Israel - The Center of the Earth


Dr. John Hoole



We live in a unique time in history. The words of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, Isaiah, and other prophets are literally coming to pass in our day. Watching Israel and her neighbors, we see Bible prophesies coming to pass before our eyes.


We are able to follow the unfolding of biblical prophecies today!  This is something that believers even 80 years ago would not be able to say.


Why does God in His Word speak so frequently, and with such emphasis, about the ownership of the relatively small piece of land called Israel?


First and foremost, it is because He is a covenant keeping God, and He wants the whole world to know it.


I also believe there is another principal involved, which is stated by Moses in Deuteronomy.


Deuteronomy 32:8 NKJV


8    When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam [NIV = “sons of man”], He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.


This is an amazing Passage.  First, we are told that it is God Who established the boundaries of all kingdoms.  But what was God's starting point?  God, through Moses, tells us that He first calculates the land necessary for His covenant people, Israel.  The area allotted to Israel was based on the size of population that God intended them ultimately to attain.


Once the place for the Israelites has been establish - in this verse, "according to the number of the children of Israel, - God then allots the appropriate area for all other nations.


God does not leave it to chance when it comes to where each nation will dwell.     He has an appointed dwelling place for each section of the human race - "the sons of Adam."  But His starting point is the land that would be necessary for His chosen people - Israel.


In the New Testament, this revelation is confirmed by another remarkable Passage of Scripture.  We find it in the words of the apostle Paul as he spoke to the men of Athens.


Acts 17:26 (NIV) looks back to early history.


26    From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places [NKJV= boundaries] where they should live.


So, we see that God has determined not only where the nations will dwell, but, also when they shall dwell there.  He sets their time and boundaries.


It is around God's dealings with Israel, however, and the inheritance He has appointed for them, that His dealings with all other nations revolve.  Israel is the starting point and center.


To bring out the implication of this, allow me to use a simple parable from daily life.  Suppose I am putting on a shirt with six buttons.  In buttoning up the shirt, I make a mistake so that the top button ends up in the second hole.


What will be the result? There will be a problem all the way down - every button will be in the wrong hole. And when I get to the bottom, there will be one button left without any hole for it.


Now let's apply this simple illustration to the nations on earth.  Israel is the first button.  If Israel is not in the correct place, then there will be something wrong with the situation of every other nation on earth.


This revelation of God's Word has a vital, practical application for people from all other nations.  When we consider God's plan for Israel, we cannot stand aside, as citizens of other lands, and say, "Israel's fate does not concern us."  The fact is, the well-being of every nation is at stake.  Until Israel enters into its full inheritance, the other nations can never enjoy the blessings that God has in store for them also.


The nation of Israel was always center stage, and the Bible mentions Gentile nations only insofar as they had contact with Israel.


The Scriptures present Egypt in relation to Moses and the Exodus.  The Canaanites were shown as the objects of conquest by the children of those who left Egypt.  Babylon is shown to the extent that it figured in the destruction of the Temple, as well as the Israelite captivity.


Persia is spoken about from the context of those allowing the restoration of Jerusalem.  And Rome is part of the picture only as it had an effect on New Testament Jewish life.


Through all these contacts with the Gentile nations, Israel remains the nation around which Scriptural history revolves.


In a future lesson, we will investigate the coming invasion of Israel as it is described in Ezekiel 38 & 39.  There is one Scripture among that passage that relates to Israel's central role in biblical history.  It is found in the 38th chapter.


Ezekiel 38:12 NASU


12    to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.'


Do you see that last phrase?  This passage speaks of the Jews being gathered from all the nations to which they had be scattered, and were now resident at the center of the world.


Israel was established by God as the center of the earth.  All other countries were established by God only after His chosen land was established.


Some might question me, saying, "my New King James says, '...who dwell in the midst of the land.  Another could say, "my NIV reads, 'living at the center of the land.'”  But, if you think about it, each of these statements are saying what I just read from the NAS.


"Living at the center of the land" must be more than just the land of Israel.  The Jews do not live just at the center of Israel, but they inhabit all of Israel.  And they all live in the center of all the earth.


Here are how it reads in a few more Bible translations.


RSV          "who dwell in the center of the earth."


Amplified   "who dwell at the center of the earth."


