The land and its deity
God’s promises to Abraham were connected with knowing God, as God’s revelations of himself were Abraham’s “exceeding great reward.”
“After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” [Gen. 15:1]
The land that God promised to Abraham was the land where God revealed himself to his prophets. In the Old Testament, the land is connected with knowledge of God.
Knowledge of God was connected with the land promise in Jacob’s dream at Bethel.
“And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” [Gen. 28:12-14]
Jacob’s dream of a ladder reaching to heaven with God standing at the top and angels ascending and descending upon it depicts communications between God, and man, facilitated by angels. In the same dream God promised to give Jacob the land where he slept. The Old Testament records the oracles of God given over several centuries when Israel dwelt in the land. Some include angelic encounters and visions.
Naaman’s two mules’ burden of earth
After Naaman the Syrian was cured of leprosy, having washed himself seven times in the Jordan River, as instructed by the prophet Elisha, he returned to Elisha, offering presents. When Elisha refused them, Naaman asked for two mules’ burden of earth, to take back to Syria, that he might worship Israel’s God when he returned there.
“And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant. But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules’ burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord. In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing. And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.” [2 Kings 5:15-19]
For Naaman, possessing a small amount of earth from the territory of Israel enabled him to worship Israel’s God in Syria. This illustrates the connection that ancient people made between a land, and its deity.
The Samaritans learn about the God of the land
After the people of Israel in the northern kingdom of Samaria had been removed and taken captive by the king of Assyria, Gentiles from Babylon and other cities in Mesopotamia were brought in to replace them. When some of the settlers were attacked and killed by lions, they thought it might be because they had displeased the God of the land. They reported to the king of Assyria, who as a remedy ordered that one of the captive priests return to the land, to teach the people the law of Moses.
“Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land. Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land. Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord.” [2 Kings 17:26-28]
The Gentile Samaritans were taught the ways of the God of the land, Yahweh.
Jews forsook God
When the southern kingdom was about to be taken captive, Jeremiah explained that it was because the people had forsaken their God. Because of this they would be cast out of their own land and exiled to another land, where they would serve other gods. Jeremiah wrote:
“For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride. And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God? Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the Lord, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law; Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour.” [Jer. 16:9-13]
Jeremiah foretold a future exodus, and said God would send fishers, and hunters, who would seek his people “from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.”
“Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes. And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things. O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods? Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is The Lord.” [Jer. 16:14-21]
The Samaritan woman
In his conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus said that neither the Samaritan sanctuary on Mount Gerizim, nor the earthly Jerusalem and its temple, are relevant to true worship. Instead, Jesus identified himself as the promised Messiah.
“The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.” [John 4:19-26]
In the New Testament, when Jesus ascended to the throne of his Father in heaven, Isaiah’s prophecy about mount Zion and Jerusalem was fulfilled. [Isa. 2:1-3] Mount Zion and Jerusalem became heavenly, and spiritual. The earthly Jerusalem and mount Zion were no longer significant. Jesus represented the mountain of the Lord’s house, which was established in the top of the mountains, above the hills. Jerusalem was raised up to heaven, in a spiritual sense. Afterwards, prophecies about Jerusalem and mount Zion apply to the heavenly city. [Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:18-24]
In Revelation 12:6 & 14, the wilderness where the woman (who represents the church) is nourished for 1,260 days is not literal, but a figure. It is a place prepared by God, and signifies the status of believers, who have not yet attained the promises, but are in transit, enduring trials and temptations, seeking their promised inheritance. Their leader is Jesus Christ; the saints drink of the spiritual rock, who is Christ, and they are nourished with the spiritual manna of God’s word.