask or think." Yesterday or today, the basket of summer fruit teaches the same lesson: Remember your God in the midst of His blessings to you. Do not neglect Him.
A Basket of Summer Fruit
God's freeing of the Israelites from their bondage and His use of them in the journey to the Promised Land and in the Promised Land were for an entirely different purpose than salvation at that time. Ultimately, the experiences these people had will stand them in good stead.
Of course, God certainly did not use them for the purpose of abuse. He was causing Moses, primarily, and others to reflect on those experiences in the wilderness so that they would write them down under God's inspiration, supplying us with an accurate record to consult and come to understand the purpose of God, be humbled by it, and have the right perspective on salvation.
For this reason, He never gave the Israelites the Spirit of God. No salvation was really offered to them—no forgiveness of sin, no invitation to join God's Family. They did not even have access to Him. They were, in a sense, actors on a stage; God was moving them about so that a record would be left for us: the Bible. When they are resurrected in the second resurrection (see Ezekiel 37:1-14), they can look back on the record, hit themselves in the forehead, and say, "Now I see!" The scales will be removed at that time.
Nevertheless, He never gave them His Spirit and never really revealed to them what He was doing with their lives. Thus, they reacted to their circumstances as human beings would normally react without the miracle of His Spirit being performed on them, opening up their minds and revealing what His purpose is all about.
In Hebrews 4:2, Paul reflects that God preached the gospel to these people, or at least a gospel that pertained to them. They heard a "good news," yet because it was not mixed with faith, it did them no good. All through the wilderness trek and on to their deaths, neither they nor their relationship with God improved in any way. If anything, as Hebrews 3:17 declares, they deteriorated as they went along.
John W. Ritenbaugh
We Are Unique!
Where did this food come from? It could not have been manna because manna could not be stored. It could have included some meat they slaughtered from the herds and flocks traveling with them. It could also be evidence that the Israelites were already gathering and perhaps eating the produce of the lands they were conquering. The narrative does not say what lands, but it could include the Promised Land because people were already beginning to take up residence east of the Jordan.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001
When did the circumcision take place? Well, for logistical reasons, it likely happened on Abib 11, as it would take time for upwards of two million people to cross over the Jordan River. Once they got into the land, they had to spread out so they could camp. They camped at Gilgal, several miles to the west of the Jordan. Over two million people on foot just do not move all that quickly.
The phrase "rolled away" in verse 9 is especially intriguing because God officially rolled away—that is, forgave—Israel's shameful captivity in Egypt. They were now free to inherit the land. We can see types of this from before.
Remember when Moses returned to Egypt after his forty-year sojourn with Jethro and his family? What happened on the way? God stopped him and threatened to kill Moses, and Zipporah quickly took out a knife and circumcised their two boys. Before Moses could represent God and His covenant, his children had to be circumcised. From this, we can understand that while Moses had been circumcised, he had neglected to circumcise his own sons. God made sure they bore the sign of the covenant.
Before Israel could represent God, even within the Promised Land when they went to war, they had to undergo circumcision. It represented their sanctification, setting them apart from the people of the land. A circumcised, sanctified army would represent God in conquering the land.
In addition, they were about to take the Passover, and Exodus 12 teaches that a male Israelite must be circumcised before he takes the Passover. This circumcision prepared them to observe it.
In the New Testament, our circumcision is of the heart. It signifies a cutting away of the human nature that that makes us sanctified to represent God as His witnesses and as His sons under the New Covenant.
Those circumcised remained in Gilgal in the camp until they healed. This did not matter in terms of the Passover because it was a ritual that was observed at home. There is no evidence that God performed miraculous healings of those circumcised since He says that they remained in camp until their wounds healed.
