Esau said, ‘What was all that company of yours that I met?’ And Jacob answered, ‘It was meant to win favour with you, my lord.’
Esau answered, ‘I have more than enough. Keep what is yours, my brother.’
But Jacob said, ‘On no account; if I have won your favour, then I pray, accept…this gift which I bring you; for God has been gracious to me, and I have all I want.’
So he urged him, and he accepted it.
— One of the Bible’s great reunion stories. Jacob wrestles with God’s angel, is blessed and re-named Israel; and the next day notoriously-divided brothers reconcile. If God has been gracious to you, it is time to share with others. Doing so, you are not weakened but strengthened—the strength that comes with reconciliation.
Genesis 14: 18-20
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought food and wine to Abram…. Abram gave him a tithe of all the booty.
Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I lift my hand and swear ty the Lord, God Most High, creator of heaven and earth: not a thread of a shoe-string will I accept of anything that is yours…. I will accept nothing but what the young men have eaten and the share of the men who went with me.’
— Abram has been at war in a far place, and enters territory of the Palestinian King, Melchizedek, who welcomes Abram with blessing and food. Abram responds with a bountiful tithe; his soldiers have been fed, and he wants no more. And so they live in peace, as God the creator most high has intended.
When you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its loads however unwilling you may be to help, you must give him a hand with it.
— Long before Jesus, the Hebrew scriptures tell us not only to love those who hate us, but to put that love into action. And what is the result of this? Doing God’s will, you prosper in peace.
They saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.
— When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai with the Ten commandments tablets, his face shines with his encounter with God. But those who haven’t been up the mountain are understandably leery of the shining one. To calm everyone down and make some normal kind of communication possible, Moses opts for a levelling face-veil. We can’t talk to people as reasonable equals till we shed our notion of our shining-light superiority.
Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely.
— Has the modern state of Israel kept God’s statutes? If it is itself oppressive, is it even the nation that God was endowing back in the time of the Bible?
You shall not make idols for yourselves… But if you do not listen to me, if you fail to keep all these commandments of mine…, then be sure that this is what I will do: I will bring upon you a sudden terror….
— It’s clear throughout Leviticus that God’s granting of the promised land to the Israelites is conditional on their obeying God’s laws: among them peacefulness; generosity to the other; refusal to worship idols—and is not Israelis’ elevating land-possession above all other sacred considerations idolatry? And so a sudden terror—terrorism—has indeed been brought upon them.
Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV / 5 helpful votes
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as a native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
— And who, now, in occupied Palestine, is the stranger in Israeli eyes? A recurrent, obsessive theme in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Palestinian. See back in Exodus:
You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
— And see Deuteronomy:
Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice. All the people shall say, “Amen!
— The Palestinian has become the alien in Palestinian land. And what of the Palestinian widows, the orphans?
I Kings 21.15
As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, she said to Ahab, ‘Get up and take possession of the vineyard….’
— An iconic abuse of political power. When plots and threats don’t work, take land by violence from its owner/occupier. Though Ahab repents—sackcloth and fasting—he can only postpone retribution. Jezebel? Famously, dogs eat her and lick her blood. It turns out badly for the perpetrators.
Then the wolf shall live with the lamb,
and the leopard lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall grow up together,
and a little child shall lead them.
— Wolf and lamb; leopard and baby goat; calf and lion—unequal relationships; relationships of power imbalance. Exactly the kind of relationships in which we are most challenged by God to make peace. In contrast, peace among equals is not so hard, it’s the default. A child shall lead the way: when we see a child suffer, and all say, ‘That’s no way to treat a child’, then we take the first step on the path to peace.
On that day a scion from the Root of Jesse shall be set up as a signal for the peoples; the nations shall rally to it, and its resting-place shall be glorious.
I will also give you for a light unto the nations, that My salvation may be unto the end of the earth.
— In the Hebrew scriptures, here specifically in Isaiah, God does not promise all power unconditionally to the Israelites. God’s covenant intends Israel as ‘a light to the nations in the fulfillment of the covenant promises, which was accomplished in Israel through’. That is, Israel must be a redemptive model for all nations. Those whom God has chosen bear the unique responsibility to live a God-like way and thus bring others to God’s ways by example. Can God’s chosen move the world to the ways of their God by acting like any other oppressing nation?
Mend your ways and your doings, deal fairly with one another, do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, sherd no innocent blood in this place, do not run after other gods to your own ruin.
Then will I let you live in this place, in the land which I gave long ago to your forefathers for all time.
