Pages 7-9: winter 1991
POSSESSION OF THE PROMISED LAND
It is my pleasure to be able to write a response to Mr. Till's article
concerning "Yahweh's Failed Land Promise." Since our articles are being
printed herein in their entirety, the readers will be able to compare the
arguments given by both of us. Please consider carefully the things said.
After reading Mr. Till's article, I see that two questions need to be
(1) Did Israel ever possess all the land God promised?
(2) Did God place conditions on this possessing?
Let us begin our study with these questions in mind.
Abraham (then known as Abram) was called out of Ur to go to a land that
God would show him (Gen. 12:1), a land God said would be his for an inheri-
tance (Gen. 15:7-8; 17:7-8). Abraham and his seed were charged to keep
God's covenant (Gen.
Later, the promise was renewed to Isaac (Gen. 26:1-5) and to Jacob
(Gen. 28:1-16). Then, as Joseph neared death, he reminded the people of
the promise in that God would "bring you again unto the land of your fa-
thers" (Gen. 48:21; 50:24).
It was Moses, as we know, who was given the charge to bring God's
people out of Egypt and take them to the land promised by God (Ex. 3:2-8).
Yet, because of the iniquity of the people, they were not able to go into this
land for 40 years (Num. 13 and 14). This event and other sins of the people
are also referred to in Deuteronomy 9.
In Deuteronomy 7-10, Moses spoke to the people about possessing the
land. They were to go in and conquer the land. Note here that while God
had promised the land to them, they had to go in and conquer it, a condition
placed by God (Deut. 7:1-2). Also, God told the Israelites to "make no
covenant with them (the people of the land, CC), nor show mercy to them"
(Deut. 7:2). Deuteronomy 7:3 forbade marrying into the nations around
Further conditions for possession of the land are given in Deuteronomy:
ALL the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye
observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, AND GO IN AND
POSSESS THE LAND WHICH THE LORD SWARE TO YOUR FATHERS,
(8:1, emphasis CC).
And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God REQUIRE OF
THEE, but to FEAR the Lord thy God, to WALK in his ways, and to
LOVE him, and to SERVE the Lord thy God with all thy heart and
with all thy soul, to KEEP the commandments of the Lord, and his
statutes, which I command thee this day FOR THY GOOD? (10:12-
13, emphasis CC).
Yes, God was ready to give them the land that he promised to Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob (Deut. 9:5), but it was conditional upon the people's obey-
ing God. Even to Abraham and his seed was given the condition of obedience
When Moses passed away, the leadership of Israel fell to Joshua (Deut.
34:9). It was Joshua who was to take the people into Canaan and direct the
conquering of the land. Joshua was given a charge in Joshua 1:1-9 concern-
ing this, and in verse 4, he was told the extent of the land:
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.
The readers should also take note of the condition given in verse 3 of this
Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have
I given you, as I said unto Moses.
Again, it was going to be necessary for the people to "keep walking" in order
to possess the land. This condition for possession and the condition not to
make covenants with the people of the land were ably pointed out by Mr. Till
(in his article) on page 3 of this publication.
God also stated his condition of obedience in Joshua 1:7-9. Note especially
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou
shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to
do according to all that is written therein: FOR THEN THOU SHALT
MAKE THY WAY PROSPEROUS, AND THEN THOU SHALT HAVE
GOOD SUCCESS, (emphasis CC).
Joshua began the conquering of the land with the taking of Jericho (Josh.
6) and then lost at Ai. This loss was brought about by Achan's taking of
some of the possessions of Jericho (Josh. 7:1), a violation of God's will
(Josh. 6:18-19; compare with Deut. 7:5). Joshua 10:40-43 shows us that
Joshua had conquered the country of the hills, of the south, of the vale, and
of the springs (v:40). These verses do not say that Joshua had conquered
all the land of Canaan, but contextually speak of those lands he had fought
against to that time.
Joshua 10:41 mentions that Joshua had conquered unto Gibeon, a land he
did not take in battle but subdued in slavery, because he wrongfully made a
pact with them (Josh. 9). This was a clear violation of Deuteronomy 7:2. It
came about because they "asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord" (Josh.
Joshua's conquests continued in chapter 11, and in verse 23 we are told
"Joshua took the whole land." Some would cite this as showing that nothing
was left that needed to be conquered. However, in context, the term "whole
land" refers to that land which Joshua had done battle against. This is
evident since verse 22 says that some of the Anakim still remained in Gaza,
Gath, and Ashdod. Since these were not yet conquered, it follows that the
"whole land" included only those lands conquered to this point, which accord-
ing to Joshua 12:7 stretched from Lebanon to Edom. At this time, they
rested from war and divided the land.
