Palestine is Coming: A Synopsis
The following synopsis represents excerpts from the book.
Chapter 1: The Promised Land
Every nation is entitled to a land of its own. The Jews regained theirs in 1948. The Palestinians are still waiting; their land was seized by the Jews. That the Palestinians have developed a national entity is now an indisputable fact. Like the Jews, they also deserve their own independent state. But where?
The biblical prophets indicate that the future Palestinian state will be located in “the land of the Philistines,” that is, the Plain of Philistia, as a political revival of ancient Philistia. The “land of the Philistines” consisted primarily of the coastal plain extending in a southerly direction from the Nahal Sorek, located about ten miles south of the center of present Tel Aviv, to the Wadi el Arish, which lies twenty-five miles south of the Gaza Strip. The western border of ancient Philistia was therefore the Mediterranean Sea and its northeastern border was the Shephelah lowlands that still divide the coastal plain from the Judean hill country. So, the geographical shape of Philistia was rather rectangular but bulging further inland in its southern extremity, thus extending 25-50 miles inland to the outskirts of Beersheba and Kadesh Barnea. Throughout the history of the relationship between ancient Israel and Philistia, their common border underwent some fluidity. Archaeological remains and other evidence show that this border was most common.
The Bible declares that God promised to give the descendants of Israel “the land of Canaan” and adjacent territories, which did indeed include Philistia. All of this land came to be called “the Promised Land.” However, nothing is more clear in the Hebrew Bible than this: the Jews’ continued possession of whatever land God gave them depended on their adherence to the Torah, that is, the Law of God delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai.
Let us examine ancient Israel’s early possession of this land. After Joshua led the Israelites to take possession of the land and afterwards died, it was chiefly Philistia and Lebanon that remained to be taken for their tribal inheritance that God had promised them. But Israel disobeyed God. When the tribes took territory, “they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely” (John 17.13). So God said, “I will not drive them out before you; but they shall become as thorns in your sides” (Jud 2.3). “Now these are the nations which the LORD left to test Israel … the five lords of the Philistines and … Lebanon … And they were for testing Israel, to find out if they would obey the commandments of the LORD.” (Jud 3.1-4).
Like the Philistines of old, today’s Palestinians are testing Israel like a thorn in its side. Many Israeli leaders, such as former prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, claimed that modern Israel is entitled to its present land plus all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These two parcels belonged to the Palestinians until Israel took possession of them in “the Six Day War” of 1967. It is surprising that this assertion was never publicly challenged. Begin specifically included the entire Plain of Philistia in his designation, “the land of Israel.”
Jews have never decisively designated the borders of Eretz Yisrael. When an Israeli leader asked U.S. President Johnson to recognize Israel’s new acquisition of the occupied territories, in late 1967, he retorted, “You are asking me to recognize your borders? You have never defined the borders of Israel.” Indeed, Israeli Yehuda Elizur further observes, “the definition of what constituted the confines of Eretz Israel is one of the thorniest problems in Jewish literature.”
Chapter 2: Land of the Philistines
According to the Bible, God gave the ancient Philistines the coastal plain as their homeland before Israel ever came into the land of Canaan. For God said, “Have I not brought up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir? (Amos 9.7).
Did either Israel or Judah ever take possession of the land of the Philistines? Here is a very important question relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is unfortunate that it has thus far not received much attention.
Ancient Israel’s possession of the Plain of Philistia was so brief and partial that it does not warrant present Israeli claims to this land. Let us briefly consider this history. Israel’s first king, King Saul, never possessed any Philistine soil. Neither did King David or King Solomon ever rule over Philistia. During King Uzziah’s reign, the tribe of Judah occupied a small portion of the land of the Philistines, but for only a few years. King Hezekiah may have dominated Philistia for about three years. From the 7th century B.C. onwards, Israel was no longer a contender for control of Philistia. Then, in the 1st century B.C., wicked Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus considerably expanded Israeli territory and thereby subjugated all of Philistia except for the enlarged Ashkelon district. He possessed far more of the Plain of Philistia than any of Israel’s previous kings did. His twenty-year possession, from 96 to 76 B.C., probably exceeded all of Israel’s previous combined years of occupation of any Philistine territory. But surely today’s pious Jews would agree with the early Pharisees, who refused to recognize the cruel and ungodly Alexander Jannaeus as an instrument in the hand of God for securing possession of Eretz Israel.
