Monday, September 03, 2007

Land of the Moriah

The Land of Israel –
Land of the Moriah,
Land of the Hebrews

The term “Land of Israel” is mentioned several times in the Scriptures (e.g. Joshua 12:22; 1.Sam. 13:19; 2.Sam. 22:2; 2.Chron. 2:16) in a way that does not allow us to conclude that it was the official and accepted name of the country in ancient times. On the other hand, the Prophet Ezekiel uses this term explicitly in describing his vision of the restoration of the Temple after the return of the people of Israel from the Diaspora, (Ezek. 40:2; 47:18).
During the Second Temple period (i.e. the Greek/Roman period), the term “Land of Israel” was not the official name of the country; yet it was apparently in use among the people of Israel. According to Matt. 2:20, the angel told Joseph to “go into the Land of Israel.” Obviously, this term comprised Judea and Bethlehem (v. 21, 22), and must have been understood this way.
After crushing the Bar-Cochba revolt (135 C.E.), the Romans re-named the land “Philistea,” taking that term from Israel’s archenemies in an attempt to wage psychological warfare by erasing the generic names “Israel” and “Judea,” and thus to deprive the people of Israel of their heritage and destiny.
The British, then, picked up the term Palestine (the Anglicized form of Philistea), and applied it in 1920 to the territory of their Mandate west of the Jordan River.
So far, all these namings and re-namings of the land were quite in line with the very common custom of naming a land after its people: England – the land of the Anglo-Saxons; France – the land of the French; Arabia – the land of the Arabs; etc. It is peculiar in Israel’s case that the name of the land and of its people are identical.
In addition, the Torah brings Israel’s particular call to the fore also by applying a very specific name to the country of our destiny: it records how the Lord tells Abraham to go to the “Land of the Moriah” (Gen. 22:2). That is, the name Moriah was given by the Lord, not by men. Moriah, we are told, is the Temple Mount (2.Chron. 3:1).
The term “Land of the Moriah” implies:
The land is adjoined, linked, to the Moriah. It is an extension thereof, characterized by
the latter. Without the Moriah, the land would be like any other country in the world.
True, each land and people has its peculiarity, something which distinguishes it from
others; but Israel’s peculiarity – that of the people as well as that of the country – is
indeed expressed by the connection to the Moriah and everything that conveys.
a) The Moriah is the visible and touchable link between the Lord, the people, and the
country: It is the residence of the Lord’s Name (1.Kings 8:27, 29).
b) In Hebrew, the term Moriah (מוריה) is directly related to the terms for teaching
((הוראה; for the subject taught (Torah, תורה); and for conceive (הרה) in its double
meaning of conceiving an idea or instruction; or of conceiving a child, becoming
Expounding on these denotations, Prophet Isaiah said: “…for out of Zion shall go forth the law [תורה, Torah, Teaching] and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Is.2:3). Not from a Jerusalem under a foreign rule, whether spiritual and/or political, but from that Jerusalem which is in essence Zion, that which is Moriah.
Moriah and Torah – Zion – cannot be substituted by, nor associated with, any other concept or teaching. Others may try to subdue or even erase Moriah and Torah, or they may try to amalgamate it with their norms, but they cannot undo nor change its essence and peculiarity.
This holds true with respect to other, hostile nations as e.g. the Babylonians, Romans, Arabs; or to the Church, which tried to establish herself as the New Zion, etc. Yet it is true also with respect to the people of Israel. We are severely warned: “Take heed of yourselves that your heart be not deceived and you turn aside, and serve other gods…” (Deut. 11:16).
Interestingly enough, the Hebrew term here for deceived, יפתה, yiphteh, could well mean: Do not be inclined toward Yephet. That is, do not be deluded by the philosophies and licentiousness of Yephet’s main descendant, Greece, and its culture.
One of the main contributions of ancient Greece to the modern world is the idea − even ideal − of democracy, which today is praised as the supreme value, overriding even religion(s). Yet looking closer, we can see that democracy is but a form of (political) life, in fact a framework. We must ask ourselves, what is the content of that framework? What is its soul?
While all nations find themselves confronted with this question, it is even more essential for Israel and its core, the Moriah. We are bound, like Isaac, to go up, and to find our salvation there. Trying to turn away would only pull the ground from underneath our feet, figuratively and literally.
The “Land of the Moriah” is not merely a haven of refuge (מקלט); nor can we reduce the Divine Covenant to an object of democratic votes regarding which parts of it are to be observed, and which ones to be declared outdated. We may practice democracy based upon the Divine Covenant, and within its framework: “For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us” (Is. 33:22). Ultimately it is His Torah which entitles us to the land. Others may agree, or try to oppose, but ultimately the Lord’s decree will be established. Hence, the People of Israel does not “occupy” its ancient homeland, rather lives therein.
In the blessings after reading the Torah, we refer to “Zion, the house of our living”: we are alive physically and spiritually only in the “Land of the Moriah,” proclaimed by Joseph as the “Land of the Hebrews,” that is, the Land of Israel, the “land of our inheritance” (Ps. 105:11), the land of our “eternal possession” (Gen. 48:3,4)..
Asher Eder

Note: “NT” and Koran are in accord with the Torah in this respect!. See my essays:
a) The “Parable of the Olive Tree” (Romans 11:26);
b) Peace is possible between Ishmael and Israel according to Koran and Tanakh
(available via ; or www//


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