Scripture says nothing specifically about either Abib 12 or 13, but they undoubtedly used those days to settle in more thoroughly in Gilgal, do the harvesting of local crops, raid the local stores of produce in the area, and make any preparations required for keeping the Passover.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf and the Selfsame Day
This demonstrates a problem Abraham appears to have had at the beginning of his conversion, showing that he was not perfect in his obedience. It also reveals God's patience in dealing with us, as well as how little control we sometimes exercise over some circumstances. In such times, we must continue trusting God and fighting to overcome as He leads us through them and teaches us aspects of His character.
Abraham's family members were outright pagans, as was Abraham before his conversion. We need to add Genesis 11:27-32 to the mix:
This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, Ur of the Chaldeans. Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah. But Sarai was barren; she had no child. And Terah took his son Abram, and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram's wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.
Barnes Notes contains a fairly complex study of these verses, showing that Abraham actually received his initial calling when he was 70 while living in Ur of the Chaldeans. Why "initial"? Verse 31 says they left Ur and then came to Haran, adding that Abraham's family dwelt there. "Dwelt" indicates that they remained there for an extended period—it was no mere overnight stop by a group of pilgrims at a motel.
Stephen's speech in Acts 7:2-4 helps us to understand:
Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, "Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you." Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.
Stephen clearly states that God called Abraham before he dwelt in Haran, but Genesis 12:1 shows God then moved him from Haran after his father died. Apparently, Abraham's account to his father and others in the family—but most especially his father—of the things he was learning and believing in his calling persuaded them, despite being pagan to the core, that they, too, should emigrate to wherever God was leading Abraham.
Recall, however, from Isaiah 51:2 that God says that He called Abraham alone. Genesis 11:31 clearly shows Terah, the pagan patriarch of the family, leading the expedition, not Abraham. Abraham no doubt deferred to his father in this decision, but this was not God's will.
God knew that, because of Abraham's attitude, he would continue to defer to Terah. God did not want Terah's direct influence in what He was establishing through Abraham. Under Terah's pagan, patriarchal leadership, they got only as far as Haran from Ur, by itself an arduous 700-mile journey on foot!
Researchers speculate that the trip from Ur to Haran plus the sojourn there may have taken as long as five years before the party resumed the journey to Canaan. Perhaps Terah had a lengthy, lingering illness before dying. However, when the last leg of the journey was made, it was under Abraham's leadership.
God intends us to understand that the distance to the Promised Land—1,200 miles on foot from Ur to Canaan—plus the time spent getting there, illustrate the difficulty of breaking away from what we were to what God wants us to be. Unfortunately, some people never seem to accomplish the break.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)
God refers to both kingdoms here—the descendants of the northern kingdom of Israel as well as the southern kingdom of Judah. The return of Israel will be the larger migration because, aside from the 70-year captivity in Babylon, some of the descendants of Judah have always resided in the Promised Land. Today, the State of Israel is predominately made up of the descendants of Judah.
However, neither Israel nor Judah has truly possessed the land since the time of their respective captivities. Despite some of Judah having returned to the land, ever since the Babylonian captivity, she has only rarely and intermittently held sovereignty over it.
After Judah was taken into captivity, Babylon ruled the Promised Land under Nebuchadnezzar. Babylon later fell to the Medo-Persian Empire, which then became sovereign over Jerusalem and the Promised Land. Because of their vassal status, the Jewish captives that returned from Babylon had to ask permission from Cyrus and Darius, the Persian kings, to rebuild the wall and the Temple. The Jews enjoyed a measure of peace, but their freedom depended on the favor of the ruling Persian emperor.
After Alexander the Great conquered Medo-Persia, the Greeks became the new overseers of the Land of Promise. Jews under the Maccabees gained a measure of independence until Rome took control of the area. Thus, during the time of Christ, Jews lived in the land and even worshipped in the Second Temple, but they did not really possess the land because it was under Roman jurisdiction. Since the collapse of the Roman Empire, notwithstanding some temporary Crusader holdings, the Promised Land has been under the sway of various Arab and Muslim nations—notably the Ottoman Empire—down to modern times.
