sermon: The Doctrine of Israel (Part One): Origins
How Israel Came to Be
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 02-Nov-19; Sermon #1514; 72 minutes
Archeology provides scholars with little evidence to corroborate God's Word regarding the Israelite civilization. The reasons are: (1.) Because of assiduously following the Second Commandment, Jacob's descendants did not display a penchant for leaving enduring material artifacts. (2.) Because God won Israel's battles, the conquest of Canaan was not as destructive as scholars mistakenly assume; by and large, God preserved intact the infrastructure of the Canaanite culture (homes, wells, towns, etc.) (3.) Because of Israel's disobedience, God, using the Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman armies, thoroughly wiped out material artifacts of the Israelite civilization. The Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32) provides God's prognostication as to the penalties of rejecting the covenant, outlining how God deals with a people who exhibit an inconsistent relationship with their Creator. If the Israelites would have kept God's Commandments, their civilization would have served as a model to all the Gentiles. Because Abraham trusted God, his physical progeny through Isaac and Jacob have enjoyed unprecedented physical blessings to this day. Ezekiel 16:3 does not contradict the biblical account of the founding of Israel: The focus of Ezekiel's comments is Jerusalem, which had by his day grown so corrupt that its people spiritually resembled more the pagan Canaanite founders of the city (the Jebusites) than the faithful Abraham.
I want to begin with a quotation from a woman named Ann E Killebrew. She is a professor at Penn State University, and this quotation comes from her article, which is titled, "The Emergence of Ancient Israel: The Social Boundaries of a Mixed Multitude in Canaan." Here is her quotation from the introduction to that article.
The debate surrounding the identity and origins of ancient Israel represent one of the most contentious chapters in the history of archaeological and biblical research. Over the past 80 years, countless books, articles, and dissertations have appeared based on renewed analyses of the biblical texts and the constant influx of new primary data from archaeological excavations and surveys. In recent decades, many of these studies have attempted cross-disciplinary approaches that adapted and adopted methodologies and models from the fields of sociology, anthropology, and ethnography. The result is a plethora of publications and the development of theories regarding the origins and process of formation of ancient Israel.
Just a little while later, she goes on to say, "Most views regarding the emergence of ancient Israel fall into the category of one of four general approaches: conquest, peaceful infiltration, social revolution, or pastoral Canaanite theories."
I want to go through these four things very quickly so you understand how people in academia think this is the way Israel began. The conquest model generally follows the biblical narrative, especially Joshua 1-12 where the Israelites come into the land, they take Jericho, they have the defeat at Ai, and then they defeat Ai. Then they go around to various places and they conquer here, conquer there, fail to conquer these other places. God puts it all out there very clearly in those first twelve chapters of Joshua.
However, most critical scholars today claim this view has been, their words, "thoroughly discredited." The big thing there is that modern scholars place the entry of Israel into Canaan in the late 13th century BC. So it is 12-whatever that they believe that they came in. But if you scoot it back a few hundred years, the evidence fits better for a late 15th century. So two hundred years or so earlier, you go and find where the cities that are mentioned in Joshua 1-12. Those that are burned, are burned and those who that were supposed to stay just fine, stay just fine. But they do not think that, they think it happened during the reign of Ramses II of Egypt. That is the 13th century. That was the conquest model, which has, in their words, been thoroughly discredited.
The peaceful infiltration model posits that Israel originated from pastoralists, bands of pastoralists, that migrated into the Western Highlands through Transjordan. So they came over from Jordan, went down to the Jordan River, came up onto the highlands of Canaan, and that is where they had their flocks and herds, and they eventually then settled down in what they call the Western Highlands. Then they established villages and, for the most part, this was a very prolonged and peaceful process according to this particular theory. Of course, military conflicts arose as the highland population grew and expanded in its territory, forcing out the people who were there. That was the peaceful filtration model.
The third approach is social revolution, and it claims that the Israelites were just Canaanites. That is, they had always lived in Canaan. But the problem was that they were serfs under a Canaanite feudal system. So there were lords and they owned all the land and the Israelites were really just Canaanites who lived on these lands, and they decided that they had had enough of oppression. They revolted against their Canaanite overlords and became what is called in scholar-speak apiru, or habiru. You can see it both ways. It is either a-p-i-r-u or h-a-b-i-r-u. That is basically a word for outlaws. So they became outlaws, apiru, and these outlaw forces later joined forces with nomads from the desert who were infiltrating the land just about the same time and they just eventually took over from these Canaanite overlords. That is the social revolution one.
