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Hebron on the West Bank: “Rattle My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham”

Stan Moody:

In light of the renewed hostility between Israel and the West Bank of Palestine, I thought it might be of interest to share this report that I wrote following a trip to the West Bank in 2007. The parallels with the current political stalemate in the US should not be surprising, considering the long history of US support for apartheid regimes in Israel.

It was a blistering hot day as we stood in what might, in an earlier time, have been called the Main Street of Hebron on the West Bank. Buildings lined the sides of the street but were seemingly unoccupied, an illusion created by fear. It reminded me of one of those towns in the old west where progress had passed by, except that instead of tumbleweed there was trash everywhere. The storefronts are boarded up; the street is virtually empty. The smell of fear hangs in the air.

Since then, I have imagined residents peeking out around curtains, trying to figure out what we were doing there and whose side we were on. Abraham’s children – Jews, Muslims, and Christians – are choosing sides while God patiently waits for faithfulness.

It is not that there were no signs of life. There was the occasional Humvee filled with Israeli soldiers, invisible behind privacy glass but awesomely threatening, especially when stopped in total silence in the middle of the street. An Israeli guard or two, here and there, stood ready with a finger on the safety of his or her (yes; young women serve as guards in Hebron) AK47.

One brave Palestinian Arab woman opened her door, through which she was not permitted to pass, and hosed down the front of her entryway. In a world in which timing is everything, it did not escape my notice that this was an act of non-violent protest and a clever one at that. Cleaning the street with water at a doorway through which no one is permitted to pass was a statement, I think. You can exercise your imagination as to what that statement may have been. My take was that it was a clever way of “urinating” on a street that symbolized the Occupation without being accused of doing so. The timing was perfect. Message received.

Another sign of life was the passing by, on the hill beside the street, of two EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel) volunteer observers – shadows of accountability in a land gone mad. These WCC (World Council of Churches) angels are international observers stationed there to quietly escort Palestinians and tourists, photograph all incidents of violence, and be the eyes of the world.

With cell phones and the Internet, pictures can be uploaded immediately.

We will visit the stories of these wonderful volunteers later on in this book. For now, the picture below tells the story beautifully.

We were there to keep an appointment.

Our appointment was a half hour late in arriving. Breathless and apologetic, she hurried up to a line in the empty street beyond which no Palestinian is permitted to go and led us up that same hillside via a steep, ragged stone stairway leading to a cramped, third-country school building. She had been delayed by the Israeli guards at the make-shift checkpoint at one end of town, despite the fact that she is a daily "customer", and they know her very well. Thankfully, there was not the occasional body search on this trip through.

This young Palestinian girl shortly after the May 2005

attack by Israeli Settlers against PalestinianSchool Girls

in Hebron. (Thanks for this photo to EAPPI, Pandora Bokala

from South Africa)

The checkpoint is one of hundreds that are purportedly designed to protect Jewish settlers, many of whom are from the United States and have settled in Hebron interminably but illegally. The settlements, being a violation of the Geneva Convention, are political and military cover for an occupying aggressor.

Although the count varies, it is estimated that more than five hundred settlers are squatting in Hebron, a city of nearly 150,000 people. While it is estimated that around one soldier is stationed in Hebron for every settler, a recent failed attempt to remove the settlers prompted a phalanx of 3,000 soldiers.[1]

The more tragic story is told as former IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) soldiers break the silence of their tyrannical “tours” on the West Bank. The reports coming out of Hebron reek of the corruption of absolute power. A report by Yitzhak Laor, a former member of IDF and now a novelist who lives in Tel Aviv was originally published in the London Review of Books, V26, N.14, on July 22, 2004. Here is a portion of that report:[2]

"First week, first time at the checkpoint, at the passage between the Palestinian area and a street where only Jews can go. Those guys have to stop, there's a line, then they hand you their ID cards through the fence, you check them, and let them through. This guy with me yells: 'Waqif! Stop!' The man didn't understand and took one more step. Then he yells again, 'Waqif!' and the man freezes. So the soldier decided that because the guy took this one extra step he'll be detained. I said to him: 'Listen, what are you doing?' He said: 'No, no, don't argue, at least not in front of them. I'm not going to trust you anymore, you're not reliable.' Eventually one of the patrol commanders came over, and I said: 'What's the deal, how long do you want to detain him for?' He said: 'You can do whatever you want, whatever you feel like doing. If you feel there's a problem with what he's done, if you feel something's wrong, even the slightest thing, you can detain him for as long as you want.' And then I got it, a man who's been in Hebron a week, it has nothing to do with rank, he can do whatever he wants. There are no rules, everything is permissible."

