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3— The Borders of the Promised Land: Two Views
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The Borders of the Promised Land:
Two Views

Although my topic in this chapter is two views of the extent of the land of Israel, in the Rabbinic literature we also find a third view concerning the borders of the holy land: the borders of those who came from Babylonia (gbl 'wly bbl[*] ). According to this tradition, the holy land does not include the region of Samaria and the coast settled by foreigners; those who came from Babylonia considered their borders sanctified for eternity, unlike the borders of those who came from Egypt (gbl 'wly msrym[*] ) (BT Arakhin 32b). But our discussion is mainly concerned with the borders of the pre-exilic period, as presented in the biblical sources, on which we shall concentrate here.

In the unbiased biblical sources, the borders of the Israelite settlement are indicated by the formula "from Dan until Beersheba."[1] However, in the texts crystalized in the priestly tradi-


tions and in texts relating to the period of national expansion, we find borders that extend beyond this area of Israelite settlement; in fact, these sources represent two ideal border-systems:

(1) The priestly delineation of the borders of the land of Canaan, "from Lebo-hamath until the wadi of Egypt"[2] is


found in Num. 34, according to the precise description in this source, the promised land does not include the eastern side of the Jordan south of the Kinneret (map 1).[3] In the context of the first period of national expansion we find these border indications: "So Solomon and all Israel with him . . . from Lebo-hamath to the Wadi of Egypt observed the Feast" (1 Kings 8:65); similarly, in the period of expansion in the days of Jeroboam II (789–750 B.C.E. ): "It was he who restored the territory of Israel from Lebo-hamath to the sea of the Arabah";[4] "Who will harass you from Lebo-hamath to the Wadi Arabah" (Amos 6:14). The territory of "the remaining land" (Josh. 13:2) that had not been conquered by Joshua was determined in accordance with these borders: all the land "from


Baal-gad at the foot of Mount Hermon to Lebo-hamath" (Josh. 13:5; Judg. 3:3), i.e., the territory north of the springs of the Jordan as far as Lebo-hamath, as well as the land of Philistia (Josh. 13:2–3; Judg. 3:3). This system of borders includes territories that were inhabited by Israelites in the days of David, especially in the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon.[5]

(2) Another system of borders encompasses the territory "from the river Euphrates to the river of Egypt" (Gen. 15:19), or "from the wilderness to the Euphrates" (Exod. 23:31),[6] which includes the eastern side of the Jordan and all the land of Syria and Lebanon (map 2).

Let us explain these two idealistic systems in detail.

From Lebo-hamath to the Wadi of Egypt

As indicated, the border system of this type does not include Transjordan south of the lake of Kinneret, which seems difficult to understand because the Israelites inhabited Transjordan from the beginning of their settlement in the area (cf. Judg. 11:26). This problem was addressed by B. Mazar, and later by R. de Vaux, who observed that the border delineation of Canaan in Num. 34 corresponds to the region of the Egyptian province of Canaan in the period before the Israelite settlement.[7] The Egyp-


Map 1
Borders of the Promised Land, Numbers 34:3-12.


Map 2
Borders of the Promised Land, Genesis 15:18-21.


tian province of Canaan includes the land of Upe, the Damascene region, but excludes Transjordan just as in Num. 34.

This system conforms to the view accepted in most biblical sources in which the crossing of the Jordan marks the beginning of the conquest of the land of Canaan and also signals the point at which the commandments specific to the Land of Israel become binding.[8] The realization of the promise to the patriarchs came with the crossing of the Jordan, hence the dramatization of the event and the ceremony of the foundation at Gilgal, as expressed in the beginning of the stories of the conquest in Josh. 3–4.[9] In addition, it should be noted that the manna the Israelites ate in the desert stopped after the crossing of the Jordan[10] and that the circumcision of the Israelites upon their arrival in the Land of Canaan, shortly before they celebrated the first Passover in the Land, took place after crossing the Jordan to Gilgal to the west (Josh. 5:2–11). The setting up of the stones that the Israelites were commanded to erect on Mt. Ebal, and the ceremony accompanying this act, could only be fulfilled after the passage of the Jordan: "As soon as you have crossed the Jordan . . . you shall set up large stones . . . in order that you may come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you."[11] This is an ancient tradition, despite its appearance in a late book.

