Meditating on the Judgements of God:
6.5 Take Possession – Completely
Num 33:53-55 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes. ” `But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.”
In the previous meditation we noted how the progress of taking the land was a gradual process. Here we need to observe it was to be a total process, and why that was to be. This for many is the most contentious area of this story. Our verses above, which come fairly late in the records and are simply a reiteration in basic form of what has been said before, emphasise for us a) the call to take possession of the land and b) the necessity of clearing the existing inhabitants out of it.
In the earlier chapters of Exodus there are various references to them being given the land but it is no more than that. It is not until the Lord is giving them the Law that He goes on to explain in more detail what will happen: “Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land….. I will hand over to you the people who live in the land and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.” (Ex 23:31-33) There we see the partnership between the Lord and Israel but in both cases note this first reference to clearing the land involves them also CLEARING OUT the inhabitants, driving them out. Their destruction is not the main priority, but clearing them and al their practices out of the land is.
In case we are not clear about the Lord’s role note the previous verses: “I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you.” (Ex 23:27-29) As we’ve seen extensively before, His intent was to create fear and thus drive the inhabitants out. The fear would come when they heard what He was enabling Israel to do as they approached and had dealt with the two hostile Amorite kings. Does the Lord speak into the minds of people to accentuate that fear? It is possible. Remember the context here was the giving of the Law and the importance of Israel following it when they entered the new land, to enable them to become a people under God, revealing to the rest of the world the good way they lived.
A little later, after the incident of the Golden Calf, the Lord has dealt with the miscreants and now reiterates His covenant with Israel, especially in the context of entering the land (which of course in the event did not happen for another forty years!): “Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.” (Ex 34:11-16) The Lord’s part was to frighten the inhabitants out of the land, and Israel’s part was to clear the land of all signs of their pagan worship.
Twice He warns them not to make a treaty with the inhabitants of the land because in the friendship of such a treaty the inhabitants will invite them to join in their activities and that will lead on to mixed marriages and within those mixed marriages the Israelites will be persuaded to worship their gods (this is essentially what eventually happened to Solomon). Pagan worship is worship of that which is not real and it takes away from worshipping the One True God. It was also associated with other bad practices, occult prostitution and child sacrifice. Whatever happened, Israel were not to let this happen. The whole thing is about revealing to the rest of the world a relationship with the one true God. Everything hinges on this, and we cannot over-emphasise this in these studies.
To ensure that we see this in its fullness, we need to continue to look at this even more and so will continue it in the next study.