"Another thing I remember from Hebron is the so-called 'grass widow' procedure -- the name for a house the army takes over and turns into an observation post, the home of a Palestinian family, not a family of terrorists, just a family whose home made a good observation post. You're in somebody's house, and everything is littered with shit, there are cartridges and glass on the stairs, so you can hear if anyone is approaching. It's a house covered in camouflage netting so people can't see what you're doing inside. You find yourself in a Palestinian neighborhood, in some family's home, and it's totally surreal because there you are sitting in the living room, listening for people coming to attack you. There was food left behind, and there was TV, but we weren't allowed to turn it on -- to use their electricity, this would be too much, this would be considered 'bad occupation.'"

[1] [2]

On the strength and rush of the aphrodisiac of power to an eighteen-year-old soldier, the hidden agenda of the checkpoints and their officious ways is to discourage Palestinians from normal, daily intercourse of life, thereby driving them out. It isn’t working. In fact, Palestinians are migrating to Hebron because of the low cost of housing. Palestinian birthrates are reported to be as high as three times that of Israeli citizens. Several hundred soldiers backed by the awesome power and strength of the fourth largest nuclear power in the world hold as hostage tens of thousands of Palestinians whose only hope is that the outside world will hear their stories.

Having been a most gracious host, our appointment would have to go back through the same process in leaving the area, a process designed to demoralize and belittle, neither of which was effective in her case. I stood in amazement at the ability of this refined, educated, committed woman to rise above the humiliation she suffered daily at the checkpoint. She is Mrs. Fariel Abul Heikel, the principal of the CordobaSchool, grades K-10.

She is a Muslim in the place where Isaac and Ishmael, fathers of the Jewish and Arab peoples respectively, came together to pay their final respects to their dad, Abraham, free from restrictions and checkpoints. They laid Abraham beside Isaac's mother, Sarah, Ishmael graciously overlooking Sarah's vile mistreatment of his own mother, Haggar, that nearly cost both mother and son their lives but for a divine intervention.

The numbers today favor Ishmael, while the muscle favors Isaac.

Mrs. Heikel with our friend, Nanette Banks of Chicago

Mrs. Feriel, the headmistress of the Cordoba school (rear left), tending to one of her pupils who had her nose bloodied in the attack. An Israeli soldier is also present. Note the closed shops.

(Thanks for this photo to EAPPI, Anna Bur'en from Sweden)

History of Hebron

"Hebron is a Jewish city," says Orit Strock, a settler and mother of 11. "A people who come and live in a place 10 or 20 or even 100 years, it doesn't become their county. A country belongs to the people who lived in that country for thousands of years."[3]

Therein lies the problem. This kind of revisionist history insists that the land belongs to the original inhabitants. The arguments wage over who was there first and how long the Palestinians have been there. It is as though land and people are interchangeable terms in the same way that the Messianic Kingdom – the Kingdom of God – is interchangeable with the Christian Messiah, Jesus, and the Jewish Messiah yet to come.

The phrase, “land without people for people without land” is a Western, colonialist concept that resonates within the United States, whose government drove the Native Americans off their land and now claims entitlement. We inherited this notion from the British Empire with a long history of conquering and dividing. Conveniently for the nation-state of Israel, decidedly a secular state with a religious history not unlike that of America, the well-worked doctrine that God had given the land to Israel remains the impetus behind its expansionist policies.

The Bible, then, establishes the boundary lines and gives transcendental authority to a flawed system of “to the victor belongs the spoils.”

God having been the grantor of the land to Israel, all other governmental authority must fall into line or be ignored. Israel places itself above all international law and does so because of the complicity of the West, principally the United States.


Zionist Philosophy:

In order to get a sense of the rhetoric that has, since 1947, driven the expansionist policies of Israel, the following quotations may be useful[4]:

International law

"The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population

into the territory it occupies," Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

"We consider these settlements to be contrary to the Geneva Convention, that

occupied territory should not be changed by establishment of permanent settlements

by the occupying power,” President Carter (Q&A with American Jewish Press

Association, June 13, 1980, Washington).