Even now, the state of Israel does not control all of the land. Jerusalem is a divided city, and the Israelis have not dared claim all of the Temple Mount for themselves, because they know that it would result in an all-out war with the Muslims. Even though the Jews regained a considerable amount of land when it declared statehood in 1948, gaining even more during the Six Day War, the ownership is endlessly argued. Judah is not truly sovereign yet. It does not yet "possess" the land in the fullest sense of the word.
David C. Grabbe
The Second Exodus (Part One)
Notice how different verses 18-19 sound from anything being spoken by the peoples of Israel today. After Jacob's Trouble, Israel will actually grieve and moan due to the correction she receives. She will beg to be brought back to God. Verse 20 shows the unmistakable compassion and feeling that God has for His people, and His determination to lift them out of the pitiful physical and spiritual condition they will be in at that point.
Verse 21 tells of Israel reversing the course of her migration millennia ago, "Set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back. . . ." Israel comes to this condition and pleads for God's restoration before she makes the Second Exodus, just as Israel cried out in Egypt to the God of their fathers, and then God delivered them. If this is correct, the identity of Israel will be recognized sometime during Jacob's Trouble, but before the Second Exodus takes place.
If the patterns of Israel's history remain consistent, God will remind Israel of her obligation to Him, which will include the knowledge of who Israel is. She will not listen—Israel has rarely listened—so God will cause the nations of Jacob to go through such "trouble" as they have never experienced. Though God does not revel in destruction, He knows best what it will take to turn His people around. In the end, the repentant people who remain will be willingly led back to the Promised Land.
David C. Grabbe
The Second Exodus (Part Three)
God's experience with Israel (recorded from Exodus through Deuteronomy) is helpful in understanding this. Slavery in Egypt, where they faced certain, ignominious death, represents the world, and Pharaoh represents Satan. Leaving Egypt symbolizes what justification accomplishes in God's spiritual plan: It frees from bondage.
But God did not stop working with them at that point. He revealed His law to them, and then commanded them to choose to live by it. They had to endure a forty-year pilgrimage, enduring many trials along the way, before they finally were delivered into their inheritance, the Promised Land, which represented salvation. However, many perished along the way because they did not live by faith, as shown by their disobedience to His revealed law.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Nine)
1 Corinthians 10:6-11
Israel's experience in Egypt and in the wilderness is an object lesson that God desires us to reflect on frequently. These lessons are most forcefully brought to the fore during the spring as we begin rehearsing God's plan of salvation in the annual holy days. Once freed from their slavery to Egypt, it took the Israelites but seven days to cross the Red Sea, breaking completely clear of Egyptian control. In dramatic contrast, it took them forty years to walk the remaining few hundred miles! During this trek, every man of war numbered in the first census after leaving Egypt—with the exception of Joshua and Caleb—died without reaching the Promised Land. Will we allow ourselves to match this miserable record by failing to maintain our liberty?
What a costly expedition! Hebrews 3:16-19 clarifies the cause of their failure more specifically:
For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. [emphasis ours]
Clearly, they did not make the right efforts to defend their God-given liberties. Instead, they exacerbated their circumstances by failing to discipline themselves to submit to God's rule over their lives, even though He freely rescued them from their slavery. They were unwilling to pay the costs of directing their lives as He commanded, despite knowing, through the many manifestations of His power, that He acted exactly as Moses had said He would.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love
God willed that they possess the land of Canaan as He had promised the patriarchs. However, many of the people chose to die in the wilderness through disobedience. They did not have to die there. They chose to sin with the Golden Calf, to complain bitterly, to rebel with Korah, to commit fornication with the daughters of Moab, and so on. The Bible never indicates that God predestined they do these things and die before reaching the Promised Land.
On the contrary, Numbers 14 shows that He wanted them to be in the Promised Land by the end of the second year. But because of their lack of faith and the resulting fear of the Canaanites, they chose not to enter it, so God switched to "Plan B." They condemned themselves to wander 40 years. An entire generation - those over 20 who left Egypt, the fearful and rebellious, those too deeply impressed with the nature of Egypt - left their bodies strewn across the wilderness.
