God charges Joshua with the responsibility to take the land that he had promised to Abraham in Joshua 1:4. He says, “From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.” That is a huge piece of land and as Jackman observes, “The area described in verse 4 is enormous, though very much in tune with the original promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:18–20. David Oginde comments, ‘In terms of current political boundaries, the promised land would thus cover modern Israel, the whole of Jordan, a large part of Saudi Arabia, half of Iraq, the whole of Lebanon, part of Syria and the whole of Kuwait!’ But as he points out, even at the height of the monarchy in the days of David and Solomon, Israel only occupied a small section of this total area.”[1] I can only imagine what the world would be like for democratic countries if Israel occupied all that land today. It would change the world in unimaginable ways.

David would expand Israel’s territorial control, and under his son Solomon, they would have authority over the whole land but would not occupy it. One commentator suggested that after Joshua conquered the land, he took ownership of the whole area as God had promised. At the close of Joshua’s book, we read, “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” So, the land was theirs. They had control over it but didn’t finish the job! And it was possessed by the various nations around them.

Why the conquest of all of the promised land has never been accomplished has been explained in several ways. God said he had left their enemies in the land to test them, to see if they will remain faithful. In another passage, it’s asserted that their enemies were allowed to retain control of parts of the land so that Israel would learn war. Israel sinned again God repeatedly throughout their history in the land beginning immediately with the period of the Judges. Another passage suggests that Israel wanted to keep them for slave labor. Further, they were afraid of animals and wild beasts that would dominate the land if they drove out the human inhabitants too soon. Regardless of the reason, failing to take and control the entire promised land ended up with the destruction of the home state of Israel for thousands of years. It would not be until 1948 that the modern nation of Israel was established following World War II. Now, 80 years later, Israel has become a thriving nation and the longest-established democracy in the Middle East. Yet many of its neighbors remain hostile, and a Palestinian movement seeks to develop its own nation within the borders of modern Israel’s territory. The land that surrounds modern Israel is occupied by the descendants that Israel failed to drive out. They have determined to drive Israel out even now. Israel is always at war with them in one way or another. But don’t forget, the Bible teaches that God will eventually fulfill the promise to give Israel full control over the Promised Land. Israel’s full territory will ultimately be ruled by the Messiah during the Millennium. God’s promises, partly fulfilled throughout history, will have complete, literal, fulfillment prior to God’s creation of new heavens and a new earth. The words of the “Our Father” will one day be answered.

[1] Jackman, David. 2014. Joshua: People of God’s Purpose. Edited by R. Kent Hughes. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.