TLB          "the whole earth revolves around them."


New Century         "who live at the center of the world."


New English     "who live at the center of the earth."


ESV          "who dwell at the center of the earth."


ASV          "that dwell in the middle of the earth."


World English Bible   "who dwell in the middle of the earth."


Holman Christian Standard Bible     "who live at the center of the world."


We read a similar phrase in another verse earlier in Ezekiel's prophecy.  We find it in chapter 5.


Ezekiel 5:5 NIV


5    "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her.


God has set Jerusalem at the center of the nations.  All nations have been placed around with this city as the center of them all.


The Hebrew word translated as either 'center" or 'middle' of the earth in each passage, is a word that literally means "navel."  In this context, we see Jerusalem and Israel as being at the geographical navel of the earth.


I quote from the Babylonian Talmud:


“The world is like a human eyeball.  The white of the eye is the ocean surrounding the world, the iris is the continent, the pupil is Jerusalem, and the image in the pupil is the Holy Temple.(Talmud – Derech Eretz Zuta 9).”


In ancient days, the Land of Israel was located at the crossroads of three continents.     Going from any one of them to another, a traveler would most often travel through Israel.  Even today, when land routes are no longer as important as they were in the past, Jerusalem is still a center of human concern.


Israel is known by a number of names.  It has been called Canaan, Eretz Yisrael, Zion, or simply ha-eretz, meaning “the land.”  Ha-eretz is a sign of its belovedness and significance to the Jew.  It is the Holy Land, par excellence.


For the Jew, Judaism encompasses three core idea - God (Yahweh), the Torah, and Eretz (the Land).  The Land of Israel is a very special place.  To the Jew it is the only place on earth where they can achieve their mission.


Deuteronomy 11:10-12  (NKJV) says:


For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; but…. It is a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it (eyes on the land), from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.


     We are told here that there is a definite difference between this land and the land they came from.


The Promised Land is called a “good land” some sixteen times in the Old Testament.  It is further described as a “land flowing with milk and honey” another 23 times.


Indeed, there is something very special about this land.  But it isn’t so special without the legitimate inhabitants.


Israel and its chief city Jerusalem was created by God and placed at the center of the earth so that she could be a light to the nations as the Lord desired.


God desired to use her to spread His message across the globe.  The Jewish Rabbi Fisch notes, "Jerusalem is intended to be the radiating center of the knowledge of God for all peoples."


He goes on to say that it is only in such a context that Ezekiel 38:12, which we read a moment ago, which finds Israel the center of the earth.


The Jews were only given the land because of their mission which was given to them by God.  If they abandon the mission, they lose the land.


For a Jew, living outside of Israel is viewed as an unnatural state.  For the Jewish person, the world outside of Israel is referred to by the Hebrew word, GALUT or its root GALAH (Gaw-law’).  It is meant to be a disgraceful term, referring to their EXILE or CAPTIVITY.  Today we usually use the term Diaspora, meaning “dispersion.”


The Old Testament is largely a story of the people’s relationship with the land.  At the core is “the Promised Land.”  And the action of the story largely concerns either a moving towards or away from this land.  The people are either wandering aliens longing for this land, or possessors of the land scheming to maintain possession of it.


Biblical history is the history of Israel.  It is different from all other histories.  Secular scholars consider the movements of nations and armies to be the core of world history


Church historians, on the other hand, see its history through great ecclesiastical conferences, as well as the great outpourings of the Holy Spirit or the "Great Awakenings."


It is remarkable, but the Bible alone views history from the vantage point of Israel.


     The prophet Isaiah, for instance, also envisioned Israel as occupying "the center of the earth."  Isaiah 19:24 reads: "In that day shall Israel be.....a blessing in the midst of the earth."


One thing that makes the Land of Israel and the Jew different from all other places is this.  Virtually every nation in the world bases its claim to its land on conquest.  “Might makes right” is the historical claim of almost all nations in history.  To the victor goes the spoils, including the land.


However, the Jewish people base their claim on God’s promise.  God promised Abraham that he and his descendants would inherit the land of Israel as an eternal possession.


In the words of the Bible, Genesis 15:18 reads:


     On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land…’


Jesus will one day come to Jerusalem to reign over the whole earth.