The promise of land in the Old Testament : a theological-ethical study of its nature, conditions, and purpose

Fachhai, Laiu (2001)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2001

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This research is a study of the promise of land in the Old Testament. Special emphasis is given to what theological-ethical implications the nature, conditions, and purpose of the promise of land entail - what it meant to the Israelites and what it means to us today. The scope of this thesis is the Old Testament in its final form (here the 39 books of the Protestant Bible). However, the study is mainly based on the narratives and prophetic literature, as the promise of land is mostly found in these texts. A careful study of the natures of the four land covenant texts of Genesis 15 and 17 (Abrahamic covenant), Exodus 19-24 (Sinaitic covenant; cf. Dt 5:6-18; 12-16),2 Samuel 7:5-29 (Davidic covenant), and Jeremiah 31:31-34 (new covenant) will show that Yahweh's promise (gift) of land to Abraham and his descendants (the Israelites) in the Old Testament is conditional. Possession and continual possession of the promised land will depend on the Israelites' observance of the stipulations of the land covenants. In order to possess and continually possess the land, the Israelites must worship Yahweh exclusively, live a holy life, pursue righteous and justice, share the land equally among themselves, and care for the land according to the will of the giver. Failure to observe these stipulations will result in losing the land (exile). Israel failed and was exiled. But that was not the end. The promise of land is also the promise of restoration (to the land) if the Israelites return to the Lord. Return, they did, and were restored to the promised land. All these conditions apply (some of them analogously orland metaphorically) to us today as we live on this planet earth, God's creation-gift. The purpose of the promise of land is for blessing - both material blessing of wellbeing and spiritual blessing of knowing and worshipping Yahweh God. This blessing is for both the Israelites and the whole world. By promising a land to the Israelites, God wants to use the promised land and its people as a standard measure for other lands and nations. In this way, the promise of land is not so much a privilege as it is a responsibility. On the one hand, the promise of land gives the Israelites, for that matter, other peoples as well, a spatial-ethnical identity, which entails the need to respect every people's ethnic identity and their "God-given" land. On the other, the promised land is not exclusively for the Israelites, it is a place where other peoples (aliens) may also live (Eze 47:21- 23). This inevitably challenges us to strive towards a peaceful coexistence and sharing of resources including land regardless of color, creed, and language. The promised land, for that matter, the whole earth, is God's collective gift to the whole humanity. Therefore every human has a right to the land. The earth, God's creation-gift, if shared and managed according to the will of the giver, is enough to provide a home to everyone and meet his or her needs.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie navorsing bestudeer die landbelofte in die Ou Testament. Spesiale klem word gele op die teologies-etiese implikasies ten opsigte van die aard, voorwaardes en doel van die belofte - en die betekenenis daarvan vir die Israeliete en vir ons vandag. Die bestek van hierdie tesis is die finale vorm van die Ou Testament (hier die 39 boeke van die Protestantse Bybel), maar die fokus val op die verhalende en profetiese literatuur, waarin die landsbelofte meeste aangetref word. Noukeurige analise van die aard van die vier land-verbond tekste van Genesis 15 en 17 (Abraham-verbond), Eksodus 19-24 (Sinai-verbond; vgl. Deut 5:6-18; 12-16),2 Samuel 7:5-29 (Dawid-verbond), en Jeremia 31 :31-34 (nuwe verbond) toon dat Jahwe se belofte (gawe) van land aan Abraham en sy nakomelinge (die Israeliete) in die Ou Testament voorwaardelik is. Die huidige en toekomstige besit van die beloofde land vereis dat die Israeliete die voorskrifte van die landverbond nakom. Om die land te kan eien en die eienaarskap daarvan voort te sit, moet die Israeliete Jahwe uitsluitlik aanbid, 'n gewyde lewe voer, reg en geregtigheid nastreef, die land eweredig met mekaar dee! en omsien daama ooreenkomstig die wil van die gewer. Om te faal in die nakom van hierdie opdragte sal veroorsaak dat die land weerhou word (eksiel). Israel het misluk, en is in ballingskap gevoer. Dit was egter nie die finale woord nie. Die belofte van land impliseer ook die belofte van herstel (restorasie van die land) indien die Israeliete hulle tot die Here sou terugkeer. Dit het hulle gedoen, en die beloofde land is aan hulle terugbesorg. Hierdie voorskrifte geld ook vandag vir ons (sommige weI analogies en/of metafories) waar ons die planeet aarde, God se skeppingsgawe, bewoon. Die doel van die landsbelofte is seen, beide as materiele welvaart en geestelike seen in die ken en aanbied van Jahwe God. Hierdie seen geld vir die Israeliete soos ook vir die ganse wereld. Deur land te beloof aan die Israeliete, bepaal God dat dit gebruik moet kan word vir alle inwoners as 'n standaardmaatstaf ook vir ander lande en nasies. Op die manier is die beloofde land nie slegs 'n voorreg nie maar ook 'n verantwoordelikheid. Enersyds bied die beloofde land aan die Israeliete, soos ook vir ander mense, 'n ruimtelike etniese identiteit, wat meebring dat alle etniese identiteite en hulle "Godgegewe" grond respek verdien. Andersyds geld die landsbelofte nie uitsluitlik vir die Israeliete nie, dit is 'n ruimte waar ook ander mense (vreemdelinge) mag woon (Eze 47:21-23). Dit stel onvermydelik aan ons 'n uitdaging tot vreedsame naasbestaan en verdeling van hulpbronne insluitend grond, benewens verskille in kleur, godsdiens en taal. Die beloofde land, trouens die hele aarde, is God se kollektiewe gawe aan die hele mensdom. Daarom is elke persoon geregtig op land. Die aarde, God se skeppings gawe, is toereikend om vir elkeen 'n tuiste te verskaf en aan sy of haar behoeftes te voldoen, mits dit gedeel en bestuur word volgens die wil van die gewer.

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