Canaan - Strategic & Habitable

Menu


 

A Strategic Land and A Habitable Land

 

We want to continue where we left off last week. If you did not get a chance to read the first part you can find it under “Bible Study Tools/Israel and the Promised Land/God’s Selection of Canaan 1.” To get us up to speed let us review the main truths we have covered so far. 

1. God gave the land to Abraham and his descendents as an everlasting possession

2. God prepared the land through the sinfulness of the grandson of Noah (Gen. 9:20-27)

3. God selected the land of Canaan to serve the needs and call of Israel (Rom. 8:28)

1) A Strategic Land: In order to understand the strategic nature of the land of Canaan we first had to understand God’s unique calling for His chosen people, Israel. God had through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses promised that He would give Israel a marvelous land, untold blessings, prosperity, and complete peace so that Israel might serve Him. Israel in turn, was to use these blessings to reach the Gentile nations for God. 

For Israel to be a nation of priests or missionaries to the world, Israel needed a portion of land that would make this call a reality. Thus God selected Canaan. No other portion of land on the face of the earth could play as significant a role in Israel’s missionary call as Canaan. 

What Israel needed was a portion of land in which the peoples of the world would continually journey through making regular contact with the people of Israel and the worship of their God 

The land of Canaan was perfect for this task since it was located on one of the most important international highways of the ancient world. Canaan had been picked by the nations for this purpose because the land formed a land bridge connecting the three continents of Africa, Europe, and Asia thus making it an ideal route to carry out international commerce. The land of Canaan was also attractive to the nations because this narrow portion of land was part of the Fertile Crescent. There were other more direct ways that the nations could have chosen to travel however these paths would have required them to journey through the Arabian Desert. The journey through Canaan promised them vegetation and water for their livestock, populated areas for lodging and conducting business, and a more temperate climate due the proximity of the Mediterranean Sea. 

 

 

map 1

 

 

 map 2

  

This strategic purpose for the land is seen from the very first time God declares His gift to Abraham and his descendents. 

Gen 12:1-3, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." NKJV

God tells Abraham to leave his family and the land he was dwelling in to go to a new land, the land of Canaan because he wants to make Abraham into a great nation that will bless the families of the world. In Genesis 26:4-5, God once again draws the connection between the land and the creation of a nation that will bless the world,

Gen 26:4-5, “And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; NKJV

God could have made a great nation out of Abraham in his home land of the Chaldeans but in doing so, God would have limited Israel’s ability to impact the all nations. Even though the land of the Chaldeans did make a world impact in the form of the Babylonian Empire, yet this impact was short lived. However, Israel’s presence in the land of Canaan from the time of Moses to the time their expulsion by the Roman Empire leaves a long legacy which impacts all nations not only in Old Testament times but continues on during the Church age as well. 

Are there records of Israel’s possession of the land having an impact on the Gentile nations? The following are a few examples

Josh 2:9-12, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” NKJV

Josh 9:9-11, “So they said to him: "From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt, and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan — to Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth.” NKJV

Neh 6:15-16, “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.” NKJV

Therefore it becomes clear that God selected this portion of land because of its access to all nations so that Israel might spread the message that salvation lies in the one and only God. 

This reminds me of our own country and the call that God has given it. God has richly blessed our nation with wealth and freedom to worship and we have in the past responded by using these blessings to reach the world with the gospel and assist many in crisis. The missionary effort of the church in America has been a marvelous testimony to the world but, sadly, in recent days that story has been experiencing a slow death. The reasons are all too similar to that of Israel. We have become so caught up in the material blessings God has given us and many of the sinful ways of the world, that we are loosing our passion and our resources for missions. As someone has wisely said, “they who do not learn from the mistakes of the past shall repeat them in the future.”

2) A Habitable Land: Anyone who has ever purchased a home knows that to move in usually involves some time and a lot of effort. My family has moved four times and every time I move I ask God to make it the last time! There is the moving in of all the packages, furniture, cleaning supplies, and etc. Then one has to set up the beds, put together the dinning room table, unpack and put away the dishes, and a host of other chores. To add to this is the many months it often takes to get through all the boxes of items that all too often we wonder why we ever brought them along in the first place. We can not also forget the learning of where stores are and the changing of so many addresses. However, can you imagine making a move to a new land with no house to move into but only the tent you are living in? If you are a farmer, you have no farm implements to start planting a crop let alone the seed needed to plant after the ground is tiled. What food are you going to eat while your first crop grows? Once you find a home, what will you do for furniture? If you are in a trade, where will you find a shop to open a business?

What if there is ever present danger of invasion from neighboring nations? How are you going to have time to construct walls around your cities? Now take that scenario and multiply it by 2-3 million people and you begin to understand what Israel was facing as it prepared to enter the promised land God had selected for them. Infrastructure was going to be a necessity for the nation and the land of Canaan would provide for that.

Over 700 years before Israel would need a furnished land, Noah put a curse on his grandson as a result of a terrible sin (Gen. 9:18-29). The curse stated that Canaan would be a servant to his uncles and their descendents. Canaan settled in the land that bears his name and his descendents became the nations who lived in the land at the time of the invasion of Israel under Joshua. In those 700 years, God allowed the descendents of Canaan to be a servant to a people who would arise from Shem, the uncle of Canaan. Even before Abraham entered the land, Canaan's descendents were building walled cities, roads for commerce, shops for trade, developing trades to make tools and furnishings, clearing fields for farming and the list goes on and on. All of this was in God's plan to provide for Israel a completely furnished land. 

This was clearly the intent of God as stated to Moses.

Deut 6:10-12, "So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant — when you have eaten and are full — then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage" NKJV . 

Deut 20:10-18, ""When you go near a city to fight against it, then proclaim an offer of peace to it. And it shall be that if they accept your offer of peace, and open to you, then all the people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you, and serve you. Now if the city will not make peace with you, but war against you, then you shall besiege it. And when the Lord your God delivers it into your hands, you shall strike every male in it with the edge of the sword. But the women, the little ones, the livestock, and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall plunder for yourself; and you shall eat the enemies' plunder which the Lord your God gives you. Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations. "But of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the Lord your God has commanded you, 18 lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the Lord your God." NKJV .

The conquest as recorded in Joshua was aimed primarily at the inhabitants of the land not the cities, the crops, the livestock and the other spoils. In only a few exceptions does God command that a city be destroyed along with its people. For example, we find that that major conquests in the land are mentioned in Joshua 10-11 and in all the cities captured, only Hazor was to be destroyed by fire.

Josh 11:13-15, “But as for the cities that stood on their mounds, Israel burned none of them, except Hazor only, which Joshua burned. And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the children of Israel took as booty for themselves; but they struck every man with the edge of the sword until they had destroyed them, and they left none breathing.”

This leaves the land of Canaan ready for the Israelites to move right in and start up life as if they had been there for many years. There are homes which are fully furnished just waiting for someone to move in. They have plenty of food and wine stored in the cities. There is the spoil of gold and silver needed to carry on commerce not only internally but also internationally. They have the implements needed for various trades and farming as well as established crops, vineyards, livestock, orchards, and threshing floors. The cities are not only ready to inhabit, but they also have fortified walls that surround them for as a defense from enemy forces. There are roads in place and established commercial trade. Every thing that a nation would need to immediately set itself up is provided by God in the land of Canaan.

We can therefore see God’s marvelous work of selecting the perfect land for His chosen people. However these are only two of the several reasons God selected Canaan. Next week we look at some additional ones.