The Division of the Land.
The Jewish writers divide the whole world into "The land of Israel," and "Without the land": that is, the countries of the heathen. Both which phrases the book of the gospel owns: "The land of Israel," Matthew 2:20: and it calls the heathens, "those that are without," 1 Corinthians 5:13; 1 Timothy 3:7, &c. And sometimes the unbelieving Jews themselves, as Mark 4:11.
They distinguish all the people of the world into "Israelites," and "the nations of the world." The book of the gospel owns that phrase also, Matthew 6:32; "After all these things, do the Gentiles (or nations) seek": which, in Luke 12:30, is, "The nations of the world." Hence the word 'world' is most commonly used for the Gentiles; John 3:16,17; 1 John 2:2, &c.
Somewhere a distinction is made into "The land [of Israel]," and "The region of the sea"; "And every foreign region is called the region of the sea, except Babylon":--they are the words of Rabbi Solomon. Which, nevertheless, fall under the censure of R. Nissim: "It is something hard (saith he) to reckon every country, which is out of the land, to be the region of the sea: for then, under that name, would be included all the neighbouring places, and which are, as it were, swallowed up by the land. They say, therefore, that the more remote places are called, 'The region of the sea.' But neither does this please me: for there is no need of so great a distance, to make any place to be called, 'The region of the sea,' &c. But it is spoken in relation to the western coast of the land of Israel; on which side there are no [heathen] cities near, and swallowed up by the land. But the sea sets the bounds; but it doth not set the bounds on other sides, &c. The sense, therefore, of R. Solomon, when he saith, 'that every region, without the land, is the region of the sea,' comes to this,--That every region, which is like to that region, is so called."
Heathen cities were on that western coast; but seeing they lay within the ancient bounds of the land, namely, the 'lip of the Mediterranean sea,'--they could not so properly be said to be 'without the land,' as those which were altogether 'without the limits.' Those cities and that country, therefore, are called by a peculiar title, the "coast or country by the Mediterranean sea." Which title all other cities of the like condition underwent also, wheresoever seated within the bounds of the land. Examples will not be wanting as we go along.
They commonly define the 'land of Israel' under a double notion: to wit, that "which they possessed, who went up out of Egypt"; and that "which they possessed, who went up out of Babylon." This was, in very many places, circumscribed within narrower limits than that, not only by reason Samaria was rejected and shut out,--but also, because certain portions were cut off (and they neither a few nor small), which became the possessions of those, that went up out of Egypt; but, under the second Temple, had passed into the possessions of the heathen.
Now they were, upon this account, the more exact in observing their bounds, distinguishing this land by known bounds, both from all others, and, in some places, as it were, from itself; because they decreed, that very many mysteries of their religion were to be handled nowhere but within these limits. For besides the rites of that dispensation, which the Holy Scripture doth openly and evidently fix to that land, such as Sacrifices, Passovers, the Priesthood, and other appointments of that nature (which are commonly, and not improperly, called "Statutes appendant to that land,") very many others also are circumscribed within the same borders by the fathers of the traditions.
"The land of Israel (say they), above all other lands, is sanctified by ten holinesses. And what is the holiness of it? Out of it they bring the sheaf, and the first-fruits, and the two loaves. And they do not so out of any other land."
"The law of beheading the cow doth not take place any where, but in the land of Israel, and beyond Jordan."
"They do not appoint or determine concerning the new moons, nor do they intercalate the year any where but in the land of Israel: as it is said, The law shall go forth out of Sion."
"They do not prefer to eldership out of the land of Israel: no, not although they that do prefer, have themselves been preferred within the land."
And that I heap not together more, they do, in a manner, circumscribe the Holy Spirit himself within the limits of that land. For "Shechinah (say they) dwells not upon any out of the land." Compare Acts 10:45.
The land, which the Jews, that came up out of Babylon, possess, they divide after this manner:--
"There are three lands (or countries)--Judea, the land beyond Jordan, and Galilee; and each of those have three countries":--those we shall take notice of in their places. To this received division our Saviour hath respect, when, sending his disciples to preach to the "lost sheep of Israel," he excludes Samaria, Matthew 10:5; which, according to the condition of the nation, was not merely heathen, nor was it truly Israel. It was not heathen; for "The land of Samaria is reckoned clean, and the gathering together of its waters clean, and its dwellings clean, and its paths clean": which the Jewish curiosity would by no means pronounce of a heathen land. But as to many other things, they made no difference between them and the Gentiles...