— Tenure on the land that God has gifted is conditional on right living. Amos says so too:
Therefore, because you trample on the poor
and take from them levies of grain,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not live in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your transgressions,
and how great are your sins—
— Amos above all other prophets loves the land; hates disobedience to the bountiful God; and proclaims throughout this prophecy that you can not live fruitfully on that land if you live on it selfishly, trampling on the others near you. And so says Hosea:
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called, the further they went away from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols….”The sword shall be swung over their blood-spattered altars and put an end to the prattling priests and devour may people in return for all their schemings, bent on rebellion as they are.
Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cries.
— Those who believe in their own righteousness and believe they have God on their side do not have carte blanche to do what they feel like. On the contrary, God is paying all the more attention that they act for peace.
May the mountains bring forth peace,
and the little hills righteousness for the people.
May he defend the poor among the people,
deliver the children of the needy and crush the oppressor.
— Peace can only be brought forth when the poor and oppressed and dispossessed are defended.
Psalm 122 2-3
Now we stand within your gates, O Jerusalem:
Jerusalem that is built to be a city where people come together in unity;
— If the Holy Land is the sacred home to three monotheistic faiths, all the more so must it be a place of peace.
Open your mouth and speak up for the dumb, against the suit of any that oppose them;
open your mouth and pronounce just sentence and give judgement for the wretched and the poor.
God calls us to
speak for those whose voices have been silenced. Those, like the Palestinians,
in poverty and obscurity, whose voices are excluded from mainstream media.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
— You could argue that this is the Gospel message.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that murders the prophets and stones the messengers sent to her! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not let me.
— The city sacred to all the monotheistic faiths—Why, as Jesus asks, must it be one of the most violent? He looks on Jerusalem with the love and compassion, gathering all together as one family.
With the joyful be joyful, and mourn with the mourners.
— How can one who wants peace exult in the sufferings of others? Empathy is the way to peace.
Never pay back evil for evil. Let your aims be such as all men count honourable. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Evil for evil makes an evil world. Honour for dishonour disarms the dishonourable.
I Corinthians 12.14
A body is not one single organ, but many.
— If the Holy Land is the land not of one people but of many, if we all are of one spiritual body, whether slave or free, Jew or Greek or Palestinian, each one of us must do our part for the health of the body entire. None can prosper in the Holy Land unless all work together for the good of all.
1 Peter 3:9
Do not repay wrong with wrong, or abuse with abuse; on the contrary, retaliate with blessing, for a blessing is the inheritance to which you yourselves have been called.
— In the Christian Gospels and Epistles, this is the way to peace. ‘An eye for an eye’ leads only to blindness on both sides.
And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
— In the end, the glorious healing is for all who wish it. It’s not for only one self-identified privileged group.
Sarah’s death and burial. Abraham asks the Canaanite (Hittite) residents for a plot of land to buy. When they insist on giving him the land–since he is a respected resident alien–he insists on paying for it, even though God has already promised him this land. This narrative is in sharp contrast to the military conquest and ethnic cleansing that came later under Joshua. The lesson for us: which paradigm do we follow: conquest or respectful relations of mutual trust. What movement do we support in Israel-Palestine: a negotiated, give and take, respectful peace that recognizes legitimate claims to the land; or one of military domination and conquest.
1 Chronicles 21
In the same vein: David has the opportunity to confiscate a plot of land from the Canaanite/Palestinian (Jebusite) farmer Ornan for the building of the new temple. But instead, David insists on buying it–even though, several generations earlier under Joshua, the Israelites had conquered the Promised Land under orders from God to wipe out the indigenous peoples. This is one of the stories in the Hebrew Bible that challenge the pattern of conquest and ethnic cleansing under supposed divine direction. Which Scriptures do we go to in determining our relationship with the land–those like this one, or those of land-theft.
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it…The world an all who dwell in it.” This text is a sharp challenge to people and nations who must “own” the land. The land is a gift to be stewarded well. Taking this text seriously has huge implications for our creation care, as well as to territorial ambitions and greet.
Following the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples want to know if God will restore the kingdom of Israel (i.e., and drive out the Roman occupiers). Jesus tells them that it is not for them to know. Their focus must be on God’s coming order that transcends nationality and extends to all people–“to the ends of the earth.”. This shift of focus toward a universal “kingdom” can be seen as a repudiation of nationalistic ambitions, especially for the followers of Jesus. How might this gospel narrative challenge the nationalism that defines Israel, Christian Zionism, or our own tendency toward nationalism?