"Land" or "earth"?
The Heb word "eretz" may signify either "earth" (ie the globe
as a whole) or "land" (ie a country or territory, in a more restricted sense).
["The second major use of eretz is to designate a particular territory" (Laird,
Archer, and Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, p 74).] This
second meaning is most familiar, perhaps, in the phrase "Eretz Israel" (the Land
of Israel). In the Greek, "ge" reproduces the same ambiguity found in "eretz"
[see Footnote, at end of article].
The meaning attached to these two quite common words may have
profound implications for the interpretation of prophecy, particularly in those
books that deal most especially with the Last Days: Daniel in the Old Testament
and Revelation in the New.
"Eretz" in Daniel
In Daniel, the word "eretz" is used about 40 times. [This
total includes the Aramaic word "ara", which is used in the Aramaic portions of
Daniel (Dan 2-7), is cognate with the Hebrew "eretz", and is considered by the
authorities to be equivalent to "eretz".] Does "eretz"/"ara" mean the whole
world? Or does it mean some specific Land?
Obviously, a number of occurrences of "eretz" or "ara" in
Daniel are, by themselves, ambiguous on this point -- else, this would not be a
matter for investigation! But some passages do give fairly clear direction as to
how "eretz" should be read in Daniel:
So, in Daniel, the "eretz" (or "ara") is not the whole globe,
but a particular part of it, occupied successively by the Babylonian,
Medo-Persian, and Greek Empires of antiquity. Notice also the "Land ('eretz')
promised to Abraham's seed", as defined in Gen 15:18: from the "river of Egypt"
to the Euphrates; such a "land" was roughly equivalent to the "lands" of these
- Dan 1:2: "These [articles from the temple of
God] he [Nebuchadnezzar] carried off to the temple of his god in Babylon [lit,
the 'eretz' of Shinar]...": Plainly, "eretz" refers to a specific, and
narrowly-restricted land, not to the whole
- Dan 2:39: "Next, a third kingdom, one of
bronze, will rule over the whole 'ara' ('eretz')...": The Greek empire of
Alexander the Great, big as it was, did not cover all the earth, not even all
known civilization. But it did rule over the whole "Land of Israel"
- Dan 4:1: "King Nebuchadnezzar, to the peoples,
nations, and men of every language, who live in all the 'ara' ": But the
Babylonian Empire covered only Mesopotamia and a part of the Middle
- Dan 4:10: "I [Nebuchadnezzar] looked and
there before me stood a tree in the middle of the 'ara' ": By Daniel's own
interpretation, the tree represented Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:22). He was visible
to the end of the "Land" (Dan 4:11,20) -- ie, to the end of his own domain, not
the ends of the globe! All in all, "ara" appears 10 times in this chapter, each
instance plainly meaning the specific Land over which Nebuchadnezzar
- Dan 6:25: "Then king Darius wrote to all
the peoples, nations, and men of every language throughout the 'ara' ": The same
idea of "land" as Dan 4:1, except the restricted "Land" here is the Medo-Persian
Empire, not the Babylonian.
- Dan 9:6: Daniel
prays: "We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your
name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the
'eretz' ": As the context (Dan 9:7) makes plain, the people to whom the prophets
spoke were the people of the "Land" of Israel, not the people of the whole
Now see how this precise delineation of the "eretz"/"ara" of
Daniel's prophecy has significant effect on the interpretations of this
(1) "The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom which will appear on
the 'ara'... It will devour the whole ara, trampling down and crushing it" (Dan
7:23). The fourth kingdom (Rome) was to be no more of a truly "world empire"
than were the first three (Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece). Nor would it
"trample down and crush" even the whole of its own domains; rather, the Romans
most often brought law and order and peace to barbarian rabble.
But these words were especially true of Rome's relations with
the little province of Judea -- the land ("eretz") promised, Biblically, to
Abraham and his seed (Gen 13:15-18), and thus to Christ and his brethren (Gal
3:16,27-29). Unable to tame the recalcitrant Jews who lived there, the Romans
finally trampled down Jerusalem and its temple, plowed the rubble under, sold
into slavery all survivors of the nation, and forbade their return to the land
of their forefathers -- all in fulfillment of Christ's prophecy (Mat 23:36-38;
24:1,2; Mar 13:2; Luk 21:6,20-24).
