Since God claims ownership over all the earth that He has made, Why, why then does God say about a specific area1 "this land is mine" or "my land" seven distinct times? (Leviticus 25:23; 2 Chronicles 7:20; Jeremiah 2:7; Ezekiel 36:5; 38:16; Joel 1:6; 3:2)
Let us set down some background that will help us to understand and make sense of these and other declarations of God's sovereign ownership which are detailed in the Bible study The Land IS Mine!, a study on the land of Israel.
When men moved about on the face of the earth after the great flood and even up to recent times they would seek out some territory that would suit their purposes for settling and living that would provide for their necessities and enable them to rear their families. Various groups throughout the earth practiced a common template of claiming ownership of the land or territory upon which they walked, lived and began to settle. This was indeed just as God had directed in Genesis 1:28-29 for man to go forth and live upon the earth He had created and as stated in Genesis 11:9. Since then various men and people groups have made claims upon land and territories throughout the earth.
Since the late 1400's explorers began to dream of reaching out to claim 'unsettled lands' for the sovereigns who co-funded their journeys by sea and by land. Wherever these explorers, pioneers and later settlers came they claimed the land for their paternal country and for themselves. Each of these early explorers laid claim to new lands by placing their feet upon it, planting a staff with flag and declaring it the possession of their sovereigns. This claiming the land by treading upon it is of great interest to us here. Where do you think this came from? Is it merely man's idea or does it have roots in the workings of God Himself?
The following will explore this and give us the basis to understand the 'Why?' from the question above. We will explore God making, walking upon, settling and living upon the land, then summarize and draw a conclusion.
Making the land
God has made some profound declarations about Himself and His creation of all things. These are detailed in the study Christians Believe under the headings God - the beginner of all things and God created the heavens and the earth and are referenced and incorporated here. Somewhere in the undeclared past God decided to create a vast array of things stretching beyond our imagination. When He was ready God stood forth, as it were, and called into existence the spiritual heavens and the fabric of the cosmos which holds the space-time continuum, and then filled them with innumerable things. The spiritual heavens God filled with angelic beings and their necessary things. In the cosmos He called forth waters which coalesced to form the watery earth. Each thing was formed wherever God decided and called it forth, but one thing is certainthe earth formed at His feet. The earth is not only central to the visible universe but also central to God's purposes to make man in His image. Isaiah 66:1 declares, "Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool." And in Isaiah 60:13 He says, "I will make the place of my feet glorious." The expression "the earth is my footstool" is reaffirmed in Lamentations 2:1; Matthew 5:35 and Acts 7:49.
For most of my life I understood the text in Isaiah chapter 60 verse 13, "I will make the place of my feet glorious," to be futuristic and thus a prophecy, but now it appears it may be both a reiteration of a prior event as well as a declaration of a future intent. Genesis 1:31 declares, "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." The seven days of creation would be the prior event of making earth well pleasing to God. But man has marred that pristine creation and now it is under the bondage of sin and death as stated in Romans 8:22, "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." It must be made new again. Romans 8:21 addresses this bondage saying, "Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Our Lord Jesus affirms that it must be made new in Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1)
Walking upon the land
The place of God's feet is an important and necessary topic to explore. That God Himself walks upon the earth is most certain for He has declared: "For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name." (Amos 4:13) Again in Micah 1:3 He says, "For, behold, the Lord cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth." And before this Genesis 2:7-8 says, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed." This implies God was working here upon earth itself. Verse 15 almost says He carried the formed man in His arms, "And the Lord God took the man [from "the ground from whence he was taken" 3:23], and put him into the garden of Eden ..." and perhaps there He "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7)
Again His walking upon the earth is declared when He tells us in Genesis 2:21-22, "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man." Moreover, in Genesis 3:8 "they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden." God's presence upon earth is declared again in verse 21, "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them." Likewise in verses 23-24, "Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." But God's visits may not end here.
The following verses in Genesis are not as certain as to God's direct visitation. In Genesis 4:6-7, 16 we note, "And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. ... And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden." Perhaps God often visited earth up to the time of this verse in Genesis 4:26 when he rarely visited anymore, "then began men to call upon the name of the Lord" rather than in person. Genesis 5:22, "And Enoch walked with God," may or may not be communication in person. Another verse uncertain as to God walking upon earth is Genesis 6:5, "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" and in verses 11-12 "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." Later at the time of the flood in Genesis 7:1, 16, "And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark ... and the Lord shut him in," might be another visitation.
There are other verses that tell us of God's visitation (theophany or Christophany) after the great flood of Noah's day. Genesis 11:5, 7 states, "And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. ... Go to, let us go down." There are many incidents in the Old Testament where "The Lord came down," "I will go down" and the glory of the Lord "appeared," etc. Therefore God visits earth and reveals Himself to men by various means. This is a generally accepted list: Genesis 12:7-9; 16:13; 17:1; 18:1-3; 28:11-19; 32:22-32, 28-30; Exodus 19:20; 24:9-11; 33:18-34:8; Deut 31:15; Joshua 5:14; 6:11, 21-22; 13:3, 18-22; Job 31:35; 2 Kings 19:35; Zechariah 3:1-2; 12:8. The Lord also appears to people in visions (Genesis 15:1; 46:2; Job 33:15; Psalm 89:19; Dan 2:19; Acts 9:10; 18:9) and in dreams (Gen 20:3; 31:24; 1 Kings 3:5; Matt 2:13) to reveal his plans for them or to unveil mysteries for the future. [See: Theophany]
Notable among these is the account in Genesis 18:1-8 where Abraham is given a visit when three come to wash their feet, sit, eat and talk with him. Verses 1-5 and 16 especially confirm a physical visit where God is here upon the land He has chosen for His own. [See: The Land IS Mine!]
