6.7 Take Possession Completely (3)

Meditating on the Judgements of God:  

6.7 Take Possession – Completely (3)

Deut 1:6-8   The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighbouring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers–to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob–and to their descendants after them.”

In the previous two meditations, we have worked our way through Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers to take note of the early references to the instructions given by the Lord to Israel to go in and take the land and in these books we noted that THE ONLY REFERENCES TO TAKING THE LAND ARE ABOUT DRIVING OUT THE INHABITANTS.

So now 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. Initial chapters are about their recent past history but when Moses comes to emphasizing Israel’s need to keep the Law, he says, “Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the LORD said.” (Deut 6:18,19) The purpose is still to push out the inhabitants.  It is only when we get to chapter 7 that we come to the heavy instructions: “When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations–the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you– and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them.” (Deut 7:1,2)

Two things to note here. First these are the words of Moses and not the Lord  (We’ll consider this more fully in a subsequent study). Second, the order here is drive out – defeat – destroy. The destroy comes at the end implying that it is a cleaning up process rather than an act of purposeful genocide.  It is not so much to wipe out a people as their culture of paganism. For that reason Israel are not 1) to make peace treaties with them, 2) feel good towards them and 3) intermarry with them. The only way to prevent these three happening is to utterly destroy any remnant that has not fled the land.

Later on he says, “The LORD your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.” (Deut 12:29-31) Here there is a recognition that where the inhabitants stay and fight, they must be completely destroyed otherwise they may become a snare for Israel.

Even more he spells out the reason why these occupying people should be removed: “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.” (Deut 18:9-12) The list of forbidden things are clearly things the Canaanites do (and this list is mostly about the occult).

Also we find, “When the LORD your God has destroyed the nations whose land he is giving you, and when you have driven them out and settled in their towns and houses, then….” (Deut 19:1,2)  Again the words ‘destroyed’ and ‘driven out’ go together. It is more the bringing to an end of the nation – the culture of a group of people – rather than the individuals, that is at the heart of these commands. However this comes in more detail shortly: “in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them–the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites–as the LORD your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God.” (Deut 20:16-18) Thus total destruction is on the agenda (of those who refuse to flee) and the reasons given are quite clear.

As the book  moves on we find Moses summing up: “The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said. And the LORD will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. The LORD will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you.” (Deut 31:3-5) The emphasis is on destruction of the ‘nations’.

To sum up: in Deuteronomy, which is the account of Moses’ teaching and instructions to Israel before he dies and leaves Joshua to take them into the land, we see the following:

  • The emphasis is on the Lord and Israel driving out the inhabitants – there was no need for anyone to die.
  • The fall-back position is that if they resist, refuse to leave and fight Israel then they, their cities and all their peoples – young and old – will be destroyed.
  • The reason for this destruction is to do all possible to ensure all temptations to idol worship are removed from before Israel as they settle in the land.
  • The crucial issue will be whether Israel can remain a holy (unique) nation that reveals the Lord to the rest of the world. If they succumb to the things of the Canaanites, that will not be possible.
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