Furthermore, the angel who was supposed to bring the


Israelites to the Land and drive out before them the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites appears only after Joshua arrives at Gilgal and before the conquest of Jericho.[12] This angel, called "captain of the Lord's host," reveals himself to Joshua by saying "Now I have come" (Josh. 5:14), which means: now that I have arrived, the time of the conquest of the Land of Canaan has come. This same angel later goes up from Gilgal to the Bochim and admonishes Israel for not having destroyed the Canaanite altars (Judg. 2:1–4).

It is clear, then, that the realization of the promise of the Land of Canaan to the Israelites did not begin until Israel arrived at Gilgal. The territory of Transjordan was not included, at the outset, in the borders of the promise, and it was actually conquered only incidentally: because Sihon, the king of the Amorites, did not let the Israelites pass through his land on their way to the land of Canaan, they were obliged to fight him, and in this way his land was conquered and passed into the hands of Israel. With respect to the land of Og, king of the Bashan (Num. 21:33–35), it is evident that the relevant passage in the book of Numbers is an addition that was introduced under the influence of Deut. 3:1–3.[13] The chance nature of the


conquest of Transjordan is made clear in Num. 32: when the Reubenites and the Gadites ask to settle in Transjordan, their request is something of a surprise to Moses, who considers it a sin equal in weight to the sin of the spies (Num. 32:20–22).

In fact, the whole tradition about the settlement in Transjordan in Num. 32 is apologetic,[14] attempting to justify the settlement of the tribes on the eastern side of the Jordan by proving that the Gadites and the Reubenites actually fought with the rest of the tribes on the western side and were therefore allowed to settle on the eastern side. Only after they had committed themselves to go to war "before the Lord" (Num. 32:20–22)—in other words, at the place in which the tabernacle is located, on the western side of the Jordan—were they granted permission to build their cities in Gilead and to leave their families and herds there. Actually, Gilead was settled primarily by immigrants from the tribes of Manasseh (see below) and Ephraim,[15] and Num. 32 serves as a kind of legitimization of this settlement outside the borders of the Promised Land. Although the Gadites and the Reubenites did settle at a very early stage in the southern part of Transjordan,[16] the major settlement in Gilead, which is the heart of Transjordan,


took place after the conquest of Cisjordan and was something of a new colony of the motherland in the west.[17]

The father-founder (oikist )[18] of the colony in Gilead, which in its broad sense included all the territory of the tribes settled in Transjordan,[19] was Machir, the son of Manasseh.[20] In the Song of Deborah, Machir appears in the region between Ephraim and Benjamin in the south and Zebulun and Issachar in the north (Judg. 5:14); this region corresponds to the territory of the tribe of Manasseh on the western side of the Jordan.

It is clear, then, that Machir migrated to the eastern side of the river not long before the period of Deborah in the middle of the twelfth century B.C.E.[21] There were Gileadites in Transjordan while Machir was still on the western side of the Jordan (Judg. 5:14, 17), but they became part of the federation of the twelve tribes only after affiliating with Machir-Manasseh. The tradition about the dwelling of the tribe of Gad in Gilead does not date as far back as this period; if it did, we would expect to find Gad, not Gilead, mentioned next to Reuben (Judg. 5:15–17). It should be noted that with the single exception of Gilead, all the ethnic groups in the Song of Deborah are designated by


their tribal name: Ephraim, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Naftali, and Asher.

This situation is reflected in the story of Jephthah (Judg. 11), in which "the Gilead" designates both a land of origin and a people (Jephthah, the Gileadite), as well as a region.[22] Perhaps part of the Reubenite tribe also originated in Cisjordan, because Reubenite tribal names, such as Carmi, Hezron, and Bela, are found in the genealogical lists of Judah and Benjamin, while "the stone of Bohan, son of Reuben" is located not in the territory of the tribe of Reuben, as might be expected, but rather in the territory of Judah (Josh. 15:6, 18:17). In any case, there is ample evidence that Transjordan was settled by immigrants from Cisjordan;[23] in addition to Machir from the tribe of Manasseh, Ephraimite tribesmen also established colonies there.