In sum, although the Promised Land does include the Plain of Philistia, God withheld it from the ancient Israelites because of their disobedience. And throughout their entire history, these Israelites possessed only a portion of the land of the Philistines and for only a very short period of time. Therefore, modern Israel now occupies much of the ancient Plain of Philistia apart from historical precedent and not in accordance with its Declaration of Independence, which states in the following excerpts: “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people…. [They have a] right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their ancestral land.” I agree; but their “ancestral land” must be distinguished from the larger Promised Land and therefore does not include the ancient land of the Philistines.
Chapters 3-4: Zionism and the State of Israel
The basis for the existence of the modern State of Israel is set forth in its Proclamation of Independence. It declares unequivocally that Jews are entitled to “the land of Israel/Eretz Yisrael” in which to establish their own nation. And this document implicitly defines “the land of Israel” as the Jews’ “ancestral land,” which would presumably be the land that their ancestors of antiquity possessed and dwelt in.
Many past Israeli leaders have therefore claimed that Jews have a right to all of “Palestine” as their “ancestral land.” [Throughout the 20th century, “Palestine” has generally been regarded at least as all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.] This assertion is incorrect. The Jewish Bible is clear; ancient Israel never really possessed the land of the Philistines. Since this territory has been included in the 20th century designation, “Palestine,” these Israeli leaders have claimed a Jewish right to the land of the Philistines.
Chapter 8: The Church and Christian Zionism
Christians have always had a significant effect, either for good or for evil, on the lives of the Jews. The views of Christians, especially those in the U.S., regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are important because they affect American foreign policy toward the State of Israel. And America’s past support of Israel cannot be overestimated.
A new kind of Zionism arose in the latter half of the 20th century. Called “Christian Zionism,” this term identifies those professing Christians, mostly Evangelicals in the Religious Right, who give uncritical support to the State of Israel and largely ignore the plight of the Palestinians. They are misguided in several ways: (1) in their zeal to see Israel fulfill biblical prophecies, they usually confuse the historic land of Israel–the Jews’ “ancestral land”–with the entire Promised Land descirbed in Genesis 15 and fail to distinguish the present, partial return of Zionist Jews (in unbelief of Jesus) to the land of Israel from that complete return (in belief of Jesus) at the End of Days, both of which are predicted in scripture, (2) they do not understand that God chose Israel, not because he loves Jews more than other people but for a particular mission, and this is the meaning of their designation, “the Chosen People,” and (3) in their efforts to show love and respect for Israeli Jews they become partial to them and thereby discriminate against the Palestinian people. For the Hebrew Bible repeatedly declares that God does not show partiality to anyone and that we shouldn’t either (e.g., Deut 1.17).
Interestingly, far more Palestinian people are professing Christians than are Israeli Jews. And Christian Zionists are usually quite evangelistic whereas the State of Israel does not really practice freedom of religion even though its Proclamation of Independence guarantees it. This is witnessed by its law against Christian proselytizing of Jews. In contrast, the Palestinian Charter (1964) guarantees religious freedom more than does the State of Israel.
While Christian Zionists revere biblical prophecies concerning the future of Jews, they have lost touch with the spirit of the biblical prophets. Their primary work was speaking out against injustice, oppression, and impoverishment. How people treat their neighbors was of much concern to God and His prophets. Thus, it should concern all Christains how Israel treats the Palestinians. Furthermore, Christian Zionists providing uncritical support to Israel encourages Israeli leaders in their continued intransigence in resolving this conflict. In contrast, many denominational churches have spoken out with a prophets’ voice against Israel’s failure to recognize the same rights for the Palestinians as for the Jews.
Chapter 10: A New Proposal
Most of the proposals thus far offered for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have focused on giving the Palestinians the separated territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in which to establish a Palestinian state. [In 1993, the PLO and the State of Israel signed the Oslow accords, in which Israel was to relinquish most of this territory to the Palestinian Authority in three stages, with East Jerusalem’s status to be negotiated.] But for many Jews, forfeiting Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) would be like cutting out the heart of ancient Israel. Indeed, giving the Palestinians the West Bank is not in accord with ancient historical precedent and therefore not in accord with Israel’s Proclamation of Independence.
