I am reading Karen J. Wenell's published dissertation Jesus and Land. There is much more I could say about this book but I find one comment curious and I would like to counterpose a quotation from Robert Wilken's book The Land Called Holy.
Even so [speaking about the twelve tribes evokes twelve territories], we should be careful not to limit the spatial implications of the twelve tribes/twelve territories to some particular physical location. When looking at biblical texts relating to the tribes, entering the discussion is not predicated by an ability to place locations on a map, or to identify a particular territory (p. 106, emphasis added).
For the ancient Israelites land always referred to an actual land. Eretz Israel was not a symbol of a higher reality. It was a distinct geographical entity, a territory with assumed if not always precise boundaries . . . For ancient Hebrews, idyllic descriptions of the land are always subservient to a territorial realism. The land is a geographical region that can be marked on a map, a place with memories as well as hopes, with a past as well as a future . . . The blessings associated with the land are this-worldly . . . No matter who utopian the language, the promised land was always real, not an ideal, country. Hence there could be no genuine fulfillment of the promise that was not historical, which is to say, political (pp. 8-9).
There is just no doubt in my mind that Wilken is right. I found in reading Wenell's book that her use of anthological models of sacred space somewhat distracting and difficult to penetrate. Her approach, at least for me, created a fog that was difficult to cut through to see what she was really saying. I am still uncertain for example what she thinks about the kingdom of God and the Land outside of crypt descriptions such as this: "the kingdom functions as an orienting mythical space with practical implications for followers in their daily life and conduct” (p. 17). Furthermore, she states "It is not necessary to decide whether the mathematical statement 'kingdom equal's land' is true or false; but it is important [sic] establish that the message of the kingdom evokes the promises to Abraham and defines a new sacred space with its own symbolic associations and practical implications" (p. 139).