Moreover, in the ancient accounts of the establishment of settlements in Transjordan by the Israelites,[24] a clear typology of colonization, as we have seen in the Greek tradition (see Chapter 1) reveals the following elements: (1) departing: "he went" (hlk ); (2) conquering the territory: "he captured it" (lkd ); (3) building a settlement: "he built a city" (bnh ); (4) naming the place after the conqueror or settler (qr' sm[*] ): "The descendants of Machir . . . went to Gilead and captured it; "Jair, son of Manasseh, went and captured  . . . and he renamed them Havvothjair"; "And Nobah went and captured Kenath and its dependencies, renaming it Nobah after himself"; "The Gadites . . . and the Reubenites built  . . . and they gave names to towns they built" (Num. 32:34–42). The language of this story is similar


to that used to describe the settlement of the Danites in the north: "they built the city . . . settled in it and called its name Dan" (cf. above, pp. 34–35).

Settlement east of the Jordan, then, was considered secondary and therefore was not apportioned along with land on the western side by the casting of lots before the Lord at Shiloh (Josh. 14–19). Indeed, the eastern side of the Jordan is regarded in the ancient sources as an "impure land" that was not included in the inheritance of the Lord (Josh. 22:19). The Rabbis also saw in the conquest of Transjordan an act that had not received the a priori approval of God: with respect to the verse "you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you," Rabbi Simeon says, "Except Transjordan, which you took by yourself."[25]

The negation of the national-religious status of Transjordan finds expression in Josh. 22, a chapter of a priestly author, who delineates the borders of the Land without Transjordan (Num. 34:1–12). In Josh. 22:11–12, the Israelite tribes that are affiliated with the Tabernacle at Shiloh in Mt. Ephraim are appalled at the sight of the altar erected in Transjordan;[26] they condemn its builders as traitors and rebels, and they even invite the Transjordanian tribes to abandon their "impure" inheritance to cross over and acquire holdings "in the land of the Lord's own holding," wherein dwells the Tabernacle of the Lord (in Shiloh).[27]


The priests of Shiloh, in whose circles the Israelite Priestly Code originated,[28] conceived of the boundaries of the land of Canaan in accordance with boundaries accepted in the Egyptian empire on the eve of the Israelite conquest; in other words, the land of Canaan as given to Israel encompasses the same boundaries as the province of Canaan that had been delineated beforehand under the rule of Egypt. Just as God took the Israelites out of Egypt, so he took away the land of Canaan from the hand of Egypt and gave it to Israel.[29] Therefore, "the land of Canaan with its boundaries" ('rs kn'n lgbltyh[*] ) in Num. 34 corresponds to the land of Canaan as it was in the days of the Egyptian empire. This view, endorsed by the tribes of Israel, did not change after the two and a half tribes settled in Transjordan; the priests of Shiloh, who saw in the land of Canaan without Transjordan the portion cast by lot before the Lord at Shiloh,[30] were not willing to compromise in this matter, despite other, more popular views in which—as we shall see—Transjordan was considered an inseparable part of the original inheritance of Israel. Thus, in contrast to the tradition that identifies Penuel in Transjordan as the place where the God of Israel was revealed to Jacob and his name was changed to Israel (Gen. 32:25–33), the priestly tradition relates that the revelation to Jacob, as well as the changing of his name took place not in Penuel but in Beth-el, on the western side of the Jordan (Gen. 35:1–15; cf. above, p. 46).

From the River of Egypt to the River Euphrates



the wide-ranging conquests of David in Transjordan and the priestly ascendancy of the house of Zadok, which was no longer bound to the tradition of Shiloh that had originated in the house of Eli, the view of the borders of the Promised Land changed.[31] The Gilead and the valley of Sukkoth in Transjordan were recognized as belonging to the portion of the Lord, as we learn from a psalm attributed to David after his victories in Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah:[32]

God promised in His shrine: I would ascend Luz (= Beth-el),[33] divide up Shechem, and measure the valley of Sukkoth; Gilead and Manasseh would be mine, Ephraim my chief stronghold, Judah my scepter.

Moab would be my washbasin. On Edom I would rest my shoe. Acclaim me, O Philistia. Would that I were brought to the fortress [of Tyre]. Would that I were led to Aram.


Here, in the division of the Land ("I would divide ['hlq[*] ] . . . I will measure ['mdd[*] ]") according to the word of God (which was proclaimed in Beth-el and not in Shiloh), an equal place was reserved for Shechem and for Sukkoth, for the Hills of Ephraim and for the Hills of Gilead; in other words, there is no distinction between the eastern and western sides of the Jordan. That Transjordan territories were included in the Land of Israel of the United Monarchy may be learned from (1) the census of David (2 Sam. 24); (2) the list of Solomon's districts (1 Kings 4); (3) the delineation of tribal borders in Joshua 13–19; and (4) the list of Levitical cities in Joshua 21. The census of David starts from the southeast at Aroer in Transjordan, passes to northern Gilead, comes around Sidon to the fortress of Tyre, and then reaches the cities of the Hivites and the Canaanites in the west, along the coast. The census ends in the southernmost part of the country, Beer-sheba.