(2) "He [the King of the North] will invade the 'eretz'
['many' is not in the original] and sweep through... like a flood. He will
invade the beautiful 'eretz'. Many ['countries' is not in the original here]
will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his
hand. He will extend his power over the 'eretz'; Egypt will not escape... He
will pitch his royal tents between the seas [Mediterranean Sea and Dead Sea] at
the beautiful holy mountain [the Temple Mount, at Jerusalem]. Yet he will come
to his end, and no one will help him" (Dan 11:40-45). What is plain here, by the
context, is that the "King of the North" is particularly attracted to the
"eretz" of Israel, and that this special Land encompasses also Edom, Moab, and
Ammon (modern Jordan) as well as Egypt. This Land ("eretz"/"ara") -- controlled
successively by the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome -- is the
"theater" in which God generally operates.
Also, "at that time" of Dan 12:1 links Dan 12 irrevocably with
Dan 11. This indicates that "the time, times and half a time" (Dan 12:7), the
1,290 days (Dan 12:11), and the 1,335 days (Dan 12:12) -- each a period of
roughly 3 1/2 years -- give the duration of the Last Days "trampling down" of
the beautiful land (Israel) and the beautiful holy mountain (at Jerusalem). This
period ends with the resurrection and judgment (Dan 12:1-4), and the "end of the
days" (Dan 12:13). So the time period of 3 1/2 years, which also figures
prominently in the Book of Revelation, obviously has to do with the "eretz" of
Israel in the Last Days -- not with Europe during the Middle Ages. The right
definition of "eretz" in Daniel helps to determine the proper setting for such
"Ge" in Revelation
In Revelation, does the word "ge" (used about 80 times) mean
the whole world? Or does it mean some specific Land? [" 'Ge' may denote a
country or territory" (WE Vine, Expository Dictionary of NT Words 2:13).] While
the Apocalypse surely speaks of events that ultimately have a great effect on
the whole world, there is good reason to believe that much of the action (like
that of other Bible prophecies) takes place in the more restricted arena of the
Once again, a number of occurrences of "ge" in Revelation are
ambiguous on this point, or offer no evidence in the immediate context by which
may be determined the extent of the territory involved. But some passages do
give us fairly clear direction as to how "ge" should be read in
Kings of the "Ge"
- Rev 1:7: "Look, he is coming with the clouds;
and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of
the 'ge' will mourn because of him." This quotes Zec 12:10 -- 13:1, where the
peoples of the "eretz" are the tribes of
- Rev 6:13: "And the stars in the sky fell
to 'ge', as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind": The
stars falling to the 'ge' are compared to the fig tree (Biblical symbol of
Israel) losing its fruit.
- Rev 7:1,2: "After this
I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the 'ge', holding back the
four winds of the 'ge' to prevent any wind from blowing on the 'ge' or on the
sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the
seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had
been given power to harm the 'ge' and the sea": This is a quotation from Eze
7:2: "the four corners of the land ('eretz')" of
- Rev 7:3: "Do not harm the 'ge' or the sea
or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God":
The servants who are sealed are out of the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev 7:4-8;
cp Rev 14:3).
- Rev 9:3: "And out of the smoke
locusts came down upon the 'ge' and were given power like that of scorpions of
the 'ge' ": A clear allusion to Joel's prophecy, of a great "locust" [the Hebrew
word is closely related to the Hebrew for 'Arab'] invasion of Israel.
- Rev 14:15: "Take your sickle and reap, because
the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the 'ge' is ripe": The subsequent
treading of the "winepress" (cp Rev 14:16-19) causes blood to flow for 1,600
"stadia" (about 200 miles), which happens to be the very distance from the north
to the south of Israel!
- Rev 20:8,9: "(Satan) will
go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the 'ge' -- Gog and Magog
-- to gather them for battle... They marched across the breadth of the 'ge' and
surrounded the camp of God's people": Very similar to Rev 7:1,2. The four
quarters, or corners, of the whole world? (Literally, of course, there are no
such things as four corners of the whole world!) Or the four corners of a
particular "land", THE Land? The geography of Eze 38; 39 (also about "Gog and
Magog") helps to limit and define the Land of Revelation: the allies of Gog are
at the four corners of the Land promised to Abraham and his seed (Gen 13:15-18;
15:18): Libya at the west corner, Ethiopia/Sudan at the south corner, Persia at
the east corner, and the others at the north corner.
- Rev 21:1: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new
'ge', for the first heaven and the first 'ge' had passed away": This quotes Isa
65:17,18, where -- by common Hebrew parallelism -- "new heavens" = "Jerusalem a
delight", and "new eretz" = "its people a joy".