Finally, number four there is the pastoral Canaanite theory, also called the pastoral sedentarisation model. They just love to use big words to confuse us people who do not know all these things. Basically, how they settled down. It is the the pastoral sedentarisation model. That is how they settle down. And this is an offshoot of the peaceful infiltration model but it has a little bit different detail here and there. This view holds that native Canaanites who roamed the Western Highlands of Canaan with their flocks and their herds, simply just settled down. They established the villages and became the nucleus for what later became Israel. So again, these were just Canaanites, but in this case, they had always lived there, they had always had their flocks and their herds, and they went up and down in the seasons, however they needed to go. And then finally they just started making villages and settled down.
One last thing about that pastoral Canaanite theory is that they welcomed other ethnic groups into their villages, in their region there, and they became a separate people and eventually established their own identity with all this mix of various ethnic groups.
Of course, there is a fifth one and that is the truth and we know where that could be found—within the pages of the Bible. We know that the Bible contains the truth about Israel's origins and settling in Canaan, and God puts it all out there very clearly. There is not much to really discuss there, but scholars doubt the Bible's veracity. They doubt its historicity. They think it is just a bunch of myths and legends and written long afterward and people made up stories to tell their children and grandchildren how Israel began. Then they, of course, put a layer of religiosity on top of it, which eventually becomes what we think of as the religion of the Bible. That is how the scholars think that it all happened. The reason why they distrust the Bible's veracity is because they cannot find enough artifacts, material artifacts in the ground to verify what it says so they think that it has just all been made up because they cannot find anything in the ground in all their archaeological digs that say Israel was here. Now, why is that? Why cannot they find enough artifacts? Well, another four quick points here.
1) The Ten Commandments are to blame, specifically the second commandment. What does the second commandment say? You are to not make any images of any likeness of anything in heaven above on, the earth beneath, and the waters under the earth, and cannot do any of that under the second commandment.
So the Israelites took that literally, not just in terms of Gods, but in terms of just about everything. All of the things that they made were very plain because they did not want to go against the second commandment. The images that archaeologists find in the land of Canaan are mostly Canaanite deities because the Canaanites did not have the second commandment. Canaanites did not care about all that. They would make their idols and they would make them look like women. They would make them look like men. They make them look like fish. They would make them look like anything and they worshipped them.
In addition, unlike the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the Hittites, and all the big cultures of that time, the Israelites did not erect many monuments. You go to the Middle East and you cannot help but stumble over a monument from some ancient empire, but not Israel. Israel did not do that. Part of this was the second commandment. They did not make monuments that had big pictures on them or were shaped in the form of a man or whatever.
When they made a monument, do you know what they made? They erected an altar and they erected an altar of uncut stones. So what happens to an altar of uncut stones after a few years? It becomes a wall. It becomes a building. Somebody does something with it because, hey, here is a fresh stone. We can do with it what we want. And so all of those monuments were taken away. What did they do when they crossed the river? They put twelve stones in the river and what is going to happen over time? It is just going to be part of the river bottom. If not, somebody is going go out there in the river and take it and use it in his house or use it as a fence. So Israelite things of that nature cannot be found.
2) As I kind of hinted before, the conquest of Canaan under Joshua was not as destructive as most people think. Most people believe that the Israelites came in and they burned just every city in the land and you should be able to see all that destruction, at least some remnant of it.
But if you go in and look to see which cities were burned and which we are not burned, it actually comes out to just about a handful of cities that were actually burned. Of course, Jericho was the big one that was burned to the ground and everything was dedicated to God and, of course, we have this story of Achan and all that. So Jericho was a huge, massive destruction, but many of the other cities were not. Let us go to Deuteronomy 6. I want you to see here what God said would happen as they went into the land.
Deuteronomy 6:10-12 "So it shall be when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells, which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage."
He is telling them here, you are going to go into the land and I am going to give you everything that the Canaanites have built, except for a few cities that I will tell you to burn. Let us see what happened. Let us go to Joshua the 24th chapter. Joshua is telling Israel about what had happened as he is about to die. So we get a before and after here.
Joshua 24:11-13 'Then you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho. And the men of Jericho fought against you—also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I delivered them into your hand. I sent the hornet before you which drove them out from before you, also the two kings of the Amorites, but not with your sword or with your bow. I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.'