Solomon's districts (1 Kings 4) include Gilead and Bashan in Transjordan; the area of Asher, which extends in the north "unto great Sidon . . . till the fortress of Tyre" (Josh. 19:28–29); the Canaanite cities in the west; and the valley of Jereel (1 Kings 4:10–12) and Judah in the south.

The same situation is reflected in the tribal borders of Joshua 13–19 and in the Levitical cities (Joshua 21), as has been demonstrated by Z. Kallai in Historical Geography of the Bible (Jerusalem, 1986).

The view that the eastern side of the Jordan is included in the boundaries of the Promised Land, which was fostered in the days of the United Monarchy, stands at the foundation of the ideal model of borders in Gen. 15, "from the river Euphrates to the river of Egypt." Because this formula appears in the chapter of the "Covenant between the Pieces," which re-


flects the days of David,[34] it includes a promise that the progeny of Abraham will be given the land of the Ten Peoples (Gen. 15:19–21). The Ten Peoples include, in addition to those known to us from the lists of peoples in the land of Canaan, the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, and the Rephaim, peoples who dwelled in the south of the land of Israel and in Transjordan.[35]

The same borders are reflected in Exod. 23:31: "I will set your borders from the Sea of Reeds to the Sea of Philistia, and from the wilderness to the River." The Sea of Reeds is at the southernmost point of the land (the Gulf of Aqabah); the Sea of Philistia (the Mediterranean) constitutes the western and southwestern border; "the wilderness" is the eastern and southern border; while "the River," the Euphrates, is the northern and northeastern border.[36] This maximal extent of the Land is also specified in the description of the kingdom of Solomon in 1 Kings 5:1: "Solomon's rule extended over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and the boundary of Egypt,"[37] and it finds expression even in the


psalms of an imperial nature,[38] as in the Psalm of Solomon: "Let him rule from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth" (Ps. 72:8); and in Ps. 89:26: "I will set his hand upon the sea, his right hand upon the rivers."[39]

Delineations of borders using seas and rivers as boundaries are typical of imperial descriptions, but there is no support for the claims of some researchers that they represent a projection from the days of the Assyrian Empire.[40] Such borders appear in sources of several different types: for example, in the stories of the patriarchs (Gen. 15:18), in the epilogue of the law of the book of the covenant (Exod. 23:31), in a few psalms (72:8; 80:11; 89:26), and in various prophecies (Isa. 27:12; Mic. 7:12; Zech. 9:10). There is no reason to assume that all these do not precede the Assyrian period. Similarly, these borders match borders specified in other ancient passages that speak of the submission of peoples and nations in the regions of Syria and the Land of Israel: "Let peoples serve you, and nations bow to you" (Gen. 27:29), and "Let all kings bow to him, and all nations serve him" (Ps. 72:11), which can be comprehended only in light of the political reality of the time of David and the beginning of the period of Solomon. These writings on the submission of peoples and kings echo the description in 2 Samuel of the wars of David: "And the Moabites became tributary vassals of David"; "And the Arameans became tributary vassals of David"; "and all the Edomites became vassals of


David"; "And when all the kings saw . . . they submitted to Israel and became their vassals."[41]

The Status of Transjordan According to Deuteronomy

The "imperial" boundaries described above were adopted by the Deuteronomic circle as the borders of the Promised Land. In contrast to the Priestly Code, the Deuteronomic circle sees the eastern side of the Jordan as an inseparable part of the land of Canaan. We shall enumerate the evidence for this:

Revelation to Moses

The description of the Promised Land that God showed Moses before his death (Deut. 34:1–4)[42] lists the Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naftali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, the whole land of Judah, the Negeb, and the plain and valley of Jericho: "This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 'I will assign it to your offspring.'" Unlike the ancient source discussed above, here the Promised Land includes the eastern side of the Jordan (the Gilead).