Another set of passages in Revelation links "ge" with certain
kings. Who are these "kings of the ge"? Are they kings (and rulers) of all
nations in the world? Or are they some subset thereof? If we can use Scripture
to determine their identity, then we will have a good idea as to the limits (if
any) of the particular "ge" in which the events of Revelation are played
The thirty of so passages in the above surveys help, by their
OT contexts, to define and limit the "ge" intended in the Apocalypse. They
strongly suggest that the other 50 or so occurrences of "ge" might profitably be
read and interpreted along the same lines.
- Rev 6:15: "Then the kings of the earth... .hid
in caves and among the rocks of the mountains": This is a quotation from Psa
2:2, where the "kings of the earth" were, in the first place, the kings of
Philistia, Moab, Syria, Ammon, and Edom (2Sa 8), who opposed the rule of David
- Rev 16:14: "They are the spirits
of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the
earth... [The AV text uses 'ge' alongside 'oikoumene' (which signifies 'the
habitable world'); some texts (and consequently some versions) omit 'ge'/earth
altogether.] to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty": A
quotation from Zec 14:2,3 -- where "all nations" means "all surrounding nations"
(Zec 14:14), and the only nations listed in the context are Egypt (Zec 14:18,19)
and the Canaanites (Zec 14:21).
- Rev 17:2: "With
her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth
were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries": Quoting Jer 51:7, where the
nations have drunk of the golden cup of Babylon. What nations? All the "mixed",
or "mingled" [Heb 'ereb', the word for 'Arab'!] nations (cp Jer
- Rev 21:23-26: This is the most
decisive of the Rev passages in identifying the "kings of the ge". These verses
are an extended allusion to Isa 60: "Nations will come to your light, and kings
to the brightness of your dawn... Then you will look and be radiant, your heart
will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to
you the riches of the nations will come... Your gates will always stand open,
they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of
the nations -- their kings led in triumphal procession... the sun will no more
be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the
LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory..." The
kings of the "eretz", or "ge", who bring their gifts into a glorified Jerusalem
are plainly identified by Isaiah as Midian, Ephah, Sheba, Kedar, Nebaioth (Isa
60:6,7), and Lebanon (Isa 60:13) -- all Arab
Of these remaining passages using "ge":
So this is strong evidence that the seals, trumpets, and vials
all have to do with a specific Land -- a Land bounded on all four corners by the
key nations listed in Ezekiel 38; 39... a Land occupied by Israel and ten
antagonistic kings... the Land described in Genesis 15:18.
- 4 have to do with the seals (Rev
- 9 have to do with the trumpets (Rev
- 3 have to do with the vials or bowls (Rev
- 5 have to do with the witnesses (Rev 11),
who perish in Jerusalem (Rev 11:8);
- 5 have to do
with the Dragon cast out of "heaven"; and
- 6 have
to do with the Beast.
This particular Land is also the arena, or "theater", in which
the witnesses and the Dragon and the Beast operate.
Alfred Edersheim, the noted Hebrew scholar, has this to say
about the Biblical use of "the land":
"Palestine was to the Rabbis simply 'the land', all other
countries being summed up under the designation of 'outside the land.' In the
Talmud, even the expression 'Holy Land,' so common among later Jews and
Christians, does not once occur. It needed not that addition, which might have
suggested a comparison with other countries; for to the Rabbinist Palestine was
not only holy, but the only holy ground, to the utter exclusion of all other
countries, although they marked within its boundaries an ascending scale of ten
degrees of sanctity, rising from the bare soil of Palestine to the most holy
place in the Temple...
"But 'outside the land' everything was darkness and death. The
very dust of a heathen country was unclean, and it defiled by contact. It was
regarded like a grave, or like the putrescence of death. If a spot of heathen
dust had touched an offering, it must at once be burnt. More than that, if by
mischance any heathen dust had been brought into Palestine, it did not and could
not mingle with that of 'the land,' but remained to the end what it had been --
unclean, defiled, and defiling everything to which it adhered...
"It was to the extreme boundary tracts of 'the land,' that
Jesus had withdrawn from the Pharisees, when they were offended at his
opposition to their 'blind' traditionalism; and there he healed by the word of
his power the daughter of the 'woman of Canaan,' the intensity of whose faith
drew from his lips words of precious commendation (Mat 15:28; Mar
"It was chiefly a heathen district where the Saviour spoke the
word of healing, and where the woman would not let the Messiah of Israel go
without an answer. She herself was a Gentile. Indeed, not only that district,
but all around, and farther on, the territory of Philip, was almost entirely
heathen. More than that, strange as it may sound, all around the districts
inhabited by the Jews the country was, so to speak, fringed by foreign
nationalities and by heathen worship, rites, and customs" ("Sketches of Jewish