When Israel went in there, they took over what the Canaanites and the Hittites and all the rest here had built up before them. They took over their vineyards, which were growing nice grapes, and they took over their olive groves, and they took over their wells. And they, of course, took over their cities and their houses and all those things. So when people dig up remnants of the past at that time, they find Canaanite things, not Israelite things, because that is what God did. He gave them their enemies' structure—the whole structure of the nation. So we can say early "Israelite" architecture is actually borrowed from the Canaanites. It is actually Canaanite architectures.
A truly Israelite style did not come into being until the time of David and Solomon once the kingdom was established. And you know what? Archaeologists find all kinds of things that land in that period of time, Iron Age Israel, that they say this must be from the kingdom of David or Solomon, and this is Israelite. But until that time, they do not because Israel had no architecture up until that point. All their architecture was really Canaanite. In fact, the Israelites' greatest original architecture was a tent. We call it the Tabernacle and, of course, tents disintegrate.
3) On the other hand, God's wrath against Israel's unfaithfulness both in 722 through 20 with Israel and in 585, 586, 587 there with Judah, produced near total destruction. It wiped Israel and Judah from the map. Assyria, who conquered Israel, and Babylon, who conquered Judah, practiced total war, that is, eradication on rebellious client-kingdoms. That is what they were. They were client- kingdoms of those great empires and they were supposed to stay peaceful and keep order and everything in their lands for the Assyrians, or for the Babylonians.
But you go back and look in there you find out the Israelites rebelled, the Judahites rebelled. And what did they do? They said, "Don't do that. We're going to come in and we are going to erase you off the face of the earth." And they rebelled some more and the king would say, "Uh uh, don't do that. I'm warning you." And then a few years later, they would rebel again and they said, "OK, we warned you," and they would come in and they would just put to fire city after city after city, killing the inhabitants, taking a lot of captives, and sending them into exile, back to areas that they had in other parts of the world, ready for settling, where they had done that to other people.
That is why when the Babylonians came in, they took the Jews and they put them over there by the River Chebar and they sent in other people into the land of Israel who became the Samaritans because they were just moving people all over the place to try to settle them down and keep them from rebelling. After all this was over, there was little left to indicate that Israel or Judah had ever been there.
Let us go to II Kings 17. This is Israel. We will read a few verses here.
II Kings 17:5-6 Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and by the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the city of the Medes.
II Kings 17:18 Therefore, the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone.
Let us go to chapter 25, where we get a little bit of a narrative of the Babylonians and their invasion of Judah.
II Kings 25:1-3Now it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and encamped against it; and they built a siege wall against it all around. So the city was besieged until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine had become so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.
II Kings 25:8-16 And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month (which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the Lord and the king's house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls of Jerusalem all around. Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive the rest of the people who remained in the city and the defectors who had deserted to the king of Babylon, with the rest of the multitude. But the captain of the guard left some of the poor of the land as vinedressers and farmers. The bronze pillars that were in the house of the Lord, and the carts and the bronze Sea that were in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried their bronze to Babylon. They also took away the pots, the shovels, the trimmers, the spoons, and all the bronze utensils with which the priest ministered. The fire pans and the basins, the things made with solid gold and solid silver, the captain of the guard took away. The two pillars, one Sea, and the carts, which Solomon had made for the house of the Lord, the bronze of all these articles was beyond measure.
You see what they did? They came in. They destroyed. They took away anything valuable. They took away the people and left just a few people that were agrarian in nature. And the agrarian people do not leave a whole lot behind them. So essentially Judah was gone, and nobody could tell that they had been there.
4) In the intervening time between 585 BC and today, nations and empires have erased or repurposed most of the remaining material artifacts and imposed their own marks on the land. The land bridge that runs between Africa and Asia, and you could even say that it brings Europe into play as well, that has been hotly contested by many kingdoms and empires and nations and even religions over the past many centuries. It has been almost incessantly built, destroyed, and rebuilt, and those stones that are there have been used in Israelite construction and maybe Judahite construction and then in Babylonian Persian, Greek, Roman construction.
Then you go into the time of the other kingdoms that came through there. They could have been used in Arab things, they could have been used in Muslim things, could have been used in Catholic buildings, even Crusader buildings and things like that that were constructed over the years. All those stones and buildings and everything just get reused and a new stamp is put on them and you cannot tell from the way things are that it ever had been perhaps a stone in the Temple of Jerusalem. You just do not know, because now it is a cathedral, or now it is something else. You know, somebody's tomb or a house. So those artifacts just are not there. Any kind of pristine, unambiguous, or unchallenged artifacts are almost impossible to find. You just cannot tell that they were ever Israelite.
