Israel (The Biblical View)




         Abraham in the Old Testament was the beginning of the people called Israel.   God made certain promises to him and through these promises we can better understand who the Bible has in view when it mentions Israel.


Promises made to Abraham


Two Kinds of Promises:

1.)         some relate to the seed of Abraham only

2.)         others relate to Abraham and his seed





1. Promises made to the Seed of Abraham only


Gen 12:6,7 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.

Gen 12:7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

- Unconditional promise

- No commitment to Abraham

- No commitment concerning the duration of time


Gen 15:18 In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

Gen 15:19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,

Gen 15:20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,

Gen 15:21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

- Unconditional

- No length of time mentioned


Gen 24:7 The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father's house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.

(this promise refers to the two previous promises)

- Promise relates to his seed only

- Unconditional and no length of time mentioned


    The Seed in view is National Isreal


Abraham fathered Isaac who fathered Jacob and the 12 heads of National Israel


The land was given unconditionally  (as a gift) - an evidence of GodŐs sovereign gracious love to them


Jos 1:2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.

Jos 1:3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.

Jos 1:4 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.


Deu 9:4 Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.

Deu 9:5 Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Deu 9:6 Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.



Deut 8:18-20    Remaining in the land was conditional


Deu 8:18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.

Deu 8:19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.

Deu 8:20 As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.


National Israel did indeed perish from the land and go into captivity though they were allowed to return to the land and rebuild the temple in the reign of Cyrus, King of Persia they still remained under the dominion of other empires and never came out of captivity.  At the time of JesusŐ coming, they were under the dominion of the Roman Empire (Matt 1:17).   They never again possessed the land.      


The Fulfillment of the Promise of the Land


Jos 21:43 And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.

Jos 21:44 And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.

Jos 21:45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.


Neh 9:7 Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham;

Neh 9:8 And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous:


God has fully performed the promises made to National Israel according to these verses.




2. Promises made to Abraham and his seed


Gen 13:14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:

Gen 13:15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.

Gen 13:16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.

Gen 13:17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.

    -   The land is given to Abraham personally, and to his seed

    -   A time factor is mentioned (forever)


Gen 17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.


     -   Abraham never possessed the land


Heb 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Heb 11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

Heb 11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.


Heb 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Heb 11:14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

Heb 11:15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

Heb 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

-   Abraham never possessed the land of Canaan, the promise made to him in Gen 17:8 was not fulfilled


Rom 4:13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

-   This verse shows that when God promised Abraham and his seed the land of Canaan, God actually had the whole world in view


Gen 13:14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:

Gen 13:15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.


Gen 28:13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

Gen 28:14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Gen 28:15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.


Gen 17:2-8


         Vs 4  thou shalt be a father of many nations.

         Vs 5  for a father of many nations have I made thee.

         Vs 6  I will make nations come from thee


3 Times the seed is said to be more than one nation


-- the seed is not the descendants of Ishmael because the land would be an everlasting possession


Rom 4:9-17 is a commentary on Gen 17:2-8


 Rom 4:11  that he might be the father of all them that believe


Rom 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

(all = all believers)


Romans 4 and Gen 17 altogether deal with Salvation in Jesus Christ


see also

Gal 3:7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

Gal 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

Gal 3:9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.


Gal 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.




In summary:


Two Kinds of Promises:


1.)  some relate to the seed of Abraham only

 (National Israel)

-- was promised the land unconditionally

         -- no reference to time was made (how long they would posses the land)

         -- possessing the land was conditional upon obedience  (Duet 8:18-20)

-- these promises have been fulfilled (Josh 21:25 ; Neh 9:8)


2.)  some relate to Abraham and his seed

(GodŐs Elect)

     -- promised the land unconditionally

     -- an eternal inheritance

     -- includes peoples from every nation

     -- the land represents the whole world  --Rom 4:13 (after it is re-created)   

     -- these promises have yet to be fulfilled in their entirety


additional verses:


Rom 9:6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:


Rom 9:7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Rom 9:8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God...


Gal 3:7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.


Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.


Gal 6:16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.


Gal 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.


Heb 12:22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

Heb 12:23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven



Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.


         In conclusion, we see that there are two main entities God refers to as Israel: 

1) the blood descendants of Abraham  (aka: National Israel) 

2) the spiritual descendants of the faith of Abraham (aka: GodŐs elected people)


         -- one last note:  National Israel was the organization God ordained to represent Him on earth during Old Testament time, in other words, National Israel was the Old Testament Church  (see Acts 7:38)   This is unlike the New Testament church which includes peoples from every nation and ethnic group (Gal 3:28; Col 3:11)  But just like the Old Testament church, included in the organization of the New Testament church are those who are truly saved, and those who are identified with God but not truly saved.   


Those who are truly saved are, however, are the only oneŐs who are members of GodŐs spiritual eternal church (Hebrews 12:22, 23)


Israel can be a reference to the organization of the physical church

 -- or--   

a reference to GodŐs spiritual eternal church 

just as we have seen in this study, Israel referred to National Israel and those saved by faith.   The context of the passage and the usage of the term usually dictate which meaning is in view.