A Misquoted Bible Verse That Steals Land From Israel
Have you ever been misquoted? Or has someone ever taken your words and completely twisted their meaning? None of us like it when that happens, and immediately, we want to set the record straight. How, then, do you think the Divine Author of Scripture feels about His words being misquoted and misused?
Yet virtually every moment of every day, someone is misquoting or misusing the Bible to suit their personal agenda. (The recent fad is the misuse of the words of Jesus, “Judge not.”)
Sometimes this is done irresponsibly. Sometimes it is even done maliciously. At other times, the intent is sincere, and there is even study and thought behind it. Yet the scripture is still misused. And because we’re talking about misusing the Bible, the consequences can be severe.
Of course, if you are a God-fearing Bible believer, you would never intentionally misuse or misquote the Scriptures. Perhaps you’re just repeating what you heard from others without every studying the issue for yourself. Perhaps your point of view has never been challenged, and so you’ve never thought about it.
Then one day, a light goes on and you realize, “Wait a second. That is not what the Bible means.” It’s quite an eye-opening (and sometimes shocking) experience.
When I came to the faith in the early 1970s, my pastor would sometimes quote Proverbs 18:16, which reads (in the KJV), “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.”
His point was this: If God has given you a gift, that gift will open doors for you and do not have to promote yourself.
That is a completely accurate statement, and I believe it to this day.
But is that what Proverbs 18 is saying? It’s possible, but it’s more likely that it was simply an observation about the power of a bribe. That puts a different spin on it!
Now, that verse might be debatable, but how about one phrase from Ecclesiastes 10:19, “money is the answer for everything”? Is the Bible, God’s Word, really telling us that “money is the answer for everything”? What a carnal, unspiritual, and inaccurate statement.
Money is certainly important. And money can get a lot of things done. But, as even the Beatles sang, “Money can’t buy me love” – or a host of other important things.
It’s most likely that Ecclesiastes 10:19 reflects the worldly attitude of the immature leaders mentioned three verses earlier. To quote this verse in full, “They make a banquet for revelry; wine makes life merry, and money answers every need” (NJPS). This is not meant to be a godly philosophy to emulate.
Did Paul Argue God’s Promise to the Jewish People Regarding the Land is Void?
Recently, while debating a top Palestinian Christian scholar, Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, he quoted 2 Corinthians 1:20, which reads, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
His point was that the divine promise of the land of Israel in the Old Testament was now changed into a universal promise for all Christians. In other words, God no longer promised the Jewish people a specific piece of land in the Middle East. Instead, He now promised that all followers of Jesus – Jewish and Gentile alike – would inherit the whole world, while Jesus Himself becomes the promised Land. (For the record, Dr. Isaac was happy for the Jews to have a homeland; he simply wanted his homeland — meaning, the West Bank — too.)
As he explained in his book From Land to Lands, from Eden to the Renewed Earth: A Christ-Centred Biblical Theology of the Promised Land, “One of the most important statements of Paul in this regard is 2 Corinthians 1:20: ‘For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.’.”
Dr. Isaac then quotes P. W. L. Walker who said, “This is ‘one of the most theologically pregnant statements in all of Paul’s writings.” And, he continues, “Walker argues that the phrase ‘all the promises’ would necessarily include those concerning the land. In other words, the story of Israel, in its totality, including the part related to the land, must find its fulfillment – its Yes – in Jesus.”
But Paul Meant the Opposite
Unfortunately, Dr. Isaac has stood this verse on its end, coming to the opposite conclusion of what Paul meant. (I say this with all respect for his scholarship; he earned his Ph.D. from Oxford.)
Paul’s point was not that every promise God previously made could now be applied indiscriminately to all followers of Jesus. If that were the case, then we could wreak absolute havoc with the Bible. For example, I could take a promise the Lord made to Israel before Joshua put 5 pagan kings to death and say, “This is what God will do to all my enemies. He will kill them all!” (See Joshua 10:16-26)
I’m sure Dr. Isaac understands this, which means that his point about 2 Corinthians 1:20 was this: “All the promises God has previously made find their fulfillment in Jesus, and this includes the land of Israel, which becomes spiritualized. Jesus has become the Land.”
But once again, this is clearly not what Paul meant. Instead, he was simply stating that if God made a promise to His people in the past, that promise (in proper context and as relevant in our lives) finds affirmation in Jesus. And because of that we say, “Amen!”
So, if the Lord promised to shelter us in the midst of calamity and storm in the past (see Psalm 91), all the more was that promise affirmed in Jesus. Similarly, as Paul explained to the Romans, Jesus the Messiah confirms, not cancels, the promises made to the Patriarchs (see Romans 15:8-9). This would obviously include the promise of the Land (see also Galatians 3:17).
It would be a complete misuse of 2 Corinthians 1:20 to argue that it somehow implied (or taught directly) that the Land promises no longer applied to Israel. To the contrary, this verse affirms what God promised many centuries before (see also Romans 11:28-29).
Not only so, such teaching is utterly impractical. As I said during my talk in Beit Jala (before debating Dr. Isaac), near Bethlehem, in May, “To tell a Jewish refugee fleeing from anti-Semitism that ‘Jesus is the Land!’ is like telling a hungry person that ‘Jesus is the Bread!’”
I also said, “It’s like me telling you, as Palestinian Christians, ‘Why are you so concerned about your living conditions? You are seated in heavenly places!’” (See Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:1-3.)
Let’s be careful, then, how we quote the Bible. The consequences are great.