These exhortations were given by me between 1999 and 2005. That was a long time ago, and I have grown a lot since then. They may not reflect my current beliefs.
Have you ever wondered why Abraham did not inherit the land while he was still alive? Or why did Jacob and his sons end up in Egypt, instead of staying in Canaan and becoming a great nation there? I don’t think there is a simple answer to either of those questions. The fact that Abraham died without having received the promise is evidence to us that God will resurrect him. One of the defining moments in the history on Israel was when they were led out of Egypt. Look at just how much of the Old Testament is concerned with all that happened on the way from Egypt. The things that Israel was taught would have had the same impact on them, or us, if they hadn’t been connected with a massive migration.
And have you ever wondered about the people that Israel displaced? Why were the Canaanites removed from their homeland? Was it fair that they lost the land and Israel received it?
These questions are related. Yes, Abraham’s faithfulness was an important part of why the Israelites did not inhabit the land until the time of Joshua but the Canaanites are part of the answer too.
Genesis 15, verses 12 to 16:
And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
The iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. The Amorites are, in this context, the Canaanites. Historically, the Amonites inhabited a larger region, but at this time they dominated the land of Canaan.
A few chapters later, we learn that God would have spared Sodom if there had been as few as 10 righteous people in it. God does not indiscriminatingly destroy entire cities, entire nations, because of the evil of the majority. If he did, he would have wiped out all of humanity a long time ago. He will spare cities and lands if they are inhabited even by a few righteous.
That’s what he is saying to Abraham in Genesis 15. “Your seed is not going to get the land immediately. They will get it, for that is what I have promised, but the current inhabitants, the Amorites, they aren’t yet fully iniquitous. Some of them at least still deserve to live here.”
What is interesting about that? People tend not to worry about the destruction of Sodom. We know, and we can accept, that everyone in that city, was living an unrighteous life. We sometimes get more concerned about the people that Israel displaced. Israel was a huge army that came out of nowhere, and destroyed cities and people, and conquered the land. It doesn’t seem fair to the inhabitants, but it must have been. The iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full at the time of Abraham, but it must have been full by the time the Children of Israel were led back into Canaan. God used the Children of Israel to destroy the Amonites in the same way that he had used brimstone and fire to destroy Sodom. By the time the Children of Israel were returning to the land the Amonites must have been as proud, arrogant and uncaring as the people of Sodom were. Ten righteous would have saved Sodom. The incomplete iniquity of the Amonites delayed their destruction. The Amonites were not destroyed until their iniquity was complete.
There is another interesting aspect to the iniquity of the Amonites. “Iniquity” is a bit like “sin”. People who have no knowledge of God can’t really sin because to sin is to act in a way that God has told you not to. “Iniquity” is similar. It carries overtones of being serious sin. People who have no knowledge of God certainly can’t be said to commit iniquity, because iniquity is rebellion against the law of God, not merely the ignorance of it. The Amonites, the iniquitous Amonites, must have had some awareness of God and what he expects.
That is something that we should remember we are thinking about the book of Judges. The people that Israel was destroying and displacing were not just innocent bystanders who happened to live in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were people who were ‘failed’ peoples of God. They must have received some message from Him, and, as a nation, rebelled against it. They were cast out of the land because it had been promised to the Children of Israel, but they were also cast out of the land because they were disobedient.
What relevance does this have for us, today? People sometimes feel that God was bloodthirsty when he ordered the Israelites to drive the Canaanites out of the land. Apart from the fact that he had promised the land to the Israelites, the Canaanites were iniquitous, and they deserved to be destroyed, as Sodom deserved to be destroyed, as Israel itself would later deserve to be cast out of the Land, and as the nations of the world will be overthrown at Christ’s return. God knew that the Amonites were going to become fully iniquitous. He knew that they would have to be destroyed. Surely that is part of the promise to Abraham. He knew what the people around him were like, and it must have pained him to see their iniquity, albeit incomplete iniquity.
Today, we can look around us and see many things in the world that distress us – but we don’t really need to be distressed. Just as Abraham had the promise of the kingdom, so do we.