My drive home from work lasts maybe fifteen minutes, if the traffic is a tad heavy. So when I flip on the radio I don’t expect to hear much, other than commercials, of anything deep or interesting. I usually tune in one of two local talk stations. On this particular drive home I was listening to a guest host who I have heard before. He is somewhat Conservative, which I prefer, and he’s usually pretty ‘up’ on whatever his subject is.
I have no idea what this day’s subject was – not enough time! – but what I heard had me scratching my head. He was announcing that the Land of Israel was not mentioned once in the Bible.
Now I am no theologian. Not even close. But I certainly have read the book many times. And I know for a fact that the ‘Land of Israel’ is certainly mentioned. And often! But here he was stating categorically that it wasn’t, and that the translations were somehow lacking, probably owing to the Greek and Aramaic originals.
Now, when I heard the phrase ‘Land of Israel’ the first thing that came to mind wasn’t the New Testament, but the Old Testament. The Hebrew Scriptures. A caller spoke with him – the voice came across to me as ‘Jewish’ – don’t roll your eyes! Listen to Jackie Mason and tell me you don’t think ‘Jewish’! – and this caller proceeded to explain that the phrase was indeed used often, and was Hebrew in origin. The host demurred that the Bible was written in Greek and Aramaic. He seemed to grasp that yes, Israel was the name given to Jacob a grandson of Abraham. He seemed to grasp that the Torah was indeed written in Hebrew, but seemed to fail to grasp that the Torah was only the first five ‘books’ of the Old Testament, that the rest of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew as well. I was confused.
Now, at this point I sort of tuned him out. My mind was roaming and I was formulating a reply to him in my head – yes, I do that a lot! – and explaining to him that the Christian Bible consists of two sections: The Hebrew Scriptures, popularly referred to as the Old Testament, and the Greek Scriptures, popularly referred to as the New Testament. And by that time I had arrived home.
I went in, flipped on the computer and went right to the Blue Letter Bible
on the internet. I typed in ‘Land of Israel’ and hit the search button. 228 matches, 31 of which were an exact match, that went right up to Matthew in the New Testament. Alright, I had some facts now. So I emailed the host.
I caught a few minutes of you covering for _______ this afternoon. You kept insisting that the Bible was written in Aramaic and Greek. Partially correct, as I know you've been told. The New Testament - the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, Revelation - were originally written in Aramaic and Greek. But the Old Testament, the foundation from which the New Testament rose, was written in Hebrew. Thus the Old Testament is often referred to as the Hebrew Bible. Or the Hebrew books of the Bible. Our modern Christian versions of the Bible contain an Old (Hebrew) Testament and a New (Greek/Aramaic) Testament.
I'm surprised you weren't aware of that!
By the time of Jesus, the area that once was Israel was called Judea (a bad Roman version of Judah - Land of the Judahites: Jews) and Samaria(the northern area of ancient Israel which was settled by the Samaritans after the Babylonian Conquest of Israel). The area was called Israel throughout the time of Saul, David, and Solomon. After that, the Kingdom split into two Kingdoms: Israel the northern Kingdom, Judah the southern Kingdom.
Okay, I perhaps expected a ‘Eureka’ moment from him. That slap to the head, “Ohhh, that’s right! What was I thinking?” But I didn’t get it. Nope. What I got was this:
“Jacob was known as Israel -- the land was not. and, the Hebrew language in the Torah (sp) I am aware of.”
Ahhh, so he’s not grasping this, is he? Okay, I have nothing to do, I’m sipping my ice water, so let’s continue, eh? Look, when I am in the ‘Spirit’ I get on my soap box, in my pulpit, and I talk. Off went another email in reply, this time with a few scriptures, and their references in links:
“Well, from the book of First Samuel, then from Second Kings, comes this: 1Sa 13:19
Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make [them] swords or spears:2Ki 5:2
And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.2Ki 5:4
And [one] went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that [is] of the land of Israel.2Ki 6:23
And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.
That's simply two of the Old Testament books. The inhabitants of Israel called it Israel.”
I didn’t want to spam him with all 31 matches. Or go digging through the whole 228 matches I found. Those should have been sufficient, don’cha think? Well, I did. Off went the email. A little while later came a reply:
“I'm really not being a jerk.. and am not being arrogant.. but, I'm reading that to say it's the "land" of the guy named "Israel." As in "Host's" land or "benning's" Land. From what I can tell this very land was split in two as Juda to the south and Israel to the north some time later. but, again -- I ADMITTEDLY am still a mere young student of these facts. thanks for being patient.”
