In our last study, we devoted a lot of time to Moses' parenthetical statements about several people groups who were as tall as the An-aw-KEEM.
This was in the midst of the people of Israel traveling northward, parallel to the eastern border of modern Israel, east of the Dead Sea. They have come to the Dead Sea's halfway point, to the valley of Ar-NOHN. This is the northern border of the Moabites, and the southern border of the Amorites (Num. 21:13).
We're now picking up at verse 24, as Moses is reviewing how God had directed them...
Although the Lord had told Moses to avoid conflicts with the descendants of Esau (the Edomites), and the descendants of Lot (the Moabites and Ammonites), they were to go to war with the Amorites.
The Amorites, like all of the Canaanite peoples, were descendants of Noah's son Ham (Gen 10:6; 15). It was the Amorites who'd chased out the previous generation like bees when they decided to go in without God's blessing (Deut. 1:44). And it was the Amorites whose sin had finally reached completion (Gen 15:16) and was about to be judged, just as God had promised.
The Amorites were divided into two kingdoms. The southern king of the Amorites was See-KHONE, king of Khesh-BONE. Khesh-BONE is about 25 miles north of the Ar-NOHN. It was King See-KHONE who had battled the king of Moab and taken their land down to the valley of Ar-NOHN (Num. 21:26).
The Lord promised Israel that beginning that very day, the Canaanites would be afraid of the Israelites. Not a passive discomfort, but dread, fear, trembling, and anguish.
The Lord had said,
Deut. 2:24 ...I have given See-KHONE the Amorite, king of Khesh-BONE, and his land into your hand; begin to take possession and contend with him in battle.
So why did Moses send in messengers with words of peace? Based on verse 29, it is possible that Moses thought that God had meant only the Amorites' land west of the Jordan would be conquered.
But regardless of Moses' understanding or intent, See-KHONE wasn't willing to let the Israelites pass through.
See-KHONE didn't let Israel pass through peacefully because God hardened his spirit. This brings up an interesting topic, with which many people take issue: How can God be allowed to interfere with a human being's free will by hardening their heart?
Well, first of all, Paul said that this was a dangerous and irreverent question. God is our Creator and has the right to do as He pleases.
Rom. 9:17-21 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
God is the Creator Who has every right to do what He sees fit to do. He used Pharaoh as an example of this. Pharaoh was a man whose heart was hardened, just like See-KHONE's. But interestingly, even as God laid claim to hardening Pharaoh's heart, Pharaoh is held responsible for hardening his own heart.
The Bible is clear that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exo. 8:15; 8:32; 9:34). But it is also clear that God hardened Pharaoh's heart (Exo. 7:13; 9:12; 10:1). The difficult thing to comprehend is that both events were happening simultaneously.
Ex. 9:34-10:1 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he did not let the sons of Israel go, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them
Once again, we have graphic representation that the doctrines of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man are not mutually exclusive. They are co-existant.
In See-KHONE's case, he made his free will decision not to allow the Israelites passage, and God made His sovereign decision to harden See-KHONE's spirit, putting Israel in a position to begin to possess his land.
Moses led the Israelites north while See-KHONE led his army south. They met between the Ar-NOHN and Khesh-BONE at YAH-hats. The battle was decisive - Israel defeated the Amorites.
At each city, they executed God's judgment - everyone was destroyed - men, women, and children.
In our day and age, this sounds about as immoral and illegal as you can imagine. In our "civilized" world, war is regulated, and civilians are off-limits. How can we justify such carnage against women and children?
I could wax eloquent for a half hour, hoping to convince you with philosophy as to why this was acceptable, but the short answer is simply that God commanded it. The iniquity of the Amorites was complete - their day of judgment had come. God was using Israel as a human instrument to bring judgment, saying:
Deut. 20:17 "...you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you"
Although it was Israel's swords, God said it was really His hand. He again takes the credit in heaven for what is being done on earth. He said that He was the One Who destroyed them. The promise God had made in Exodus was now being fulfilled:
Ex. 23:23 "For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.
So, I don't know that this helps you understand why it was acceptable to God, but only that the Bible says that it was. That means your issue is neither with me nor the Israelites. It is with God.
From Ar-o-AYR on the edge of the valley Ar-NOHN all the way north to Ghil-AWD, the Israelites defeated the Amorites. Moses says,
Deut. 2:36 "...there was no city that was too high for us; the LORD our God delivered all over to us."
The Amorites had constructed cities with huge protective walls. How could Israel defeat an enemy with such protection?
Luke 18:27 ..."The things that are impossible with people are possible with God."
Og, the king of Baw-SHAWN was the other king that ruled over the Amorite people, further north. He met Israel in battle at Ed-REH-ee.
This gave the Israelites reason to fear, because Og was a huge man, the last descendant of the Raw-FAW-yim, the giants who lived on the earth, as we saw in last week's study.
But the Lord told them not to be afraid - He was giving them the victory. The land of both Amorite kingdoms which was taken by Israel streched from the Arnon Valley up to Mount Hermon in Lebanon, a distance of about 125 miles.
Moses now reviews how that land was distributed to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Speaking very roughly, Reuben got the southern part of See-KHONE's kingdom, Manasseh got the northern part of Og's kingdom, and Gad got the middle.
What Moses is glossing over is the reason that these three tribes got this land. Back in Numbers 32, we read that because they had so much livestock, they asked to take this land, rather than cross over the Jordan into the Promised Land. Moses had rebuked them, saying,
Num. 32:6-8 ..."Shall your brothers go to war while you yourselves sit here? Now why are you discouraging the sons of Israel from crossing over into the land which the LORD has given them? This is what your fathers did..."
Num. 32:14-15 "Now behold, you have risen up in your fathers' place, a brood of sinful men, to add still more to the burning anger of the LORD against Israel. For if you turn away from following Him, He will once more abandon them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all these people."
God had so much for them beyond the Jordan, but the burden and baggage of wordly goods caused them to come short of it. No wonder Jesus said that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24)!
They did compromise on the issue, with Moses agreeing to let them have the land of the Amorites, but insisting that although their women and children could dwell in this land, their soldiers had to cross over and fight with their fellow Israelis. They agreed, saying,
Num. 32:18 "We will not return to our homes until every one of the sons of Israel has possessed his inheritance."
The long-term repercussions of this decision on the part of the three tribes was that when the Assyrians came in, they were the first ones to be carried off to captivity (2Kings 15:29).
As Moses reviews a bit of this, he makes the parenthetical comment, "I know that you have much livestock." This is clearly a stab at the reason they were staying behind.
Num. 32:1-2 Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had an exceedingly large number of livestock. So when they saw the land of Yah-az-AYR and the land of Ghil-AWD, that it was indeed a place suitable for livestock, the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben came and spoke to Moses...
And when they'd approached Moses, they'd said,
Num. 32:4 the land which the LORD conquered before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock."
Somehow, Moses was clear on the fact that they had much livestock!
Moses reminded Joshua of everything he'd seen God do, reassuring him that God would do so in the future as well.
This is something that we need to continually do: look to God's faithfulness in the past to reassure us that He will continue to be faithful in the future. Our eyes on the past will give us faith for the future.