"Since the end of the 1967 war, the U.S. has regarded Israel as the occupying power

in the occupied territories, which includes the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and

the Golan Heights. The U.S. considers Israel's occupation to be governed by the

Hague Regulations of 1907 and the 1949 Geneva Conventions concerning the

protection of civilian populations under military occupation," US Ambassador to the

UN Pickering (27 November 1989).

Expansion and settlement

"In strategic terms, the settlements (in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza) are of no importance,"

Binyamin Begin, son of the late Menahem Begin and a prominent voice in the Likud

party writing in 1991. (Quoted in Findley, Deliberate Deceptions; p 159)…Paul Findley

notes that Begin added that their importance was that "they constitute an obstacle, an

insurmountable obstacle to the establishment of an independent Arab State west of the

river Jordan."

" Everybody has to move, run, and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the

settlements because everything we take now will stay ours....Everything we don't grab

will go to them." Ariel Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister, addressing a meeting of militants from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, November 15, 1998.

"When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle." Raphael Eitan, Cheif of Staff of the Israeli defense Forces (New York Times, 14 April 1983)

Expulsion of Palestinians

"We must do everything to ensure they [the Palestinian refugees] never do return" David Ben-Gurion, in his diary, 18 July 1948, quoted in Michael Bar Zohar's Ben-Gurion: the Armed Prophet, Prentice-Hall, 1967, p. 157.
"Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz
Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population,"  Moshe Dayan, address to the Technion, Haifa, reported in Haaretz, April 4, 1969.
"There are some who believe that the non-Jewish population, even in a high percentage, within our borders will be more effectively under our surveillance; and there are some who believe the contrary, i.e., that it is easier to carry out surveillance over the activities of a neighbor than over
those of a tenant. [I] tend to support the latter view and have an additional argument...the need to sustain the character of the state which will henceforth be Jewish...with a non-Jewish minority limited to 15 percent. I had already reached this fundamental position as early as 1940 [and] it is entered in my diary," Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency's Colonization Department. From Israel: an Apartheid State by Uri Davis, p.5.
"We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine.  We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate 
Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us.  We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria and Sinai,"  David Ben-Gurion, May 1948, to the General Staff. From Ben-Gurion, A Biography, by Michael Ben-Zohar, Delacorte, New York 1978.

"How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to," Golda Meir

March 8, 1969.

Violence and racism against Arabs

"May the Holy Name visit retribution on the Arabs' heads, and cause their seed to be lost, and annihilate them, and cause them to be vanquished and cause them to be cast from the world. It is forbidden to be merciful to them, you must give them missiles, with relish - annihilate them. Evil ones, damnable ones," Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, in a sermon discussing Passover and God's wrath at Israel's enemies, 8 April 2001. 

"We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population," Israel Koenig, "The Koenig Memorandum," Rabin's description of the conquest of Lydda, after the completion of Plan Dalet.
"We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters," Uri Lubrani, PM Ben-Gurion's special adviser on Arab Affairs,
1960. From "The Arabs in Israel" by Sabri Jiryas.

[4], Anon

What we have in this sample of policy quotes is a theology of the land declared by those with no theology. It is estimated that 15% of the Jewish population is religious.[5] The hypocrisy lies in the “theology of the land for a people without a theology.” Some 85% base their rights to the land from at least the Mediterranean to the Jordan River on a grant from a God in whom they do not profess to believe – a God whom the Christian Right in America binds to a Covenant that was kept by God but broken by every human being, except Jesus, who ever came under its authority.

Our purpose here, however, is not to dispute the theology of the land nor to engage in a discussion of the eschatology of the Christian Right. It is to bring to the attention of the most self-conscious wing of the American Christian community, Evangelicalism, its unrestricted support for the nation-state of Israel to the detriment of their brothers and sisters in Christ living in oppression in the PalestinianTerritories.

I will fire one last verbal shot across the Potomac River before I move to the biblical history of Hebron.


Abraham left everything behind, not because he looked forward to a nation-state but because he looked forward to his redemption (Heb 11:39, 40). We know that hope in redemption was what drove Abraham because included in the Biblical commentary on faith was the story of the faith of the post-exilic prophets – those who prophesied after the demise of the Davidic kingdom and the Babylonian exile (Heb 11:32). Had Jerusalem and the Temple been the promise from God to which all were looking in faith, faith would have died with Solomon, after whose reign the nation-state of Israel was divided. It was downhill from there to AD 70 when Rome completely destroyed Israel as a nation.

