The term Beulah, in reference to a place, is found in Isaiah 62:4 in the King James Version, as well as NKJV and the NIV. Beulah is simply a transliteration of the Hebrew word. The ESV and NAS translate the term as “married.”
The context of Isaiah 62:4 speaks of the time when Israel will return from the exile and once again return to the Lord. The verse applies to the land of Israel and, by extension, the people of Israel: “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.”
The ESV makes it a little clearer: “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.”
This verse does not say that Israel will ever be officially called “Beulah” or “Beulah Land” but that Israel will once again be attended to by the Lord as a husband would attend to his beloved bride. The point is in the meaning of the word. Rather than be considered forsaken by the Lord, God’s people will be restored to a close, loving relationship with Him, and all they need will be provided.
Beulah Land is used to good effect in the Christian classic The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan: “Now I saw in my dream, that by this time the pilgrims were got over the Enchanted Ground, and entering into the country of Beulah, whose air was very sweet and pleasant (Isaiah 62:4–12; Song 2:10–12), the way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves there for a season. Yea, here they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the flowers appear in the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land. In this country the sun shineth night and day: wherefore this was beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair; neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle. Here they were within sight of the city they were going to; also here met them some of the inhabitants thereof; for in this land the shining ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders of heaven. In this land also the contract between the Bride and the Bridegroom was renewed; yea, here, ‘as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so doth God rejoice over them.’ Here they had no want of corn and wine; for in this place they met with abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimage. Here they heard voices from out of the city, loud voices, saying, ‘Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh! Behold, his reward is with him!’ Here all the inhabitants of the country called them ‘the holy People, the redeemed of the Lord, sought out,’ etc.”
In Bunyan’s allegory, Beulah Land is the land just before heaven, for “here they were within sight of the city they were going to.” Bunyan correctly picks up on the theme of marriage from Isaiah 62:4, writing, “In this land also the contract between the Bride and the Bridegroom was renewed; yea, here, ‘as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so doth God rejoice over them.’” In the allegory, although Christian and Hopeful have not yet entered the Celestial City, they have escaped the snares and temptations of the world, and all their needs are met.
Two popular songs have picked up on the term Beulah Land. The first, “Beulah Land” by Edgar Page Stiles (1836–1921), is found in many older hymnbooks:
“I’ve reached the land of corn and wine,
And all its riches freely mine;
Here shines undimmed one blissful day,
For all my night has passed away.
“O Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land,
As on thy highest mount I stand,
I look away across the sea,
Where mansions are prepared for me,
And view the shining glory shore,
My Heav’n, my home forevermore!
“My Savior comes and walks with me,
And sweet communion here have we;
He gently leads me by His hand,
For this is Heaven’s borderland.
“A sweet perfume upon the breeze
Is borne from ever-vernal trees;
And flow’rs that never fading grow
Where streams of life forever flow.
“The zephyrs seem to float to me,
Sweet sounds of Heaven’s melody,
As angels with the white-robed throng
Join in the sweet redemption song.”
In this hymn, several themes from The Pilgrim’s Progress are developed. The song talks about the Christian life today as one that borders heaven and from where one can almost see heaven. It speaks of a place of victory and fellowship with God, which is something of the idea found in Isaiah 42:6 and in Bunyan’s work.
A second song that has become popular is “Sweet Beulah Land” by Squire Parsons (1948– ), often performed by gospel music groups:
“I’m kind of homesick for a country
To which I’ve never been before.
No sad goodbyes will there be spoken
For time won’t matter anymore.
“Beulah Land, I’m longing for you,
And some day on thee I’ll stand.
There my home shall be eternal.
Beulah Land, sweet Beulah Land!
“I’m looking now, just across the river
Where my faith shall end in sight.
There’s just a few more days to labor.
Then I will take my heavenly flight.”
In this song, Beulah Land has become another name for heaven and doesn’t develop any themes from Bunyan or Isaiah. However, this understanding is quite common among Christians. Much Christian symbolism interprets Israel, the Promised Land, Zion, etc., as heaven itself. “Crossing the Jordan” has become a symbol for death, which ushers one into the “Promised Land” of heaven.
In summary, in Isaiah 62:4, Israel is called “Beulah,” which means “married,” because God will once again delight in her as His bride, whereas before, during the exile she had been rejected. In Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Beulah Land is a place of peace near the end of the Christian life on the border of the Celestial City. The song “Beulah Land” picks up themes from Bunyan but depicts Beulah Land as the joyful, fulfilled Christian life that gives a taste of what is to come. And, finally, “Sweet Beulah Land” simply applies all of the imagery to heaven itself, which, although biblically incorrect, reflects a popular understanding of what Beulah Land is.