It is difficult to read any part of the Bible and not run into a discussion of land, or home—the issue of home is found in nearly all the meta-narratives of the Old and New Testaments. The first stories of the Bible concern God creating a home for all living creatures and humans getting themselves expelled from it. God makes a grand promise to Abraham and Sarah, that their descendants will have a land—a home—where they will grow into a great nation. The Hebrews later have to leave their home for Egypt during a famine and there they stay for several centuries and become slaves to an empire. At the great Exodus, God liberates the Hebrews and leads them on a journey back to the land they know to be their home. Many of the instructions God gives in the Torah to prepare Israel for their homecoming concern the land, its distribution, and the right care for it. Once they reach the land promised to Abraham, they must clear out the occupants. Generations later, the people of Israel grow unfaithful and God allows foreign powers to attack, overthrow, and take their home from them. The foreign invaders forcibly take large portions of the Hebrew people to distant lands where they become subjects of other empires. Several of the Old Testament texts come from this exilic period when the people of God had to make sense of the fact that they had lost their home. Once the New Testament comes, Israel is back in its home, but Rome, another mighty foreign power, is in charge. As the definition of the people of God expands, over and over again, the followers of Jesus learn that they have a different citizenship, that they are currently aliens or exiles, and will not be truly home until the end of all things, when Christ returns and establishes the new beginning of all things. The Bible can be understood as a story of God guiding his people home.
The land in the Bible means far more than what we will consider in our discussion of home as it relates to a whole people and not a nuclear family finding dwelling. But there are some things we can learn from looking at how the Bible addresses the issue of home as it relates to the land. First, to have a home is good. Home is a place of safety, of fruitfulness (both familial and vocational), and community. It is a place of spirituality and relationship with God—think of the instructions to write the Shema on the doorposts of houses and gates (Deut 6.4-9). To not have a home or to be an alien in the land is to be open to threat. The loss of land in the OT often means a loss of rights and possible exclusion from the community. Second, in any conversation about ownership or owners’ rights, it is important to begin with the understanding that God owns the land and gives it to people as tenants (Lev 25.23). Even though these land grants come from God, we find regulations against people stealing other’s property (Deut 19.14). Since God granted the land to the tribes of Israel, it is not for people to take from each other, and in fact we see instructions concerning returning the land to the original owners every fifty years at the celebration of Jubilee (Lev 25). This returning of the land is to happen no matter how or when someone took possession of another’s property.  Sadly, we don’t find any example of the people observing the Jubilee regulations in the OT. (We will look more into the notion of ownership in a later post.)
Simon Holt and Robert Banks argue that home in the NT carries many of the same meanings. In the NT, home is a place of spiritual encounter, community, ministry, and expectation.  (Holt and Banks should also mention that in the Roman world, the home also serves as the main location for economic activity and was classified by a rigid hierarchy.) Even a cursory read of the NT shows a reader how much important activity takes place in the home. Though he eschews having a home for himself, Jesus performs signs and wonders in peoples’ homes, including healings (Mk 2.1-12). By staying in someone’s home or eating in their home, Jesus brings God’s reign with him and makes a radical pronouncement about who is included in God’s family (Mt 9.9-13; Lk 19.1-10). Homes and households also prove important as the gospel spreads throughout Judea and into the larger Mediterranean region (Acts 10). The itinerant ministers of the NT such as Paul need the hospitality of people who open their homes for logistical, spiritual, and emotional support. Remember also, that the vast majority of the NT congregations, who are the NT’s original audiences, meet in people’s homes—it was not for several more decades that formal church buildings would be used to host worship services.
The ancient world also viewed homes as places of hospitality. Our idea of hospitality in the United States pales in comparison. People presumed that wherever they went, there would be homes to them to stay and receive meals. Even strangers traveling through could expect a warm welcome in someone’s home. In Luke, the whole notion of the inn where Mary and Joseph can not find room as she gives birth to Jesus is not like the inn we would have in mind—a contemporary roadside motel or perhaps a tavern from a few centuries ago. It is much more likely that the inn would be an extra room or floor space in the living quarters of someone’s home. Basically, the least hospitable person of the ancient world would make Martha Stewart look like Ted Kaczynski. In the pagan world, the motivation was to appease the gods as several stories existed of the gods coming to stay with people. There is a sense of the possibility of divine visitation informing an ethic of hospitality within Judaism (Gen 18), and later, in Christianity as well (Heb 13.2). For pagans, the motivation to be hospitable was also based on the expectation of reciprocity. For the people of God in the Old and New Testament, the motivation stems from God’s generous and hospitable character (Isa 25.6-8; Am 9.13-15).  Because the people were once homeless and God brought them to home, they are to extend hospitality to those who cannot reciprocate—namely, the orphan, widow, and alien (Exod 22.21-14).
God not only created and owns the world, but the Bible speaks of God having a home as well. The Heavens, Tabernacle, and Temple in the OT serve as God’s home (Ps 26.8), but God threatens to destroy it when the people defile it (Jer 7).  If we are to think “Christianly” about home, we must remember the example of the God in whose image we are made. Revelation 21.3 offers us much material on which to ruminate in our discussion of home: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.’” God not only has a home, but he makes it among his people. It is that radical incarnational emphasis of God, which is supremely generous and transformational that should inform our understanding of what it means to have a home.
This may be a lengthy post, but trust me that it is just beginning to scratch the surface of what the Bible has to say about home. I will return to the Bible as these posts progress. I chose to start with the Bible because for whatever reason, it is the way my mind works. I could have just as easily have started with what our society says about home and then looked to the Bible.
 Robert Banks, “Ownership, Private,” The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity, ed. Robert Banks and R. Paul Stevens (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 723.
 Simon Holt and Robert Banks, “Home,” The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity, 489-490.
 See: S. C. Barton, “Hospitality,” Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, ed. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), electronic edition.
 Louis Goldberg, “bayit,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 105.”
J. McKeown, “Land, Fertility, Famine,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003).