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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26 COMMENTS

    • Thanks, Richard. According to Revelation 21, God will bring a “New Jerusalem” that has expanded to fit both Jews and Gentiles in the World to Come. The prophetic vision if of the Gentiles streaming to Jerusalem (e.g., Isa 2:1-5; Zech 8:23), so there’s no basis for the notion that Jews will be inside Israel and Gentiles will be outside.

  1. Tx for the info. One verse came to mind when you shared the land angle from Ps and Zeph.

    Dan 7:27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’ NIV

  2. I think this has to be a limited perspective. Jesus was given as the light to both Jew and gentile-the nations of the earth. His reign is over the whole earth, shall not the meek inherit their portion wherever He called them to serve? If only Israel is to be inherited to whom is is the rest of the earth?

    • Indeed, it is a limited perspective, which follows Jesus’ own limited perspective during his ministry to the “house of Israel” (Matt 10:6; 15:24). It’s not until after Jesus’ resurrection (according to Matthew), that the gospel goes to Gentiles. In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is only speaking to his Jewish disciples (Matt 5:1), so it would make sense that, in the particular instance of Matt 5:5, Jesus would be addressing the people and Land of Israel, in particular. To your question, Revelation 21 envisions a “New Jerusalem” that expands to fit all followers of Christ — both Jew and Gentile. Thus, in the World to Come, there is no “rest of the earth” as we have it now; rather, the New Jerusalem (i.e., the capital city of Israel) will be the eternal inheritance.

  3. WHAT SPECIFIC BEHAVIOURS AND ATTITUDES the people must have and display to be considered “meek” and as a consequence possess the eretz?

    • Thanks, Winston. A good question that likely has a complex answer. If it were me, I would do a quick word search on a Bible website for “meek” and then read the broader biblical contexts of the verses that come up in order to see if the text explicates behaviors and attitudes linked with meekness.

  4. But the Beatitudes include the offer of receiving the Kingdom of Heaven and seeing God, which can’t be limited to escaping a local slum clearance project. Even Psalm 37 offers His godly ones forever preservation in and possession of the Land (27-29). The promise to Abraham and his descendants of inheriting the world in Romans 4:13 may center on Israel but impacts the whole world. Jesus was not promising anything of strictly local importance.

    • Thanks for your contribution, Tim. According to Matthew, prior to the resurrection Jesus was only concerned with a “strictly local” ministry to the house of Israel (cf. Matt 10:6; 15:24). In fact, he tell his disciples to “go nowhere among the Gentiles” (10:5). While you’re right that the broader scope of Matthew includes the whole world (28:19-20), the audience of the Sermon on the Mount is limited to Jesus’ Jewish disciples (cf. Matt 5:1). Thus, in the context of Matthew 5 (and Ps 37), it is likely that Jesus refers to the Land of Israel in Matt 5:5.

      • Before the world gets right, Israel has to come back (Genesis 18:19, Deuteronomy 30:2-6, Ezek 37:25-28). Jesus was asking his disciples to be the leaven that would bring Israel back, which could then lead the world for follow Israel’s Messiah to His Kingdom (Zechariah 8:23). From the beginning, the aim was the everlasting Kingdom of David over all the earth (Luke 1:32-33 with Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 3:17-19).

  5. I respectfully disagree. I think it far more likely that in the context of Matthew’s gospel – at the end of which Jesus commands his followers to make disciples of all nations (28:18-20) – the OT land promise, which already had been fulfilled for national-ethnic Israel during the reign of David (2 Samuel 8), is being expanded to include the entire earth, perhaps denoting a “spiritual” outworking of the dominion mandate in Genesis 1:26-30. Not terribly surprising when you remember that the Abrahamic Promise itself contained a hint of an eventual territorial expansion beyond the borders it describes (Genesis 12:3).

    • Thanks for your response, Matthew. Thanks for your contribution, Tim. According to Matthew’s Gospel, prior to the resurrection Jesus was only concerned with the house of Israel, which would have included both the people and the Land (cf. Matt 10:6; 15:24). In fact, he tell his disciples to “go nowhere among the Gentiles” (10:5); that is, not to leave the confines of Israel’s geographical borders. In light of these points, it is better to take Matt 5:5 with reference to the people and Land of Israel. While the broader scope of Matthew (and much of the rest of the Bible) includes the whole world (cf. Matt 28:19-20), the audience of the Sermon on the Mount is limited to Jesus’ Jewish disciples (cf. Matt 5:1). Thus, in the context of Matthew 5 (and Ps 37), it is likely that Jesus refers to the Land of Israel in Matt 5:5. Again, I appreciate your perspective and your citation of specific biblical texts 🙂

  6. Sorry Dr Schaser, cannot agree with your interpretation. It is correct to say that Ps 37 refers to ‘erets Israel. However, the both Daniel’s interpretation of Nvuchdrezar,s dream and the NT make it clear that God’s intention is to gain the entire earth — and that is what yeshua was referring to. The Tanach and the NT are God’s breathing, His direct speaking. To properly understand God’s speaking, we must take into account what both books have to say. “Here a little; there a little.”

    • Thanks for your comments. You’re right that God is to gain the entire earth, but Jesus isn’t talking about God’s inheritance in the Sermon on the Mount — he’s talking to his Jewish disciples alone (cf. Matt 5:1) about their inheritance of the Land of Israel.

  7. At least we can agree that Jesus is quoting from Psalms.
    Jesus believed in the veracity of the scriptures which should
    cause some to pause and think of the implications. If he was who he said he was, then we really do need to listen to what he says.

  8. My understanding is that the Land that is now the nation of Israel is symbolic of the true land Israel, the new earth that will be paradise for God’s children. Canaan was the land of idolaters, as is the current earth, and God gave it to Abraham and his descendants. The scriptures state that there will be a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. The whole earth will be paradise for God’s children. The whole earth then is the land of Israel. Jerusalem = teaching of peace, but there is a “new Jerusalem” (Galatians 4:22-31).

  9. A very small portion will live in the new Jerusalem of the new earth, 2254 by 2254 kilometres. If my calculations are correct. The KJV Rev 21: refers to the measurement of each side of the city as 12,000 furlongs which old time Bible scholars estimated to be 1,500 miles (Greek stadia making it even smaller at 1,400 miles). The city this big and the most densely populated I found to have 17 million people. This is today. More righteous people are still being born. Please help Dr Nicholas J Schaser.

    • Thanks for your comments, Kolitsoe. The measurements in Revelation 21:16-17 are symbolic numbers: 12,000 stadia recalls the 12 tribes of Israel, as do the 144 cubits of the city’s wall (since 12 x 12 = 144; cf. Rev 7:4-8; 14:1-3). These measurements point us to the eschatological point that “all Israel” will be accounted for in the New Jerusalem (cf. Rom 11:26), along with a multitude from among the nations; the “children of Israel” (7:4) are joined by “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (7:9) — that is, a very large mass of humanity. You’re right that if the measurements were taken literally, this massive number of people would not be able to fit! For this reason, among others, we know that these measurements are theologically symbolic, rather than exact representations of the New Jerusalem’s parameters.

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