God's Laws on Land and Inheritance--Part 1
Apr 22, 2008
The most basic truth of the Bible is found in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." This verse is the foundation of Scripture and establishes His first and primary right as expressed in the First Commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."
Genesis 1:1 also defines the parameters of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is not only heaven but also earth. Though the two are distinct, they are ultimately to be one, even as in a perfect marriage. The goal of creation will be complete only when God's will is done in earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). When the two are in full agreement, then they are in a New Covenant marriage relationship on a cosmic scale.
The most immediate corollary to Genesis 1:1 is the principle that God OWNS all that He has created. And ownership's corollary is the law of responsibility and liability--the fact that God is responsible for that which He has created. One cannot blame the devil or man himself when things go wrong. These may be partially liable, but in no way does blaming the devil or mankind relieve God of the responsibility of ownership. His own law tells us this in Ex. 21:34 and in other places.
When God gave Israel into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, He explained His actions in terms of His creation rights. In Jeremiah 27:5, 6 God says,
" (5) I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in my sight. (6) And now I have given all these lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, MY SERVANT, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him."
When God gave Israel the land of Canaan in the book of Judges, God was exercising this same right of creation and ownership. As Creator, He held the right to be Judge of all the earth, and if one part of His creation misused the land that God had given them, God had every right to disenfranchise them and give their land to others. If the people rebelled against God's right to own His creation, it was perfectly lawful and just for God to bring judgment upon them.
The Canaanites were the first to misuse the land of Canaan. When their grace period ended without repentance (2 x 414 years), God gave their land to the Israelites. Yet God gave clear instructions to Israel that if they usurped the land for themselves and refused to abide by the law of God, they would certainly be disenfranchised. The warning is found in Leviticus 26 and Deut. 28.
In other words, Israel's inheritance in the land of Canaan was CONDITIONAL upon their obedience. Deut. 28:63 says that if disobedient, Israel "shall be torn from the land," and the next verse says "the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, and there you shall serve other gods."
When God gave Israel the land of Canaan, Joshua divided up the land among the tribes and among all the families in Israel. Joshua 11:23 says,
"So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war."
Each tribe's inheritance is given in detail from Joshua 12 to 19. In chapter 20 we read of the cities of refuge that were established for those who had accidentally killed someone. It is interesting to note in 20:9 that foreigners were allowed to live in the cities of refuge as well as other cities:
"These were the appointed cities for all the sons of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them."
Later, in Judges 19:12 we find a reference to a Levite who did not want to spend the night in "the city of foreigners who are not of the sons of Israel." As it turned out, that Levite probably would have been much better off among the foreigners, for his wife was abused terribly until she died when he tried to spend the night in a city of Benjamin.
The point is that non-Israelites were given a place within the borders of Israel as well. No doubt most of these were people who had left Egypt with Israel--the "mixed multitude" of Exodus 12:38. God gave them an inheritance in the land, along with the Israelites themselves, and eventually they were integrated into the nation itself as they became encultured after a few generations of worshiping the God of Israel.
The land inheritance was given to Israel under certain conditions. They were to let the land rest every seventh year, and they were to have an extra land-rest (and Jubilee) after 49 years. Further, they were not allowed to sell their land perpetually. They could only lease it until the following year of Jubilee. Leviticus 25:23 says,
"The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with me."
The apportionment of land to the families of Israel in the days of Joshua establishes a number of patterns for the Kingdom of God in the time to come, envisioned by the prophets. Micah 4 is a prophecy about the time when many nations will desire to learn the ways and laws of God (vs. 2) and when the nations will no longer learn the arts of war (vs. 3). Then verse 4 says,
"And each of them [people of the nations] will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken."
In other words, each family will have its own land inheritance, much like Israel under Joshua. The primary difference is that this time the Kingdom of God will be world-wide, and not merely a small piece of real estate as in the days of Joshua. Canaan was like a model for a much larger Kingdom that would yet come. For this reason, Jesus quoted Psalm 37:11 in Matthew 5:5, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
No scripture tells us that heaven is our inheritance. On the contrary, Psalm 115:16 says, "The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He has given to the sons of men."
Even so, there is a greater inheritance for the overcomers that is very different from the rest of humanity. Recall that the Old Testament tribe of Levi was given no land inheritance in Canaan. Numbers 18:20 says,
"Then the Lord said to Aaron, 'You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel'."
There were therefore twelve land-owning tribes, and one tribe (Levi) that had no land inheritance, but served instead as civil and religious leaders of the people. The priests of Levi were appointed as the executors of God's will--that is, God's last will and testament. However, when Jesus died, these priests usurped the inheritance and refused to give Jesus the scepter that was rightfully His. So they were replaced by a new Order of Melchizedek.
The Melchizedek Order is the priesthood that will reign with Christ (Rev. 20:6) in the Tabernacles Age to come. "They will reign upon the earth" (Rev. 5:10), although they will have equal access to heaven. God (His divine presence) will be the inheritance of the overcomers of Melchizedek. The overcomers' inheritance will be the glorified body, while the rest will only inherit a portion of land on earth until they experience the feast of Tabernacles for themselves.
This is the first part of a series titled "God's Laws on Land and Inheritance." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones