Genesis 26:2-5 - "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live..."

The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions." (Genesis 26:2-5)

An "oath I swore to your father"?

This purported statement by God to Isaac is stating that God swore an oath to Abraham about giving him "all these lands." This contradicts the speculative philosophy made by many clerics that the reason Abraham's descendants did not receive (own and control) all those "lands" is that they didn't follow His commandments well enough. That they had done things that made God upset and He then didn't award them the land that He promised Abraham.

This is contradictory because if God had already swore an oath to Abraham that his descendants would be given those "lands," there would be no going back on that "oath." Unless they are saying that God reneges on the oaths that He swears by.

So that brings us to the next question, which is why, if God gave Abraham's descendants all those lands, why were they not able to own and control those lands for most of their history?

Doesn't ownership require control?

The land that God had supposedly promised Abraham was stated as thus:
On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites." (Genesis 15:18-21)
The problem here is that the descendants of Abraham never conquered these lands, nor did they control them. Their control stayed in the hands of some of these tribes mentioned, and later the lands fell into the control of conquerors.

Today much of this land is in fact controlled by the governments of Syria, Turkey and Egypt. So why should we accept that the Supreme Being gave them these lands if they never owned or controlled all these lands?

This notion that those born in Isaac's family were given all those lands would require also that they maintained control over those lands. But we know that Isaac's clan did not, over the centuries, maintain control over the lands supposedly given to them by God. They and their lands were conquered numerous times, and Jerusalem itself was overthrown at least six times in less than eight centuries.

In modern times, a government called Israel has come to govern much of Judea. But this is not the expanse that God supposedly granted to Abraham. Furthermore, Israel is populated by those who follow Christianity, those who follow Mohammed and those who follow other faiths. As far as being followers of Judaism, About 20 percent are Muslim and about 20 percent of Israel's population is atheist according to a 2009 Guttman Center survey.

So this notion of God giving Isaac's descendants "all these lands" is simply erroneous. If God gave those descendants the lands, they would have controlled them over the centuries. And if they controlled them over the years, there would not have been so many wars fought over the control of those lands, and so many conquerors would not have controlled them over the centuries (i.e., Romans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Napoleon and so on).

But since the supposed descendants of Isaac and Abraham were not able to control "all these lands" we know they were never given those lands by God.

We also know this because of the tremendous amount of violence and killing that has occurred in the name of holding onto certain lands. This constant fighting clearly indicates a lack of control.

When people have to fight others over land, that is a clear sign of a lack of control of that land.

Why would God give Abraham famine-stricken land?

We have to also question why God would choose to give Abraham such drought-ridden and famine-stricken land? Prior to this verse, we learn that this land - part of the lands supposedly given by God - was devastated with famine:
Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham's time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. (Genesis 26:1)
This also indicates that this was not the first famine there. There was also famine there during Abraham's lifetime. Abraham escaped to Egypt because the famine was so bad - just as Isaac wanted to do according to the above verse.

This means that this land was - and still is - for the most part, a desert. It is famine-stricken, with little water and sustenance.

So we must ask, why would God give Abraham such horrible land? Why didn't God steer Abraham to some better land? How about the lush lands of India or Bali? Why would God give Abraham some of the worst land in the entire earth? Especially if God felt so close to Abraham?

Should we accept that Abraham's descendants would be given those lands, leading them to centuries of devastating warfare and being conquered by many invaders? In addition to the land itself being famine-stricken? If so, we might better conclude that this land was more of a curse than a benediction.

It would be like someone being given a crown of thorns.

Is there an alternative interpretation?

There is evidence of another original meaning to the oral teachings that were eventually transcribed and interpreted. Let's look a little deeper at the translation.

The key phrase is, "I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands"

The word translated to "lands" here is ארץ ('erets). This can certainly mean "land" but it also means "territory," "region," "countries" and so on - on a combined basis, this can be generalized as "this place."

The word "all" is being translated from the Hebrew word כל (kol), which can mean "all" but also "the whole of" or "totality," "any" "each" and "every."

The word "descendants" is being translated from זרע (zera`). It is quite simply a stretch to translate this word to "descendants," because the word means "a sowing," "seed" "sowing time" even "of moral quality." It can also mean "seed" or "semen," which has been incorrectly extended to mean descendants.

But the reality is, the books of the Old Testament were not as fixated upon Abraham's descendants as the institutional scribes would have us believe. These scriptures are about Abraham's followers. Those who followed his teachings of devotion to God. They detail the lives of those who are devoted to the Supreme Being. They are focused upon those people who devoted their lives to God and to their teacher before them.

