The Land and faithfulness

A reoccurring theme in the Old Testament is the connection between the  land and faithfulness to God. We saw in Deuteronomy that one of the primary reasons given for driving out the original inhabitants of the land was to prevent them from turning Israel to worshipping false Gods. Deuteronomy then laid out the conditions for Israel living in the land – the primary one being their continued faithfulness to worshipping God alone. The warning was that, if they failed, God would send nations to attack them and remind them to return to him. If they failed enough, then he would expel them from the land. In Deuteronomy, the greatest punishment for unfaithfulness was exile from the land (Deut 28:64-64).

Throughout the historical narrative and the pre-exilic prophets, we have seen this same message time and time again.

Now, In Ezekiel, we see the final stages of God’s wrath against his wayward people as the Babylonians besiege and destroy Jerusalem. Ezekiel reiterated the unfaithfulness of Israel (now Judah) in great detail, and declared God’s wrath in equal detail. This is only reinforced by the fact that Ezekiel is living amongst the exiles from Nebuchadnezzar’s initial deportation, and that many of his prophecies are dated during the final siege that destroys Jerusalem. The final section of Ezekiel (ch 37-48) outlines God’s future redemption of his people and the new age to come. Much of this section focuses on the renewed temple as an image of the restoration of God’s people and their relationship with him. However, the last two chapters (47-48) lay out a new division of the land that Israel will inhabit forever, now that they are restored as God’s faithful people.

The theme of faithfulness to God is most probably the biggest in the entire Old Testament. The strong connection between land and faithfulness gives us an  important framework when considering the role of war in the Old Testament. The very structure of the book of Joshua, which outlines the conquest, shows that the division and possession of the land was fundamentally central to all the wars that were fought in that book (and there are fewer than most people probably think). The rest of the historical narrative emphasises the link between Israel’s faithfulness and victory against those peoples, and their unfaithfulness and the devastating losses they experienced; culminating in the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the exile of the South. The final battles in Ezekiel – against Gog and Magog (chs 37-38) – are won by God’s divine intervention (37:21-23), and culminate in God resurrecting Israel as his restored people. This suggests that the theme of war exists only as a sub-theme of the primary issues: faithfulness and the land.


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