Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I just thought I would explore a bit about what the Bible has to say about the boundaries of the Promised Land.  I know that there are several places in the Scriptures which specify these boundaries, and I wondered if I could look at all of them and make some sort of sense out of the issues which are raised concerning this topic.

First, the evidence.  Here are the Scriptures which I have found regarding God giving the Israelites the land.  If you come across any which I have missed, please drop me a comment.  I am no expert on these matters, but I wanted to see what information the Bible has concerning the boundaries of the Promised Land.
Note:  All quotations are in the New International Version of the Bible (NIV).
Genesis 12:1  "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."
Genesis 12:5-7   "He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.  Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem.  At that time the Canaanites were in the land.  The Lord appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I will give this land.' "

Later, quarreling arose between the herdsman of Abram and his nephew Lot, for they both had significant livestock.

Genesis 13:8-18  "So Abram said to Lot, 'Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.  Is not the whole land before you?  Let's part company.  If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left.'  Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar.  (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)  So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east.  The two men parted company:  Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tent toward Sodom.  Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.  The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, 'Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.  Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.'  So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the Lord."

Genesis 14:13 "Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram."  This verse is interesting for several reasons.  First, Abram "was living" in this place, not just passing through.  Also, Abram and some Amorites are allies.  They are peacefully co-existing and even supportive of each other, for these Amorites assist Abram when his nephew Lot is captured by invading kings.  So when the Lord later speaks of how the Israelites will be in captivity for about 400 years until the sins of the Amorites have reached their full measure (Gen. 15:13-16), it is not because He has something against these people.  They are punished because they are sinners who refuse to repent, not because they are Amorites.  Note also that far later, under the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Romans, the Lord also removes His own people, the Israelites, from their land when they likewise refuse to repent.  So, He is not playing favorites here.  However, He never says that He has taken back His promise to give the Israelites the land.  Their captivity in various nations is so that they will repent and turn to Him.
 Genesis 15:7  "...I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it."
Genesis 15:16  "In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure."
Genesis 15:18-21  "On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, 'To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates -- the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."  Note that the boundaries are from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates River.  Also, God does not seek to obscure the fact that other peoples are presently living in these lands.  As God and as Creator of these lands, He can give them to whomever He wishes.  However, knowing something of His character, I do not doubt that even if He removes other peoples from their lands in the process, He does so for a redemptive purpose, so that they may come to know Him.  Perhaps as these peoples see how powerful the God of Israel is, they would turn towards Him, the only true God.

There are many other Scriptures which talk about the boundaries of the Promised Land.  The ones in this post are only the ones which occur in the Bible from Genesis 1-15, which is about where I am in the Genesis commentary in this blog at the moment.  I will continue to post about these as they occur in each Biblical book we are studying, and add them to our list.  Each post with such information will have a label of "boundaries of the Promised Land" attached to it so that you can search for all the related posts by clicking on that label.
Update 12/11/2012  Now here are Scriptures from the Book of Exodus regarding the boundaries of the land which God promised to the Israelites:

Exodus 23:31 "I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the River."    This passage establishes:
  •  the Red Sea (the modern Gulf of Aqaba) as the southeastern border,
  • the Sea of the Philistines (the Mediterranean Sea) as the western border,
  • the desert (the northeastern Sinai desert) as the southern border,
  • and the river (the Euphrates River) as the northern border.

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