Who Owns The Land

This is a question that has been asked throughout the ages. Who does the land of Israel really belong to? For most sovereignties around the world and throughout history, the claim on land is accomplished through war. Aggressive nations expand their borders by forcibly taking it from their neighbors. Some nations fall due to economic or political failures and are snatched up by those nearby. World war often drives big changes, and the history of modern civilization has seen massive changes almost everywhere. However, when we view these changes through the lens of a human life-span they happen slowly and sporadically. Putin’s recent war in Ukraine, and Xi Jinping’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea demonstrate this still happens today. The question still remains, who holds the rights to this tiny sliver of land in the Middle East?

Before we talk about ownership, let’s discuss location. This area is known by several names: The Promised Land, The Nation of Israel, The Land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, The Levant, Palestine, The Holy Land, The Beautiful Land, and others. The current borders of Israel is a bit different than what King David possessed, and different from what was promised by God to Abraham.

Genesis 15:18-21  - On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the land of the Kenite, the Kenizzite, the Kadmonite, 20 the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Girgashite, and the Jebusite.”

The map above shows the borders according to this passage. The River of Egypt along the southern border likely refers to the Wadi El-Arish that forms a natural border between Israel and Egypt. The northern border extends through Lebanon and Syria to the Euphrates river. The western border is the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern border extended partway into the nation of Jordan. What God gave Abraham is significantly larger than the current borders of Israel. Now back to the question, who has legitimate claim to the land? The Palestinians? The Arabs? The Hebrew people? Let’s follow the ownership through the Bible.

Lev. 25:23 ‘The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are aliens and sojourners with Me.

This passage states that the land given to Abraham belongs to God and is on loan to Abraham’s descendants. The Hebrew people were not allowed to sell the land permanently. It was to be handed down from family to family. Gen. 12:7 – And the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.”

Gen. 26:3 – “Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham.

This passage shares that the land given to Abraham was passed along to his son Isaac. Some make the claim that Abraham had other son’s and they too have legitimate claim, but God clarified with Abraham which son was to inherit the land.

Gen. 17:18-19 – And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!” But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

God also passed the land from Isaac to Jacob.

Gen. 28:3-4 – “And may God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. “May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you; that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham.”
Gen. 28:13-15 – And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. “Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. “And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

One can make a very strong biblical case that under the covenant of the Old Testament that the land belonged to Jacob’s children. But how about modern times? What about the New Testament? Some would say that the old covenant was fulfilled and God changed His focus from Judaism to Christianity. Some would claim that the ultimate fulfillment of the promises to Abraham happened spiritually in the lives of Christians. I believe this to be true, but I do not believe God is done with Israel. The Apostle Paul indicates this with how he started Romans chapter 11:

"I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? Far from it! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." 

He then goes on to say, that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. The Hebrews are still God’s people.

For I do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

After Jesus’ resurrection His disciples asked Him when the physical Kingdom of Israel would be restored. He told them it wasn’t for them to know, but indicated it would be a future event.

It would seem that the New Testament indicates that there is still a promised land and promised kingdom for the people of Israel. Jesus will return one day and rule the Earth from His Throne in Jerusalem. Jesus is the King of Israel. Jesus is the King of all Kings.