Instead, the conflict might be resolved by dividing the disputed land into two completely separate parcels for the two states on the basis of historical precedent. The Palestinians would obtain the entire Plain of Philistia, and the West Bank would go to Israel. The following advantages of this proposal would accrue:
1. The proposed borders would be much more simple and thus recognizable, natural, and defensible.
2. The Palestinian state would simply consist of a considerably expanded Gaza Strip. Its somewhat rectangular shape would extend approximately 75 miles in length if, in agreement with Egypt, it extended southward beyond the Gaza Strip to the Wadi el Arish in the Sinai, and its width would be approximately 10-15 miles.
3. Israel’s requirements for secure and defensible borders would be far more adequately met than a West Bank-Gaza-corridor Palestinian entity would permit.
4. A Palestinian state in the Plain of Philistia would be more defensible than one located in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
5. There would be no necessity for the approximately twenty mile, problematic corridor joining the Gaza Strip with Palestinian land in the West Bank.
6. The length of contiguous border between the two states would be considerably shorter and more manageable.
7. A Palestinian state located on the Plain of Philistia would be more economically viable than one in the West Bank-Gaza region.
8. The Palestinians would gain the second most fertile land in Mandate Palestine.
9. The Palestinians would obtain the modern port at Ashdod, the second largest port in present Israel.
10. Israel’s thoroughly-planned West Bank settlements program would accommodate the necessary transfer of Jews from the Ashqelon/Ashdod area.
11. A very enlarged Gaza Strip would solve its problem of overpopulation.
12. Zionist Jews would get what they want: secure borders, Judea and Samaria, and a completely Jewish state.
13. Israel would fulfill halakhic requirements to retain Eretz Israel.
14. The Palestinians would realize their aspirations of having their own independent, sovereign state in “Palestine” (=Philistia).
This proposal requires population transfers, which is perhaps its biggest drawback. Yet this is doable. Large population transfers were carried out in the 20th century, e.g., 11.5 million Germans in other European states were transferred back to Germany after WWII, and 18 million people were transferred between India and Pakistan about the same time.
It would seem that if Israelis were faced with the two alternatives, they would much prefer this proposal of allowing the Palestinians to have the ancient land of the Philistines in which to establish their independent, sovereign state than it being in Judea and Samaria.. And with this arrangement the Palestinians would get a good land that would be more susceptible to development and require less captilization.
In conclusion, let the Jews have the historical land of Israel, their ancestral land, which includes the West Bank, and let the Palestinians have the Plain of Philistia in which to establish their independent, sovereign state.
Chapter 11: Reestablishment of Philistia
The proposal offered in Chapter 10 for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not original with this author. I discovered it in 1980-81 in my study of biblical prophecy. So, I believe that, just as the Bible predicts the modern reestablishment of Israel, it also indicates the revival of other ancient countries in the Middle East, one of these being Philistia.
In Isaiah 11.14, the prophet Isaiah provides the clearest indication in scripture that at the time of the coming of the conquering Messiah–who comes to deliver Israel from annihilation and make it the greatest nation on earth–an adversary of Israel will exist in the southwestern coastal plain of Palestine. Isaiah calls this adversary”the Philistines.” He writes concerning Israel, “And they will swoop down on the slopes of the Philistines on the west; together they will plunder the sons of the east; they will possess Edom and Moab; and the sons of Ammon will be subject to them” (Isa 11.14). The latter refers to territories in present Jordan.
Both Jews and Christians have interpreted Isaiah 11 as messianic. But most Christian commentators have wrongly treated most of it figuratively. Rather, this prophesy requires that Israel will not possess the ancient land of the Philistines in the last days preceding the innauguration of the Messianic Kingdom. What else can it be but the Palestinian state? This prophecy therefore requires that modern Israel will either willingly relinquish the Gaza Strip as well as adjacent land eastward and northward through negotiation, or this scenario will result from war. [In mid-2007, Israel voluntarily relinquished the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians.] Furthermore, this prophecy reveals what several other biblical prophecies foretell, that at the end of this age Israel will possess Judea and Samaria, which is the present West Bank.
