Promised Land part 2
by John Thomas Lowe
Boundaries of the 'Promised Land' given by Jerome c.400
You may delineate the Promised Land of Moses from the Book of Numbers (ch. 34): as bounded on the south by the desert tract called Sina, between the Dead Sea and the city of Kadesh-Barnea, which is located with the Arabah to the east and continues to the west, as far as the river of Egypt, that discharges into the open sea near the city of Rhinocolara; as bounded on the west by the sea along the coasts of Palestine, Phoenicia, Coele-Syria, and Cilicia; as bounded on the north by the circle formed by the Taurus Mountains] and Zephyrium and extending to Hamath, called Epiphany-Syria; as bounded on the east by the city of Antioch Hippos and Lake Kinneret, now called Tiberias, and then the Jordan River which discharges into the salt sea, now called the Dead Sea.
Under the name Palestine, we comprehend the small country formerly inhabited by the Israelites, which is today part of Acre and Damascus pachalics. It stretched between 31 and 33° N. latitudes and 32 and 35° degrees E. longitude, an area of about 1300 French: lieues carrées. To give the land of the Hebrews some political importance, some zealous writers have exaggerated the extent of Palestine. However, we have an authority for us that one can not reject. St. Jerome, who had long traveled in this country, said in his letter to Dardanus (Ep. 129) that the northern boundary to the south was a distance of 160 Roman miles, which is about 55 French: lieues. He paid homage to the truth despite his fears, as he said himself, of availing the Promised Land to pagan mockery, "Puget dicere latitudinal terrae repromissionis, ne ethnics occasionem blasphemandi dedisse uideamur" (Latin: "I am embarrassed to say the breadth of the promised land, lest we seem to have given the heathen an opportunity of blaspheming").
What Is The Promised Land?
In the Bible, the term "Promised Land" refers to a specific region of land that God endowed to His chosen people as part of their heritage. (Genesis 12, Genesis 26:3, Genesis 28:13) God first gave this pledge of land to Abraham, saying, "I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River." He then reiterated the vow to Abraham's descendants until the time came for His people to claim their inheritance.
The "Promised Land" was the geographic area God declared to give to his chosen people, the offspring of Abraham. The promised land was placed in ancient Canaan, on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. Numbers 34:1-12 discusses the location of the Promised Land:
The Promised Land of Canaan
"The LORD said to Moses, "Command the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance is to have these boundaries: "Your southern side will include some of the Desert of Zin along the border of Edom. Your southern boundary will start east from the Dead Sea's southern end, cross south of Scorpion Pass, continue to Zin and go south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it will go to Hazar Addar and over to Azmon, where it will turn, join the Wadi of Egypt and end at the Mediterranean Sea. "Your western boundary will be the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This will be your boundary on the west. "For your northern boundary, run a line from the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Hor and from Mount Hor to Lebo Hamath. Then the boundary will go to Zedad, continue to Ziphron, and end at Hazar Enan. This will be your boundary on the north. "For your eastern boundary, run a line from Hazar Enan to Shepham. The boundary will go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain and continue along the slopes east of the Sea of Galilee. Then the boundary will go down along the Jordan and end at the Dead Sea. "This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side."
For migrating herders like the Jews, having a stable home of their own would be a true blessing. The promised land was a place to rest from their continual wandering. However, this promise came with conditions. First, God commanded that Israel, the new nation's name, had to trust and follow Him. Second, God demanded faithful worship of Him (Deuteronomy 7:12-15). Idolatry was such a grave transgression to God that he threatened to remove them from the promised land if they worshiped other gods.
Through a famine, Jacob, also named Israel, went to Egypt with his family, where there was food. Over the years, the Egyptians turned the Jews into enslaved people for labor. After God delivered them from that slavery, he returned them to the Promised Land under the guidance of Moses. However, because the people neglected to obey God's law, he made them wander in the desert for 40 years until that generation died.
Moses' heir Joshua finally led the people in and served as the military commander in taking over the Promised Land. Following Joshua's death, Israel was ruled by a succession of judges. The people frequently regressed to idolizing false gods and suffered due consequences. Eventually, God allowed the Babylonians to destroy the Jerusalem temple and take most of the Jews into bondage to Babylon.
Ultimately, they returned to the Promised Land, but devotion to God was inconsistent under Israel's kings. God sent prophets to remind His people to repent, concluding with John the Baptist.
What Made the Promised Land Unique?
The Promised Land of Canaan, eventually called Israel, was a fertile land with brooks and deep springs that gushed out into the valleys and hills. The rich soil produced wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, and olives. There, the Israelites would lack nothing.
Described in Scripture as "a land flowing with milk and honey," the soil was rich for agriculture and shepherding, the mountains provided security and protection from the elements and their enemies, and the arid climate provided perfect conditions for livestock to thrive. (Exodus 3:17; Numbers 13:27, Deuteronomy 8:6-9)
Abraham knew he would not see God's Promised Land with his own eyes. God made it clear to him that the land would not be given until four generations had passed and that his descendants would face the hardship of slavery before enjoying the home God had promised. (Genesis 15:12-16) Nevertheless, Abraham held on to the promise, believing that God could and would bring His descendants into their promised land.
When Would God's Promise Be Fulfilled?
God placed Abraham's great-grandson, Joseph, in Egypt to fulfill his promise to Abraham and his descendants. When a seven-year famine made it increasingly difficult for the Israelites to find food, God used Joseph's high position under Pharoah to save His people, the Israelites, from starvation.
After Joseph's generation died, the Israelites continued to thrive in Egypt. Then, "a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 'Look,' he said to his people, 'the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them, or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.'" (Exodus 1:8-10)
The Egyptians forced God's people into harsh and brutal slave labor for four hundred years, but this did not keep them from multiplying and spreading. The Egyptians became so fearful of Israel's population explosion that Pharoah ordered the prompt murder of all the Hebrew newborn males. (Exodus 1:22)
Moses was among the newborn babie4s to be slain. However, just as God had predestined Joseph to save his people from famine, He spared Moses's life so that He could use him to deliver Israel from Egypt's oppression—and ultimately lead them into the land promised to Abraham's descendants. (Exodus 2:23-25)
After Moses led God's people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, the time had finally come for Israel to realize the fulfillment of God's long-awaited promise. In one miraculous display after another, God had clearly shown Himself mighty to save. The Israelites needed only to believe in God and follow His servant Moses into the desert wilderness that would lead them to the Promised Land.