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The Earth and the Land

Studies about the Value of the Land of Israel in the Old Testament and Afterwards

von Hendrik J. Koorevaar (Band-Herausgeber:in) Mart-Jan Paul (Band-Herausgeber:in)
©2018 Sammelband 406 Seiten
Reihe: Edition Israelogie, Band 11


In the Bible, the land of Israel is more than a piece of ground. It is a theological symbol, because it was an essential part of Israel’s practice of its relationship with God. The land is connected to a lifestyle and to the carrying out of religious acts, like the sacrifices and the celebrations. Aspects of this are the use of the land and the enactment of ecological and humanitarian obligations. In this volume, we concentrate on the religious viewpoints, especially how the promised land can be seen from the Old and New Testament perspective. Before practical conclusions are drawn, it is important to have a good overview of the subject in the entire Bible. The chosen approach is historic-canonical and implies that we use the order of Bible books from the Hebrew canon. Two additional chapters show the Jewish and Islamic viewpoints.
This book has received the Franz Delitzsch Award 2018.


  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Content
  • Vorwort zur Reihe “Edition Israelogie”
  • Editors’ Foreword to the Series Edition Israelogie
  • Content
  • Preface
  • Part I Introduction to the Land
  • Chapter 1 Objective and Overview of the Study of the Earth and the Land (Hendrik Koorevaar)
  • Part II The Land in the Old Testament
  • Chapter 2 The Land in the Book of Genesis (Hendrik Koorevaar)
  • Chapter 3 The Land in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers (Raymond R. Hausoul)
  • Chapter 4 The Land in the Book of Deuteronomy (Mart-Jan Paul)
  • Chapter 5 The Conquest and Borders of the Land in the Books of Joshua and Judges (Siegbert Riecker)
  • Chapter 6 The Land of Israel during Israel’s Monarchy According to the Books of Samuel and Kings (Herbert H. Klement)
  • Chapter 7 The Future of the Land and the Earth in the Books of the Prophets (Hetty Lalleman)
  • Chapter 8 The Land in the Book of Psalms (Julius Steinberg)
  • Chapter 9 The Land in the Four Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (W. Creighton Marlowe)
  • Chapter 10 The Land in a Time of Exile: Promises and Duties (Geert W. Lorein)
  • Part III The Land after the Old Testament
  • Chapter 11 The Land in the New Testament (Boris Paschke)
  • Chapter 12 Aspects of Islamic Perspectives on the Land of Palestine or Land (ͻarḍ) in Islamic Sources (Heiko Wenzel)
  • Chapter 13 The Land and the Zionist State of Israel (Kees de Vreugd)
  • Part IV Conclusions regarding the Land
  • Chapter 14 Summary, Conclusions and Perspectives (Hendrik Koorevaar / Mart-Jan Paul)
  • Contributors
  • Series index

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In the Bible, the land of Canaan (later on: Israel) is more than a piece of ground. It is a theological symbol, because it was an essential part of Israel’s practice of its relationship with God. The land is connected to a lifestyle and to the carrying out of religious acts, like the sacrifices and the celebrations. Aspects of this are the use of the land and the enactment of ecological and humanitarian obligations. The people of Israel came into existence outside the promised land, but they were allowed to capture it later on. The land has never been a possession to be taken for granted, because the conditions of the covenant at the Sinai indicate that an expulsion of the people out of that area is possible.

The way the current State of Israel deals with the land is very controversial. An appeal to the old promise to Abraham or the size of the empire of David collide with the Islamic convictions. In the Bible, the land is promised to Israel, but there is a distance between the promise and the realization. Several times the people have been driven out of the land, and a massive group returned in the twentieth century. This caused a lot of tension with the Palestinians and the surrounding people. Several wars have been fought, and in the meantime, it has been fifty years ago since the Israeli’s obtained the old city Jerusalem (in 1967).

In this volume, we concentrate on the religious viewpoints, especially how the promised land can be seen from the Old and New Testament perspective. What was the value of the land and why was this so important for the theocracy of Israel? In the discussions, the topics continue to touch current themes, such as stewardship of the earth and taking care of the environment. At the same time, later Jewish and Islamic viewpoints will be dealt with in two separate chapters.

The origin of this volume can be found in the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit in Leuven (B). The department Old Testament has organized several study days over the past years with lectures and discussion about the land, Israel. The main goal was to map the entire Old Testament in regards to this subject. Subsequently, that goal has been broadened and the New Testament has been included, just as Islam and Judaism, and in particular the Zionist state. These lectures have been modified for publication purposes and other topics have been added to achieve a complete whole.