Today's sermon begins a new series I am starting on Israel as a topic, and I am attempting to flesh out our teaching on Israel, our doctrine, if you will, and I will begin today with the origins of Israel, as the Bible tells us in its narrative. And that is the only source that matters to us—God's Word—which provides the true understanding of God's creation of Israel as a people and then as a nation.
We know, because we have studied the Bible, that Israel plays a huge role in God's plan, His purpose for all mankind. But it is not one of those things where it is always a good thing. The Israelites have always been up and down with God. They more often have been down rather than up, it seems. They have had both positive and negative impacts on God's plan, and hopefully as we go through this we will be able to see some of those things. But I want to start today with the biblical origins of the people of Israel.
If you will, let us go back to the book of Deuteronomy. We are going to start in chapter 31 and we will read verses 15-22. This is a section of Scripture that leads up to Moses composing the Song of Moses in chapter 32. But what we get in chapter 31 is God giving us His reasons for inspiring the song of Moses that He is going to give Moses in the next chapter. What we have here is God setting down, "Okay, I'm going to tell you what you're going to do and I want this to be a testimony against you because you're going to forget. But this song will always be here because I'm going to make sure it remains. It gets put in My Book."
Deuteronomy 31:15-22 Now, the Lord appeared at the tabernacle in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood above the door of the tabernacle. And the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, 'Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?' And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods. Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant. Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them." Therefore, Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the children of Israel.
God here is saying, "Okay, I'm going to lay it all out for you. I'm going to tell you exactly what you're going to do because I know you. I know your heart. I know the inclination of your behavior." He wanted a prophetic witness against them and so He gave the prophecy, which we know as the Song of Moses, to Moses so that it would be there, and it would condemn them essentially is the way it would work out. He knew that they were rebellious and carnal and would forsake Him as soon as possible to follow other gods that were less demanding of them and more exciting.
I just want to mention this. I will read to you John 2:23-25 just as a kind of a "wow, this is neat," because remember who was speaking to them there and saying all this against them. But in verse 23 (this was told to us at the Feast by my dad), this is Jesus Christ. The same person.
John 2:23-25 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. [Did He not do that in the wilderness?] But Jesus did not commit himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
So the same God, two different situations, but similar in many ways, too. He said, "Uh uh, I know what you're going to do and I'm not going to commit myself to you guys again. Not this way." The people He was talking to there in John 2 were the descendants of the same ones that heard the Song of Moses back in Deuteronomy 32. So He said, "I know what's in you. I'm not going to commit Myself to you. I'm not going to make a faction here among you. That's not the way I'm going to be. This is different. I'm changing my tone here a little bit, and we will go a different way." He tells them that throughout all the gospels throughout His whole ministry. He tells them parables that they figure out right away are about them, and they come out the bad guy. And so, in the same way He is making a witness against them, just as he did back here in Deuteronomy 31 and 32.
Now, let us read a long portion of the Song of Moses so we get the flavor of the relationship between God and Israel. So we will start in verse 1.
Deuteronomy 32:1-29 "Give ear, O heavens and I will speak; and hear O earth, the words of my mouth. [Now notice who he is talking to here. He is talking globally, universally here.] Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass. For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He. [So he establishes right away that God is perfect. He is not the one to blame here. He tells it like it is. He is perfectly just and righteous in everything that He does.] They have corrupted themselves; they are not His children, because of their blemish: A perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus deal with the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you? Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you: When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. [Here in this little paragraph, He is telling them how much He loved them, that they were a special people to Him. He had bent over backwards to make sure they got first dibs on everything. So He is letting them know that they had it pretty good.] He found him [Israel] in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple [or pupil] of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so the Lord alone led him, and there was no foreign God with him. He made him ride in the heights of the earth, that he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock; curds from the cattle, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs; and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the choicest wheat; and you drank wine, the blood of the grapes. But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; you grew fat, you grew thick, you grew obese! Then he forsook God who made him, and scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods they did not know, to new gods, new arrivals that your fathers did not fear. Of the Rock who begot you, you were unmindful, and have forgotten the God who fathered you. And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters. And He said, 'I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith. They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; they have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in My anger, and shall burn to the lowest hell; it shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundation of the mountains. [He is really hot here. He is enraged.] I will heap disasters upon them; I will spend My arrows upon them. They shall be wasted with hunger, devoured by pestilence and bitter destruction; I will also send against them the teeth of beasts, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword shall destroy outside; there shall be terror within for the young man and virgin, the nursing child with the man of gray hairs. I would have said, "I will dash them in pieces, I will make the memory of them to cease from among men," had I not feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversary should misunderstand, lest they should say, "Our hand is high; and it is not the Lord who has done all this."' "For they are a nation void of counsel, nor is there any understanding in them. Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!"
