Deuteronomy 8:7-9 – For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land- a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing.
Many centuries ago the land of Palestine was a scene of beauty, richness and busy life almost unsurpassed in the then known world. Much was written about it’s great beauty and richness and blessing. It literally was a land flowing with milk and honey. It was not lacking in anything or any product whatsoever.
Palestine combined every variety of climate, from snow covered mountains to tropical heat, to moderate climates and also cooler, fruit growing lands. All kinds of fish were in its waters and birds of every plumage filled its lands. For it to be such a small place it was unequaled for variety and charm. The Mediterranean Sea was on one side with all its busy life of ports and harbors. On the eastern side of the Jordan River stretched plains and valleys and wonderful rich forest lands. All this provided wonderful pasture lands and lands for vineyards and corn. They had fresh, clean springs of water for flocks and growing food. Over all, so long as God’s blessing lasted there was peace and plenty in the whole land. This great possession of Palestine was heaven-given at first and heaven-guarded throughout as long as God’s people would put him first and worship Him as the one true God.
The Rabbis taught that thirteen things were in the sole ownership of the Holy One: the silver, the gold, the priesthood, Israel, the first-born, the altar, the first-fruits, the anointing oil, the tabernacle of meeting, the kingship of the house of David, the sacrifices, the land of Israel, and the eldership. As wonderful and beautiful as the land was, its high value came from its being blessed by God.
The rabbis believed that God would only manifest himself in Palestine, and that outside this place there would be no manifestation from God. It was there that prophets had seen their visions, and many songs were written. It was there that prophets had seen their visions and psalmists had written their songs of praise. It was the land that had Jerusalem for its capital, and on its highest hill was the temple with the glittering gold dome for everyone to see for miles around. There is no religion that is so strictly local as that of Israel.
When people worshipped other deities, they could take them with them wherever they went, but for the first time God had chosen a people and had given them their own land and shown them exactly how to worship him. He had even gone so far as to give them exact detailed instructions as to how they should build his temple to worship Him, the one and only true God.
Palestine was the Mount Sinai of Rabbinism, and for the first few centuries it was where the learning, the influence, and the rule of Judaism centered. The Rabbis loved the land so much that they were quoted as saying that “The very air of Palestine makes one wise”. They thought of their land as the second Eden and felt that the land was as pure gold and to live there was equal to the observance of all the commandments. In the Talmud it was taught that anyone who had their abode in Palestine was sure of the life to come. They actually felt that they were without sin because they lived in the land. Centuries of wandering and changes have not torn the love of this land from the hearts of many of the Jews.
It was the desire of Jacob and Joseph that their bones be dug up and taken to the promised land when God took them to it. They knew that one day God would bring them into their own land, and they didn’t even want their dead bones to remain in a heathen land. They believed that if they were buried in the land that they would be the first to walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
Evidently more people than just the people of Israel have been interested in Palestine, because over the years it has been completely swept of relics. The places where so much history has happened now lies buried under ruins, or the soil and landscape have changed. It almost seems that the Lord intended for these things to be changed so that we can’t know exactly where some of the places were that were so Holy to God long ago. The lie of land and water, of mountain and valley, are the same, but all changed in appearance and in form, with no definite spot to which one could with absolute certainty attach some of the most sacred events. God wanted us to learn to worship Him instead of worshipping places or things.
In following texts we will look at things such as Jewish homes, how they brought up their children, commerce, the role women played in the household, synagogues, education, how they traveled and where they stayed while traveling. In general, we will study their whole way of life and hopefully the next time you are studying the Bible, it will help you to understand why certain things were written as they were. Those things made perfect sense to the Jewish lifestyle. Understanding these things has helped me to understand the Bible much better than before.