Israel and the Promised Land (VI)

December 16, 2010

As you approach the topic of Israel in the promised land during the United Kingdom period, some disorienting proportionate realities need to be faced on the front end.  For example, Israel had been in the land for over 350 years before she had a king (i.e., Saul), meaning that there were kings in Israel less than 60% of the time before the Babylonian Captivity.  Also, Israel had entered the land under Joshua just over 400 years before Jerusalem was captured by David’s forces (2 Sam. 5), bringing the realization that Israel held the holy city only about half their total time in the land before the Babylonians  captured it. Then, after Solomon’s temple was built, just under 450 years after Israel’s entry into what has previously been Canaan, it was only a bare 30 years until the division of the northern and southern kingdoms.  Finally, it’s too often overlooked that Solomon’s temple existed for less than half the time Israel was in the land before the Babylonian Captivity (i.e., just under 375 of over 800 years). 

All of this points out that things moved slowly in developing toward the apparent high point of a capital city and a glorious temple after Israel entered the promised land.  The development of sinful rebellion against the Lord was not as slow, however.  In Joshua, the narrative gives the impression that Israel was able to take the entirety of the land west of the Jordan River. However, the earlier portion of Judges begins to speak of numerous failures in regard to taking/holding portions of the land, linking the failures to false worship.  As Judges continues, it is seen that several surrounding nations (e.g., the Arameans, Moabites, Canaanites, Midianites, Ammonites and Philistines) defeat and enslave some of the tribes of Israel.  However, given the blessings and curses in Lev. 26 and Deut. 28, such was exactly what was to be expected.

If anything, the truth about the Lord contained in 2 Peter 3:9 is seen here: “The Lord is not slow, as some count slowness, but is patient, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”  In that context, it is the delay of the judgment of the Day of the Lord—now for going on 2,000 years—that is in focus.  However, His patience in allowing Israel to stay in the land as long as He did is not far behind!

 Leading up to the beginning of the kingdom, things were in desperate shape in Israel.  The sons of Eli had corrupted the priesthood (1 Sam. 2).  The tabernacle fell into the hands of the Philistines (1 Sam. 4-5), though it was returned after a few months (ch. 6) because “the Lord’s hand was oppressing them” (5:11). 

Then, things apparently took a turn for the better when the people listened to Samuel and returned to the Lord, turning away from their idolatry (ch. 7). Their requesting of a king, although not God’s ideal (8:6-8), had been predicted in Deut. 18).  But, the king they received, not being from the royal tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), obviously is the Lord trying to teach the people a lesson: don’t long for what the other nations have, which only look good on the outside, but is spiritually devoid on the inside.

The wickedness of Saul, displayed repeatedly in various ways, but notably near the end in consulting the witch of Endor (1 Sam. 28), led inexorably to his disastrous defeat at the hands of the Philistines, during which his army fled before their foes, as Lev. 26 said would happen to the disobedient happen, and his death (ch. 31).

Even the anointing of David, the man after God’s own heart, was but a partial, temporary slowing down of the sin/disobedience.  While many good things happened (e.g., the taking of Jerusalem, the buying of the land for the temple and the like), David grievously sinned in his affair with Bathsheba and, to an extent—in direct defiance of Deut. 17:17—“multiplied wives.”

It was King Solomon, however, who was, at once, both the high point and the beginning of the end of Israel in the promised land before the Babylonian Captivity.  I still start at that point in my next post.

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