Deuteronomy 32:36-43 "For the Lord will judge His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free. He will say: "Where are their gods, the rock in which they sought refuge? Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise and help you, and be your refuge. Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand. For I raise My hand to heaven, and say, "As I live forever, if I whet my glittering sword, and My hand takes hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to My enemies, and repay those who hate Me. I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword shall devour flesh, with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the heads of the leaders of the enemy."' Rejoice, O Gentiles, with this people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries. He will provide atonement for His land and His people."
Here we have God providing in the Song of Moses an overall picture of His dealings with Israel—from beginning to end. It is a panorama, if you will, of Israel's history. So we see the bloom of first love, along with God's tender care and His generous providence of them—till they got fat. And then they quickly forsake Him, provoking Him to anger to the point of nearly destroying them and sending the remnant away. He prophesies here that He will at one point deliver them in the end from their enemies, and He will provide atonement for them. So He is never giving up on them entirely.
But there is going to be a stretch where they are going to seem like enemies, and it is not because of God. It is because of their forsaking Him at the very first moment where they started feeling like they were something, that they were strong and they could do it all on their own.
We see that from the very beginning we have an up and down relationship between Israel and God. God always worked for their good. He never did anything to harm them unless they needed it, unless they needed the correction. But they on their side always vacillated. They were never fully loyal to Him. They always ultimately chose to satisfy themselves and not what God had given them to do so.
What we have here in Israel and God's relationship, a kind of microcosm of God's relationship with all humanity, which we see in Romans 1:18-25. I will not go there, but we have gone over that a lot. God gives them over at a certain point to their own devices and lets them just go and corrupt themselves. And that is what He eventually does with Israel too.
Even in their unique relationship with God, as is shown in Amos 3:2, "Only you, of all the families of the earth, have I known," it was not enough. It was not enough for Israel. It was not enough even to make them a righteous people. Just because God had made a covenant with them does not necessarily mean that what was produced was what He wanted produced. It was not enough. Receiving the best and most from God, short of pouring out His Spirit upon them, could not produce a faithful, righteous people that He desired.
We could go to Romans 9, the first five verses. Paul starts out his argument there with a look at what was given to Israel. You know, they had the law and they had the Temple and all the things of the Temple and they, of course, had God's love and care, and they still messed up. It is a story that we need to understand because this is the way of all mankind. So Israel, whom God desired to be a model nation as a witness to the Gentiles, which He says in Deuteronomy 4:5-6, which I want to read because this becomes important later.
Deuteronomy 4:5-6 "Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me [Moses speaking], that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'
So God had set them up to go into the land and behave like good little Israelites who are under the Old Covenant and the people would marvel and say, "Wow, this must be a great people because they have such good laws and good governance and they're happy, and they're fruitful and they have got more than enough for themselves and they must be therefore a very wise and understanding people. They must have it all together that God wanted them to be a model nation."
Now we know that this will not happen until the Millennium. But God is showing that this is what His purpose has been all along. And He shows, through the history of Israel, that they just could not do it. They did not have the right spirit to accomplish that. And what did they do? They ended up doing the exact opposite. They became a model of what not to do, even though God's loving blessings and care were being poured out abundantly on them. I just want to read this verse in Deuteronomy 7.
Deuteronomy 7:13 And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your land, your grain, your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you.
He was all in! He was willing to give them whatever they needed, short of pouring out His Spirit upon them, and it was not enough. But it is not doomed. They are not doomed. We know in Romans 11:26 that Paul writes that "all Israel will be saved." Eventually. It is going to take the time of the Millennium and the White Throne judgment period to finally turn them around.
Let us go to Isaiah 51 please. Now what we have here is the Bible's unequivocal statement about the origins of His people and also, by the way, it is also the origins of His spiritual people. Because as we will see here, the man who is spoken of here is the father of the faithful just as he was the father of Israel.