Of the land divided, some still needed conquering (Josh. 13:1), and this
would have to be done by those who inherited the land (Josh. 13:6). In
Joshua's final charge to the people, he reminded them of the condition for
Take good heed unto yourselves, that ye love the Lord your God.
Else IF YE DO IN ANY WISE GO BACK, AND CLEAVE UNTO THE
REMNANT OF THESE NATIONS, EVEN THESE THAT REMAIN AMONG
YOU, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them,
and they unto you: Know for a certainty that the Lord your God
WILL NO MORE DRIVE OUT ANY OF THESE NATIONS FROM
BEFORE YOU; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and
scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish
from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you,
(Josh. 23:11-13, emphasis CC).
As Judges 1 shows, the children of Israel did not conquer all their posses-
sions. Judges 2:1-5 explains why. Note the following:
And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and
said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto
the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never
break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the
inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: BUT YE
HAVE NOT OBEYED MY VOICE: why have ye done this? Wherefore
I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they
shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare
It is obvious that the Israelites made leagues with these people and quit fight-
ing. Thus, they violated all conditions set forth by God: (1) they quit
"walking" (Josh. 1:3), (2) they made pacts with the enemy (Deut. 7:2), and
(3) they disobeyed God's commands (Deut. 8:1). Therefore, these people
could not fulfill all of what God wanted done.
As Biblical history unfolds, however, after several hundred years, we
come to the reign of Solomon, the third king of Israel. In the early part of
his reign (when he was right with God), he was king over all the land that
God promised to his people:
And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the
land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought
presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life, (I Kings
Compare this to Exodus 23:31 and Joshua 1:4.
The alleged contradiction stated by Mr. Till is no contradiction at all.
Having answered our questions posed at the outset of this article, I have
shown that there were conditions placed on the possessing of the land and
that the land was finally possessed.
Please study this issue carefully.
(Charles Coats's address is 709 North Street, Howell, MI 48843.)
EDITOR'S NOTE: We appreciate Mr. Coats's effort to explain away the dis-
crepancy identified in "Yahweh's Failed Land Promise," but his "explanation"
fell far short of his mark. Mr. Coats seems to believe that he found pas-
sages that attached conditions to Yahweh's land promise, but, as Till pointed
out in his article, statements like Deuteronomy 9:3-7 clearly indicated that
Yahweh had to give the land unconditionally to the Israelites in order to ful-
fill promises made, with no conditions attached, to Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob. So if Mr. Coats really has found statements elsewhere in the Bible
that affixed conditions to the land promise, all he has succeeded in doing, as
Till warned (p. 4), is establish that a contradiction exists in the Bible. This
leaves him with a problem just as serious as failure of the land promise would
be. So, even if he wins, he loses.
Other than this, a major shortcoming of Mr. Coats's response was his
failure to show that the Bible did not contradict itself in saying that the land
promise had been fulfilled and then in later saying that it had not been ful-
filled. As Till pointed out on page 5, Joshua 21:43 explicitly said,"So Yahweh
gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and
they possessed it, and dwelt therein." Yet just three chapters later, the book
of Judges began to deny that all the land promised by Yahweh had been
taken, and even Mr. Coats admits that all the land Yahweh promised to give
to "the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)" was not in fact given to the
Israelites at this time. Mr. Coats attributed this failure to conditions that
the Israelites did not meet, but even if he is right on this, it in no way
explains why the Bible plainly said that all the land promised had been pos-
sessed but then immediately turned around and said that all the land had
NOT been possessed. Any way Mr. Coats cuts it, he is left with a serious
discrepancy in the Bible text.
He thinks that he has found in I Kings 4:21 a complete fulfillment of the
promise during the reign of Solomon, but the readers are urged to look at
this passage again (quoted near the end of his article) and, as Mr. Coats
advised, compare it to Joshua 1:4. Notice that the statement in I Kings
exempted the "land of the Philistines" from Solomon's kingdom. His kingdom
extended "unto the land of the Philistines," but did not include this land.
However, Joshua 13: 1-6 (quoted on page 6), in listing the areas of the
promised land that at that time were yet to be possessed, specifically referred
to "all the regions of the Philistines" (v:2). Whoever wrote this clearly
thought that Yahweh intended for the Israelites to possess the land of the
Philistines, but in point of fact the Israelites never did possess this land, not
even during the reigns of David and Solomon when the borders of the Israel-
ite kingdom were pushed to their farthest extremes.
Mr. Coat's response, it would seem, has raised more problems than it
solved. We see, then, no reason to retract our claim that Yahweh failed to
make good his promise that the Israelites would go into the land beyond the
Jordan, completely eradicate "seven nations greater and mightier" than they,
and possess all of their land "from the wilderness to Lebanon" and "from the
river Euphrates to the great sea toward the going down of the sun." By the
Bible's own admission, it just never happened.
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