Yes, what sectarian teachers have lost in the ancient scriptures is that there is a lineage of devoted teachers - a teacher has a student and that student becomes a teacher and takes on students and some of those students become teachers and pass on the teachings to new generations. This creates a lineage of devoted teachers who have passed on God's message.

And in many verses in the scriptures, the word "father" אב ('ab) is actually describing a spiritual father - a teacher. And the word "child" or "children" - בן (ben) is actually referring to students of that teacher.

And it is for this reason that the texts of the scriptures look like a family genealogy - but in reality trace back the lineage of devoted teachers and their students.

This doesn't mean that some of the students were not also children of the teacher. This occurred frequently, but not always. For example, Samuel was not Eli's son, yet he mentored under him, just as Isaac mentored under Abraham.

But the institutional scribes tried to white-wash the ancient transcriptions to create this false descendant race.

After all, to give preferential treatment to one particular family - a race of people - would make God a racist.

And God is not a racist.

God offers everyone the opportunity to learn about Him. Anyone can learn to love and serve God. They don't need to be born in a particular family or be of a particular skin color.

Yet this lies in contrast to those institutional teachers who to this day feel that a particular race or family is superior to other races and families, that God has "chosen" them over others because of the family they were born into.

Didn't Moses write the Torah?

Genesis is the first book of the Torah. Torah priests teach that Moses wrote the Torah. While there is a smidgen of truth in that statement, most scholars disagree. Moses taught things orally, some of which eventually made it into the Torah.

Rather, the teachings of the Torah were passed down orally for centuries in pieces, and at different times different segments were put into writing. These early scrolls from different regions and tribes were collected by the scribes during the reign of King Josiah. During his reign, the Assyrians conquered Israel and many Israelites migrated south to Judea, into Josiah's territory.

So Josiah had his scribes combine the teachings from these northern tribes along with the Judean teachings. They mixed and matched them, and merged them into what is now known as the Torah.

As a result, according to scholars, Genesis is a combination of at least 19 different scrolls that were pieced together to make up what we today call the Book of Genesis. This doesn't count what was obviously added to the texts at that time.

We can see these are converged and merged teachings and stories because of the many contradictions and differences among the verses of these texts. They are not homogeneous.

There is a reason. During that same time, the Israelites were embattled from many sides and their territory was challenged by a number of tribes.

Therefore, as they assembled and transcribed the texts, they manipulated them to indicate they were God's chosen race and God had given them the lands they currently occupied. This had both a political purpose and a survival purpose. Convincing the population of their special nature and their so-called God-given ownership of the land meant producing a hardy army that would defend them from enemies.

This is not new in world history. We have seen regional religious patriotism among different nations throughout human history. Utilizing a particular religious doctrine to indicate a special position in the world has also been done in India with Hinduism, in China with Buddhism, in Rome and Europe with Christianity and among Arab countries with Mohammedism.

The notion that a certain race or family of people are special, and better than everyone else is erroneously embraced by many sectarian organizations. It is a common ideology among practically every sectarian faith: The followers and teachers of each sectarian faith consider their sect is the true faith, and everyone else is wrong. Only they are going to heaven. Everyone else is going to hell.

The reality is that God did not give anyone - including Isaac's descendants - land. The verse indicates the original intent was to tell Isaac to stay in that place and teach to others, and his followers for many generations - students of his students - will become many.

Like his teacher Abraham, Isaac was devoted to God. He learned at the feet of his teacher Abraham about God, and he put those teachings into practice. Now God is telling Isaac to himself go out and teach to others, and God is promising Isaac that his efforts will be successful - that he will have many followers.

Remember the word זרע (zera`). In this context, this refers to followers. Those who would follow Isaac's teachings. זרע (zera`) is a metaphorical statement referring to the giving of knowledge to others - sowing. We see this metaphorical use throughout the scriptures, and even Jesus utilized this concept in the farmer and the seeds parable. When a person sows the seeds of knowledge, they are passing on their teachings to others. This is like sowing seeds because plants and seeds grow from an original seed.

And Isaac's teachings - coming from Abraham - were being "sowed" throughout the region, and he gained many followers who also led to multitudes of followers over the generations.

What Isaac and Abraham taught their followers was loving service to God. Love of God saves us. It delivers us from the bondage of self-centered existence. It relieves us of loneliness, emptiness and lack of purpose. Serving God in love is salvation.

Consider another translation of these verses in Chapter 26 of the New Book of Genesis.