In The Beginning

by Joseph Hunting

The most perplexing problem facing Israel and Arab leaders at the present time is the determining of rightful ownership of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Old City of Jerusalem. The Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt does not provide a solution, but rather compounds the problem.

The influence of Gentile politics following World War One was responsible for the geography of the Middle East and laid the foundation for the seemingly insurmountable difficulties that now confront the Israelis and the Arab Palestinians, and the future possession of what was called Judea and Samaria in Bible times.

At the time that the miracle of Israel's regathering was unfolding, the world was plunged into the most frightful war that engulfed all Europe, Russia, South East Asia and the Pacific. In the midst of this inferno six million Jews were wiped out in the darkest days of Jewish history. The desperate need of the shattered Jewish communities of war-ravaged Europe, plus the resolution of the UN in November 1947 to partition Palestine, combined to birth the State of Israel in the midst of chaos as the British Mandate drew to a close.

Intransigent Arab hostility plunged the newly-born State into a fresh crisis as five Arab states immediately invaded Israel with the intention of wiping out the infant nation, thus settling the so-called Jewish problem for good. The history of thirty-one years of statehood has been punctuated with four attempts to wipe the Jewish State off the map, plus thirty-one years of terrorist incursions resulting in the deaths of hundreds of innocent children and civilians. And this is the scenario against which the current negotiations are placed.

Is there any glimmer of hope that a solution will be found that will satisfy both parties? A glance at the very beginnings of both the Israeli and Arab peoples throws light on the present problem.

Abraham's firstborn was Ishmael, son of Hagar, an Egyptian handmaid whom Sarah gave to Abraham to wife as she, Sarah, was childless. Hagar despised Sarah after she conceived, and the bitterness became so great that Hagar fled from Sarah's wrath. Whilst she was in the wilderness near Beersheba "the Angel of the LORD said to her, 'Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him ...'" (Genesis 16:11,12).

Ishmael was greatly loved by Abraham and in later years it grieved him when Ishmael mocked Sarah, who said to him: "Cast out this bondwoman and her son ..." (Genesis 21:10). Thus Ishmael, son of Abraham, was progenitor of the race of peoples known as the Arabs, and they have lived a nomadic life by and large; they have fulfilled the prediction given by the Angel of the LORD.

Two generations later another drama was enacted when Rebekah was about to give birth to her firstborn, twins who were struggling within her womb. "If all is well, why am I this way? So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her: 'Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger'" (Genesis 25:22,23).

The elder would naturally inherit the birthright and the blessing, but in this case the mother of the children had been told by God that the elder would serve the younger. When the children grew up there came a fateful day when Esau the elder came in from the field faint from hunger. He evidently saw no value in his birthright as it was traded to Jacob for a mere plate of food.

Later Rebekah overheard Isaac tell Esau to prepare him a meal of venison, "savoury food, such as I love ... that my soul may bless you before I die." Remembering the instruction given her by God, Rebekah instructed her son Jacob to deceive his father and pass himself off as Esau, to which he replied: "I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing."

Whilst Jacob has often been maligned, and whilst it is true that he lied to his father, it must be acknowledged that he was obedient to the command of his mother, who was in turn obedient to the word which God had spoken to her before the children were born.

Thus we see that both the firstborn sons of Abraham and Isaac were Divinely set aside in favour of the younger in spite of the patriarchal system by which the birthright and blessing were passed to the firstborn. And in each case the rejected firstborn shared as the progenitors of the Arab race. It is also an interesting fact that there was enmity between the elder and younger in both cases. Indeed, Jacob and Esau strove together before they were even born.

The present Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel demands that Israel return the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Old City of Jerusalem to Arab control. Sinai has already been traded as part payment for peace with Egypt. But Jerusalem is not negotiable. And as for the West Bank and Gaza Strip – these two areas were (and still are) part of the territory promised by God to Abraham, reiterated to Isaac, and again to Jacob and his descendants. Whilst it may appear politically expedient to trade territory for peace with Egypt, it is well to remember that this territory was deeded to Abraham and his descendants by none other than the God of Israel, so it would be well to have a look at the fine print regarding this land deal.

"And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: 'Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are -- northward, southward, eastward and westward: for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants for ever'" (Genesis 13:14,15).

There is one further point to clarify just in case Abraham may be accused of being short-sighted concerning the extent of the territory deeded to him for ever. "On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: 'To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt (the wadi El Arish just south of the Gaza Strip) unto the great river, the River Euphrates" (Genesis 15:18,19).

So should Israel be coerced into surrendering even the smallest part of the land God has granted to them? It would be the greatest mistake made by the nation since the turbulent days that surrounded its rebirth thirty-one years ago. Had Israel been like other nations which in the past have either colonized or taken by force their present territories she would have every right to trade back land as a bargaining point for peace. However, by turning back the pages of Bible history to the very origins of this nation's title deeds to the land in question, it is revealed that all the land Israel now possesses is theirs by Divine decree, and as such is non-negotiable to even the highest bidder.