Updated: Dec 24, 2020
Some people are familiar with the fact that there were seven nations in the land of Canaan that the Israelites had to drive out to possess the promised land (Deut 7:1, Acts 13:19). However, there are also seven nations that God used to prepare Israel for the conquest. They had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years and were not mentally ready to the warrior and victor mindsets.
The first nation God used to prepare Israel was Egypt. God sent ten plagues, delivered them from slavery, parted the Red Sea, and destroyed the army of Egypt for them without them having to strike one blow (Ex 7-14). When the Israelites left, they took spoils from them (Ex 12:35-36). We can reasonably assume the materials they used to make the tabernacle came from these spoils. Exodus 13:18 says “the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt”. Harnessed means armed or in battle array. When they left, God led them in an indirect path to the promised land (Ex 13:17-14:4). The direct path was northeast, but God led them to the Red Sea instead. This was not to make things difficult for them. There were two reasons. They were not mentally ready for war (Ex 13:17), and God wanted to position them for their greatest deliverance from Egypt. It was not enough for them to physically leave. They also needed a change of mindset, and to be permanently delivered from the threat of Pharaoh. It seemed both to them and to Pharaoh like they were trapped, but God had a plan. He parted the sea, they walked through on dry ground, and the army of Pharaoh was destroyed when they attempted to follow them to bring them back (Ex 14). Egypt was the most powerful nation in the world at that time, and God showed everyone that He is greater. He also judged their idols (Num 33:4).
The next nation God used to prepare Israel was Amalek (Ex 17:8-16). Amalek was the grandson of Esau (Gen 36:12& 16), and his descendants were the Amalekites who were perpetual enemies of Israel. They attacked Israel in the wilderness unprovoked. God gave Israel the victory and promised that He would always fight against them until they were destroyed. This was the first time since before the Israelites moved to Egypt over 400 years earlier that they fought a battle.
Shortly before Moses died, he gathered Israel to give them a farewell speech. In that speech he reminded them of God’s laws and their history to that point. This speech is recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. In chapters 2 and 3, Moses recalled incidents with several other nations. He reminded them how God would not allow them to attack the Edomites who were the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, because He had given them their land (Deut 2:4-8 & 12). He mentioned how the Edomites had conquered the giants called the Horims to get their land. Then Moses spoke of the Moabites, the descendants of Lot who was Abraham’s nephew (Gen 11:27, Gen 19:36-38). Israel was also not allowed to take their land, and they had also conquered giants named the Emims (Deut 2:8:11). The same things were also true of the Ammonites who were also descendants of Lot and had also conquered the giants called the Zamzummims (Deut 2:19-23). God had shown them how they too could conquer giants and take their land, and that He would ensure nobody could take it away.
The sixth nation God used to prepare Israel was the Amorites whose king was Sihon (Deut 2:24-37). The Amorites were one of the seven nations Israel was to conquer to obtain the promised land (Gen 15:21, Ex 3:8 & 17, Ex 13:5, Ex 23:23). The name Amorite was also used to more broadly describe all the people Israel was to conquer. Some of them lived in the land we now call Israel, and some of them lived east of Israel. One group was led by Sihon in a city called Heshbon, and another was led by Og in a city called Bashan (Deut 31:4). Sihon attacked first and was destroyed (Deut 2:24-37). After that, Og attacked and was also destroyed (Deut 3:1-17). Og was a giant who had a bed 13 feet long (Deut 3:11), and his cities had high walls (Deut 3:5). Sihon is mentioned 29 times after that battle, and Og is mentioned 21 times. These victories became milestones for Israel for their conquest of Canaan (Deut 3:21-22), and for hundreds of years (1Ki 4:19, Neh 9:22, Ps 135:11, Ps 136:20). When fear tried to stop them in the future, they could remember what God did for them in their previous victories (Deut 3:21-22).
God was not only preparing Israel for their conquest of Canaan. He was preparing the seven nations for their defeat. Just before the battle with Sihon, God told Israel, “This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee (Deut 2:25)”.
When Joshua sent two spies to Jericho before the conquest began, they entered the home of Rahab (Josh 2). Rahab told them, “I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath (vs 9-11)”. It was not Israel who needed to be afraid. It was their enemies.
Yet when Israel sent twelve spies into Canaan as they approached their entry, ten of them came back and reported that they could not take the land. The two reasons they gave were that the cities had high walls and there were giants (Num 13:28). They had already been given victory over Egypt and had conquered many cities with high walls (Deut 3:5). Edom, Moab, and Ammon had already conquered giants, and they were not even the chosen people of God; and so had Israel (Deut 3:11). They were not only failing to have faith for what God had promised them for the future for over 400 years since Abraham (Gen 12-17), they were failing to remember how God had already prepared them and their situation for the fulfillment and had demonstrated that He and they could do it. Sometimes we struggle with doubt, especially when the time between the promise and the fulfillment is long like it was with Abraham. He waited 25 years for Isaac to be born under impossible circumstances. It had been over 400 years since God promised Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan. Yet we must not forget the promises and how God has prepared us to inherit them. God is able, and He knows what He is doing. He does not forsake His people nor fail to keep His word. Our responsibility is to remain faithful to Him and not to live in fear of the current circumstances.