Isaiah 51:1-2 "Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness [that would be you and me], you who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him."
This is the origins of Israel, in the man Abraham with his wife, Sarah. You cannot start any smaller than that—this one man and his wife, and they were both people of great character. That does not mean they did not make mistakes. The Bible records those too. But they were the perfect people for God to begin His nation with.
We could say that we could go all the way back, to let us say, Seth, to trace the origins of Israel. But that is true on a physical basis. It would also be true on a spiritual basis, but only in part, because at some point there was a break in the righteousness of that line. That was the line through which the seed of the woman would be called. But not all of those people were necessarily righteous people. Let us just go to Joshua 24 where Joshua says something very significant in the first couple verses here.
Joshua 24:2-4 And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord God of Israel: 'Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the river in old times; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River [Euphrates], led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountains of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.'
So we have the astounding fact that Abraham was not always righteous. He worshipped other gods with his father in Ur of the Chaldees and who knows how far back along that line that came down from Shem and his children, that the forsaking of God occurred. We do not know, it could have been several hundred years later. I do not know. But what we can say is that when God called Abraham he was, as we would say today, called out of this world. He was not called, as a second, third, or fourth generation Christian, as we might say. No, he was called out of the world. He was a pagan. He worshipped other gods. The physical descent from Seth and Noah and Shem was there, but spiritually, that linkage had been snapped at some point. And those people in that line had started to worship other gods.
So with Abraham, God started fresh. He saw something in Abraham that He could make use of. And certainly, as Isaiah 51 describes him, he was a rock. He was a quarry from which he could carve out a nation of his own. And that is very much like God. I mean, Christ is our rock, right? He saw something in Abraham that He really liked, and He knew that He could found a nation upon that man.
Let us go back to Genesis the 12th chapter. We were here quite a bit when my dad was giving the sermons on the covenants and he spent a long time on the "I will's" in this particular passage.
Genesis 12:1-4 Now the Lord said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
From the very beginning, from his first calling of Abraham, God's intent was very clear. The first of these "I will's" says, without a doubt, that He would, beginning with this man Abram, create a nation. "I will make you a great nation." That is what He was planning on doing. And we know that God has the power and sovereignty to make all these intentions come to pass.
So when He said, I will do this, I will do that, I will do this other thing, and these other three or four other things, then they were going to be done. He would then make him a great nation. He would bless him and provide him a great reputation, meaning, I will make your name great so that he would be a blessing to other people. And ultimately, this final one, "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" means that He will bring Messiah from him and all the good that that would do for the world.
So these were His aims and His intentions. He looked down, He saw Abraham, "That's My guy." And He said, "Okay, My guy, you're going to do all this. You're the starting point for all this because I've seen in you something that I like and something that I could work with." Maybe that is a better way to put it. But notice Abram's response. I think this was one of the things that God really saw. It says, "So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken to him." He just picked up and went. "Okay, I'll go to some place I've never heard of. I'll take that treacherous trip and I'll go and I'll do all this. Fine."
To me, it is one of the Bible's most concise statements of man's response to Him, or what it should be. He did it. God said it, he did it. Abraham, or Abram, was an obedient man and that was something that God liked. That he would see God, he would respect God, he would honor God, and if God said something, he would do it. He was not one necessarily to be like a lawyer or whatever and find some loopholes for not doing it, or do it his own way. Although he did deal with him a little bit on the matter of Sodom. But you know, that just shows his quality of character too, that he was a man who respected life and righteous people, and he went to bat for them.
This was the first time that he did that and he later did it again when God tested him over Isaac, which was an even greater, more poignant request, if you will, that he should go kill his only son—the son of promise. And what did he do? He did it. I am sure he had a lot going on inside. The turmoil was obviously there. But God said, "Hey, take your son to Mount Moriah and slit his throat." And so he said, "Sarah will be back in a couple days." And he went. Let us go to Genesis 22. We know what happened. He went up on the mountain. Isaac went with him and he put him on the altar there and. . .
Genesis 22:11-12 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham Abraham!" So he said, "Here I am." And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."
Genesis 22:15-18 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said, "By Myself, I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying, I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. [And then He repeats] In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
He saw in Abraham an obedient man that was willing to do whatever He asked of him. And so we see then, in Genesis 18, when he is intervening for Sodom that this pops out again, the reason why He had called him.