Okay, now that looks as though he’s closing in on the facts! Right? He says right there “From what I can tell this very land was split in two as Juda to the south and Israel to the north some time later.” Doesn’t that mean that there was a place called ‘Israel’? Looks like it to me. So I just had to clarify, being helpful, don’t you know:
“No, I know you're not being a jerk. A nation named for a man is not unusual. Denmark is the English modern of Dan's Border. Or Dan's March. England, fo course, is Land of the Angles. The Angles were named for a forbear.
Israel was the name of the land. Named for the forbear Jacob. The people would take his name also - Israelites - so their land became Israel or Land of the Israelites.
Now I like the sound of benning's Land. But I am cash and land poor. So I doubt it will happen! Ahhhh, but a guy can dream, eh?”
Enough? I thought so. But seems I am too optimistic. For back came another reply:
“By the way, most historical references I'm finding are calling that parcel of land "Canaan" or "Juda." I'm still learning”
Yes, he is. And I hope he digs deeper, and not by following the same anti-Israel texts that are touted by the mainstream. He ought to be reading his Bible!
“Correct! Canaan was its name. Until the Israelites invaded and took it. Judah was the name of the southern Kingdom following the splitting of the Kingdom. Israel was the north and Judah was the south. It's from about that time that the inhabitants of the southern kingdom came to be known as Judahites, shortened to Jews.
Who isn't still learning?”
And that was the end of our correspondence. I really didn’t expect more, but I had hoped to show him the facts. Now, what was going on here? And why am I even relating this? Not to expose a Talk Show Host who is ignorant – he isn’t, or stupid, he isn’t! Not to show my expertise, I don’t think. Because I am no expert. That’s why I went to the source when I hopped online. I needed to find the scriptures I was sure were there, but could not cite from memory. Even now, I'd bet some of what I wrote him is not quite exact. (No, I don't think I made any errors, but ... *shrug*)
Which is why in many of my comments and in some of my posts I say, “if my memory serves …” or, “if I’m remembering this correctly”. Because my memory is not a computer. I have thoughts and memories that are wrong! In error! And I recognize that.
So many people don’t! Which is why propaganda works so well. Our memories can be altered by a stray word, or repetition. When I think I remember something … oh, I remember that politician saying this … well, sometimes it isn’t what that politician said at all! No, at times it’s a paraphrase from the News (we know how reliable that is!), or a parody from a comedian, or it was somebody else entirely! See? We mis-remember. We do it all the time. That’s one of the great uses of the computer and the Internet. We can ‘fact-check’! But we don’t. Not always. We use our memories and speak from them.
Now that radio talk show host probably was told by somebody - at a party, at a bar, in a lunch meeting – that an interesting fact was that nowhere in the Bible is Israel called Israel! He may well have responded, “What? Are you nuts? ‘Course it was!” No. That’s a common misconception … blah, blah, blah. And the host remembered that and regurgitated it on the air. He’s dead wrong, and should have acknowledged that as soon as callers explained it to him. So why didn’t he?
Because he’s human. He was sure he was right. He remembered that ‘factoid’ so it must be correct! But he wasn’t. And as I emailed him with proof, including links to the scriptures themselves, he could have checked easily enough. What better proof than a document that has early copies from over 2000 years ago. Early copies that are the same as the modern translations. Easily checked. Yet he clung to the idea that he was right, that the Land of Israel was not called Israel.
We find it impossible sometimes, to admit we’re wrong. Way off base! We just hate to admit we have been exposed. I know I hate it! And yet I have learned to be careful about the things I say. Not because I fear errors, but because I hate having to say, “Yeah, I was way off on that! Man, what was I thinking?” Hate it. I want to be correct. So I fact-check. And I take care in what I say. And when I’m not sure I make sure that whoever I’m talking to knows I’m not sure.
Mr. Talk-Show-Host: The Land of Israel was called that. By its inhabitants. By its neighbors. By its enemies. We know this from the Old Testament of the Bible and the New Testament of the Bible. We know it from hieratic writings in Egypt and Babylonian and Assyrian writings. It’s a fact, sir. A little in depth reading will reveal it to you.
Carry on, sir, ‘cause I like your show when I hear you. Good luck! And good reading!