The Promised Land
james36armstrong at hotmail.com
Sat Sep 4 11:46:55 BST 2010
THE PROMISED LAND (from "Land- an anthology" by James Armstrong
The basic theme of the Hexateuch (the first six books of the
bible which form a whole and are shared in worship by both Christians and Jews ) may be summarised as follows, God, the Creator of the
world , called the patriarchs and promised them the land
Here is the essence
of the Old Testament, from Deuteronomy:-
A wandering Aramean was my father; and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty and populous. And the Egyptians treated us harshly, and
afflicted us and laid us in hard
bondage. Then we cried to the Lord the
God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our
toil and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty
hand , and outstretched arm, with great terror, with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us
this land, a land flowing with milk and honey . Deut26,5-9
The relevance of this creed is its usefulness over
three thousand years after it was first
committed to writing. The creed was equally useful then as embodying
the Hebrew nation’s self belief.
A modern and irreverent Israeli
might think as he recites this :
A Brooklyn Dodger was my father. His family went down to Europe and there they were
treated as a despised nationless people but the child of Roth became the great
steward of the king and helped buy the
water of Suez. And the Nazis afflicted us harshly and gassed us in
concentration camps and laid upon us slave labour. Then we cried ‘Holocaust’ and our
God , The Lord of Wall and Fleet Streets, heard our voice and saw our affliction, our oppression and the usefulness of our vote; and the President bought us out of east Europe with mighty hand-outs and
outsized armaments which terrorise and make U.N. observers wonder; and His
Majesty’s Prime Minister gave us the
despised nomad arabs’ land. Now it
flows with water pumped from the Jordan and grows sweet citrus fruits.
The bible quotation
is an early illustration of the lesson that ‘giving’ land, involves committing
people to oppression.
Although the creation story is at the beginning of the first book of the bible, the
Hebrew scholar, Gerhard Von Rad (“Genesis”)
downgrades it as of secondary importance in the scheme of the Redactor – the
human(s) who gave the book its final form after receiving it as
To Von Rad the essence of the six books, Genesis to
Joshua, lies not in the individual and well known stories about the patriarchs,
creation, Egypt, Moses and the law-giving on Sinai, etc but in the scheme and selection of
themes of the writer, his purpose and aim
in selecting and interweaving
these stories which individually may be duplicated , disparate, sometimes obscure and sometimes self – contradictory.
“ The materials of the
patriarchal history received a
new direction because of their connection with the promise of land” he writes.
The essence is summed
up in this declaration of faith which is
included in the text at two points -
Genesis and again in Deuteronomy and is
still repeated in synagogues to-day, verbally in the biblical version and perhaps mentally in the pastiche.
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