HEBRON

There is a town on the west bank of the Jordan River, part of territory occupied by the Israelis after the 1967 war but later, thanks to pressure applied to Israel by the United States under the Clinton administration, is now an integral part of territory claimed by Palestinian militants. The name of the town is Hebron. Hebron and the surrounding West Bank territory are frequently in the news as elements of animosity between Palestinians and Israelis. America under the leadership of Barack Obama has again joined the world in siding with Palestinian claims on this sacred territory, as if the region will finally be blessed with peace if only Israel will have the good sense to acquiesce to the demand for a two-state solution, under the terms of which Hebron will almost certainly be offered to the Islamic militants who clamor for it as their rightful due.

The world forgets Hebron and its rich Biblical history. That was in the region, according to Genesis 12 and 13, where, as far back in time as when the nation of Israel was still but a promise from God, Abraham stood as God first gave him the promise:

“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. . .
“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: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. 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. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.”

God later formalized this promise by a unilateral, everlasting covenant which also established specific boundaries for the land of Israel, the borders of which extended far beyond both the region of Hebron and the present-day borders established by modern statesmen.

Abraham’s wife Sarah died at the age of 127, in Hebron. Abraham purchased a grave for her there, in the cave in Machpelah near Mamre, from Ephron the Hittite. He paid four hundred shekels of silver for it. When he died at the age of 175 he was also buried there, as were his son Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and his grandson Jacob and his primary wife Leah, the mother of Judah.

Hebron was conquered later by the Israelites under Joshua during the conquest of the Promised Land. Although it was given to them as a gift from God they still had to fight for possession of it. The particular band of men who actually took the city were of the tribe of Judah. Caleb, their leader, was eighty years old at the time and, as he reminded Joshua, he took it by virtue of the fact that it belonged to him.

Hebron belonged to Caleb because it was promised to him as a reward by God for his courageous faith. Two years into Israel’s Exodus sojourn the nation was encamped at the wilderness of Paran, where, as recorded in Chapter 13 of the book of Numbers, God told Moses to send twelve men, one representative from each of the tribes, to spy out the land of Canaan:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every trive of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. And Moses by the commandment of the Lord sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel. . .
“And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be stong or weak, few or many; And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strongholds; And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be yhe of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes. So they went up, and searched the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, as men come to Hamath. And they ascended by the south, and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were. (Now Hebron was build seven years beforfe Zoan in Egypt.) And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence. And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.”

Caleb was among these twelve. Of the spies, ten returned in fear and recommended a hasty retreat because of the massive size of the men who dwelt in the land:

“And they told [Moses], and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. . .
“And Caleb stilled the people befoe Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”

Only two men held fast. They claimed the land in faith, because it had been promised by God Himself. One of these heroes was Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim, a son of Joseph. His reward was the reign of leadership which was handed down to him by Moses. The other hero was Caleb of the tribe of Judah. Within the seed of Judah is the bloodline of David and Solomon, and ultimately of Jesus Christ. Caleb’s reward, as noted, was the city of Hebron. The gift was specifically unbound by time: it was to belong to the tribe of Judah forever. Caleb’s discourse to Joshua in the matter at the time that Israel was conquering the land of Canaan and his subsequent action is recorded in Joshua 14, verses 6 through 15:

“Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadeshbarnea. Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadeshbarnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt; but I wholly followed the Lord my God. And Moses sware on that day, saying Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden whall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God. And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said.
“And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. Hebron therefore became the inheritance of the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day; because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel. And the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakim. And the land had rest from war.”

This promise from God as a reward to Judah links Hebron with Israel in a tie so strong that to ignore it amounts to blasphemy; but there is yet more to the association. Several hundred years after Caleb’s victorious battle for Hebron, David was anointed by the prophet Samuel for kingship over Israel while its first king Saul still reigned. He was blessed for the office in Saul’s place because Saul fell into disobedience against God. Yet this anointing was for a future time, as Saul continued to reign as king over Israel, just as he continued to seek after David’s death, until his iniquity came to the fullness appointed by God. Eventually he arrived at that state where, being overwhelmed by Philistines in battle and sensing that God would not come to his rescue, Saul committed suicide by falling on his sword. Upon the death of Saul, the tribe of Judah made David their king, and he reigned over them. At that time, the seat of his government was Hebron. As for the rest of Israel, Abner, the captain of Saul’s army, took it upon himself to appoint Ishbosheth, a son of Saul, as their replacement king. As Ishbosheth’s commission represented a usurpation of God’s will, events brought Abner and Ishbosheth into conflict. They became alienated from each other, leading Israel into decline as Judah acquired strength under David’s rule. Soon the other tribes sought after David’s kingship. Within seven and a half years, they willingly submitted themselves to David and he acquired the kingship of Israel. In claiming his rule over the entire twelve tribes of Israel, David removed the Jebusites from Jerusalem and moved there from Hebron. He reigned for a total of forty years, first for seven years over Judah in Hebron, followed by thirty-three years over Israel in Jerusalem. But note that David’s first kingdom had Hebron as its capital.

So here we have at least three heavy-duty bands that tie Hebron with Israel: the location of the Patriarchs’ graves; the gift of Hebron to Judah of Israel by God Himself; and Hebron as the location of the initial capital of David’s reign. Yet not one mention of these links has been made by those who are attempting to bring order to the Middle East. Their efforts completely ignore God. We have noted that God had promised the land to Abraham. We also know that Abraham’s sons included Ishmael as well as Isaac. But God clearly defined the inheritor of the land as Isaac and his seed, not Ishmael, for the covenant which God established with Abraham was repeated for Isaac and Jacob, but not Ishmael. An account in Genesis 17 makes this clear:

“And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
“And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.”

Along with their ungrateful grasp upon of the autonomy which has been granted them in Hebron, the Palestinians are ever more loudly demanding the removal of all Jewish influence over this historic city. Yet this disdain for the history of Hebron is only one instance of many by which the world spits in the face of the Judeo-Christian God.

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