The Effects of The Abrahamic Covenant Upon Israel
The previous article examined the biblical evidence for the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant. The present article will consider the effect of that covenant, particularly upon the nation of Israel.
The Guarantee Of Israel’s Permanent Existence As A Nation
In light of its unconditional nature, the Abrahamic Covenant has at least a twofold effect upon Israel. First, it guarantees Israel permanent existence as a nation. Since the Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant (totally dependent upon God’s faithfulness for fulfillment), and since God declared it to be an everlasting covenant with the people of Israel (Gen. 17:7,19; 1 Chr. 16:15-17; Ps.105:8-10), then the nation of Israel must exist forever. A covenant cannot be an everlasting covenant if one party of the covenant ceases to exist.
Several biblical passages promise that, in spite of Israel’s terrible sins, it never will be totally destroyed as a nation. In Deuteronomy 4:25-31 Moses declared the following to the Israelites: When you become the father of children and children’s children and have remained long in the land, and act corruptly, and make an idol in the form of anything, and do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD your God so as to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you shall surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but shall be utterly destroyed. And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you shall be left few in number among the nations, where the LORD shall drive you. And there you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice. For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.
At first glance verses 26 and 31 appear to contradict each other. Verse 26 states that Israel would be utterly destroyed, but verse 31 declares that God would not destroy Israel. It is important to note that the words translated “destroy” in these verses are two different words with two different meanings. Certainly the word “destroyed” in verse 26 cannot mean “to put out of existence,” for the next several verses indicate that these same people would be scattered among the nations, would serve false gods and would seek the LORD after they had been destroyed. Nonexisting people cannot perform such activities. The context requires that “destroyed” of verse 26 be understood in the sense of “to overthrow” or “to remove from the land.”
In verse 26 God warned that He would remove the nation of Israel from its land because of its terrible sins, but in verse 31 He promised that He would not destroy the nation of Israel in the sense of putting it out of existence. God would chasten the nation, but He would never annihilate it for its sins. Thus, verses 26 and 31 do not contradict each other.
It is significant that God Iinked His promise not to destroy the nation of Israel with His promises not to fail Israel and not to forget the Abrahamic Covenant which He swore to Israel’s ancestors (v. 31). The implication is that Israel’s permanent existence as a nation is guaranteed through the Abrahamic Covenant, because that covenant is totally dependent upon the faithfulness of God for its fulfillment.
God made a similar promise to the nation of Israel in Jeremiah 30:11:
“For I am with you,” declares the LORD, “to save you; For I will destroy completely all the nations where I have scattered you, Only I will not destroy you completely. But I will chasten you justly, And will by no means leave you unpunished.”
In Jeremiah 46:27-28 God declared:
“But as for you, O Jacob My servant, do not fear. Nor be dismayed, O Israel! For, see, I am going to save you from afar, And your descendants from the land of their captivity; And Jacob shall return and be undisturbed And secure, with no one making him tremble. O Jacob My servant, do not fear,” declares the LORD, “For I am with you. For I shall make a full end of all the nations Where I have driven you, Yet I shall not make a full end of you; But I shall correct you properly And by no means leave you unpunished.”
In Amos 9:8 God promised, “I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob.”
In Romans 11 Paul taught that even in his day (after Israel’s rejection of Christ and while they were enemies of the gospel) the people of Israel were still beloved of God. They continued to be beloved in accord with God’s sovereign choice of them to be His special people (vv. 1-2, 28) and for the sake of their ancestors to whom God swore the Abrahamic Covenant (v. 28). If God were to reject Israel or allow it to perish totally as a nation from the earth, He would thereby violate His own sovereign choice and betray Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In light of this Paul declared that God’s calling of Israel to be His special people is irrevocable (v. 29).
The Guarantee Of Israel’s Permanent Ownership Of The Land
The second major effect which the Abrahamic Covenant has upon Israel is this: It guarantees Israel permanent ownership of the promised land. Since the Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant (depending totally upon God’s faithfulness for fulfillment), and since one of God’s promises in that covenant was to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and the people of Israel forever (Gen. 12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21; 17:8; 1 Chr. 16:15-18; Ps. 105:8-11), then Israel must hold ownership of Canaan through the end of history. This does not mean that Israel had to live in this land continuously in order to maintain ownership. Many landlords own property which they do not personally inhabit, thus ownership does not require personal inhabiting of property by its owner. Israel’s dispersions from Canaan because of sins have not ended its ownership of the land. This means, then, that Israel has rightful claim to the land both today and in the future.
In line with this rightful claim, many of the prophets foretold a total, permanent restoration of the people of Israel to the land which God promised to their fathers and them in the Abrahamic Covenant: “Then all your people will be righteous; They will possess the land forever, The branch of My planting, the work of My hands, That I may be glorified” (Isa. 60:21).
Jeremiah foretold that in the future, when Jerusalem will be called “The Throne of the LORD” and all nations will be gathered to it, all the tribes of Israel will be reunited in the land which God gave to their fathers as an inheritance (Jer. 3:17-18). Again he declared that, when David’s righteous Branch, the Messiah, will reign as King, God will regather the sons of Israel from the nations of the world and will restore them to their own land which He gave to their fathers (Jer. 16:14-15; 23:5-8; 30:3). Further, through Jeremiah God promised that, when He will restore Israel to the land, He will make the Israelites dwell in safety, will do them good and “will faithfully plant them in this land” with all His heart and soul (Jer. 32:37,41). The language of this promise indicates that God is fervently committed to this future restoration of Israel to its land and that this restoration is dependent upon God’s faithfulness to His Word expressed in the Abrahamic Covenant.
