To Whom Does the Land Belong?

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Parashat Bahar (On the Mountain)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:1–26:2
Haftarah: Jeremiah 32:6–27

We live in very intersting times, since May 14th 1948, when David Ben Gurion said in Israel’s Declaration of Independence: “ACCORDINGLY WE, MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLE'S COUNCIL, REPRESENTATIVES OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF ERETZ-ISRAEL AND OF THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT, ARE HERE ASSEMBLED ON THE DAY OF THE TERMINATION OF THE BRITISH MANDATE OVER ERETZ-ISRAEL AND, BY VIRTUE OF OUR NATURAL AND HISTORIC RIGHT AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL.” We have witnessed quite possibly the greatest miracle in modern times with the reestablishment of the State of Israel!

Sadly, ever since that incredible day, there is an on-going debate amongst people all over the world – including people who say they follow the God of Israel – to whom the land belongs. Before I continue, I believe it is important to establish what God said about the Land, as this must be our starting point for any debate on the issue:

 “…the land is Mine”
Leviticus 25:13

The Land is God’s! So, the next logical question should be is “In whose hands did God entrust the Land?”

In the Parashah this week, we find instructions regarding the year of Jubilee (Yovel in Hebrew):

So you shall consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor harvest its aftergrowth, nor gather grapes from its untrimmed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its produce from the field.
Leviticus 25:10–12

Inherent to Jubilee are laws regarding the redemption of land or properties. Within these laws, we find a command that I really love, because it shows the way that God desires us to treat each other. In Leviticus 25:17, it is written:

So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the LORD your God.

It is important to note that we are not to wrong others because we respect (fear) God first. In other words, we will all give an account to God as His followers.

So what does the year of Jubliee have to do with the Land of Israel? In Leviticus 25:13–14 We read of a specific instruction that directly connects the year of Jubliee and the Land:

On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property. Furthermore, if you make a sale to your friend, or buy from your friend’s hand, you shall not wrong one another.

and then continuing from verse 23:

The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, because the land is Mine; for you are only strangers and residents with Me. So for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor that he sells part of his property, then his closest redeemer is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. Or in case someone has no redeemer, but recovers to find sufficient means for its redemption, then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, so that he may return to his property.
Leviticus 25:23–28

It is important to understand that the “closest redeemer”, which is referred to here, is a blood relative, and with that in mind we may understand the instruction in the Haftarah portion that Jeremiah received:

And Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle is coming to you, saying, ‘Buy for yourself my field which is at Anathoth, for you have the right of redemption to buy it.”’ Then my uncle’s son Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard in accordance with the word of the LORD and said to me, ‘Buy my field, please, that is at Anathoth, which is in the land of Benjamin; for you have the right of possession and the redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.”
Jeremiah 32:6–8

God’s instruction to Jeremiah was very specific; he was to buy his uncle’s field. Yet, in some ways, it did not make much sense since, during that time, the land was under Babylonian control, so why should Jeremiah buy what many might consider a “lost land”? It did not make any sense from a human perspective to do that. However, in order for us to understand that which took place, and I believe that which is still taking place, we always have to include God in any given situation.

I believe that it was a prophetic step that Jeremiah was to take in buying his uncle’s land, since the purchase would symbolize God’s future redemption of the land when back in the hands of the children of Israel, the Jewish people.

Jeremiah’s prayer to God is a moving acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty, and of what God had allowed to happen to the children of Israel:

After giving the deed of purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD, saying, ‘Oh, Lord GOD! Behold, You Yourself have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You, who shows mercy to thousands, but repays the wrongdoing of fathers into the laps of their children after them, great and mighty God. The Lord of armies is His name; great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of mankind, giving to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds; who has accomplished signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and even to this day both in Israel and among mankind; and You have made a name for Yourself, as at this day. You brought Your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and with wonders, and with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terror; and You gave them this land, which You swore to their forefathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey. They came in and inherited it, but they did not obey Your voice or walk in Your Law; they did not do anything that You commanded them to do; therefore You have made all this disaster happen to them. Behold, the assault ramps have reached the city to take it; and the city has been handed over to the Chaldeans who fight against it, because of the sword, the famine, and the plague; and what You have spoken has come to pass; and behold, You see it. Yet You have said to me, Lord GOD, “Buy for yourself the field with money and call in witnesses” — although the city has been handed over to the Chaldeans.”’
Jeremiah 32:16–25

God’s response to Jeremiah ought to give us amazing hope! It should encourage us to trust Him, even when He instructs us to do something that may not make sense from a human perspective. He is in control!

Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”
Jeremiah 32:26–27

As I wrote in my opening, since May 1948, the people of Israel have been brought back to the Land that He promised us. Just as in Jeremiah’s time, so it is in the modern State of Israel where much of the land waspurchased from those who occupied it before 1948. It is amazing to see God’s Word come to fruition!

I would like to exhort you, reader, to make sure that your stances regarding the land and the inheritance of the Land are in accordance to God’s Word!

Shabbat Shalom,
Moran


Check out previous blogs on this parashah!

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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2 Comments on “To Whom Does the Land Belong?”

  1. Through my study of the Bible I’ve never questioned who the land belongs too. It’s always been G-d’s and still is and always will be
    forever and ever.

  2. It is a matter of the heart. Is one’s heart toward God or turned against Him? It seems that people believe what they want to believe. Whatever perspective one has on nearly any topic, they can find “evidence” to support it and people promoting it and affirming their position. Only a change of heart will open them to accept other information.

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