Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
A three part series on the land/state of Israel and what Christians should make of it.
The news of the recent Israel-Hamas war has put the region, and its complex civil and religious questions, back into the international spotlight again. What should a Christian response be? While this three part blog will give a basic overview it’s interest is primarily theological and not social or political. It must be stated, this is a complex issue and many have devoted their entire lives to its study. However, we can ascertain some basics.
A Brief History of the Land to 1917
The Canaanites are the earliest known residents of the Levant; the region at the crossroads of two continents. They were descended from Ham who was the father of the ancient Egyptians, Canaanites and Arabs (Gen 10:6, 19). Because of Ham’s sin (and perhaps foreseeing Canaan’s evil), Noah cursed Canaan.
c. 2166 BC. God promised Abraham the land of Canaan (“the Promised Land”) as part of his wider promise (Gen 12, 15, 17). Abraham, however, died only owning a grave in Canaan.
C. 1446/or 1260. Moses and then Joshua led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. The nations there were so godless and so evil God used Israel to bring judgement on them.
C. 1051 BC. Saul/David formed the Israelite monarchy. It later split between the northern Kingdom (Israel) and the southern Kingdom (Judah). In 725 BC Israel was taken into exile by the Assyrians, their land resettled with other peoples who mixed with the Israelite lower classes (the Samaritans). In 586 BC Judah was taken into exile by the Babylonians. Likewise, many others came to dwell in the land with the lower class Jews.
Under the Persians they were permitted to return to Judea and be semi-autonomous.
Though many Jews returned to Judea many remained abroad to build their lives across the Ancient Near East. This is called the Diaspora or dispersion.
The Persians were conquered by the Greeks. The Jews rebelled against the Greeks and formed the Maccabean Kingdom (167–63 BC).
In 63 BC the Romans intervened in the Maccabean civil war and came to incorporate Judea as a province within the Empire.
4 BC–30/33 AD. The time of Jesus.
During this time a tense relationship existed between the Romans and the Jews until the Temple was destroyed in AD 70 and the Jews were finally expelled from the land in AD 139; leaving only a small number. The Romans re-named Judea Palestinia, after the Jews old Phoenician enemies the Philistines, as a slight against them. This resulted in a second Jewish dispersion.
As Christianity grew Palestine had a minority of Jews and a majority of, primarily, Roman/Greek Christians.
*Islam is founded by Mohammed. Jerusalem is claimed as a holy site.
In 636 the new Muslim Arabs conquered Palestine. It became part of a Calaphate that existed until the Crusades (1100–1291) when it was controlled by European Christians. Christians saw it as the “holy land” because of holy events, saints, etc. After its fall to the Arabs there always remained a minority of Jews and Christians.
A group of Muslims called the Mamluks then occupied Palestine until conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1516. Palestine would be part of the Ottoman Empire for the next 400 years.
To be continued...
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