Ezekiel prophesied that God will restore all the sons of Israel to their own land, the land which He swore to give to their forefathers. At that time God will make Israel one nation; no longer will it be divided into two kingdoms. Israel will have one king. The Israelites will live securely in their land. No longer will they be a prey to other nations or have to endure their insults, for God will execute judgments upon all who scorn them. The Israelites and their descendants will live in their own land forever. Never again will they be the victims of famine or wild beasts. God will not hide His face from them any longer. He will make an everlasting peace covenant with them. God will do this in spite of Israel’s evil, corrupt ways, in spite of the fact that the nation does not deserve it: “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for my holy name.” He will do it to vindicate the holiness of His name, to make Israel recognize their true God and to impress all the other nations with Himself (Ezek. 20:42, 44; 28:25-26; 34:13, 27-29; 36:22-32; 37:11-26; 39:25-29). These divinely stated purposes indicate once again that Israel’s future, permanent restoration to its own land is ultimately dependent upon God, not upon Israel’s obedience.
The prophet Amos declared that God will restore the captivity of Israel. At that time the Israelites will rebuild their ruined cities, plant vineyards and gardens and enjoy the fruit of their labors. Amos quoted the following declaration of God: “I will also plant them on their land, And they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them” (Amos 9:14-15). Several observations should be made on the basis of these prophetic passages. The present restoration of Israel to the homeland which began in the middle of the twentieth century is not the fulfillment of these prophecies. Several things indicate this. First, these prophecies foretell a total restoration of the Jews to their land from all the nations of the world. By contrast the twentieth century restoration has not been total. Those Jews who are still scattered among the nations of the world are several times more numerous than those who live in the state of Israel. In fact the United States alone has several million more Jews living within its boundaries than the state of Israel has within its. In addition, because of severe economic conditions in the state of Israel, more Jews are leaving their homeland to return to the nations of the world than there are Jews entering it.
Second, these prophetic passages indicate that, when this future restoration of Israel to the homeland will take place, all the Jews will be righteous. They will dwell securely in complete safety. They will not endure the insults of the nations any more. No one will make them afraid. The Messiah, the righteous Branch of David, will reign over them as their King. They will recognize their true God. By contrast none of these things is reality for the Jews in the present state of Israel. These conditions will not become reality for Israel until Messiah will come in His second coming to reign as King. Thus, the restoration of Israel foretold in these prophetic passages will not take place until His second coming.
Another observation to be made on the basis of these prophetic passages is this: The divine promises of these passages indicate that God regards the nation of Israel as the continuous owner of the land of Canaan in spite of its various dispersions from that land. They indicate this by God using such expressions as “their own land.” God punishes Israel for its sins by removing it temporarily from its own land, but He will never punish it to the extent of abolishing its ownership of that land. To do so would be to violate His promise in the Abrahamic Covenant to give the land of Canaan to the fathers and people of Israel forever.
There is, then, an inseparable link between the Abrahamic Covenant and the prophetic passages which promise Israel’s total, permanent restoration to its homeland and future blessing. The covenant is the foundation or basis for these prophetic passages, and the passages are the natural outgrowth or result of the covenant. They foretell the ultimate, final fulfillment of the divine promise to Israel contained in the Abrahamic Covenant. The prophetic passages thereby demonstrate the fact that the Abrahamic Covenant guarantees Israel permanent ownership of the land of Canaan.
Some Important Conclusions
Earlier it was noted that the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant causes it to have a twofold effect upon Israel. This twofold effect leads to some important conclusions.
One effect is the fact that the Abrahamic Covenant guarantees Israel permanent existence as a nation. This effect leads to the conclusion that Jews will always be present in the world. No matter how ugly and powerful anti-Semitism may become, it will never be able to annihilate the Jews totally. This guarantee of the Abrahamic Covenant stands as an unyielding, immovable stone against which anti-Semitism will dash itself to bits in the future Tribulation Period when it will make its last and greatest effort to destroy Israel. This guarantee also explains the reason for the continued existence of the Jews today in spite of the repeated persecutions and attempts at genocide made against their nation throughout history.
The second effect is the fact that the Abrahamic Covenant guarantees Israel permanent ownership of the land of Canaan. Certainly an owner of property has the right to occupy it at any time while he owns it. This effect leads to the following conclusion: Since the Abrahamic Covenant guarantees Israel permanent ownership of the land of Canaan, Israel has the right to occupy that land at any time, even those times when world conditions do not permit it to do so. This leads to a further conclusion: Since the land which the state of Israel now occupies in the Middle East is part of the land which God gave to Israel permanently in the Abrahamic Covenant, the twentieth century state of Israel has the right to occupy that land today and to exist there as an independent nation. Even if future world events should force Israel out of its homeland again, that would not indicate that God had revoked that nation’s right to occupy that land. When God judged Israel by scattering it from its land after it rejected its Messiah, Jesus, He regarded that scattering as a temporary loss of occupancy, not a termination of ownership for Israel. From God’s viewpoint those people who took over occupancy of the land after Israel was scattered did not become the owners of the land. God permitted them and their descendants to use that land temporarily as squatters, but He did not give them right or title to it. Thus, when the modern state of Israel drove these people out, it was not dispossessing them of land which they rightfully owned. Instead, it was removing them from land which they had temporarily squatted upon. Certainly one’s heart goes out to those people who were so removed, because of the hardships this removal has caused, but the Abrahamic Covenant indicates that Israel has the right to occupy its own land today.