What Lands Were Promised to Abraham and Israel?

Posted By on January 12, 2012

Todd Bolen recently posted two excellent summaries of the opposing views of this question on his Bible Places blog. For those interested in eschatology (especially those who think they have all the answers about end times), these posts are *highly* recommended. The issue is simple: Were the lands in the Transjordan part of the Promised Land? The answer takes you down two eschatological roads since it relates to whether one thinks the land element of the Abrahamic covenant was fulfilled or not.† If the answer is “yes” then Israel never possessed all the lands promised at any one time in history.† If the answer is “no” (only Canaan was promised), then one can argue that Israel did get the land. When you read the posts you’ll see that neither perspective is clear cut. (Another reason to check one’s certainty on end times at the door).

The issue peripherally relates to the topic I began with my last post, Mosaic authorship of the Torah. Regardless of the answer, the question itself surfaces within the Torah — it says different things in different places about the land (something you’d think would be easy to maintain consistency on). Back to that this weekend.

Here are Bolen’s posts:

The Promised Land Does Not Include Transjordan

The Promised Land Includes Transjordan

 

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9 Responses to “What Lands Were Promised to Abraham and Israel?”

  1. Doug O says:

    If the land was promised to the descendants of Abraham, does that include Ishamael’s descendants… or Esau’s?

    • MSH says:

      Isaac and Jacob are the recipients of the covenantal promises (Gen 17:19; 21:3, 12; etc. – and Yahweh later appears to Isaac and Jacob to reiterate the promises). Ishmael was promised a separate blessing (Gen 21:13); Esau got the territory of Edom (Esau was Edom – Gen 25:30; 36:1, 8, 17).

  2. Doug O says:

    (Apologies for the misspelling).

  3. Patrick says:

    It is another interesting topic, but, from my current understanding, ( always “adjustable”)
    the Abrahamic covenant was to his spiritual believing seed, not his ethnic seed. Believing that, these promises are going to be fulfilled by Abraham’s “seed” being heirs of Christ. However much ethnic Israel did or did not obtain isn’t the bottom line I don’t think.

    We will share the inheritance of the King governing the universe, IMO.

    • MSH says:

      This is an important angle, but one that dispensational zealots (as opposed to open-minded “progressive” dispensationalists) cannot abide. The NT quite clearly casts the circumcision-neutral church as the new Israel, the *true* seed of Abraham for precisely the reasons you cite. And since the kingdom is bigger than New Jersey (Israel), the global scaling of it argues that the spiritual seed are the inheritors of the land promises as well. That doesn’t overturn the idea of a literal earthly kingdom (unfortunately now tied to the word “premillennialism”); it can operate alongside it (but that [premillennial] position would need some language adjustment)

  4. Josh says:

    I believe that the Church is the fulfillment of many OT prophecies regarding the restoration of Israel, especially those which speak about God sheparding his people and them knowing that he is their God etc. So I do believe that Abraham’s seed are the people of Faith, not primarily the people of genetic descent.

    I would argue that this has always been the case since membership in the Covenant was contingent not merely upon birth but upon participation in the covenant rituals of circumcision and passover etc.

    At the same time, however, I don’t think that this precludes there being promises to the genetic/ethnic descendants either. I think Paul makes this clear with the imagery of the natural and wild olive tree in which we, as children of Abraham by faith have been grafted in to the promises which were given to the natural heirs. The fact that we were grafted in doesn’t necessarily dispossess them. Though Paul says that a veil has been placed over natural Israel, preventing them from seeing the truth, I think the clear implication is that this is a temporary situation and they will be joined back in.

    Having said that, I think the blog linked here makes a good case that the promised land did not include the territory east of Jordan.

    To me, the importance of the land of Israel (today) has less to do with the promise that it be given to Abraham and his descendants and more to do with the fact that God chose that land as his portion of the earth.

    The rest of the lands have been ruled over by principalities and powers etc, but that piece belongs to God. In that sense it is Holy, it is Sacred.

    Now, I think a decent argument can be made that much of that sacredness, maybe all, transferred to the Church because the Church is his kingdom now. But at the same time, I also tend to think that once a thing is holy to God, it is always so, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to take the chance of treating it profanely.

    • MSH says:

      good post; there’s definitely a lot of give and take here, and other contributing factors. My point when it comes to prophecy (as always) is that basically none of it is self evident, so we ought to stop pretending it is (just a generalization here).

  5. Jean Claude Lagrange says:

    MSH said: “… the spiritual seed are the inheritors of the land promises as well. …”

    Question – Can you define exactly spiritual and spirit?

    Josh said: “… I believe that the Church is the fulfillment of many OT prophecies regarding the restoration of Israel …”

    and “… So I do believe that Abrahamís seed are the people of Faith, not primarily the people of genetic descent. …”

    and “… with the imagery of the natural and wild olive tree in which we, as children of Abraham by faith have been grafted in to the promises which were given to the natural heirs. …”

    Question #1 – Which “Church” you are talking about?

    Question #2 – Who are “the people of genetic descent”, these other “people of Faith”, “we … being grafted” and “natural heirs” today?

    Depending on your answers and/or definitions, perhaps, I might be able to relatively figure out what approximately are the lands promised to Abraham and Israel in a prophetic sense.

    JC

    • MSH says:

      I’m talking about what Paul was talking about in Galatians 3 – “believing Israelites / Jews” (combined with believing Gentiles into the one people of God, the thing the NT calls the Church).

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