In particular, in the book of Genesis a close connection can be found between the earth as a whole and the land Canaan in particular. During later periods of exile, the descendants of Abraham spread out over different countries. All of this leads to the question of the relation between the earth and the land. This question ← 11 | 12 → is intensified by the New Testament, in which Christians indeed begin in Jerusalem, but move throughout the earth from there. Do they leave the land and its capital city behind them or does a connection remain?

The approach in this volume is for the most part descriptive and mapping. Before practical conclusions are drawn, it is important to have a good overview of the subject in the entire Bible. The chosen approach is historic-canonical. This means that our starting point is the canon of the Old and New Testament, although other data are also added (for example from Qumran). The canonical approach also implies that we use the order of Bible books from the Hebrew canon. For a clarification of the chosen method, a reference can be made to our Theologie des Alten Testaments. Die bleibende Botschaft der hebräischen Bibel (Giessen, 2016). A large part of the authors that worked together on this volume have also worked together on that theology of the Old Testament. The publication on the land can be considered to be an extensive elaboration of one of the theme’s that also comes up for discussion in the theology book. There, the earth and the land are characterized as one of the six main themes that the book of Genesis and the entire Old Testament provide.

We hope that the readers obtain more insight in the perspectives on the land that are visible through the entire Bible: a place in which Israel can serve God, so it can be a blessing to the entire earth. This goal remains, even if human failures threaten to obscure that perspective over and over again. God’s faithfulness in the course of time also gives hope for the future when He will realize his Kingdom for Israel and the nations.

The practical consequences for our time continue to be difficult, because also national-judicial and political aspects play a role. Zionist ideals and Islamic convictions seem to collide with each other in a tough way. Believers, for whom the Bible serves as their starting point, know, however, that practical circumstances never have the final say. There is a God who guides history and works towards a promised future. Eventually, a new heaven and a new earth will be realized. In that perspective, we search for the meaning of this earth and the land Israel.

Hendrik J. Koorevaar

Mart-Jan Paul

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Part I

Introduction to the Land

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Hendrik Koorevaar1

Chapter 1
Objective and Overview of the Study of the Earth and the Land

The importance of the earth as a residence for man through God’s creation is presented. After a semantic presentation about the locality, especially from Genesis, two places are brought forward as foundational: the garden of Eden, and the Land of Canaan. The final purpose of the study is to answer the question: Who is entitled to the earth?

1. Purpose

The purpose of this study is to research the value of the earth for mankind, from God’s light on this topic. The research on this topic in the Old Testament serves as a broad base for the study. The earth as a whole is of importance for mankind (Ps 115:16). Nevertheless, the Bible does focus on some specific places with special value. First is the garden of Eden, planted by God himself, for the first people (Gen 2:4-3:24). Man receives a task in the garden of Eden. Second, many centuries after the loss of Eden, after the flood, God again points to a special area, which is the land of Canaan. God points to this place when he calls Abraham to go there (Gen 12:1-3). The land Canaan would later be called the land Israel. What is God’s purpose with the special location of Eden and of the land of Canaan for the rest of the earth and the people that live there? That is what we want to investigate.

2. Historical-canonical approach

Several approaches to the texts of the Bible are possible. The historical-critical method especially investigates the genesis of texts, how the texts came to be. Over the last few decades, more emphasis has been placed on the literary aspects and the composition of the final Bible books. In this volume, we will especially focus on the final shape of text of the Bible. The discussion of the so-called introductory questions takes place somewhere else.

Furthermore, we also find it important to start with the manner of how the Bible books are arranged in the Hebrew canon, the TeNaKh; and we find it important to ← 15 | 16 → look at how the Bible books function as authoritative literature within the TeNaKh. This also means that there is an internal coherence in the message of the several parts. For this, we choose to use the expression ‘historical-canonical approach’. This approach is explained more elsewhere.2

During investigation into the order of the books according to the authoritative Mishna-tract Baba Bathra 14b-15a in the Talmud, the following results were derived.3 The canonical finalizers have purposefully given a final shape to the Old Testament by means of some interventions on different levels. From a literary point of view three main parts emerge: Genesis-Kings, Jeremiah-Malachi, Ruth-Chronicles. For the authors of the OT books two important literary principles were employed to highlight the main focus of their message: 1. The principle of beginning and ending; and 2. The principle of the center. These principles must have also been an instrument for the canonical finalizers of the OT to emphasize the main message of the canon as a whole. For the first principle, we can look at the texts at the beginning and ending of each of the three canon parts. In all those texts the theological subject of ‘exile and return’ emerges. For the second principle we can look at the central book in each of the three canon parts. Those are the books Joshua, Jonah and the Song of Songs. If we look at the center of each of those three books, our attention is drawn to ‘the house of God’. It is fascinating that both topics play an important role in this study in this book about ‘the Earth and the Land’.

