Where in the Bible Does It Say to Support Israel?
Israel as a modern nation-state is a relatively new concept, having been established in 1948 after the United Nations voted to partition the British Mandate of Palestine. However, the land of Israel and its association with the Jewish people features prominently throughout the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) and the New Testament. As such, many Christians look to Biblical references about Israel when considering whether or not they should support the modern state of Israel.
Old Testament References to Israel
The Old Testament chronicled the origins of the Jewish nation, starting with God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
This passage contains what many see as the original Biblical mandate to support Israel. God promises to bless those who bless Abraham and curses those who curse him. Abraham’s descendants went on to become the Jewish people, inheritors of the land of Israel. As such, some take these verses as meaning Christians should support Israel or risk losing God’s blessing.
The book of Deuteronomy also highlights the gift of Israel as an inheritance for the Jewish people:
Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors... The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.” (Deuteronomy 11:8,10-12)
Passages like this reinforce Israel as the divinely ordained homeland of the Jewish race. The promise of Israel as an inheritance for God’s chosen people is one of the most commonly cited theological justifications for supporting the modern state of Israel.
Verses in Psalms and elsewhere describing Israel as God’s special possession lead some Christians to support Israel to this day:
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord... (Psalm 33:12a)
For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession. (Psalm 135:4)
New Testament Perspectives on Israel
The New Testament adds further theological complexity as Jesus arrives on the scene as the Jewish Messiah, comes into conflict with Jewish religious leaders, and eventually expands God’s covenant to include believing Gentiles.
Several key New Testament passages touch on the topic of blessing Israel. For example, Paul writes in Romans 9-11 of the Jewish people as “beloved for the sake of their forefathers” and says that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” He rebukes those who boast against the natural branches (Jews) and warns against pride, declaring:
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25-26a)
Paul seems to expect that Christians will long for Jewish people to embrace Jesus as the Messiah. But he also communicates God still has a covenant with the Jewish people apart from the Church.
Passages like this indicate that Christians should have a heart for Jewish people and a desire to see them come to faith in Jesus. However, some interpret it to mean Christians should support national Israel as a way to eventually see more Jewish people saved.
How Modern Christians Apply Biblical Teachings on Israel
There is much diversity among Christians holding different perspectives on national Israel based on their interpretation of relevant Biblical passages like these. Here are some of the major positions:
Christians Who Staunchly Support Israel
Some Christians believe the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 was the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. They cite passages described above as evidence Christians must support national Israel or risk God’s judgment.
Groups like Christians United for Israel adopt this perspective. Their website proclaims: “Those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who curse Israel will be cursed.” They urge members to advocate politically on behalf of Israel.
Christians Who Question Unconditional Support of Israel
Other Christians think using Old Testament promises to justify modern states is irresponsible. They may argue that the chosen people in the Bible were a covenant people, not an ethnic grouping. From this perspective, the Church has inherited those covenant promises, not specifically the modern geopolitical state of Israel.
Some holding this view still encourage friendship with national Israel but think the Church should not give it preferential treatment over other nations. They may argue support should be based on shared values rather than dispensationalist theology.
Christians Who Emphasize Peace and Reconciliation
Some Christians believe the Church should not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They may argue that the Church should stand with both Israelis and Palestinians alike to be a reconciling presence in the midst of violence.
This can be motivated by passages about reconciliation and peacemaking such as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) and Paul’s exhortation to “”If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
Proponents argue that choosing sides in a complex geopolitical conflict does not effectively bear witness to God’s love. Rather, Christians should promotes justice, nonviolence, and reconciliation amid the pain experienced on all sides.
Views Among Messianic Jews
Messianic Jews have a unique perspective as people with both Jewish and Christian identities. Many Messianic Jews argue that the Church should honor Israel’s significance in Biblical history without necessarily supporting everything Israel does politically.
Most believe both Jewish and Arab people have legitimate ties to the disputed land in Israel. As such, Messianic Jews often advocate for mutual understanding and bridge-building between all groups in the Holy Land.
Questions to Consider About Supporting Israel
There are good-faith arguments on multiple sides made by Christians who genuinely want to honor God’s heart for all people in the Holy Land. Here are some questions to reflect on when considering one’s own perspective:
- Should our support be for the Israeli people or the political state? Can we validate Jewish people’s profound connection with the land without condoning all State policies and actions?
- How do we balance Old Testament verses about Israel’s land inheritance vs. Jesus’ Kingdom being “not of this world” (John 18:28)? Does the modern state of Israel’s violations of human rights violate Kingdom ethics?
- How do we advocate for reconciliation between groups rather than “picking sides”? Can we foster understanding of both Israeli and Palestinian experiences and yearnings for justice?
- How can we model Jesus’ declaration to be peacemakers in the midst of this painful conflict?
There are several passages Biblical scholars cite when arguing whether or not Christians should support Israel as a nation state. Both the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 and teachings about Israel’s special status as God’s chosen people throughout the Old Testament form theological basis.
New Testament perspectives introduce more complexity, with verses urging peacemaking and reconciliation sitting alongside verses anticipating redemption for the Jewish people. As such, Christians hold a wide spectrum of views, with some staunchly supporting Israel and others questioning political backing they see as unconditional.
Ultimately, there are good arguments from Scripture on multiple sides of this issue. Seeking to imitate both the compassion and the wisdom of Jesus is an important goal when considering what the Bible says and how we apply it to such a painfully complex geopolitical conflict.