Does the Land of Israel Belong to the Jewish People?
This has been one of the most hot-button, emotive political topics since the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948. Emotions aside, we believe there is a solid biblical, historical, and legal case for Israel’s ownership of the land.
Historically, the Jewish people have inhabited the land of Israel for thousands of years. New archaeological discoveries confirm this fact every day. Arguably one of the greatest archaeological finds in Israel is the Dead Sea Scrolls, a compilation of scrolls and fragments of the Hebrew Scriptures found between 1947 and 1956 in the Judaean Desert near the Dead Sea. Jewish scribes copied these manuscripts between 250 BCE to 68 CE.1
Another example includes the 1993 discovery of the Tel Dan inscription found by Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran. The Aramaic inscription on the fragment reads, “king of Israel” and “king of the House of David,” evidencing the Jewish people’s history in Israel under King David.2These examples merely scratch the surface of archaeological evidence pertaining to Israel’s ancient history in the land.
Since 1406 BCE, the Jewish people have maintained a continuous presence in the Land of Israel. Though they were besieged and taken captive at different points throughout history, a remnant has always remained present in the land. This is true even after Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. A remnant of Jewish people remained in the land under Rome’s rule (through the fifth century), under Byzantine and Persian rule (through the seventh century), and then under Muslim rule up until the creation of the modern state of Israel.3
When the first wave of Aliyah began in the early 1800s, the new Jewish immigrants found an underpopulated and desolate desert. The ground was arid, and the population of the Holy Land was no more than 100,000.4 It appeared to be a backwater province forgotten by most—but a land that remained in the hearts of the Jewish people. Mark Twain, after his visit to the land in 1867, famously penned the following:
There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent. … There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. … These unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness…5
The new Jewish immigrants then legally purchased the land, mostly from absentee Arab landowners in Beirut and Damascus.6 The small number of Arabs who were displaced from the land sales were mostly migrants from Turkey, Greece, Algeria, and Egypt rather than native Arabs. ￼￼“The myth of a stable and settled Palestinian-Arab-Muslim population that had lived in villages and worked the land for centuries, only to be displaced by the Zionist invaders, is simply inconsistent with the recorded demographic data gathered not by the Jews or Zionists but rather by the local authorities themselves,” wrote former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz.
Next, both the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 provided the Jewish people with an international, legal claim to the Land of Israel. In the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Great Britain—who held legal control over the region of the Holy Land due to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire—officially recognized the Jewish people’s right to Israel as their national homeland.
Years later, after the Holocaust of World War II, the United Nations adopted Resolution 181, which called for the creation of an Arab state and a Jewish state in the region of the Holy Land. The Jewish people gladly accepted it, while the Arabs rejected it. Then on May 14, 1948, Israel officially announced its independence.
After Israel announced her statehood, five Arab armies—from Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Iraq—surrounded and attacked Israel. Israel defended her territory even though this victory came at a great cost. The fledgling Jewish state was outnumbered, had few weapons, and lost more than 6,373 lives. Yet they won, securing Israel’s War of Independence.
We interpret these events in light of God giving the Land to Israel as an eternal possession. He made this promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s descendants in a unilateral, unconditional covenant. In Genesis 17:8, God said, “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
In conclusion, the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel, the Jewish people, historically and legally. The archaeological data confirms that Jewish people had a continuous presence in the land from the time of Abraham and the Jewish people were given international legal recognition as a nation.
This does not mean that Israel should not include others as citizens, such as Palestinians, Druze, Bedouins, and Gentile Christians. The political situation is always concerning and is one of the reasons we continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem as requested by Scripture (Psalm 122:6).
Most significantly, according to the Bible, God promised the Land to Jacob’s descendants as an eternal possession and identified the national boundaries in Genesis 15:18-21. To this date, the Jewish people still live in only a portion of the parameters set by God himself. One day the Jewish people will occupy the fullness of these boundaries which we assume will happen at the Second Coming of Jesus, when he will reign as the Davidic King with Jerusalem as the location of his throne.
- Dr. Jeremy D. Lyon, “Dead Sea Scrolls—Timeless Treasures from Qumran,” AnswersinGenesis.org, October 1, 2012, https://answersingenesis.org/archaeology/dead-sea-scrolls-timeless-treasures/.
- “The Tel Dan Inscription: The First Historical Evidence of King David from the Bible,” Biblical Archaeology Society, May 2, 2019, https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/the-tel-dan-inscription-the-first-historical-evidence-of-the-king-david-bible-story/
- Randall Price, Fast Facts on the Middle East Conflict (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2003), 47.
- Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2002), 24.
- Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 485, 508, 520, 607–608.
- Dershowitz, 25.