The phrase in Isa 11.14, “the slopes of the Philistines,” is significant. This territory was named “the Shephelah” in Isaiah’s timeand previously. If God, through Isaiah, had not intended to identify “the Philistines” as the people to whom the Shephelah belonged, it seems he would have called it by its actual name–the Shephelah. Isaiah’s use of the word Philistines therefore suggests that from God’s perspective, Philistines will exist in the latter days, they will have their own state in the coastal plain, and the Shephelah will be one of the borders between Israel and the Philistines’ nation. Isaiah, speaking on behalf of God, must be referring to the modern Palestinians, who derive their name from the Philistines.
Chapter 13: Annexation of Philistia to Judea
When the Messianic Kingdom is established, Isaiah further prophesies that the nation of Israel “will spread abroad to the right and to the left” (Isa 54.3). Obviously, for the State of Israel to be enlarged on the left, that is, on the west, requires that, immediately prior to that time, it will not possess some territory to its west. What else can it be but the yet future Palestinian state.
Chapter 14: Conversion of the Philistines
The prophet Zechariah predicted that “the Philistines” would be converted to God (Yahweh). He said of them, “Then they also will be a remnant for our God, and be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron like a Jebusite” (Zech 9.7). While this portion was partially fulfilled in the military career of Alexander the Great, at least vv. 5-8 await a further, complete fulfillment. Indeed, v. 8b has clearly never happened, which says that God will protect Israel from that time and forevermore. Also, the ancient Philistines were never converted to faith in Yahweh. So, it seems that this prophecy also foretells the future Messianic deliverance of Israel, with the Palestinians then being converted to God. Here is even stronger evidence than that in Isa 11.14 that God views today’s Palestinians as Philistines. Those who argue against this intepretation need to exegete the passage and therefore explain whether it refers to the endtimes and, if so, who are these “Philistines.”
The scenario forecast by the biblical prophets is that, at the end of days of this present age, the military forces of all the world’s nations will invade Israel to destroy it completely (e.g., Isa 14.24-27; Joel 3.2, 9-12; Zech 12.3, 9; 14.2; Rev 16.13-16; 19.19; cf. Isa 29.7-8; 34.2; Eze 39.21; Mic 4.11; 5.8; Zeph 3.8). A remnant of Israeli Jews will repent, turn to God, and survive the onslaught (e.g., Deut 30.2-6; Zech 12.10). Then God will give Israel all of the Promised Land, which includes the Philistine Plain. Philistines (Palestinians) will continue to live there as loved aliens. And Eretz Israel will stretch from the Euphrates River to the Wadi el Arish and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arabian Desert.
Accordingly, Yahweh will not only be the God of the Jews; He will be the God over all the earth. When His kingdom comes, He will remember not only Israel but all who have ever bowed before His authority and put their trust in Him. They will all be rewarded in that day.
In those days of universal peace and glory, Palestinians and Jews will live together as brothers and sisters in the Promised Land. Palestinians will be full citizens of Israel. They will be like a cherished clan in Jerusalem. And the Chosen People-the Jews-will fulfill their destiny to be a blessing to the Palestinians and to all the peoples of the earth forevermore.
Appendix A: Early History of the Philistines
The two primary purposes of this appendix are to establish that the Philistines were not a single ethnic people but a heterogeneous group and that their entrance into southwestern Palestine and the northwestern Sinai predates the Hebrews’ entrance into Canaan. I further allege that during the late 19th century, a journalist’s identification of the Philistines as “The Sea Peoples,” which has continued to this day, is incorrect.
I also attempt to identify the sometimes fluid borders of the ancient nation of Philistia for the purpose of suggesting that this general location of “the land of the Philistines” ought to become the homeland of a future Palestinian state.
I conclude, “The Palestinians may be viewed as Philistines partially because of some genetic link, but mostly because their name derives from the Philistines.”
Appendix B: Who Are the Arabs?
The second paragraph of this appendix is as follows: “The purpose of this appendix is to correct two popular misconceptions concerning Arabs and therefore concerning the Palestinians. First, the term ‘Arab,’ as it is used almost universally today, does not identify an ethnic (racial) group but a culturally related people [who share the same language]
My primary reason for establishing these two points is that Christian Zionists often identify Arabs as Ishmaelites and thereby hold prejudiced views of Arabs. They cite Genesis 16.12 and 25.18 about Ishmaelites that are probably mistranslated in many English versions. I conclude, “No prejudice should be held against the Palestinians on the grounds that they are Ishmaelites who will remain in defiance of their relatives, the Jews. Such an erroneous belief hinders resolution of the present Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”