Etymology and biblical roots
1916 map of the Fertile Crescent by James Henry Breasted
. The names used for the land are "Canaan" "Judah" "Palestine" and "Israel"
Map of Eretz Israel in 1695 Amsterdam Haggada
The term "Land of Israel" is a direct translation of the Hebrew phrase ארץ ישראל (Eretz Yisrael), which occasionally occurs in the Bible, and is first mentioned in the 1 Samuel 13:19, following the Exodus, when the Israelite tribes were already in the Land of Canaan. The words are used sparsely in the Bible: King 1 Chronicles 22:2), and the same phrasing is used in reference to 2 Chronicles 2:17). Ezekiel 47:18.
According to Martin Noth, the term is not an "authentic and original name for this land", but instead serves as "a somewhat flexible description of the area which the Israelite tribes had their settlements". According to Anita Shapira, the term "Eretz Yisrael" was a holy term, vague as far as the exact boundaries of the territories are concerned but clearly defining ownership. The sanctity of the land (kedushat ha-aretz) developed rich associations in rabbinical thought, where it assumes a highly symbolic and mythological status infused with promise, though always connected to a geographical location. Nur Masalha argues that the biblical boundaries are "entirely fictitious", and bore simply religious connotations in Diaspora Judaism, with the term only coming into ascendency with the rise of Zionism.
The Hebrew Bible provides three specific sets of borders for the "Genesis 17:8 and Ezekiel 47:13–20 use the term "the land" (ha'aretz), as does Deuteronomy 1:8 in which it is promised explicitly to "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob... and to their descendants after them," whilst Numbers 34:1–15 describes the "Land of Canaan" (Eretz Kna'an) which is allocated to nine and half of the twelve Israelite tribes after 1 Samuel 13:19. It is defined in detail in the exilic Book of Ezekiel as a land where both the twelve tribes and the "strangers in (their) midst", can claim inheritance. The name "Israel" first appears in the Hebrew Bible as the name given by God to the patriarch Genesis 32:28). Deriving from the name "Israel", other designations that came to be associated with the Jewish people have included the "Children of Israel" or "Israelite".
The term 'Land of Israel' (γῆ Ἰσραήλ) occurs in one episode in the New Testament (Matthew 2:20–21), where, according to Shlomo Sand, it bears the unusual sense of 'the area surrounding Jerusalem'. The section in which it appears was written as a parallel to the earlier Book of Exodus.