Genesis 18:16-19 Then the men [These were the angels.] rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way. And the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? [Look at verse 19 very closely.] For I have known him [I have made a relationship with him.], in order [for that, for the reasons of] that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him."
He called Abraham because he knew that Abraham was the kind of man that would not only obey him, but teach his children how to obey God too. This is a direct statement from God that He called and cultivated Abraham so that he would teach his children God's ways. In a way, we could say that Abraham was uniquely qualified. He had some sort of "I don't know what" it is. In French, they would say, je nais se quois—I do not know. Whatever it was that was in him that was able to pass these things on. All I can say is that his word and example were so powerful that, like a mother duck or whatever, he imprinted on his children a certain character, a certain personality, a certain way. I just do not know how to say this.
He passed on this notion of following God, if only in a surface way, because we know Israelites have been very bad at that. But they still have this idea that they are a special people who will follow God. At least in name, the Israelites and the Jews have generally adhered to the biblical religions—Judaism and Christianity, (not necessarily Islam because that is not really a biblical religion.) But at least they have followed them in their legal and moral standards to a point. I am not saying they were perfect at it, but Abraham had some way of imprinting on his descendants that there is a God and we should serve that God. Most of time they have done their own thing, but they have at least done lip service to the God of Israel.
Because of that general adherence to God's standards, God has been able to work out His plan up to this point. I mean, think about the great gap between the time the Babylonians came, wiped Judah off the face of the earth, and they were sent into exile, and when Jesus Christ came. That was about 500 or so years. But the Jews kept the traditions of their fathers for that long a period of time so that when Jesus Christ came during the time of the Roman Empire, there was a nation in which He could be born that kept those traditions. They were not right by any means. They had access to the Old Testament, but they had really messed things up with their traditions. But it was enough that God could bring Jesus Christ into His own, among His own people, the Jews, and have His ministry and do all those things that He needed to fulfill along the way of God's plan. That idea goes straight back to Abraham—that he would teach his children to follow God.
Let us go to Genesis 26. In Genesis 21, God had said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called." Now we have this time when Abraham is dead and Isaac is now the patriarch.
Genesis 26:2-5 Then the Lord appeared to him [that is, Isaac] and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. [Notice verse 5]; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws."
He repeats the same promises to Isaac as He had given to Abraham, and He says, "I'm doing this because of Abraham and his faithfulness and obedience to Me." All these promises are based on the fact that Abraham obeyed God. He was the one that was the founder of the nation among men. And he mentions here that it is not just that he obeyed Him when he and God had face to face meetings, but also he kept His charge, it says here. That is, any kind of obligation or duty that God gave him, he did it. He kept His commandments, His statutes, and His laws, the whole kit and caboodle. He left nothing out. Abraham followed God fully, completely, without question. He left nothing out, fulfilling everything that God had required of him. And I think to call him faithful Abraham is an understatement. I think it is becoming very clear why God built the nation of Israel on father Abraham and no one else.
Let us move to Genesis 28. God makes similar promises to Jacob. Starting in Verse 10.
Genesis 28:10-14 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he laid down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: "I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Genesis 25:9-12 Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, "Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name." So He called his name Israel. Also God said to him: "I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I will give this land."
Genesis 46:1-4 So Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba [This is where he is coming down to Egypt.], and offered sacrifices to the God of his father, Isaac. Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, "Jacob, Jacob!" And he said, "Here I am." So He said," I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes."
These are the promises that God made to Jacob, or Israel, based on the faithfulness of both Abraham and Isaac, because Isaac had proven himself to be faithful just like Abraham had. And in addition, these were now going to be based, if you caught it in a couple of these, on the changed character of Jacob because when God gave him the name Israel, it denoted that Jacob's character had changed to something that was worthy.
The name Israel has been interpreted by different scholars as something like "prince with God." "He strives with God." "Let God rule" or even "God strives" because that is actually how it looks in Hebrew. You just put that up there in Hebrew, and the speaker would say, "That's 'God strives.'" But God defines it as "you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed." The idea is that Jacob was a fighter. He struggled. He fought. But he was also a winner. He even fought and wrestled with God and would not let go until he received a blessing. That was the kind of man he was. "If I'm going to stay up all night wrestling, I'm not going to stop until you give me something that I can appreciate." And so he would always strive, and he would come out on top. He was a dogged, determined, never-say-die kind of guy.