Beginning of the Conquest

In Deut. 1–3, the beginning of the conquest is not Joshua's crossing of the Jordan but rather Moses' crossing of the wadi of Arnon: "Up! Set out across the wadi Arnon! See, I give into your power Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin the occupation: engage him in battle. This day I begin to put the dread and fear of you


upon the peoples everywhere under heaven, so that they shall tremble and quake because of you whenever they hear you mentioned" (Deut. 2:24–25).

These verses are reminiscent of Josh. 2:9–11; 4:24; and 5:1,[43] in which dread and fear fall upon the peoples before the great deeds performed by God for Israel at the time of their crossing of the Jordan.[44] The view according to which the conquest begins with the victory over Sihon, king of the Amorites, also appears in Deut. 2:31: "See, I begin by placing Sihon and his land at your disposal. Begin the occupation; take possession of his land."[45] These verses make it clear that the inheritance of the land actually began in the battle with Sihon,[46] in contrast to the assertion in Num. 21:21–25 that the Israelites were thrown unwillingly into battle because Sihon did not allow them to pass through his land. In Deuteronomy, the request for passage was only a pretext, whose entire aim was to provoke war; the Israelites knew that Sihon would refuse their request "because the Lord had stiffened his spirit" (Deut. 2:30), and in this war the Israelites were destined to gain a victory, following which they would occupy the land of Sihon.[47]

The Ban

Because the Deuteronomist regards Transjor-


dan as an inseparable part of the Promised Land, the conquest of Transjordan necessitates application of the laws of proscription (herem[*] ) that apply to the peoples of Canaan (Deut. 20:10 ff.): all inhabitants of the land of Sihon and Og, men, women, and children, must be banned (Deut. 2:34–35, 3:6–7), excepting only the cattle and spoils.[48] The parallel description of this battle, in Num. 21:21 ff., does not mention a ban in the conquered region in Transjordan.[49]

An Expanded Land

Deuteronomy not only conceived of Transjordan as an inseparable part of the Promised Land, in contrast to the tradition of Numbers, but it also outlined its territory as much more expansive than that in Numbers. Num. 21:24 describes the conquered territory of Sihon as extending "from the Arnon to the Jabbok," while in Deuteronomy it extends northward much farther than the Jabbok to include Gilead north of the Jabbok and the Arabah to the Kinneret (Deut. 3:16–17).[50]

A similar expansion appears in relation to Havvoth-jair. According to Num. 32:40–41, the villages conquered by Jair, son of Manasseh, belong to Gilead, as confirmed in Judg. 10:4: "Havvoth-jair . . . which are in the land of Gilead." But in Deut. 3:14 these villages are mentioned as located in the Bashan, north of Gilead. Moreover, the situating of Havvoth-jair in the district of Argob in the Bashan results in the curious identification of small villages with the large cities in Argob, "cities fortified with high walls, gates, and bars" (3:5), in contrast to the lists of the Solomonic districts (1 Kings 4:13), which clearly distinguish between Havvoth-jair in the Gilead


and the sixty cities fortified with "walls and bronze bars" in the Argob district: "he governed the villages of Jair, son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead," and "he also governed the district of Argob which is in Bashan, sixty large towns with walls and bronze bars." Instead of maintaining this distinction, the Deuteronomist expanded the meaning of Havvoth-jair by linking the villages to the region of the Bashan, and the Deuteronomic historiographer followed him and explicitly identified Havvoth-jair with the sixty cities in the Bashan: "and all of Havvoth-jair in Bashan, sixty towns" (Josh. 13:30).[51]

In fact, attestations indicating the expansion of Manasseh in the direction of the district of Bashan[52] are already found in Num. 32:42, in which Nobah conquers Kenath (southern Bashan);[53] this situation, however, does not closely parallel Deut. 3:10, in which large cities and spacious districts not even mentioned in Num. 32 are included in the boundaries of the Land: Ashtaroth, Edrei, Salchah, Argob, and the "sixty cities" of the kingdom of Og in Bashan. Although Num. 34 includes the Bashan in the borders of the Promised Land, the Deuteronomist nonetheless places it on the same level as the territory of Sihon, outside the normative borders of the Land of Canaan.[54]

Unconditional Gift

The special stance of Deuteronomy vis-à-vis Transjordan is also expressed in the description of the deliverance of Transjordan into the hands of the tribes of Gad


and Reuben.[55] According to Num. 32:16 ff., the territory is given to the Transjordanian tribes on the condition that they cross over the Jordan and fight together with their brethren before the Lord, but according to Deut. 3:15 ff. the territory is given to them unconditionally, reflecting the perspective of the author on this territory as part of the general portion of Israel. Moses says to them: "The Lord your God has given you this country to possess. You must go as shock-troops, warriors all, at the head of your Israelite kinsmen . . . until the Lord has granted your kinsmen a haven such as you have, and they too have taken possession of the land that the Lord your God is assigning them, beyond the Jordan" (Deut. 3:18–20).