The total canon of Old and New Testament, although very divers, can be seen as a content unity. The NT builds on the OT and is closed by the book of Revelation, in which a lot of events and images of the OT are included. This book ends with the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. In this way, Revelation at the end, together with Genesis at the beginning, form an inclusion for the entire OT and NT together. In that enclosure, a lot of attention is given to the earth.

3. The importance of locality for mankind

Locality is of great importance for mankind. Inevitably, he will have to live somewhere. Initially, there is where he lives: his dwelling place and his house (or tent). That house can stand alone, but can also be close to other houses. Then together, they can create a settlement, village or city. Such a collection of houses can be found in an area, in which man acts. Next, that area is subsequently part of a larger environment, that is often socially governed, through which that area gets ← 16 | 17 → a political aspect: a land, a state. Last of all, the earth as a whole is of importance. But when man looks at the earth, he also encounters other boundaries. When man looks upwards, he sees the heaven, the universe, elusively big (Ps 19). Locality remains indispensable for life, even if man is aware of the eternal greatness of reality. In a person’s awareness and consciousness, the starting point will always inevitably be himself and his place. He continually moves, border-crossing from little too big and back again. That is why it is crucial for man to understand God’s plan for man on earth. Why has God placed him on the earth? Does he deal with the earth as property of Someone else in a correct way?

4. Overview of the study

The chapters are written by several researchers from Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and the United States. The work consists of 14 chapters. Between I. Introduction, with one chapter and IV. Conclusion, with one chapter, the work consists of two main parts.

II. The Land in the Old Testament. In this main part with nine chapters we want to investigate the subject Earth and Land in (almost) the entire OT and not only in the familiar parts.4 Because of this, we allow less familiar texts to have their voice heard. In this way, we hope to provide a balanced overall picture.

III. The Land after the Old Testament. The question about the meaning of the earth in general and the land Israel or Palestine specifically is of importance for three religions. With their foundational books, they see themselves, in one way or another, as legitimate heirs of the Old Testament.

1. Judaism with the Talmud.

2. Christianity with the New Testament.

3. Islam with the Koran.

There is a tension between their claims on and their vision of the original land of Canaan, and these often contradict each other. We want to investigate each religion’s claims, and detect their strengths and weaknesses.

In this way, the study about the earth and the land is much more than an informative academic study. The purpose is to gain insight, within the present and controversial situation, into what God originally meant and what his purpose and ← 17 | 18 → perspective is with the Land Israel within the framework of the entire earth, as announced in the Old Testament.

5. Semantic considerations regarding the words ‘earth’ and ‘land’, with the emphasis on Genesis

According to Ottosson, the Hebrew word ’ere contains, from a semantic perspective, four elements.

For Christopher Wright, the word ’ere means both earth and land. He elaborates the theme ‘Earth’ in six parts and the theme ‘Land’ in four parts.6 It is about every area on earth where man finds himself, whether large or small.

In this paragraph of the introductory chapter, we want to limit ourselves to the book Genesis. The reason for this is the fact that the book Genesis is introductory to all subsequent Bible books. In this first book of the Old Testament the word land has a foundational function for all subsequent books. This is demonstrated by the fact that ’ere is immediately present in the first verse, Gen 1:1.

Furthermore, we also want to pay semantic attention to other concepts in Genesis that have to do with the phenomenon of localization. McKeown limits himself to three concepts within the Pentateuch. All of these can also be found in Genesis.

1. ’ere ‘ground’ (18:2), ‘territory: particular region or country’ (12:1,5, 17:8) ‘the earth as a whole’ (1:1, 2:1, 6:4, 11:1). If ’ere covers the entire earth, then it could include the water that is on the earth (for example 1:1-2), or only the dry part of the entire earth (1:10).

