Golan: From Bashan, To Syria And Back To Israel Again
Once again United States President Donald Trump has brought controversy with a statement regarding the Middle East and particularly Israel. Last week after nearly 52 years he became the first US president to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area known as the Golan heights. This area comprises roughly 695 square miles and was given to Syria after World War I after the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. It was part of the French Mandate until 1946 when it became part of the Syrian Republic.
The Syrian army invaded Israel and was defeated in the six day war in June 1967. Later in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 israel defeated Syria in a great tank battle. This area became known as the Valley of Tears. In 1981 Israel annexed the territory known as the Golan Heights. It was never recognized by any government until President Trump did so recently. However this was not Israel’s first time owning and conquering this territory.
The Bible describes this territory in Numbers and Deuteronomy. In fact this territory is mentioned in at least 52 verses. The land that God promised to Abraham and his descendants through Jacob was vast and at no point did any of its leaders conquer all that was promised. Nevertheless we see the land known as Golan Heights today referred to as Bashan in the Old Testament.
We first encounter Bashan in Numbers 21:33, “ Then they turned and went up by the way to Bashan and Og king of Bashan and his whole army marched out to meet them in battle at Edrei.”
Who was Og? He was king of Bashan and greater was the fact that he was a member of a race of giants known as the Rephaim. Deut. 3:11 For only Og remained of the remnant of giants, behold his bedstead measured nine cubits (14 feet) KJV
As the story goes God told Moses that he would give Og and his people to them and he did and they utterly wiped them out. Og and Sihon were Amorite kings and the Amorites were among the people that stood in Israel’s way when they came out of Egypt. After defeating Og, Moses divided this land among the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh, with Manasseh receiving Bashan or what we now call Golan. Later, when cities of refuge were established one was known as Golan in the land of Manasseh. (Joshua 20:8)
The land known as Golan Heights was formerly called Bashan and God granted it to the tribe of Manasseh, who remained there until after the fall of the Northern Kingdom. That land changed owners several times over the past 2700 years it finally came back into Israel’s possession in 1967. This has been highly controversial, especially in the Middle east and among the Arab nations. The world does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, even though Syria was defeated. It is a good thing that the United Nations et al were not around when Og was defeated. It is sad that it has come to this in the world. The world really does not want Israel to exist. It has been war and war since God called Abraham and promised the land to his descendants, and to bless those who bless him.
The Psalmists and Prophets wrote of Bashan. There are the oaks of Bashan and the cows of Bashan. Jeremiah 50:19 “ I will restore Israel to his pasture, and he shall feed on Carmel and in Bashan, and his desire shall be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and Gilead.” Micah 7:14 “ let them feed from Bashan.”
Psalm 68:22 “ I will bring again from Bashan.” Bashan was known for its pastures, oaks, and great views, or gorgeous mountain scenes. Later it became known as Gilead. This is the land east of the Sea of Galilee, and near the are where Jesus spent much of his ministry.
So then what does all of this mean? Once again we see God working through the years to bring Israel back into the land as a nation, and not just any nation, but a ‘blessed nation.’ God’s plans for Israel as a ‘light to the nations’ are slowly coming to fruition. We know that ultimately that was fulfilled through Jesus, but still, Israel has a role as she will eventually be the place where all of the nations come to worship Jesus, in the Millennial Kingdom. It is also the place He will return. Finally, God told Israel to expand her tent pegs in Isaiah 54, and to make room. This is a scripture pointing to Aliyeh and the return to the land. Israel is a very small country in land. From the Mediterranean to The Jordan it is only a couple of hours drive. It is roughly the size of New Jersey.
Is God expanding Israel’s territory for the returning sheep? Is He at this time bringing an increase in territory to allow for more to come home before the ‘hunters’ find the Jews and they face further persecution? I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I think it is worth noting that God promised to punish Israel and He also promised to bring them back in the land and prosper them.
Either way we need to continue to pray for Revival in Israel and for the Salvation of Israel. Romans 11:26 “and all Israel shall be saved.” Also we must continue to pray for the salvation of the many nations surrounding Israel and that the Arabs will be used to ‘provoke Israel to Jealousy”, so that she will indeed be saved.