Written by Don West
Amid the widespread and general chaos of the Middle East today, there comes a core of constant and consistent roiling and boiling from the Israeli-Arab-Palestinian conflict, and it has afflicted that region and the world for more years than Israel has been a reconstituted state, the sixty-third anniversary of which was May 14, 2011. One could point to the early years of the 1880’s as the beginning of this latest conflict when persecuted Jews in Tsarist Russia made the decision that life there was no longer bearable with its anti-Semitism and the recurring malevolent mayhem and murder of its Jewish pogroms (from the Russian word “pogromit” which means to destroy utterly).
Once the decision to leave was made, however, it was necessary to determine a destination; and the United States was an obvious choice for many. In fact, during the mid 1800’s as Jewish intellectuals and various of their leaders considered the hazardous, tenuous, and exposed condition of Jewish life in the many countries where they resided (the diaspora); and contemplated how to possibly reduce or remedy their collective risk, one group located in Berlin, Germany, had a brainstorm. I quote a brief section from Walter Laqueur’s book, A History of Zionism (1972): “ One of these (resettlement) projects… accepted the idea of a Jewish state but for practical reasons rejected Palestine, which ‘had been the cradle of the Jewish people but could not be its permanent home’ (reason: the inhospitable, Islamic, Ottoman Empire). It suggested the American middle west, Arkansas or Oregon (yes, you read correctly); ten million dollars would be sufficient to induce the American Government to put at the disposal of the Jews an area the size of France. There was every reason to hurry with the realization of the plan, for in the near future the Americas… would be settled by newcomers and then it would be too late.” P.44
But it was already too late. Obviously unbeknownst to these individuals, Arkansas had been a state since 1836. Nevertheless, it is nice to know that these thinkers also recognized Arkansas as “The Land of Opportunity”!
There were others, however, who had a more historical basis for where they should go and they would, in fact, begin the fulfillment of an absolutely unquantifiable number of heavenly directed supplications and prayerful petitions uttered over the previous two millennia: to return to Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel, the ancient land of the Jewish people, the land of their Fathers and the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel. And that, sports fans, is where they went. Very few in number initially, and despite the less than friendly attitude of the Ottoman Empire which controlled the land, those early Jewish settlers started an exodus of emigration from every continent, which has yet to end; back to where the nation of Israel had existed before its defeat, conquest and dispersion by the Assyrians in 722 BC, the Babylonians in 586 BC, and last, but certainly not least, the Roman Empire in 70 AD.
Critically located by being the link between the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe, the land of Israel has known many names throughout its history: the Land of Canaan; the Promised Land; the land of milk and honey; Israel; the Northern Kingdom; Samaria; the Southern Kingdom; Judah; Judea; Palestina (Roman Empire); the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Crusader period); the Mustasarriflik of Jerusalem, and the Vilayet of Beirut (Ottoman Empire); the British Mandate of Palestine; Palestine ( meaning: “Land of the Philistines”); Jordan; the West Bank; Gaza; and Israel, yet again. Each of these names reflect some aspect of this land’s long, tortured, and turbulent history. But do we really know whether the land which Israel occupies today is the same land given to them by God, as the scriptures declare, four thousand years ago? I believe the answer is not only in the affirmative, but absolutely so, for one can find some very identifiable and currently pertinent descriptions of God’s gift of the land to Israel in the exceedingly old, but highly relevant books that comprise The Bible: that series of sixty-six books written over approximately 1500 years between 1400 BC and 100 AD, give or take a century or so.
And it is in the book of beginnings, Genesis, where we find the genesis of material which relates to our present focus: the location of the land of Israel. All of us are aware that this first book of the Bible makes a series of declarations, whether one accepts them or not, as to the genesis of all things, including the human race and the initial phases of the human narrative. Few are cognizant, however, that those declarations are all contained in just the first eight chapters of a fifty chapter book. So what do the other forty-two chapters of Genesis speak to? Answer: the genesis of a chosen race, the Israelites; and the genesis of a nation, Israel; with, I might add, the rest of the Old Testament (38 additional books) thrown in to supplement and record its history until approximately 400 BC.
In the aftermath of a global catastrophe (Genesis: chapters 7 and 8), humanity, through Noah and his family, would begin again; and then we get an interesting piece of information. Have you ever considered where we get the appellation, “Land of Canaan”? Well, we are instructed by Genesis’ author, Moses, whom Jesus would quote frequently during His ministry 1400 years later, in 9:18 that one of Noah’s grandsons was an individual named Canaan (hence, the land’s name); and not only that, for in Genesis 10:15, Moses further states that Canaan had a son named Sidon. And it is this seemingly petty piece of information which gives us a significant clue as to where the northern boundary of this God given Land of Canaan was located. For existing on the Mediterranean coast, approximately thirty-five miles north of Lebanon’s present border with Israel, there is a city bearing, during all these centuries, the name of that son of Canaan and great- grandson of Noah: the city of Sidon, Lebanon.
Thoughtfully, Moses gives us the southern parameters of the Land of Canaan, as well: “And the border of the Canaanites (i.e., the Land of Canaan) was from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza…” Gen. 10:19. GAZA, as in the ancient, biblical, Philistine city; Gaza, as in Samson and Delilah; Gaza, as in the Gaza Strip (28miles x 5 miles); Gaza, otherwise known as Hamastan (the “terrortory” controlled by Hamas, which is an Arabic acronym for ZEAL, i.e. the jihadist kind); Gaza, as in the Iranian ally, and present day and general all around Palestinian political and terrorist canker located at the south and western border of the state of Israel. The more things change… well, you know what I mean. Oh, and by the way, Gaza, as in the monetary rat hole for hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars!
So, 3400 years after Moses inscribed this information, we have these two cities, still bearing their ancient biblical names, in their ancient biblical locations, along the eastern coastline of the Mediterranean: Sidon and Gaza. Names that today give us a perspective and basis for understanding that the nation of Israel is indeed generally located where its Patriarchal roots were established forty centuries previously.
Let me assure you in closing, however, that there is substantially more to come with respect to the divinely designated biblical boundaries of this geographically minute, but immensely civilizational influencing, politically volatile, and emotionally divisive nation. Until then.
(adapted from The Boone County Spotlight; used with permission)
Don West is a new columnist and speaker for Prophecy Matters. His passion for Israel and prophecy is instantly contagious. He is a professor at North Arkansas College in Harrison Arkansas. Dr. West holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas.