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Palestine, often called the Holy Land (The Holy Quran. 5 : 21), was the land of inheritance of the Hebrew nation. This land was promised to them through Abraham:
"And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land" (Gen., 12 : 7).
It was, consequently, at one time deemed to be the birthright of Hebrews to possess this land and to live in it, and that is why it was styled as "their own land" (2 Kings, 17 : 23), for it was the land of their inheritance (Jd., 20 : 6). The Hebrew nation was, therefore, described as the people of inheritances (Deut., 4 : 20).
The boundaries of this land were described in the promise to Abraham:
"In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" (Gen., 15 : 18).
The "river of Egypt" does not refer to the Nile, but to a brook, now identified with the Wady el-Arish, flowing into the sea about twenty miles south of Gaza (Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible, 120). The borders of this land are again in greater detail in the Fourth Book of Moses (Nu., 34 : 1-12). But these borders are ideal rather than actual, for the area described there never wholly belonged to the Hebrew nation. It is noteworthy that the eastern border runs in an easterly course to the eastern margin of the sea of Chinnerath (Genasaret) and thence follows the Jordan to the Dead Sea. The eastern border there indicated was really the left bank of the Jordan, while, as already mentioned, the Euphrates is mentioned as the eastern limit in another place. The Biblical phrases: "On this side of Jordan" and "beyond Jordan" thus become intelligent as representing the point of view of the writer or in other words the standpoint of Canaan and, therefore, both these phrases mean on the east side of Jordan (Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible, 123. See also Peake's Commentary on the Bible, 229), that is, beyond the eastern border of the Holy Land.
Moses, after bringing them out of Egypt, had to take the Hebrews to this land so that they might possess it and live in it (Deut., 1: 8). He exhorted his followers to enter this land, but they refused to go any further and wished to return to Egypt (Nu., 14 : 1-4), and it was, therefore, ordained:
"Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, Joshua the son of Nun" (Nu., 14 : 30. Deut., 1 : 35-36).
The "little ones" of the Hebrew nation were, however, the only other exception (Nu., 14 : 31). Moses himself was forbidden from entering it (Deut., 1 : 37) and he was directed to appoint Joshua as his successor (Deut., 31 : 14), so that he could lead the next generation to the land (Deut., 31 : 23), and then divide the inheritance among the tribes (Nu., 26: 53).
It was because of the iniquities of the Hebrew people that Moses was denied entry into this land of inheritance (Deut., 1: 37). Moses, however, prayed for permission to enter the land (Deut., 1: 45).
"But the Lord was wroth with me (Moses) for your sakes and would not hear me. Let it suffice thee, speak no more unto me of this matter" (Deut., 3 : 26).
"Furthermore, the Lord was angry with me for your sakes and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance" (Deut., 4 : 21).
Moses then prophesied:
"I call heaven and earth to witness against you, this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations and ye shall be left few in numbers among the heathens, whither the Lord shall lead you" (Deut.,4 : 26-27).
Moses prayed for the deliverance of his people and he was made to convey a message of hope:
"When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shall be obedient unto His voice. (For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) He will not foresake thee, neither destroy thee" (Deut., 4 : 30-31).
And Moses himself was ordered to take a journey in the opposite direction beyond the Jordan (Nu., 27 : 12), and if we take the eastern border, to be the eastern bank of the Euphrates (Gen., 15: 18), the journey must have been towards the east beyond the Euphrates.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Get thee unto the Mount Abarim, see the land which I have given unto the Children of Israel. And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people" (Nu., 27: 12-13).
I pause to observe that this land was meant for the Children of Israel and not for the entire Hebrew nation. On entering this land, "in the valley over against Bethpeor" (Deut., 3 : 29) Moses was made to see this Land of Promise:
"Get thee up unto the top of Pisgah and lift up thine eyes, westward and northward and southward and eastward and behold it with thine eyes, for thou shalt not go over this Jordan" (Deut., 3 : 27).
The eastern border of Palestine, at that time, touched the river Jordan, or, if the description in Genesis is to be considered, the river Euphrates. Moses had not entered the land and, therefore, in either case he must be deemed to be standing on the eastern bank of the Jordan or Euphrates. The direction to look eastward excludes Palestine entirely and, therefore, it was not the Holy Land which Moses was made to see.
If we follow the trend of the Discourses of Moses we find that the burden of the first discourse is about the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt, their being led to the land of their inheritance, their possession of it and ultimately their dispersion from it. The second discourse begins with verse 44 of Chapter IV of Deuteronomy. In this Moses mentioned many more "testimonies" and the first ones referred to the Land of Promise which God shall give them after their deliverance from captivity. Three places are mentioned in this connection: Beth peor (Deut., 4 : 46) Heshbn (Ibid.) and Pisga (Deut., 4 : 49). In another place Mount Nebo (Deut., 34 : 1) is also mentioned in conjunction with Beth-peor. The location of these four places would enable us to ascertain the Land of Promise. All Biblical commentators have to confess that the sites of these places are still unidentified and that "they combined the literal with the metaphorical" and, therefore, they cannot be located now. Peake contents himself with the remarks that "the sites are unknown'' (Peake, Commentary on the Bible, 235). The reason why these scholars have been unable to trace the location of these places is because they were looking for them in Palestine. They should have studied the history of the Lost Ten Tribes and searched for these places in the land where these tribes had settled. I will take these places one by one.
Beth-peor means the house (or place) of gaping or opening (Cruden's Concordance, 578). Jhelum River in ancient days was called Behat in Kashmir; and Bandipur, in Tehsil Handwara (Kashmir), was called Behatpoor. It is "the place of gaping or opening" in more than one sense. From this place the Kashmir valley opens out; the river Jhelum also passes through a gap into Wullar Lake. Beth-peor, therefore, really stands for Behatpoor (Bandipur). (See illustration, page 264).
Heshbon is known by the Biblical reference to the pools of Heshbon. Tristran believed the reference to have been to the pools or streams in the valley (cf. Cant., 7 : 4). And we find that about twelve miles south-west of Behatpoor (Bandipur) in Kashmir is Hashba, a small village, famous for its pools of fish. It adjoins the spot near Auth Wattu - the eight ways - which is locally known as Maqam-i-Musa, the Place of Moses.
Pisgah, according to Dummelow, is "probably the general name for the mountain range which in Deuteronomy (32: 49) is called Abarim (Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible, 115). It is a pity that in religious matters and questions of faith probabilities have had to play a great part. Pisgah is a place in Kashmir three miles north-east of Hashba.
Mount Nebo is a single peak of Mount Abarim (Ibid.), and, therefore, according to Dummelow is another name for Mount Abarim. It signifies "a lofty place'' (Cassel's Concise Bible Dictionary, 524). Moses died there (Deut., 34 : 5. 5), and was buried (Deut., 34 : 6) there "over against Bethpeor," and the Children of Israel, not the Hebrew nation, wept for him (Deut., 34 : 6-8). Baal Nabu, is a peak of a range about eight miles north-west of Behatpoor (Bandipur) (Newall, Maj. Gen. DJF. The Highland of India, 87). From it, Bandipur is visible and so is the entire Kashmir valley. There is a tomb on top of this peak which is known as the tomb of Moses. Mount Abarim is the same as Pisgah of Kashmir.
How is it that all these different places in Kashmir, geographically placed within a range of a few miles of the spot said to contain the tomb of Moses, bear the very same Biblical names which are connected with the place where, according to the Bible, Moses was buried? Is this mere coincidence? There are various other common features which I will discuss when dealing with the tomb of Moses. But even these facts, I think, are sufficient to establish that Kashmir is the Land of Promise which God had promised to Moses for the Children of Israel. The matter can, however, be taken further. The Children of Israel were destined to serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither the Hebrews of Moses' time, nor their fathers had known (Deut., 28 : 64). Nowhere, except in Kashmir, was this prophecy fulfilled. In Kashmir the Kashmiri Pandits worship idols of wood and stone. It can legitimately be contended that the land promised to the Children of Israel, through Moses, must have been some land other than the Holy Land: firstly, because Palestine was never exclusively assigned to the Children of Israel inasmuch as this land was given as an inheritance to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, i.e., the twelve tribes. Secondly, the followers of Moses from Egypt were the progeny of only a few of the original inhabitants of Palestine and the greater part of the Hebrew nation, having remained behind, was already in possession of the good land. Thirdly, the Children of Israel, having been driven from their own land, never returned to it from their captivity. A promise to them that they would possess certain land could only be about a land which they had neither seen before nor possessed at all. But we need not conjecture or speculate as to the location of this Land of Promise, for the Lord Himself has given us sufficient indications of its distinctive features, and we can fix its identity with almost certainty.
The Land of Promise was to be a "heaven on the earth" (Deut., 11 : 21) towards the sun-rising (Deut., 4 : 41), and was to be a land of hills and valleys that drinketh water of the rain of heaven (Deut., 11 : 11).
The rains shall fall in this land in due season (Deut., 11 : 14) and this land will extend "even up to the sea of the plain, under the springs of the Pisgah (Deut., 4 49).