In contrast to the source in Numbers, by which the rights of the Transjordanian tribes over their land are acquired through their participation in the war on the western side of the Jordan, scene of the true inheritance, in Deuteronomy they gain this land as part of the tribal inheritances given to them in the context of the division of the Promised Land. Because they have already arrived at their rest and inheritance (Deut. 3:20), these tribes are requested to help their brethren as well, who are still fighting to achieve it: "and they too have taken possession of the land that the Lord your God is assigning them, beyond the Jordan" (3:20).

Thus, what was in Numbers a settlement outside the borders of the Promised Land becomes in Deuteronomy a legitimate inheritance, which includes expansive territories. A similar pattern applies to the description by the Deuteronomic author in Josh. 13 of the division of the portions to the Transjordanian tribes.

When did this tradition of the application of "the Lord's portion" to Transjordan materialize? It appears possible to set its crystallization in the period of national expansion in the days


of Hezekiah or Josiah (with reference to the formation of the tradition from a literary-ideological perspective, as opposed to the underlying historical events). The expansion in the region of the eastern side of the Jordan actually commenced in the period of David and Solomon, as the list of Solomonic provinces in 1 Kings 4 attests; however, the ideologue of the period of Hezekiah and Josiah, the Deuteronomic author (or the Deuteronomic school), is the source who formulated this view of the extent of the Promised Land. Until this period, the sources adhered to the ancient view, according to which Transjordan is not part of the Promised Land, and only during the period of nationalist pride that characterized the time of Hezekiah and Josiah[56] was a new view elaborated. An ideology such as this one could not have been formed in the time of the great expansion—in the days of David and Solomon, or in the days of Jeroboam II—when the scribe would not have failed to distinguish between Havvoth-jair in the Gilead and the sixty fortified cities in the Bashan. Only a later scribe, who was writing when the Bashan was no longer in Israelite hands, might err in this way.

To which stage of the Deuteronomic school is it possible to attribute this ideology? We have based our evidence primarily on Deut. 2–3 and Deut. 34, chapters that apparently are part of a later edition of the book and may even belong to the editorial layer of the Deuteronomist who edited the historiography of the Former Prophets.[57] Indeed, in the code itself the old view still prevails that God's commandments are binding only after the crossing of the Jordan (11:31–32). Nevertheless, the reference to the imperial borders, which include the eastern side of the Jordan in the delineation of the Promised Land, is found in


Deuteronomy 11:24, a verse considered to be an original part of Deuteronomy: "from the desert to Lebanon and from the river Euphrates to the western sea will be your territory." In any case, this ideology is anchored in the Deuteronomic school and should be seen as an expression of the national consciousness characteristic of this school.

The View of the Second Temple Period

With the return of the exiles from Babylonia after the destruction of the Temple, the borders were altered to suit the new reality. In the Second Temple period, the area that was subject to the laws of purity and impurity, as well as the other laws that were binding upon the Land of Israel, was the region within "the borders of those who went up from the Babylonian exile" (gblwt 'wly bbl[*] ), and no longer the previous "borders of those who came from Egypt" (gblwt ys'y msrym[*] ): "All territory settled by those who returned from the Babylonian exile" was "holy" (Shevi'it[*] Mishnah 6:1), but areas inhabited by Gentiles or Samaritans were not considered holy. We may observe a certain flexibility regarding territorial issues in a Rabbinic tradition that states: "many cities conquered by those who came from Egypt were not conquered by those who returned from Babylonia. . . . They left them so that the poor could rely upon them in the seventh year" (so that the poor could partake of the produce of these fields during the seventh year, as it was permissible to plow and sow them during the seventh year). The willingness to forgo areas of the Land of Israel in order to fulfill the commandment of giving gifts to the poor reflects an attitude that the land is a means to an end, and not an end in itself (BT Hagigah 3b; BT Hulin 7a).


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