A Grounded Theory on Israel’s Right to the Land

Grounded theory is an inductive approach to formulating a theory which starts with an examination of the data, detecting and categorizing what one observes, and letting the theory emerge. This is to be contrasted with an approach which sets out to prove a theory by examining and categorizing the data, the deductive approach.

I am experimenting with a grounded theory approach to studying the Bible, and I find it intensely interesting. In a recent and preliminary examination of multitudinous texts speaking of Israel’s relationship to the Land, three conclusions emerged I want to share with you for your thinking.

While I recognize that some, perhaps many of you reading this, will be indifferent to or even hostile to what I report, at least you should know what the Bible appears to be saying before you dismiss it. And if you are going to attempt to refute what I report here, at least get acquainted with the position before attempting to refute it.  And as for those of you amenable to what I will say, I urge you to get well-established not only in what you believe, but in the grounds for believing it.  How else can you be an able proponent of the position your profess?

So here are my preliminary findings.

First, God promised a body of land to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. From the very moment God called Abram (later, Abraham) to leave Ur of the Chaldeans as bearer of what would henceforth be called the Abrahamic Covenant, we find the promise of the Land to be at the forefront. “Get out of your country, and leave your father’s house, and go to the land I will show you” (Gen 12:1).  This promise was then extended to Isaac (Gn 26:3-4),  to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob (Gn 28:4, 13; 35:12), and also extended to their offspring, the Jewish people (Gn 48:4; 50:24). And although there are a cluster of benefits embodied in this, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Land is at the forefront (see, for example, Gn 13:14-15).

Second, not only did God promise the land to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the children of Israel, he bound Himself by an oath. Approximately 50 times we find the Land spoken of in such terms as “the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob” (Ex 6:8, for example). After riffling through so many of these verse I asked myself when God had sworn to give this Land to Abraham an his descendants, not simply promised it to them. The answer is to be found in what is termed “the covenant of the pieces” in Genesis 15, which we will treat at some length in our next study. This oath is actually made twice, once in Genesis 15 where the land is strongly emphasized, and then again in Genesis 22, on the occasion of the Binding of Isaac, when God reemphasizes his determination to fulfill the covenant he made with Abram, using the words, “by myself I have sworn,  because you have done this. . . .”

We ought not to miss the significance of both God’s promise and his oath. The writer to the Hebrews remarks on this very oath-taking of God, and tells us its significance:

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us (6:13-18).

Again, the writer is speaking of Genesis 22:16-18, God’s oath to Abraham at the Binding of Isaac. He stresses the unchangeable character of God’s purpose which God guarantees “by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie.” And as we have already made clear, the promise of the Land to Abraham’s descendants is a primary, one might even say, leading feature of the Abrahamic covenant. His purpose of giving this land to His people is “unchangeable,” or as Paul calls it in Ro 11:29, “irrevocable, for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”

Third, God said that in the end, even after exiling this people from that Land, he would bring us back. As Jeremiah puts it succinctly, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock” (Jer 31:10).  Many passages speak of this, among them, Deut 30:1-10; Isa 14:1-2; Jer 23:7-8; 29:10-14;  31:7-14; 32:36-41; Ezek 36:22-38; 37:21; and 39:25-29. I will be looking more fully at some of these regathering texts in a soon-coming lesson, and whether these regathering promises were exhausted in the return from the Babylonian Captivity.  But for now it is crucial to remember not only that God promised the Land to the children of Jacob, he guaranteed this promise with an oath, and he promised that at the end of days he will bring this people back to this Land in vindication of His own name.

These three strands of argument deserve to be studied and relied upon in discussions of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.  The Bible tells us a three-strand cord is not easily broken. In these three avenues of argument, we indeed have a three-strand cord. Rely upon it: it will hold you up.