2. ’ăāmāh ‘habitable earth’ (12:3), ‘particular country’ (47:20) ‘soil or the ground’ (2:5,7,3:17,19,23, 4:2,3,10).

3. śādeh ‘particular country’ (14:7), ‘cultivated land’ (37:7).7

Subsequent to this, there is the question about smaller locations. A few examples: māqôm ‘place’ (12:6, 13:3,4, 22:9, 28:11,16,17,19; in 30:25 my place//my land; 32:3,31, 35:7). ‘îr ‘city’ (Gen 19:12). har ‘mountain’ (22:14; here it is even ← 18 | 19 → the mountain of Yhwh). naǎlāh ‘heritage’ (Gen 48:6). In the Primary History (1:1-11:26) the gan ‘garden’, ‘paradise’ (2:8-3:24) in Eden plays an important role. It is the center of the earth, and at the same time the starting point towards the rest of the earth. This garden also has a center, a tāwe ‘midst’, where the Tree of Life can be found (2:9). Later on, the author/editor of Genesis calls that garden in the framework of the History of the Covenant Fathers (11:27-50:26) ‘the garden of Yhwh’ (13:10). As a counterpart to Eden, two other countries are mentioned; the land Nod, east of Eden, where Cain settled after he killed his brother, before the flood, (4:16) and the land Shinar (10:9-10, 11:2), after the flood. Neither has a positive connotation. The land Shinar is connected to Nimrod, who established a kingdom as a hero hunter (10:8-12). In the History of the Covenant Fathers, attention is specifically focused on the land of Canaan. That is something positive, it is the land promised by God (12:1-7).

We can further narrow the localization down by asking the question about a particular living place, a city, a place name. In the Primary History, this is the city Enoch that Cain founded before the flood (4:17) and the city Babylon is striking after the flood (11:4-8, 10:10-11). Nimrod stood at the beginning of Babylon. Subsequent to Babylon, other cities are mentioned that Nimrod established. The city Babylon has a negative connotation. In the History of the Covenant Fathers, two cities outside the land of Canaan played a role at the beginning, i.e. Ur of the Chaldees and Haran (11:27-32, 12:1-5, 15:7). These were cities that had to be left behind. Within the land of Canaan several places are mentioned in which the covenant fathers settled for a short or long period of time, like Shechem (12:6),8 Bethel/Luz (12:8),9 Ephrath/Bethlehem (35:16-20, 48:7), Mamre/Kiriath (ha)Arba/Hebron/Machpelah (13:18),10 Gerar/Beersheba (21:14),11 and connected to that Beer-lahai-roi (16:14, 24:62, 25:11). A particular detail is one of the mountains in the land Moriah, where Abraham had to sacrifice his son Isaac (22:2). This mountain can also be called the mountain of Yhwh (22:14). There are some particulars. The messenger of God speaks on behalf of the God of Bethel (31:13). At two places a piece of land is bought: Machpelah at Hebron (23:1-20) and a piece of land east of Shechem, where Jacob built an altar which he called ‘God is the God of Israel’ (33:18-20). With both properties, the word śādeh field is used. It is important to know that the covenant fathers built an alter for Yhwh/God and called out to the name of Yhwh/God at many places where they lived. At Shechem ← 19 | 20 → (12:7 Abram, 33:18-20 Jacob), at Bethel (12:8 Abram, 13:3-4 Abram, 35:1-7 Jacob), at Hebron (13:18 Abram), on a mountain in the land Moriah (22:9 Abraham), Beersheba [21:33 (?) Abraham, 26:25 Isaac]. By building an altar for Yhwh and by calling out to his name, it seems like they are saying that Yhwh is putting his claim on those places through his servant and with that on the entire land of Canaan. At the same time, they are places where Yhwh appeared to them (nif. r’h): Shechem (12:7); Mamre/Hebron (17:1, 18:1); Gerar (26:1-2); Beersheba (26:23-24, 46:1-5); Bethel (35:1, 28:10-19, 35:9, 48:3). The text does not always explicitly say that God appeared at such a place, but then it does say that He speaks, whether in a vision or not (for example, in 13:14, 15:1). The appearing or speaking of God can be the reason to build an altar (for example in 12:7), or he appeared at an altar that is already built for his Name (for example in 46:1-5). Yet, not just one place, one center, is ultimately determined. Yhwh gave Abram the assignment to travel through the entire land (14:14-17). The focus is put on the entire land of Canaan.

