The Jewish-Palestinian conflict, the promised land, and the people of God


By dr. Adi Schlebusch

The conflict between the Jewish and Palestinian peoples in the Middle East has been going on longer than most of our lifetimes.

The origins of this conflict lie very deep in history, but the contemporary war between the Jews and Palestinians can actually be directly traced back to a plan that was accepted by the United Nations (UN) in 1947. According to it, two independent nation-states had to be established in this area, which until then had been known as Palestine. Jerusalem and surrounding areas would become a special international zone.

Although there was also dissatisfaction on the Jewish side, the plan was summarily rejected by the Palestinians. The day after the UN accepted the plan, war broke out and the conflict has never really stopped since. For a long time there was a truce, but the last one was ended on 7 October 2023 when the terrorist organization, Hamas, suddenly crossed the border between Israel and Gaza and attacked Israel. Since then, a full-scale war has raged again in which almost 30,000 people have already died.

A question that naturally often arises, especially among religious Afrikaners, is how we should position ourselves in relation to this conflict, which has dominated the world news for the past few months.

When our worldview is shaped by the Bible, we naturally tend to see ourselves connected to the land of Israel in a special way. In fact, this is the land that the Lord himself gave to the Old Testament people of Israel, after the exodus from Egypt, on the basis of his promise to Abraham. And this is, after all, the country where Jesus performed numerous miracles and rose from the dead.

It is also for this reason that we almost instinctively try to view the current conflict in the light of the Scriptures and especially the prophecies concerning the period between Christ’s ascension and his second coming. Like the apostles in Acts 1:6, believers often struggle with the role the Jews play as a covenant people in this present dispensation.

When we as believers wrestle with complex issues like this and ask for a biblical answer, it is important to remember that we must consider the Scriptures as a whole – one coherent revelation of the unchanging counsel of God. This forces us to the principle of analogia scripturae, the position that text verses in the Bible must be explained in light of the message of the Bible as a whole. This principle is fundamentally important for the correct understanding of the meaning of the Promised Land and old Israel as the people of God in relation to the new covenant in which we live.

The Bible calls Israel the people of God (cf. Exodus 6:7; Deuteronomy 27:9; Jeremiah 11:4). It is clear that these verses speak of a physical people. However, in Romans 9:24-25 we read that God is now gathering his people from both the Jewish and Gentile nations.

Furthermore, Titus 2:14 teaches that those redeemed by Christ are God’s people. This spiritual people of God is also described in 1 Peter 2:9 as “(…) a holy people, a people acquired as property, to proclaim the virtues of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”. This spiritual people of God, the New Testament Israel, consists of all peoples who have been made disciples of Jesus Christ in accordance with the great mission of Matthew 28:19.

The reality of a spiritual Israel consisting of a variety of peoples is then expressly confirmed in texts such as Revelation 7:9 and 11:15. The latter text emphasizes that all the kingdoms of the world become the property of Jesus Christ. When the gospel goes out to the whole world, the whole world in a sense becomes the “promised land”. After all, in Psalm 37:12 and Matthew 5:5, God’s promise of a territory for covenant obedience is applied to the whole earth. Romans 4:13 also refers in so many words to the covenant promise of the Promised Land to Abraham as “the promise that he would be heir of the world“.

In the new covenant, the whole world is the promised land and God’s chosen people are not a single ethnic group or nation, but a spiritual people united by the bond of faith in Christ through his Spirit (cf. Romans 9:6 -13). Therefore, no people on earth, whether the Jews or the Palestinians or the Africans or the Americans, could claim that they are in some unique way God’s chosen people. When we then consider the conflict between the Jews and Palestinians in the light of Scripture, it in no way involves mere prejudice against an Arab people in favor of the people from which Jesus was born. No, we must view it more objectively as a struggle between two peoples who are both called to submit themselves to the rule of the King of all kings and peoples, Jesus Christ.

Hamas’ terrorist acts should therefore be rejected not because the Palestinian people as such would be enemies of God’s people, but because this organization kills innocent people, who were created in the image of God. And although Hamas is a reprehensible terrorist organization, we must always remember that there are believing children of God among both the Jewish and Palestinian people.

When we view the conflict in Israel and Gaza in the light of the biblical principles of justice and charity, we cannot help but be advocates of the establishment and international recognition of two sovereign nation-states: a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. This would be the very best solution to achieve peace in the region and save human lives.

Therefore, let us not be carried away by all kinds of end-time prophecies in the light of the tragic events there. Let us rather, when it comes to our positioning regarding the Jewish-Palestinian conflict, unhesitatingly align ourselves with the peacemakers (cf. Matthew 5:9).

  • Dr. Adi Schlebusch is a member of the APK Lichtenburg.

This article is published courtesy of the APK.