If God permits something, we should not automatically assume that He predestined it from the foundation of the world. The Bible does not support such a view. At best, it only indicates He decides to use such a circumstance for His purpose, perhaps to see what we will do with it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven
Abraham was drawn by faith to a land that he would afterward receive as an inheritance, the Promised Land, a type of the Kingdom of God. What if he had refused to step out?
What God has recorded of Abraham's life reveals that how he responded illustrates a path, a way of trust that will lead us to our inheritance. It is the "narrow way," the difficult way that leads to life. That way would have existed even if God had not revealed it to him, but Abraham's following that way in faith proved that his heart was one with God's. God expects us to follow the same trustful attitude that motivated Abraham's actions.
Abraham's obedient response suggests that no proud, stiff-necked rebel will be in the Kingdom of God. No one wrapped up in himself will survive this difficult path, only those who by faith are humbly submissive to God's will. In short, God's calling begins severing us from a number of important negative worldly and carnal factors. At the same time, it also attaches our loyalties, our responsibilities, and our purposes in life to God and His Kingdom.
In biblical terminology, we are transferred from death to life; from fleshly minded to spiritually minded; from Israelite or Gentile to Abraham's seed; from uncircumcised to circumcised in heart; and from the world to the Kingdom of God. It is essential that our severing from the old way be as complete and continuous as possible because, despite what happens to our heart in our attachment to God and His way, the world and carnality remain as constant threats, almost like magnets drawing us back toward them.
From this arises our need for faith to wage the Christian fight so that we do not backslide to where and what we were before. We see this in a small way from Abraham's life; his breaking away was not as smooth as it appears on the surface. Genesis 12:1 contains God's original charge: "Now the LORD had said to Abram: 'Get you out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.'"
God was severing Abraham from his country, his kindred, and his father's house. Our severing rarely involves a physical separation from the nations of our birth, but it almost always involves a spiritual division from our natural families. Frequently, this severing causes strained family relations. It appears that it caused Abraham problems as well.
In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus admonishes all who desire baptism to consider well what He says:
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
As our calling begins, problems do not generally arise because the uncalled family members hate us outright. Instead, they love us in their carnal fashion, but our desire to obey God upsets their sense of family unity, loyalty, and responsibility. A related factor irritates them: They understand that we are rejecting many, if not virtually all, of the spiritual values they taught us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Seven)
In the phrase, "all who dwell on the earth," the Greek word translated as "earth," ge (Strong's #1093), is just like the Aramaic and Hebrew words for "earth." It, too, is used for a whole range of geographic areas, thus it is variously translated as "world," "country," "ground," or "land." In some places, it describes the whole globe, but elsewhere it refers to something as small as the land of Judah or the land of Zebulon—not a very big area at all. While it is certainly not wrong for translators to render this as "all who dwell on the earth," it is just as correct to render it as "all who dwell in the land," indicating a specific land—like the Promised Land or perhaps a particular region.
Verse 7 says that the Beast is given authority "over every tribe, tongue, and nation," which would seem to indicate that it will have global authority. However, the Babylonian Empire is described in exactly the same terms:
O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor. And because of the majesty that He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. (Daniel 5:18-19)
In describing Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, Daniel writes that all peoples (meaning kindreds or tribes), all nations, and all languages trembled and feared before him. These are the same three groupings given in Revelation 13:7: "every tribe, tongue, and nation." Yet, as with Alexander's realm, Nebuchadnezzar's did not extend to all ethnic groups, languages, and nations that then existed on earth. The world that he ruled, which trembled before him, was a limited one, yet it included the Promised Land.
David C. Grabbe
The Whole Earth
The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment
Sign up for the Berean: Daily Verse and Comment, and have Biblical truth delivered to your inbox. This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 145,000 subscribers are already receiving each day.
We respect your privacy. Your email address will not be sold, distributed, rented, or in any way given out to a third party. We have nothing to sell. You may easily unsubscribe at any time.