6. Who is entitled to the earth?

In the previous paragraph, we paid semantic attention to the value of the earth. This theme, however, doesn’t stand on its own. This theme cannot be disconnected from mankind, who lives on the earth. In essence, the attitude of man is again and again an important key when we ask the above question about the earth. That is why it is inevitable to look at human behavior on earth. A few questions emerge. What right does man (generally) have to dwell on the earth, specifically on the place where he lives? Does he have any rights? Can he play those away? Can he get them back? These questions apply to mankind in general, to a nation as a whole and to every human being individually. What is God’s role? What responsibilities does man have regarding God? Those questions don’t arise randomly, they are derived from the events in Genesis. That is why we have to ask the question: Who is entitled to the Earth, who is entitled to the Land?

As we said before in the beginning of the paragraph, the book of Genesis at the beginning of the OT has a foundational function for all theological subjects. Anyone who investigates a subject in Genesis deals with a foundational topic for the entire OT.12 This also goes for our topic, the Earth, the Land.13 In the next chapters the above-mentioned questions, which have an ethical basis, will ← 20 | 21 → constantly appear in one way or another. In the final chapter. we hope to answer those questions in a conclusive way.


Koorevaar, Hendrik J. The Torah Model As the Original Macrostructure of the Hebrew Canon: a Critical Evaluation. Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 122 (2010) 64–80.

Koorevaar, Hendrik J. The Exile and Return Model: Proposal for the Original Macrostructure of the Hebrew Canon. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 57 (2014) 501–512.

Koorevaar, Hendrik J. 3. Ein strukturell-kanonischer Ansatz für eine Theologie des Alten Testaments als Ganzes. In Theologie des Alten Testaments: Die bleibende Botschaft der hebräischen Bibel, ed. Hendrik J. Koorevaar & Mart-Jan Paul, 63–92. Giessen: Brunnen, 2016.

Koorevaar, Hendrik J. & Julius Steinberg. 2. Methodik einer Theologie des Alten Testaments. In Theologie des Alten Testaments: Die bleibende Botschaft der hebräischen Bibel, ed. Hendrik J. Koorevaar & Mart-Jan Paul, 28–60. Giessen: Brunnen, 2016.

McKeown, James. Land, Fertility, Famine. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, ed. Desmond T. Alexander & David W. Baker, 487–491. Downers Grove, Leicester: InterVarsity, 2003.

Ottosson, Magnus. אֶרֶץ ’ere. In Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Volume I בָּדָד-אָב ‘ābh - bādhādh, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck & Helmer Ringgren, 388–405. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974.

Paul, Mart-Jan. 10. Der Besitz der Erde und das Land Kanaan. In Theologie des Alten Testaments: Die bleibende Botschaft der hebräischen Bibel, ed. Hendrik J. Koorevaar & Mart-Jan Paul, 271–300. Giessen: Brunnen, 2016.

Wright, Christopher J.H. אֶרֶץ. In New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis 1. Lexical Dictionary ז2458–1 זא, ed. Willem A. VanGemeren, 518–524. Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster, 1997.

1 Translation from Dutch into English by Paul-Mattias Reitsma.

2 See further elaboration H.J. Koorevaar & J. Steinberg, 2016, 44–55.

3 H.J. Koorevaar, 2014, 501–512. For a critical evaluation of another important order of the Hebrew canon, the so-called Torah-Model, see H.J. Koorevaar, 2010, 64–80.

4 The book Ruth isn’t dealt with directly. This book deals with the ‘voluntary’ exile due to famine and deals with the return to the land, after several disasters during the exile. See H.J. Koorevaar, 2016, 63–92 (76, 85, 90).

5 M. Ottosson, 1974, 388–405.

6 Chr. Wright, 1997, 518–524.

7 J. McKeown, 2003, 487.


ISBN (Hardcover)
2018 (Oktober)
Land of Israel Bible Jewish vision on the land of Israel Islamic vision on the land of Israel
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018., 405 pp.

Biographische Angaben

Hendrik J. Koorevaar (Band-Herausgeber:in) Mart-Jan Paul (Band-Herausgeber:in)

Hendrik J. Koorevaar served as Professor of Old Testament at the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit in Leuven (B). Mart-Jan Paul teaches Old Testament at the Christelijke Hogeschool Ede (NL) and is part-time Professor of Old Testament at the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit in Leuven.


Titel: The Earth and the Land