What is the Big Deal about the Land of Canaan?

As I am studying and teaching Joshua and Judges this year (which is a serious, but welcome, challenge for a NT researcher!), I have wondered, time and time again, why the promise and acquisition of land is so important to the Old Testament. What makes Joshua so central to the OT? Why is Deuteronomy so fixated on Israel’s land-grant from Yahweh?

There are, no doubt, many answers. Perhaps the most profound one, theologically speaking, has to do with the “incarnation” principle behind it. Note these scholarly ruminations:

Yhwh chose to create humanity in bodily form and thus relates to Israel in a way that involves land and is not merely a matter of the spiritual, moral or theological (Goldingay, OTT1, 512)

Israel’s faith insistently focused on the material, on the real, lived circumstance of life in the world. It is this focus that distinguishes Israel’s faith from many other religions that move in the direction of “spiritual” matters removed from lived reality (Bruce Birch et al., A Theological Introduction to the OT, 176)

Amen and amen.

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