Meditating on the Judgements of God:
6.6 Take Possession – Completely (2)
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 started to take note of the early references to the instructions given by the Lord to Israel to go in and take the land. We saw that the very first one was to work in partnership with Him to drive the inhabitants out, yet, there came a warning not to make treaties with the inhabitants and open them up to the possibility of being seduced by them into idol worship and we said there, the whole thing is about revealing to the rest of the world a relationship with the one true God and that must not be jeopardized by falling to false religion.
Thus far here we have seen all the references in Exodus. We have also in past studies made some mention of the reasons for the Lord acting against Canaan, but now we see this more fully in the context of Israel occupying the land and being a holy nation.
Now moving on to Leviticus, in the context of the Law we find, “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 18:3,4) The big emphasis is NOT to follow the ways of Canaan but follow the ways of God revealed through His laws. This seems to be at the heart of all the commands about taking the land.
In the third of these studies in this Part we noted the references to the land being defiled: “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. ” `Everyone who does any of these detestable things–such persons must be cut off from their people. Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 18:24-30) The occupants had defiled the land by their practices which were abhorrent to the Lord because they were so far from the way He had designed people to live.
Again He said to them, “Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has set you apart from the nations.” (Lev 20:22-24) Again the distinction is powerfully made between the Lord’s ways and the ways of the Canaanites. Israel are to be different, a holy people, a special and unique people, a people revealing the Lord to the world. That is what all this is about. Throughout Leviticus, the words, “in he land” occur many times, for so many of the laws conveyed there are about how to use the land.
Note so far, we have not seen a single instruction in Exodus or Leviticus about the Lord telling Israel to destroy the inhabitants. All of the references so far are about driving out the inhabitants. So let’s move into Numbers. Much of the early part of the book is taken up with Israel’s failure to enter the land the first time and then the second time there is the incident with Balaam and Balak. The first reference is one we’re already seen in various forms: “When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.” (Num 33:51,52) There yet again the emphasis is on driving out the inhabitants and any destruction is simply in respect of their idols that they will have left behind. This is the only reference in the book. Thus in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers (virtually) THE ONLY REFERENCES TO TAKING THE LAND ARE ABOUT DRIVING OUT THE INHABITANTS.
To complete this element about taking possession of the land completely, we need to go into Deuteronomy which is an account of Moses words to Israel on the plains before going up to take the land.