The Purpose of Jewish Sovereignty

March 20, 2024

One of the main themes of this book, and the direct subject of many of the verses in this book, is the promise of God to give the land of Israel to the people of Israel. This verse is one of many that reiterates God’s gift of the land. But it does more than that. 

In addition to stating that God has given the land to the nation of Israel, this verse also includes a direct command to the people of Israel, “and you shall take possession of it, and you shall reside in it.” More precisely, these are two commandments.

  1. You shall take possession of it
  2. You shall reside in it

The importance of these commandments to Jewish identity and faith cannot be overstated. Simply put, according to Biblical law, as stated right here in this verse, the Jewish people are commanded by God to take possession of the land of Israel and to live in it. The land of Israel is not only a gift from God to the nation of Israel so that we have a land to call our own. Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel is a requirement of Divine law.

I mentioned that there are two commandments here. If we think about Jewish history, we can easily see the implications of this. There have been many time-periods, from Roman times to the Ottoman Empire to the era of the British Mandate in the 20th century, when Jews were allowed to live in the land of Israel but were not sovereign. Had the verse commanded us only to live in the land of Israel, we might think that Jewish residence there is the goal, regardless of who rules the land. The first commandment “you shall take possession of it,” teaches us that the Jewish people are commanded to establish sovereignty over the land.

On the other hand, had the verse stated only the first command, “you shall take possession of it,” we might be led to believe that living there is not obligatory, so long as there is Jewish sovereignty over the land. And in fact, as we know all too well, there are many Jews who are content to live outside of Israel, even during our times when Jews do have possession of the land of Israel. The second commandment, “you shall reside in it,” comes to teach us that it is the obligation of every member of the nation of Israel to make every effort to live in the land of Israel.

This verse, commanding Jewish sovereignty and residence in the land of Israel, is followed by a verse that does not appear to be directly related.

This is certainly an important message. However, it’s a message that is stated many times throughout the Torah in general and the book of Deuteronomy in particular. Why is it stated right here? What is the connection to the previous verse? Furthermore, why does it refer to the “all the statutes and the ordinances that I put before you today.” What particular statutes and ordinances is Moses referring to? If he means to include all the commandments of the Torah, why include the words, “that I put before you today”? Obviously, only a small number of the 613 commandments in the Torah were stated on that day. 

We can answer both of these questions by reading the verses that immediately follow.

I encourage you to open a Bible and continue reading the rest of Deuteronomy 12. It goes on to command the establishment of a temple to God, to worship Him there with sacrifices and other offerings. 

Now we can see the connection between our two verses. The first verse commands us to take possession of and dwell in the land that God has given us. The second verse tells us that we must be careful to fulfill the commandments of God outlined in the verses that follow. The connection between these verses is now clear. The purpose of our sovereignty and nationhood in the land of Israel is to establish a society that rejects false gods and serves only the God of Israel. 

The Jewish people are not like any other nation. The sole basis of our identity is our covenant with God. The purpose of Israel is the establishment of a nation that exemplifies obedience to God and serves as the worldwide epicenter of faith in the God of Israel.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

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By: Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

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