So upon the lives and upon the character of these three patriarchs, a nation slowly began to grow in Egypt. First as a free, even favored people under Pharaoh there, living in the best of the land in Goshen. But then later, as a new dynasty came in, they were slaves. And these people, this nation, inherited some of their ancestors qualities and, unfortunately, the ones that seem to come out the most are Jacob's not-so-good pre-conversion ones rather than Abraham's and Isaac's faithfulness.
But God's promises are sure, and in time He brought them into the land. He redeemed them from Egypt, brought them through the wilderness, and brought them into the Land of Promise. And the tribes began a nation and then, after about 400 years, they became a kingdom under Saul, and then David, and then those that came after him.
Let us go to Deuteronomy 7 as we wind this up. We will read the first eight verses. This is when they are about to go into the land and Moses is giving them a pep talk about what is going to happen.
Deuteronomy 7:1-8 "When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire. For you are a holy [or a set apart] people to the Lord your God; the Lord Your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you, nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh King of Egypt."
God here is telling them the way it was going to be. They were going to go into the land and that He would use them as His avenging army to punish the people of the land for all of their wickedness and their horrible sins—what God calls in Genesis 15:16, the iniquity of the Amorites. Remember when He talked to Abraham at that time, 400 years before, the iniquity of the Amorites had not fully been completed. But now it had and He would use Israelites, the Israelite armies, to punish them.
Of course, throughout this passage which we just read, He specifically forbids them to show them any mercy or they were not to make any covenants with them, which they did, and was one of their first big mistakes, nor were they supposed to intermarry with them because they would turn Israel and make them forsake the God of Abraham, and they would eventually be committing the same kind of abominations that He was punishing the Amorites for.
Gods reminds them, then, after saying this, that they were a special treasure to Him. It was like the most expensive thing that one would have in the house, and you put it on the mantel or in some prominent place, this was how they were to Him. And He loved them. That is why they were such a holy people—special set-apart people—because He loved them. He was showing them great love and kindness in what He was doing, more than any other people on the face of the earth. He also, of course, promised Abraham that He would do this, and He keeps His promises when He makes them. So no other people on the face of the earth, as Amos 3:2 says, were like the Israelites that had a very special relationship with God and from Him they received His full attention and blessing.
As we saw earlier, they were going to go into the world as His people bearing His name. They were the people of God, and they were to do everything with honor and obedience to God, because they were supposed to display to the whole world how God's people live to attract them, to bring them in.
Before we conclude, I want to go to Ezekiel 16. I want to just go over this before we finish so we understand that this is not a contradiction.
Ezekiel 16:1-3 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, "Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, and say, 'Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: "Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite."
People would read this and they would think that it undermines the history that was shown back in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy about how what the origins of the land of Israel actually were. Some say it is a clear contradiction of Israel's supposed origins, but I want you to notice something here.
First, note that God is addressing Jerusalem, not the nation of Israel, although that could be maybe expanded out to it. But He is specifically addressing Jerusalem.
Now, what do you know about Jerusalem? That Jerusalem was not built by the Israelites. They captured it from the Jebusites. Is that not mentioned here? Your father was an Amorite and the Jebusites were Amorites. So who built Jerusalem? What was the founding of Jerusalem? Well, obviously, that was an Amorite city, and the Hittites were the overlords of the area and so they also had a hand in the founding of Jerusalem, the city. But God uses this in a spiritual way.
The second thing is notice that verse 2 establishes that this chapter reveals Judah's, or Jerusalem's, spiritual state where it says, "Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations," her sins, her spiritual condition. So this is not necessarily about anything physical, not the physical origins of the nations. It is about Judah and specifically Jerusalem's spiritual state, and their spiritual state unfortunately, by that time, had horribly strayed from God's standards. The sense is that the people of Jerusalem, the Jews and the Israelites that were still there, had veered so far from the Old Covenant that by the time of the Babylonian conquest, which was taking place in this time in Ezekiel, they could trace their spiritual roots back, not to God's instruction in His Word, but to the beliefs and practices of the native Amorites and Hittites. It was like they had completely forsaken God and now they were might as well be Canaanites because they were practicing the Canaanite-Amorite-Hittite religion.
These Amorites where the same people God had destroyed by using the armies of Israel when they came into the land. But remember, Israel failed to conquer them all, and they eventually kind of blended in with the nation of Israel. And now God is telling them through this very picturesque chapter that He would destroy them for the same iniquities. But He would do it Himself by using the Babylonians.