Palestine cannot answer this description. Dr. G. W. G. Masterman, writing on the General Physical Features of Palestine, says:
"Then the climate, in its broad features, is the same everywhere. A short wet winter is followed by a dry summer season with perhaps no drop of rain for five or six months ... and the hot dry summer soon withers the spring's glorious promise of verdure. Miles of country in the later summer produce nothing but a few scanty prickly weeds. The scarcity of timber is marked all over the land. Springs are usually small and infrequent, and not a few become intermittent, or dry up altogether, after the summer draught ... the dry and parching south-east wind (the sirocco) from the desert spoils so much of the otherwise pleasant weather in spring and autumn" (Masterman, Dr. E.W.G. The Holy Land 7-12).
Peake, as a contrast to this Biblical description of the Land of Promise, points out that a plentiful supply of rain was always a necessity in Palestine (Peake, Commentary on the Bible, 236). Again, watering of lands by treadle methods was common in ancient Egypt and Palestine (Deut., 11 : 10). This was necessary to meet shortage of water at higher levels. But in the Land of Promise irrigation was to be done by natural streams. These descriptions do not apply to Palestine. Of course, the past associations of Kashmiris, being Children of Israel, with Egypt and Palestine, would sometimes make them resort to this kind of device.
But is there any other country, east of the Jordan or Euphrates, except Kashmir, which is famous for its springs, streams and rivers; for its abundance in food and fruits; for the charms of its valleys and meadows? The Land of Promise was to contain a sea of the plain, a huge lake of fresh water. Kashmir has its Wullar Lake. Again, Kashmir has actually been described as Heaven on Earth by many famous writers. The Kashmiri historians call it Bagh-i-Tannat - the Garden of Paradise, and Tannat-ud-Dunia - the Paradise of the World. Saadi, the great Persian poet, sang its praise thus:
"If there is a heaven on earth,
It is this, and it's this, and it's this. "
Again, the Children of Ham, son of Cush, were to migrate to a land of:
"Fat pastures and good, and the land was wide and quiet and peaceable" (I Chron., 4 : 40).
I have yet to come across a better description of Kashmir than this Biblical one.
This land was to be the valley of Charashim - the valley of Craftsman (I Chron., 4 : 14). It goes without saying that the only valley in the world which is famous for its craftsmen is Kashmir.
The Prophet Isaiah has described the Land of Promise as:
"A place of broad rivers and streams wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall a gallant ship pass thereby" (Isa., 33: 21).
Both these conditions are inapplicable to Palestine because of its sea-coast, but they befit Kashmir. The reference to the absence of "galleys with oars" and "gallant ships" signifies that no enemy fleet can attack, and none will be needed for defence. The broad rivers of Kashmir are steady, but as soon as they leave the valley they follow a circuitous route through mountains and their beds abound with submerged rocks. The rapids thus formed in the rivers make them unfit for navigation, and even a small canoe cannot pass through them.
The Prophet Isaiah had also spoken regarding the Children of Israel and about their sufferings in their captivity. He said:
"Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate; but thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married" (Isa., 62: 4).
The words Hephzi-bah and beulah respectively mean: she in whom is my delight and married, but they really are allegorical names applied by Deutero-Isaiah to Israel. It has been suggested that Hephzi-bah is a distortion of the name of a Hephzibaal delight of the Baal, that is, delight of the husband, and that Jehovah is the Baal or the husband "who delights over the bride of Zion'' (Ency. Biblica. Col, 2017, cf. Isa., 62 : 4; Mal., 3 : 12). The idea underlying these expressions is that people of the land as well as the other fruits (Deut.. 28 : 4) arise from the fertilising influence of the land's Baal, i.e., the Divine Husband (Ency. Biblica. Col. 569).
The Mishna and the Talmud have always drawn a distinction between lands artificially irrigated and lands naturally watered, calling the latter the house of Baal or the field of Baal, or the land of Baal (Rel. Sem., 2 : 97). Thus lands fertilised by natural streams, springs and subterranean waters, and not by artificial irrigation, were called the lands of Baal (Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, 209-210).
In short, the prophecy of Isaiah simply foretold that after their sufferings in captivity, the Children of Israel should come to a land which would not be desolate but would be fertilised by natural streams and springs and that this land would be married to them or, in other words, they would possess it and live in it.
The Lost Ten Tribes never returned to Palestine. Therefore, Isaiah could not have had the Holy Land in his mind at the time he made this prophecy. On the other hand, Kashmir does answer the description. The Lost Tribes did go there and are till today to be found there. In Kashmir, except when water is lifted, by a local contrivance by foot, up to a height of only about six feet, lands are irrigated by natural streams and springs. Indeed, Kashmir is a land of valleys and springs. It is very significant that Baal in the Kashmiri language means a spring.
The word translated as valleys in Deuteronomy really stands for meadows. Truly in Kashmir are lofty meadows and natural springs to be found in numbers beyond measure. The term land of Baal if applied to Kashmir becomes literally applicable since many places are known as Baal. I give but a few names: