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May 25, 2024

Two-State Solution Pressures Nation of Israel to Give Up Historic Territory of Israel

The ancient nation of Israel’s heartland was in the regions of Judea and Samaria which today comprise the West Bank.

By Joshua Arnold

The so-called “two-state solution” for Jews and Arabs in Palestine is the Frankenstein’s monster of foreign policy. On Wednesday, Spain, Norway, and Ireland tried to animate this monster by recognizing a state of Palestine, which does not exist. “If you’re recognizing a Palestinian state, they have to have land,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said on “Washington Watch.” “And that land that’s being advocated is Samaria and Judea,” the “so-called ‘West Bank.’”

Knesset Member Ohad Tal joined Perkins to declare the proposed two-state solution theological “craziness,” in that it would “take the holiest sites [of Judaism] like Hebron, and Shiloh, and Bethlehem, and East Jerusalem and give it to the Palestinians.”

In fact, the territories currently designated as “the West Bank” contain many of the towns and regions that readers of the Old Testament are used to thinking about as, “the land of Israel.” These include (in the order they appear), Shechem, Bethel, Hebron, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Gibeon, Shiloh, Tirzah, and Samaria. To comprehend the full impact of Israel ceding this land, consider the significance of these cities through the biblical narrative.

In Genesis, God called Abraham out from Mesopotamia and promised at Shechem to give his offspring “this land” (Genesis 12:6-7). When Abraham separated from his kinsman Lot at Bethel (Genesis 13:3-13), God again promised to give him all the land he could see (Genesis 13:14-17). Abraham built altars at Shechem, Bethel (Genesis 12:8-9), and Hebron (Genesis 13:18). Abraham lived longest near Hebron, where he and his allies assembled for war to rescue Lot (Genesis 14:1-16), God established his covenant with him (Genesis 15, 17), his son Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:1-6,15-16), and Isaac’s birth was promised (Genesis 18). Abraham purchased a burial plot at Hebron (Genesis 23), where Sarah, Abraham (Genesis 25:10-11), Isaac (Genesis 35:27-28), and Jacob (Genesis 50:7-14) were buried. Jerusalem also features in the Abraham narrative when Abraham tithed to its king Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-24), and when Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac on the nearby mountain of Moriah (Genesis 22:4-18).

Still in Genesis, Bethel was the site where Jacob famously dreamed of angels ascending and descending (Genesis 28:11-22). In that dream, God promised him, “the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring” (Genesis 28:13). When Jacob returned to Canaan, he bought land and built an altar at Shechem (Genesis 33:18-20), where his sons slaughtered the inhabitants (Genesis 34) and later pastured their flocks (Genesis 37:12-17). Jacob then returned to Bethel, where he also built an altar (Genesis 35:1-15). Bethlehem is first mentioned here in relation to the site of Rachel’s tomb (Genesis 35:16-21).

In Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the people of Israel do not live in Canaan, but those books focus on their promised return and conquest of the promised land.

In Joshua, the people crossed into Canaan across from Jericho, which they spied out (Joshua 2) and then captured (Joshua 6). They established a camp nearby at Gilgal (Joshua 4:19-24), where they performed multiple religious observances (Joshua 5). The camp at Gilgal became a “home base” of sorts for the Israelite conquest of southern Canaan (Joshua 7:6-26, 9:6, 10:15, 10:40-43). Israel recited the curses and blessings on Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim outside Shechem (Joshua 8:30-35), as Moses had directed (Deuteronomy 27:1-8). Israel next moved against Ai, near Bethel (Joshua 7:1-5, 8:1-29). Then, their covenant with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9), became the occasion for a great victory at Gibeon (Joshua 10:1-14).

Israel set up the tabernacle at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1), where it remained throughout the entire period of the Judges (Judges 18:31), until the ark was lost in battle (1 Samuel 4:1-11). There they apportioned the land (Joshua 18:2-10), with most of the West Bank falling to Judah (Joshua 15), Ephraim and Manasseh (Joshua 16-17), and Benjamin (Joshua 18:11-28). Hebron receives special mention as the allotment of Caleb, who had spied it out in the wilderness (Numbers 13:21) and returned to conquer it (Joshua 14:6-15) for a second time (Joshua 10:36-37). After completing the conquest, Israel renewed the Mosaic covenant at Shechem (Joshua 24).

In Judges, Jerusalem was the site of military success and failure (Judges 1:8,21). The second judge Ehud (Judges 3:12-30) came from the territory of Benjamin, all of which is in the West Bank. The next judge, Deborah, operated near Bethel (Judges 4:5). Shechem was the home of Israel’s first proto-king, Abimelech (Judges 8:31-9:57). And Samson carried the gates of Gath to Hebron (Judges 16:3). The final narratives (Judges 17-21) both mention Bethlehem, where the events of Ruth occurred during the same period.

In Samuel, the early chapters focus around Hannah’s petition, Samuel’s service, Eli’s unfaithful sons, and the prophecy against his house, all of which occurred at Shiloh (1 Samuel 1-3). Samuel operated as a judge around Bethel (1 Samuel 7:16). Many of Saul’s campaigns happened in a small area around the territory of Benjamin and Ephraim (1 Samuel 13:2). God rejected Saul as king and anointed David, from Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:13). At Hebron, David was anointed king over Judah (2 Samuel 2:1-11) and all Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-5). In the intervening civil war, Judah and Benjamin fought at Gibeon (2 Samuel 2:12-32), and Joab murdered Abner at Hebron (2 Samuel 3:20-30). Later, Absalom also launch his conspiracy there (2 Samuel 15:7-12). David’s first act as king over all Israel was to conquer Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:6-10), where he soon brought the ark (2 Samuel 6:1-15).

From that point on, until the fall of the southern kingdom, Jerusalem was the focal point of most of the nation’s political and religious life. Although part of modern Jerusalem lies in Israeli territory, the city as it existed in David’s day, including the Temple Mount, lies in the West Bank.

Jerusalem is the focal point in Kings, but many events also occurred elsewhere. Gibeon was the location of the tabernacle (2 Chronicles 1:13) and Solomon’s dream (1 Kings 3:4-9). Israel assembled at Shechem to crown Solomon’s son Rehoboam but rejected him instead (1 Kings 12:1-15). Israel chose Jeroboam, who initially lived at Shechem (1 Kings 12:25). Jeroboam introduced idolatrous worship through a golden calf at Bethel (1 Kings 12:29), which was later defiled by King Josiah (2 Kings 23:15). The prophet Ahijah pronounced both Jeroboam’s rise and fall, and he lived at Shiloh (1 Kings 14:2-16).

Jeroboam eventually moved his capital to Tirzah (1 Kings 14:17), where Baasha (1 Kings 15:33), Elah (1 Kings 16:8), Zimri (1 Kings 16:15), and Omri (1 Kings 16:23) also ruled. (Tirzah’s location is uncertain, but the traditional site is in the West Bank). Omri then built Samaria and moved the capital there (1 Kings 16:24); Samaria also became a focal point for the wars of Syria and the prophet Elisha in Kings. Jericho was rebuilt in the time of Omri’s son Ahab (1 Kings 16:34), and a community of prophets lived there in Elijah’s time (2 Kings 2:5, 15-22). The last king of Judah, Zedekiah, was captured near Jericho, when he fled the Babylonians (2 Kings 25:5).

Thus, from beginning to end, the ancient nation of Israel’s heartland was in the regions of Judea and Samaria which today comprise the West Bank. Much of what did not occur in these regions took place across the Jordan River in what is now Jordan. In these regions, the returned exiles dwelt in Ezra and Nehemiah. In these regions the Jews dwelt up until the first century, when the Lord Jesus came and walked these very same roads.

“That’s what they want to give away as a part of the two-state solution,” Perkins protested. “How can Israel continue to be a country, defend itself if we take the heart of that land out and turn it into a Palestinian state? … That’s the heart of Israel.”

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.

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