Fulfillment of Abrahamic Promises
Fulfilled in Natural Israel and In Christ
In Two Parts
The primary argument that Dispensationalists use to advocate why modern Israel must possess all of the Palestinian land and more, is because they have never truly possessed all the land that God had promised. If you ask them what specific part of the land they have not possessed, they cannot give you an exact answer. At least, I was not able to find anyone who could state what land natural Israel had failed to possess. They just make the blanket statement that Israel hasn’t taken possession based upon their Schofield notes, which say,
“It is important to see that the nation has never as yet taken the land under the unconditional Abrahamic covenant nor has it ever possessed the whole land.”
In addition to this stated above, they say that the land was promised unconditionally to Israel forever.
We will see in the following study that ancient Israel had fully possessed all the land that it was promised. Also, the promise of continued possession of the land was not unconditional, but was dependent upon their obedience to God and His commandments.
The Promised Boundaries
There are many passages in the Bible that describe the boundaries of the land promised to Abraham and his descendants through Jacob (Israel). Just a few are Gen. 15:18-21; Num. 34:3-12; Deut. 1:7,11:24; Joshua 1:4.
“What were the boundaries of the Promised Land? The issue is controversial because of the different descriptions that we find in the Bible of these boundaries. The Bible does not give just one description of the boundaries. It is not that simple.”
[Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, The Bible and the Land – 2 What Were the Boundaries of the Promised Land?]
You will find different descriptions of the boundaries of the promised land, depending on what passage you are reading. For example, if you read Numbers 34:3-12, you will find the most detailed description of the allotment of the land in the Bible. Numbers 34:2 states,
“Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:)”
The Lord clearly tells them that it is the land of Canaan that is to “fall unto you for an inheritance.” The northern border in this passage is at the “entrance of Hamath.” There is no mention of the River Euphrates, as there is in other passages, serving as the northern border in this instance. So which is the correct northern boundary for the land, and did ancient Israel ever expand its borders to match these boundaries?
The southern boundary which separates the land of promise from Egypt is called in the KJV the river of Egypt[Num. 34:5]. However, the Hebrew word (nahal, Strong's #h5158) translated as, river, actually denotes what in the geography of the area is called a wadi. A wadi is "a stream flowing rapidly in winter, or in the rainy season." This would more correctly be translated as the brook of Egypt or the wadi of Egypt. In the summertime or a dry season, these wadis look more like a dry creek bed. However, an unannouced rain storm can turn these into a raging torrent of water.
Some have mistakenly identified this river of Egypt as the Nile River. Nowhere is the Nile mentioned as a border to the land of promise. When identifying the northern border, it is always described as the great river, the River Euphrates. However, in all of the descriptions of the borders of the land of promise, the Nile River is never mentioned by name as the southern border, as the Euphrates River is as the northern.
Regardless of which description of boundaries you look at, ancient Israel expanded its borders to the full.
Fulfillment of the Promised Boundaries
When you take a serious look at what the Bible says about whether or not the Israelites truly inherited/possessed the land that was promised to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the evidence is overwhelming that they did.
1. When Moses recounted his second trip up the Mount to receive the tablets of the Law, he says,
And the Lord said unto me, Arise, take thy journey before the people, that they may go in and possess the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give unto them.[Deut. 10:11]
He states the Lord’s intention of leading the people to go in and possess the land, which He swore to their fathers to give. The “fathers” here refer to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
2. In Moses’ farewell address to the children of Israel, he charged Joshua in the sight of all Israel,
And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.[Deut. 31:7]
Moses told Joshua that he would “cause them to inherit it,” the ‘it’ being the land the Lord swore to give unto their fathers.
3. After the passing of Moses, God gave command to Joshua to lead the children of Israel into the land, saying,
Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.[Joshua 1:2-6]
It is made clear in these verses, that God charged Joshua with taking the children of Israel into the land which He was giving to them. Joshua was to divide the land which God swore to their fathers to give them for an inheritance.
4. After Joshua caused the tribes to inherit the lands God had given them, and as he was about to die, it is recorded.
43 And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.
44 And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand.
45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
Pay close attention to verse 43. He states, “The Lord gave unto Israel all the land which He sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.” This one verse should put the entire matter to rest. You simply cannot state it any plainer. Add to verse 43 the witness of verse 45, which says, “There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.”
However, the Scripture indicates that two or three witnesses are better than one. So here are more.
5. It is also recorded in 1 Kings 4:20-21;24 concerning Solomon’s reign,
20 Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry.
21 And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life.
24 For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him.
Here we have recorded what was promised to Abraham was fulfilled by the son of David, Solomon. The offspring of Abraham, Judah and Israel, were as the sand of the sea (Gen. 22:17). He also possessed the land from the river (Euphrates) to the border of Egypt (the river of Egypt).
Some have tried to argue that Solomon's ruling all this territory is not the same as possessing it. However, this is ridiculous reasoning. When can you say that a king rules over land that he does not possess or have control of? The ruling over the land is the same as possessing it.
