In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5). Nearly every English translation renders the final word of this statement, γῆν (gen) in Greek, as “earth.” Such a translation connotes that the meek will inherit the entire “globe” or “planet Earth.” However, as Yeshua addresses his Jewish disciples, his purview is far more limited. Rather than speaking of the whole earth, Jesus proclaims that the meek will inherit one particular “land.”
Although we often attribute “the meek will inherit the earth” to Jesus, this phrase is not a New Testament original. The statement comes from the Psalms, which speak not of the “earth” as a whole, but rather of the Land of Israel: “The meek shall inherit the land (Hebrew: erets ארץ; Greek: gen γῆν), and delight themselves in abundant peace” (Ps 37:11). Since Matt 5:5 follows the wording of the Greek Septuagint in its description of the meek inheriting the “land” (γῆν), we can be confident that Jesus also has the Land of Israel in mind.
Psalm 37 is not the only place in which the Bible associate the “meek” (anavim; ענוים) with Israel’s “land” (erets; ארץ). The prophet Zephaniah states, “Seek the Lord, all you meek of the land (anvei ha’aretz; ענוי הארץ)… seek righteousness, seek meekness (anavah; ענוה); perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the Lord. For Gaza shall be deserted, and Ashkelon shall become a desolation; Ashdod’s people shall be driven out at noon, and Ekron shall be uprooted” (Zeph 2:3-4). The prophet urges the Israelites to be “meek” so that they are not destroyed along with the Philistine cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron that border Israel (cf. Josh 13:3). Following Zephaniah and the psalmist, Jesus refers to the Land of Israel when he calls it the inheritance of the meek.
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