The patriarch Job, early in his humiliation, understood that nothing that he had was an entitlement from God. While he held to an understanding of an implied covenant with God, he was stripped of that at the last of his trial: “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5, 6). He is entitled to nothing and must be eternally grateful for everything.

Here is what Job did and said early in his humiliation:

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon

the ground, and worshipped, and said, “Naked came I out of my mother's womb,

and naked shall I return thither: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;

blessed be the name of the Lord” [(Job 1: 20-21 (KJV)].

Job, it would seem, had no theology of the land – especially that land that was his. What the Lord gives, He has the right to take away. Restoration lies in the uncertain realm of the sovereignty of God.

In Job and in the patriarchs, therefore, we find no umbilical cord to real estate.

Ancient History of Hebron:

Hebron (Al-Khalil in Arabic) is located 32 km. south of Jerusalem in the Judean hills, and sits

between 870 and 1,020 meters above sea level. The city is built on several hills and nahals/wadis,

most of which run north-to-south. Hebron's monthly average temperatures are lower than those

of Jerusalem. The city receives approximately 466 millimeters average rainfall annually. Its climate

has — since Biblical times — encouraged extensive local agriculture.

The Hebrew word "Hebron" is (inter alia) explained as being derived from the Hebrew word for

"friend" ("haver"), a description for the Patriarch Abraham, who was considered to be the friend

of God. The Arabic "Al- Khalil" — literally "the friend" — has a nearly identical derivation and

also refers to the Patriarch Abraham (Ibrahim), whom Muslims similarly describe as the friend of

God. Hebron is one of the oldest continually occupied cities in the world and has been a major

focus of religious worship for over two millennia.

Hebron has approximately 160,000 (Sunni Muslim) Arab residents. Hebron's Jewish population, comprised of 45 Jewish families and around 150 yeshiva students, is about 500. Hebron's three

Christian residents are the custodians of the city's Russian church. An additional 6,650 Jews live

in the adjacent community of Kiryat Arba.[6]


Aside from the City of Jerusalem, there is no place in the Bible as significant as Hebron, located about twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem.

Hebron played a critical role in the lives of the patriarchs from Abraham to King David. Today, Hebron is the quintessential living history book of the conflict between Israel and Palestinian Arabs. Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are all buried in Hebron at a site (the Cave of Machpelah) purchased as a family tomb by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite (Genesis 23) for the outrageous price of 400 shekels (today, around $100 US).

Hebron is also the place of coming together of the two peoples dominating the region and, ultimately, the two monastic religions, Judaism and Islam. Isaac and Ishmael, the first two sons of Abraham and both under the covenantal blessing of God, came together to bury their father next to Sarah, Isaac’s mother. Twin brothers Jacob (loved by God) and Esau (hated by God) also came together in Hebron to bury their father, Isaac. The descendants of Esau, known as the Edomites and thought to be the original Palestinians, took possession of Hebron after the Babylonian conquest of Judah in 586 BCE, where they prospered for four hundred years.

Hebron was originally a Canaanite city and became a destination for Abraham after he was called by God to leave what is known as modern Iraq, the other side of the Euphrates River, and to go into the land that God would ultimately grant to His people. Having been founded around the 35th Century BCE[7], Hebron is one of the oldest cities in the world. It also is today among the most violent.


Abraham, a city dweller, became a Bedouin tribesman at age 70, wandering for nearly 14 years throughout the desert until the story begins to be traceable as he settled for the next

15 years in or near Hebron. It was there that Abraham fathered a son, Ishmael, by his wife’s Egyptian slave, Hagar. Son Isaac was not born in Hebron but was born probably in Beer-Sheba, some 40 miles southwest of Hebron. Israeli settlers in Hebron claim divine rights today to the city in which Ishmael, not Isaac, was born.

Disputes arose between the shepherds of Abraham and Lot, his nephew, concerning water and pastureland for their flocks of sheep. Abraham graciously extended to Lot his choice of land, and Lot settled in the fertile plains on the Jordan River near the City of Sodom. Abraham went to live near the “great trees of Mamre” at or near Hebron (Genesis 13:18).

Abraham was not done with Lot, however. Lot was kidnapped in a tribal war. Abraham assembled 318 men within his own household and rescued him in what is referred to as the Battle of the Kings (Genesis 14:17). It was on his return from this victorious battle that Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek, king and high priest of Salem, an early name for Jerusalem. Melchizedek plays a key prophetic role in the Christian covenant as a “type” of Messianic figure of prophet, priest, and king (Hebrews 7).