About Stuart Dauermann

The blog of Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann, teacher, mentor, radio talk show host, denizen of Los Angeles, and a visionary with a long career in Messianic Jewish activism. You can hear Rabbi Dauermann as he hosts Shalom Talk, a weekly radio show, and even listen online at ShalomTalk.com. Rabbi Dauermann spends time traveling nationally and internationally, and throughout the year is in Israel as a Scholar in Residence at the MJTI Jerusalem Center. He has plenty to say about Jewish-Christian relations, the need for shalom in the world, and the agenda of Messiah, the Son of David.
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10 Responses to A Grounded Theory on Israel’s Right to the Land

  1. Richard Millman says:

    Shalom Stu;
    Your premise is essentially sound…that is, it’s hard to argue or contend with it as far as it goes. My only issue here would be found in your fourth paragraph where you cite Jacob speaking to Joseph:
    “…and I will give this Land also extended to their offspring, the Jewish people (Gn 48:4; 50:24).” It makes no mention of “jewish people” here so I am wondering how you are translating this or how do you drw the conclusion that this is about the “jewish people” when, up to this point and throughout Torah we are only reading/studying about a people called Israel and a Land called Israel?

    • Acknowledged that the term “Jewish people” is anachronistic here. The term “children of Israel” or “descendants of Israel” would be prefrable. However, I think most people join me in thinking of “children of Israel” and “descendants of Israel” as being synonymous with “Jews.”

    • “Jewish people” is simply the modern name for the Israelites/children of Israel in English speaking countries. In Russia, for example, Jews are called “Hebrews” (evreyi).

      In the Unites States, last century, Jews coming from other countries were identified as “Hebrews” in documents at Ellis Island.

      No matter what one calls them, Jews, Hebrews, Israelites, Children of Israel, etc, it’s all semantics – we are talking about the same people. One finds that people who believe in the Two House Theology find it objectionable to consider Jews as sole Israelites since they believe that Jewish people represent only the “Kingdom of Judah” (or tribe of Judah, depending on whose making the claim) and thus only a small fraction of “Israelites”.

      • Thanks, Gene. Most helpful. It should also be noted that some people might imagine that the Land is promised to ALL of Abraham’s descendants, but the text is clear that it is through Isaac that the promise comes. And some even imagine that Christians too inherit this land. With all due respect, “Not really.” The text is clear for those who will see it clearly.

  2. Pingback: Three reasons — Israel the land and the people « Living Journey

  3. David Negley says:

    “the Israel”? You might want to take another look at that title.

    Shabbat shalom!

  4. Walter Morgan says:

    Shalom Stuart;
    This is my first visit to this blog. This is great teaching that develops this Grounded Theory. I plan to study and apply it more. One thing that I hope it will help me with is the subject of “the woman” in Revelation 12 relating to Israel. I fully believe this is the correct application in the prophecy but I am finding that I am not able to articulate the facts. The reason that I feel stirred to deal with it is because I recently heard about a notion that somebody holds to that says that the woman is the church. That smacks of Replacement Theology and I feel the need to arm myself and speak against such lies. I don’t expect you to do my homework for me but could you present your insights and show how the scriptural dots connect on this please.

    • Whether this smacks of replacement theology or not is not the point, although it is a point. The point is that the interpretation makes no sense, and requires that we ignore and bend Scripture. A quick response. Here is the text.

      And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and jten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down la third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

      Let’s start near the end. Who is it who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron? Look also at Psalm 2:9 and Rev 19:5 and you will know that this is none other than Yeshua the Son of David. This child was caught up to God’s throne, which rationally is a clear reference to the resurrection. Now the woman who gives birth earlier in the text, gives birth to this One. Did the Church give birth to Jesus? Not by any rational construal! Also, this imagery of the woman surrounded by the sun, moon, and twelve stars evokes the memory of one of Joseph’s visions about Israel!

      I have difficulty imagining how someone can steer around the obvious and merchandise a different interpretation.

      That’s it for now!

      Thank you for your comment.

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