Judges 11:13 says, “And the king of the people of Ammon answered the messengers of Jephthah, 'Because Israel took away my land when they came up out of Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and to the Jordan. Now therefore, restore those lands peaceably.'"
More than 3,000 years ago, the king of Ammon accused Israel of taking "his land", and he wanted it back-or else. Israel was accused of stealing land and told to give it back. That scenario reverberates almost daily. At its core lies bad history because it wasn't true then, and it is isn't true today. The Ammonites attacked Israel (v.5). Jephthah, Israel's judge/leader, tried diplomacy first to keep the peace. He sent messengers to their king, asking him why he wanted to fight (v.12). That's when the king accused Israel of stealing land (v.13).
Jephthah addressed the king's false narrative by sending messengers to give the king the truth about Israel's existence in the land. When the Israelites had left Egypt, they had asked permission to pass through other kingdoms. The land in question was territory Israel had won in a battle 300 years earlier, when attacked by the Amorites, not the Ammonites (v.26).
Jephthah told the king the real story: "Israel did not take away the land of Moab, nor the land of the people of Ammon" (v.15). However, neither Jephthah's diplomacy nor his facts prevailed. Israel was forced to defend itself. In this case, "the Spirit of God came upon Jephthah," and Israel was victorious (v.29).
This year marks the anniversary of several events in Israel's history that correct the more modern narrative that Israel is a land-grabber and demonstrate Israel's respect for international law, diplomacy, and proper use of defense.
It is the 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress that met in Basel, Switzerland. At that time Theodor Herzl wrote in his diary, "At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in 50, everyone will know it." The meeting motivated Jewish people around the world to raise money to pay the exorbitant prices absentee landowners were demanding for territory in the Holy Land, which at that point was part of the Ottoman Empire. The effort facilitated the first Aliyah (return to Israel).
It is the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which declared the British government's favorable disposition toward "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." It promised Britain's "best endeavors to facilitate the achievements of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." <To Be Continued>