The wonderful story is told (Genesis 18) of Abraham later sitting at the entrance to his tent at the Oaks of Mamre in the heat of the day. He is approached by three men who turn out to be emissaries from God. His hospitality extended to these three men marks the distinction between the people of God and the vile sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose arrogance, overfed condition, and unconcern for the welfare of others led to their destruction (Ezekiel 16:49, 50).

God is about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham bargains with the angels on behalf of his nephew, Lot, to spare the cities if there are more than ten righteous living there. There were not, and Lot escapes with his two daughters.

According to the First Century historian Josephus, the sons of Jacob, with the exception of Joseph, were all buried in Hebron (Antiquity ii. 8. 2). We hear little about Hebron for some 400 years, during which time the descendants of Jacob (renamed “Israel” by God) are languishing in slavery in Egypt.

Moses leads Jacob’s descendants out of Egypt. When the Israelites were camped at Kadesh-Barnea, spies went out to scout the land of Canaan to evaluate the strength of its inhabitants and the abundance of its fruit. With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, who brought back to the people samples of fruit, the spies reported that descendants of the Anakim giants were residing in Hebron.

The Israelites refused to enter the Land and were punished by thirty-eight more years of wandering in the wilderness (Num 13:22) for failure to trust God. The verdict was that all of the wandering Israelites who had come out of Egypt and witnessed the miracles in the Sinai desert would die in the wilderness with the exception of both Joshua and Caleb.

Joshua crossed the Jordan River near Jericho and took possession of the Land around 1250 BCE, it is thought. Caleb, at eighty-five years of age, asked for Hebron, drove out the Anakim, and settled there (Josh 14:6-15).

There is a school of thought that would have Caleb be of the Arab race. This is not by any means a well-worked theory. However, it is thought that Caleb was not a blood Jew in the sense that he descended from Jacob. His father was Jephunneh the Kunzite (Joshua 14:6). Caleb was probably an Edomite, or a descendent of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, adopted into the Tribe of Judah. At the time of Caleb, the Kenizzites were part of Edom.[8]


This may seem like splitting hairs over bloodlines. Since, however, the theology of the land is rooted in splitting hairs over bloodlines, it is appropriate to raise the question of Caleb’s ancestry.

The Book of Obadiah, the shortest book of the Torah, is an indictment of the Edomites for their abuse of God’s people, God’s land, and the Temple. It was written at the time of the Exile of God’s people to Babylon. Edom is proud of its own security in the face of Jacob’s descendants having been carried off into captivity.

During the exile, the Edomites were granted refuge by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and lived in Hebron, flourishing there for more than four hundred years. The following expository is interesting:

Who are the Edomites, in the modern setting? There are two ways to determine this.

The first is by comparing other Scriptures, and the second is to examine the specific

characteristics of this group of people.

The most compelling Scriptural evidence to identify the Edomites is found in Ezekiel 36:5.

The first fifteen verses of that chapter give God's viewpoint of the preeminent issue of our

day, the ownership and eventual disposition of what the world calls the "West Bank."

Verse 5 describes a conspiracy between the nations of the world and "Edom" to misappropriate

that land that God had granted to Jacob. Therefore, we can conclude that Edom, in the modern

context, is the West Bank Palestinians.

The book of Obadiah is also closely related to the prophecy of Ezekiel 35, which is a prophecy

against the same group of people. Unmatched in scathing intensity, Ezekiel 35 functions in

tandem with chapter 36. The latter describes the conflict over Judea and Samaria, and the

former describes the fate of those who tried to steal that land from the Jews. The parties

and the issues parallel those in Obadiah.

Large chunks of Obadiah are repeated in Jeremiah 49, in the oracle against Edom there. I am

of the opinion that when portions are repeated nearly verbatim in other places in the Bible, it is

very significant, a reinforcement of the importance of that message. In this case, the context in

Jeremiah is important, I believe, in regards to other events prophesied in that same section

of text.[9]


If you read the above in the context of Zionism, the belief that the land must be secured before the Jewish Messiah can come or the Christian Messiah can return, you conclude that the Palestinians must go.

On the other hand, if you read the above in the secular context that the right to the land is an issue of bloodlines, then the land belongs to the Palestinians. Caleb’s ancestry and the presence of the Edomites on the West Bank during the Exile reinforce such a theory.

