Signing Away The Sinai

by George F Spall

The Sinai Peninsula is startling country to be in. Its rugged peaks, hard as the granite and limestone from which they have been sculptured, poke into the sky, three, six seven thousand feet. They are like gigantic hands clawing into the blue as if in hope that its blueness might after all be water and their thirst be quenched by a drenching.

They seem to be aware they are arid and beg for a torrent or two to wash them down and to refresh the occasional patch of green patiently waiting here and there at their feet.

They might even be hoping to hear a gurgle of laughter break out from the black tents of the Bedouin as the children run out to play in the unaccustomed rain.

As we drive through the wadis, we stare in wonder at the bleak walls, stark and barren, and are surprised that though they are so rugged there is a softness about them, especially in the dawn or evening light.

There is, too, such a variety of colours, broken by vast fissures that have been filled in with blacks, browns, greys and dark greens, squeezed in by volcanic fingers.

How many quakes did it take to form them and fill them? Were any of Aaron's people artists with pen or brush to record their grandeur as his sister Miriam was an artist in song? Who can measure the manganese in those dark ridges, or the lime to make cement, or the millions of tons of sand so colourful? And who knows how much oil is there, imprisoned beneath those incredible lids that are mountains?

Israelis have surveyed it, studied it, trudged up and down it. They have camped in it, classified its minerals, stared at it through telescopes, gazed at its miniscule grains of sand with microscopes. They have built roads through it, daring the desert, to find ways to its heart. They have ironed stretches of it smooth to make airfields, investing millions of dollars in it. They have planted trees and people in it, made it blossom and fruit; erected houses for its conquerors and brought water to it from the treasure-house of the snows way up in Lebanon.

They have set a value upon it so as to buy a pearl of great price. The price is called PEACE. No other nation on earth has ever paid so much to a broker who may, through the vagaries of politics or assassination, be unable to keep to the bargain.

So, the Sinai is gone and the peace is precarious enough to warrant the presence of fighting men and machines from over the seas to safeguard it.

And now, the questions force themselves to the surface, like tree roots that crack marble gravestones. Should Israel have given it up? Was the Land ever covenanted to the sons of Jacob? Should they get it back after all and should they pour out yet more blood to regain it? Does the Tenach offer answers?

Look at the subject 'Palestine' in a Bible Dictionary. There is never a mention of the Sinai. The phrase "from Dan to Beersheba" seems to dominate the thinking of the writers.

Look at Genesis 12:1-3 or Genesis 15:18-21. You will not find a reference to the Sinai. One might be pardoned for thinking that Israel's God wished not to take into His keeping the grim land that used up some of the forty years of Israel's history, for nought except to see the wastage of a whole generation. Only Joshua and Caleb who came out of Egypt ever got through to the Promised Land.

If Sinai was part of the promise, why did they not leave a tribe there in its various oases? Or a garrison or two? Moses had addressed them from Sinai when he assured them: "Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from THE WILDERNESS and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea (the Mediterranean) shall your coast be." Deuteronomy 11:24

Add to this the notable promise of the Eternal to Joshua: "Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people, unto the land which I do give them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the soles of your feet shall rest upon, that have I given unto you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast." Joshua 1:1-4

On the face of it, is "the wilderness" in those two passages the Sinai Peninsula? Is "the wilderness" a part of the promised land, or is it but the southern boundary of it, in keeping with the expression "to the river, the river Euphrates" eastwards, or "to Lebanon" northwards?

We watched T.V. programmes with sadness as official Israel, determined to keep faith with the agreement reached at Camp David, ejected the residents from Yamit. We saw Israeli soldiers obey orders with their hands but not with their hearts.

We heard with heartache the falling masonry as bull-dozers flattened a whole city, uprooted its trees, remaking a desert for the sake of peace.

But there are other elements to be considered also. Presidents and Prime Ministers must take into account that if the people of Israel are God's people, their land is His too. Its boundaries must conform to His Master Survey Map. We often quote Deuteronomy 32:8. "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the people of Israel."

And the Creator has an interest in other people besides Israel. Ishmael was Abraham's son and so has a claim on the providence of God. His story is told in Genesis chapters 16 to 25:18. It concludes: "Ishmael's descendants dwelt from Havilah to Shur that is before Egypt as you go towards Assyria." That wilderness of Shur is still there. It extends from the border of Egypt towards the Gaza Strip.

Their presence there precluded Moses from leading the Israelites out of Goshen through their country though it would have been such a short route to the homeland.

The town of Yamit so recently destroyed was set in that desert. Israel's new border is at Rafah a very few kilometres north of Yamit.

Egypt was Ishmael's neighbour so it could be expected that the Ismaelites sold Joseph to Potiphar in Egypt.

Where are they today? They were still identified in the days of the kings of Israel, being mentioned in the Book of Chronicles. Perhaps their descendants might soon stand up to be counted as Assyrians have been this decade.

Now the hand-over of the Sinai is completed, its northern border is a line drawn from Rafah to Eilat. Check this out with the older maps of the days of the ancient empires of Assyria and Babylon, and see how closely the new one matches the ancient.

Then we have to take into account the projection that Ezekiel makes in the final two chapters of his prophecy. The several visions he saw are grouped in his diary entries. The first group describe "the Presence" in extra-ordinary symbolism and tell us that God could not continue to dwell in Jerusalem because of its apostacy. Indeed, in chapter 11 we see "the Glory" reluctant to leave the city, and hovering over the Mount of Olives before finally departing.

But that is not the end of the story. The Eternal is seen returning in the last group of visions (chapter 43:2-5): "And the glory of the Lord came into the house by way of the gate on the east" . This will happen when the new Temple is completed; the chapters that follow list the rituals to be observed in the Temple and chapters 47 and 48 list the new boundaries in some detail.

For example: the northern border will be a line drawn from the Mediterranean through Hamath (up in Lebanon) across to Damascus and on to the Euphrates. The southern limits run from the river of Egypt (not the Nile) through Kadesh and Tamar eastward to the mouth of the Euphrates. It leaves Sinai out, hurtful as the thought is at present.

But there is a pleasant and exciting thought to emerge from our discussion. The final border when the hand-over is completed will be so close to what Ezekiel foresaw for the days of Messiah, we cannot but think His glorious Day is not far away.