6. Jeremiah 32:21-23
21 And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror;
22 And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey;
23 And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them:
Here, the prophet Jeremiah says that the Lord,
“brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt”
“And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them”
“And they came in, and possessed it”
However, Jeremiah also points out, "They have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do." Jeremiah refers to this evil, which is a reference to the destruction of the temple and the resulting exile into Babylon.
7. After the Lord brought back the remnant from Babylon, in a corporate assembly the levites recounted the history of Israel to those gathered. In this recounting, they said,
22 Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan.
23 Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it.
24 So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would.
In verse 23 we see the fulfillment of the promise to the fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The children of Israel were as “the stars of heaven” and they were brought into the land promised, that they should possess it.
Extent of David and Solomon’s Kingdom
The Kingdom of Israel under David extended to the northern most boundary of the land promised by God, i.e., the Euphrates River (Gen. 15:18;Deut. 1:7;11:24; Joshua 1:4).
2 Samuel 8:3
David smote also Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates.
1 Chronicles 18:3
And David smote Hadarezer king of Zobah unto Hamath, as he went to stablish his dominion by the river Euphrates.
Solomon’s Kingdom also reached to the boundaries given by God.
1 Kings 4:24
For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him.
(The Euphrates is also referred to as “the river” or “the great river.”)
It was only during the reigns of both David and Solomon that the northern boundary reached to the Euphrates River.
We see this extent of ruling over the land to the Euphrates witnessed also in the Persian records of King Artaxerxes, which according to Ezra 4:20, states,
There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them.
This is stated from the perspective of the Persian kings. When they say, “which have ruled over all countries beyond the river,” they are referring to lands west of the Euphrates River.
Possession Unconditional and Forever?
Some say that Israel’s possession of the land was unconditional and forever. There are verses which certainly might make it sound like this is the case. However, upon further investigation, it is found to be untrue, as far as natural Israel is concerned.
Jeremiah demonstrates that this inheritance of the land had very specific conditions, by saying,
“But they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them.” (Jer. 32:23)
As stated earlier, the evil that had come upon them was the Babylonian invasion, destruction of the temple and the resulting captivity. God evicted them from the land. He could do this because the land belonged to Him.
Lev. 25:23 states,
“The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.”
The word here translated “strangers” is the Hebrew, ger, which means, a temporary inhabitant, a newcomer lacking inherited rights. The word translated “sojourners” is the Hebrew, toshab, which means, a resident alien.
He was only allowing them to live in the land as tenants-at-will, meaning they could live in the land as long as they behaved and obeyed Him.
The Lord had warned Israel repeatedly, that if they failed to obey His voice and keep His commandments they would be ejected from the land. He actually uses language that is stronger than that. He told them that if they did not obey Him, and if they adopted the ways of those nations that lived in the land before them, the land itself would “vomit them out.”
The very evils that had brought divine judgement upon the current inhabitants of the land, e.g., sacrificing their children by fire to Molech, bestiality, homosexuality, incest and all manner of sin against God and nature, would also cause the land to spew out the Israelites, if they committed such sin. Their disobedience to God’s Word would make the land sick and cause it to vomit them out.
24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.
26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
28 That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.
2 Kings 21:8 repeats the promise that God made to David and Solomon concerning the temple.
8 Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.
Notice the condition? God will allow Israel to move no more out of the land, “only if they.” That sounds like a condition, don't you think? God says they may continue to remain in the land, if they obey all that He has commanded.
Summary of Fulfillment To Natural Israel
To summarize this, we can see the following.
- Moses stated God’s intention to bring Israel into the land He swore to their fathers. [Deut. 10:11]
- Moses charged Joshua in the presence of Israel that he was to lead Israel into the land promised to their fathers. [Deut. 31:7]
- God charged Joshua to “Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.” [Joshua 1:6]
- At the end of Joshua’s life, he had accomplished what God had sent him to do. “And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.” [Joshua 21:43]
- Solomon’s dominion extended from “the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt.” [1 Kings 4:21]
- Jeremiah states the Lord “hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey.” [Jer. 32:22]
- After the return from Babylon, the Levites recounted the history to the community of those who returned, saying, “Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it. So the children went in and possessed the land,” [Neh. 9:23-24a]
- The Land was never Israel’s possession unconditionally. God told Israel, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.” (Lev. 25:23) No land belongs to strangers or sojourners. They are only allowed to live on God’s land as long as they obeyed His voice and commandments. When they failed to keep His commandments, the land spewed them out.
We have the witness of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings that God fulfilled the promise He made to the fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This promise of seed as numerable as the sand of the sea and the stars of the heaven was fulfilled in natural Israel. The promise of all the land being given to Israel was fulfilled to natural Israel. The witness of God stands sure. It is Schofield’s word against God’s word. Who are you going to believe?