To the ends of the earth
The Hebrew language abounds in double entendres. We have already considered the multiple shades of meaning to the word “Adam“. It refers to the historical person of Adam, to a man and to man (meaning humanity). The way the Bible thinks of things, what happens to the man Adam happens to all man.
Or consider the verb “nasa“. It means “lifted up” but it also means to “bear the weight of” and is the verb “to forgive.” Thus to the Hebrew mind, the One lifted up is the One bearing a weight in order to forgive. But I digress…
Today we consider the Hebrew word “eretz”. It’s a word that means both “land” and “earth.” In particular it has that double meaning of the land (the promised land) and the earth. When a Hebrew speaker refered to Canaan as the “eretz”, they were viewing this strip of land at the end of the Mediterranean as a token of the whole world.
When the phrase “the ends of the earth” is used (and it’s used 27 times in the Old Testament) it has this lesser and greater reference. And never is this more obvious than in Psalm 72:8. It speaks about the Ideal King, the Messiah:
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
Does this mean that the King of Israel will rule from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee and from the Jordan unto the ends of the land? Well, approximately, Solomon achieved this. But he was only a micro-king ruling over a micro-cosmos. When the Israelites saw a King like Solomon reigning over a united Israel, they were witnessing a charcoal sketch of a glorious fresco. At its pinnacle, everything the Israelite monarchy could hope to be was a mere shadow. Today, enjoy this panoramic vision of Jesus Christ’s righteous reign:
Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son. 2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. 4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. 5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. 6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. 7 In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.
8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. 9 They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. 10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. 11 Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.
12 For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. 13 He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. 14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.
15 And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised. 16 There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.
17 His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed. 18 Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. 19 And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen. (Psalm 72)