The great irony is that the modern nation-state of Israel is a secular state. Its creation, however, was on the ground of bloodlines. As such, were it not for its expansionist mindset, the matter of original ownership of the land would at the very least suggest a seat at the table for the Palestinians. This is a case where blood is thicker than evidence – “Don’t disturb me with the facts.”

Where does the Christian church fit into this maze? Christians are New Covenant believers. You can futurize the Old Covenant as much as you like, but you cannot override the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus made clear that those who claim to follow Him must love their enemies. Neither can you override the projected scene at the Great Judgment, where Christians will be judged on their treatment of the brothers and sisters of Christ – whether we fed them when hungry, clothed them when naked, gave them water to drink when thirsty and visited them in prison. Included are Palestinian Christians who are being persecuted by the tacit, unconditional support of the actions of the nation-state of Israel by American Evangelicals in particular.

After Joshua’s death, the tribe of Judah advanced against the Canaanites living on the West Bank and in Gaza. Included was the City of Hebron, formerly called Kiriath Arba, which had been promised and given to Caleb who drove out the Anakites (Judges 1). This represented the locus of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah with the further wrinkle that the tribe of Benjamin was granted the rights to Jebus, an ancient site of Jerusalem. They failed, however, to defeat the Jebusites, who remained there until driven out by David.

The next major appearance of Hebron was shortly after the death of King Saul, around 1000 BCE. David had been anointed King of Israel by the Prophet Samuel. The nation of Israel, however, had become fractured during the reign of Saul. The tribes of Benjamin and Judah anointed David as its king, and he reigned in Hebron for nearly eight years, during which time Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, was king over the ten tribes of Israel to the north.

A year-and-a-half after being crowned king of Judah, war broke out between Judah and Israel, and Ish-bosheth was assassinated. His head was brought to David, who executed the assassins for their crime. The elders of Israel came to Hebron and crowned David as king of the united kingdom.

David reigned over the united tribes of Israel from Hebron until he took Jebus, later named Jerusalem. The twelve tribes of Israel remained united only through the reign of Solomon, David’s son and builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem.

Following the destruction of the First Temple in 587 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, most of the Jewish inhabitants of Hebron were exiled to make place for the Edomites who sought and were granted refuge there.

Ancient history would fail to confirm the extending of a warranty deed to Hebron to any of its inhabitants. Originally a Canaanite stronghold, control moved back and forth between the descendants of Jacob and descendants of Esau and, by caveat, the descendants of Ishmael. Esau’s first two wives were Canaanites. His third wife, Bathshemath, the daughter of Ishmael, although a Hebrew was not pure Hebrew. While she had no Canaanite blood in her, she was three-quarters Egyptian, since both her mother and her grandmother, Hagar, were Egyptian women (Gen. 28:6-9). At least some of Esau’s descendants, therefore, derived from the line of Ishmael and all of them from Abraham.

To deny the benefits of God’s promises to Abraham to the children of Esau and Ishmael is to deny the authority of Scripture, anathema to Christian Right in America.

The prominent place given Edom in the Bible cannot be overlooked. That God gave Jacob the name “Israel” and the Bible continues to deride Esau and his descendants establishes the Jewish ancestral covenant as beginning with Jacob – not with Isaac, the father of both Jacob and Esau, and certainly not with Abraham, father of Isaac and Ishmael.

Esau’s downfall came from a consistent attitude that favored the immediate over the temporal things far off into the future. This is reinforced in the famous “mess of pottage” incident, where Esau despised his birthright by selling it to Jacob for a meal when famished as he was coming home from hunting. The birthright was spiritual and therefore eternal; the food was material and therefore perishing.

King Saul had the very same problem. Because the Prophet Samuel was late in arriving after a victory in battle by the Israeli army, Saul took it upon himself to offer a sacrifice to God to celebrate the military victory. The physical sacrifice was favored over the anointing of Samuel as a prophet of God. Because Saul desired to know what was going to happen to him, he consulted the Witch of Endor instead of trusting God. The immediate answer was favored over faith.

It could be said that today that the situation in the Middle East favors the land over the people – the physical over the eternal. To the degree that American Christians subscribe to such an ethic, they join the likes of Esau and King Saul – having the birthright and the anointing but favoring the things that are seen over the things unseen.

God condemns such attitudes. His condemnation was confirmed in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

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