Settling the land
The most comprehensive statement of God settling the land is in Genesis ch 1 verses 9-31 where He makes earth habitable. Then in Genesis 2:4-6 we learn more, "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground." Verses 8-10 add, "And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads."
God made and prepared the earth, planted it, and developed a garden with a watering sytem to sustain it. (Genesis 2:4-10) In verse 15 He even prepared a gardener and later his wife (vs 21-24) to take care of it, "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. ... 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof." (verse 19)
In Chapter 3 we see God evaluated the stewardship of the gardner, Adam, and his wife, Eve, and expelled them for taking and eating the property reserved for Himself. God then defended His garden from their further intrusion by means of flaming swords. This too is validation of God's claim to ownership.
Living upon the land
Much later God visits in the person of Jesus Christ. The lineage of Jesus Christ is given in Matthew 1:1, 18, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. ... Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." Then Apostle John states in John 1:1, 4, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." Again in 1 John 1:1-4 we read, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."
The duration of Jesus dwelling upon earth is given in Luke 3:23 "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age" plus about 3 and one-half years of ministry (Luke 13:7). While here He traversed the territories of Egypt (as a child, Matthew 2:13-15), Judea (John 4:1-5), Samaria (John 4:1-5), Gallilee (Matthew 4:12), the coasts of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21), the coasts of Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13) and more (Mark 6:56). Jesus provided the base for His ministry here. In Matthew 4:13 it says, "And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim" where He used a house for his temporary residence. (Mark 2:15), perhaps like Elisha with the the woman of Shunem (2Kings 4:8-11).
The declarations "this land is mine" or "my land" seem therefore, to reiterate God's ownership beyond simply being creator. It is His to claim as inventor and maker of the terrestrial earth with its design, processes, function, fruitfulness, usability and more. He made all of its varied plants and kinds of creatures: microbes, creeping things, water creatures, flying things, domestic and wild animals, et cetera and made man to dwell upon it. Moreover He made the celestial heavens with all of their planets, suns, nebulae and galaxies. Deuteronomy 10:14 says, "Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is."
And it is also God's by right of being the first to walk upon this new terrestrial creation and thereby to claim it for His own. It is His by right of settlement including by planting and sustaining a garden. The earth, and especially God's chosen territory, is also His by right of frequent visitation and dwelling there for more than thirty three years in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus affirms the same in Matthew 5:34-35 saying, "But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King."
If mere man in following after God's example asserts ownership of the earth by his actions of treading upon it; claims property rights of the land or territory by walking, living and settling upon it; or declares territories the possession of their sovereigns (often by conquest) by placing their feet and planting a staff with flag upon it; shall not God, the Creator of all things, who formed the earth at His feet, and was the first to walk upon it, have absolute right to all of the earth or anyplace in it He chooses to reserve for His own?
"And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever ..." Ezekiel 43:7
This brings us back to God's sovereign declarations using the expressions "this land is mine" or "my land" seven distinct times, as noted above. Therefore we read in Psalm 132:13-14, "For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it." By these He claims this land for His own special purposes beyond His general claim of ownership over all the earth. It means not only that the earth is God's to freely share with mankind as He has done according to Psalm 115:16, "The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD's: but the earth hath he given to the children of men." and in Acts 17:26, "And [He] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation."
But these sovereign declarations also mean that this land is His to give to whomsoever He pleases. So we read in Genesis 13:14-17:
"And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. 16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee." (This pledge is reiterated in Genesis 17:8 to Abraham and in Genesis 48:4 to his grandson, Jacob.)
Again God speaks in Deuteronomy 32:8 saying, "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel." God has promised this land to Abraham in Genesis 13:15 saying, "For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever." He extended this promise later in Exodus 23:31 to Abraham's descendents through Isaac and Jacob saying, "And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee."
It would be prudent therefore for everyone to give heed to God's eternal declarations to Israel:
"... for I have given you the land to possess it. 54 And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man's inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit." (Numbers 33:52-54); "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast." (Joshua 1:3-4)
"And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: 22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all." (Ezekiel 37:21-22) [see vs 15-28]
"For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me." (Ezekiel 20:40)
"Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God; Thus saith the Lord God to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about; 5 Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey. 6 Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because ye have borne the shame of the heathen: 7 Therefore thus saith the Lord God; I have lifted up mine hand, Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame. 8 But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come. 9 For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown: 10 And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded: 11 And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the Lord." (Ezekiel 36:4-11)
1. The details explaining the boundaries are given in The Land IS Mine! under the heading: What are its borders?.