In our previous post, we paused briefly to recap our progress in retracing the roots of bitterness causing our present-day Middle Eastern turmoil, including a timeline from the misappropriation of Arpachshad’s land by Canaan to the arrival of the Israelites in Egypt — Roughly 483 years.
Unfortunately, I didn’t firmly reinforce its significance in the previous post.
Imagine owning 20 acres of property. How would you feel if your neighbor parked his car in your yard for a week without asking? How about a month?
What if your neighbor decided to live in a tent on your property? What if he built a fence around his tent? What if he built a house? You get the picture.
Imagine how Arpachshad’s descendants must have felt, knowing someone settled on their land…and prime land, at that… Do you think there was any festering bitterness?
Enduring theft for 483 years is a long time but nowhere near the end of the road…
As we also reviewed in the previous post, Abraham understood that complete fulfillment of all God promised would be delayed for at least 400 years.
“Then the LORD said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13 ESV).
According to Exodus 12, the Israelites were in Egypt for a total of 430 years.
“The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:40-41 ESV).
That does not contradict God’s warning that they would be afflicted for 400 years. It simply covers the entirety of the time they spent in Egypt.
So far, that’s 913 years and still not the end of the road…but it is the beginning of the end.
When God called Moses to deliver the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, he promised to finally give them their inheritance.
“Then the LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt'” (Exodus 3:7-10 ESV).
God was finally going to strip the Canaanites of their stolen property and return it to the house of Arpachshad, but still not immediately. After Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, God revealed his plan.
“When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you” (Exodus 23:23-31 ESV).
“And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness” (Numbers 14:33 ESV).
Important side note: As the Israelites left Sinai, they wanted to pass through Edom, the territory of Esau’s descendants, but they refused to let the Israelites pass through (Numbers 20:14-21). Could this be validation of the festering bitterness passed down from Esau’s self inflicted wound?
Numbers 33 offers a very succinct summary of the Israelites journey through the desert, closing with a very profound warning from God regarding their responsibilities after possessing the land (highlights mine).
“But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them” (Numbers 33:55-56 ESV).
Joshua 12 recounts the conquests of Moses (2 kingdoms) and Joshua (31 kingdoms) in taking possession of the land.
It took at least 45 years from the Exodus to the time Joshua began to divide the land, according to Caleb’s request in Joshua 14:7-10, yet not all of the territories were conquered (Joshua 13).
Please don’t miss this critical point: The conquests of Moses and Joshua would have been unnecessary if not for Canaan’s rebellious misappropriation of Arpachshad’s land.
Roughly 958 years after Canaan misappropriated Arpachshad’s land, it was slowly being restored to its rightful owners, and just as the curse/prophesy foretold.
“…thou and thy sons will fall in the land and (be) accursed through sedition; for by sedition ye have settled, and by sedition will thy children fall, and thou shalt be rooted out for ever” (Jubilees 10:30).
958 years is a long time for hatred to build and bitterness to fester, yet there is still so much more to the story.
A careful reading of Exodus through Joshua reveals another reason for the lingering roots of bitterness in the Middle East. Despite God’s warning, Israel allowed some of the inhabitants of the land to remain (Numbers 31), while establishing treaties with others (Joshua 9).
All the remaining witnesses to the overthrow of so many kingdoms must have been tormented with feelings of fear and resentment toward their new neighbor — and in some instances captor — “occupying” land taken by force and at the expense of so many lives.
As the remnat mingled with their extended neighbors through intermarriage and resettling, the animosity would (most likely) continue to grow and spread throughout the entire region.
As we will explore in the next post, the remnant did become thorns in the side of Israel. Read more here…