Take possession of your inheritance, Numbers 33:50-56

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Israel is on the edge of their inheritance. They are at the Jordan, across from Jericho, on the plains of Moab. They can see the land that belongs to them by right of inheritance. It belongs to God and He has given it to them. Before they do cross God speaks to Moses and tells him what to tell Israel as far as what they were to do when the crossed into the land. They were to be prepared to do this before they crossed. They were to drive out all the inhabitants and destroy all indications of idolatrous worship. They were to do this on the authority that God had already given them the land. He was taking it from the Canaanites and giving it to His people Israel. Their instructions were clear.
They were to divide the land according to lot, size and tribe. This manifested the sovereignty of God in division of land.
And then there is a warning if they fail to do as God said.
Now why would God want the Canaanites to be completely exterminated and all trace of their idolatry destroyed?
1. It was judgment against the wickedness of the people of the land, ;
2. So Israel could claim their inheritance, as a builder has to demolish buildings and clear land in or to build anew so the inhabitants had to be cleared out so Israel could build anew.
3. So Israel would not be tempted. they showed they had a problem with being tempted by the sin around them.
So as we look into these verses we should keep this in mind.
first of all we have the challenge to take possession of the land. That seems to be the key theme. For the word to take possession/yarash is used several times. the thought in v.51 is not if they cross, but when they cross as they will. The crossing is a certainty because God said they would and He has given the land to them.The word is a ptc. implying the ongoing process of the crossing and the purpose of the crossing, namely to enter the land.
Secondly, there is the manner in which they are to take the land, it is summed up in four verbs that are all causal in effect. they indicate the responsibility for taking possession of the land by driving out the inhabitants and destroying any trace of their idolatry lies with the people of Israel. It was a personal and corporate activity. Corporate in scope and personal in practice. Everyone had to do their part and everyone's part impacted the success of the whole. Just like a team. If one member fails in doing their job the whole team fails. So while the first verb is hifil-dispossess the inhabitants of the land as a corporate, national endeavor it also has personal specific actions like destroying specific images etc. So then we move to the process or manner of taking possession of their inheritance as indicated by these four verbs.
-drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you. The word drive out/yarash-means to take possession of or dispossess. It is not just to displace, like when an object is placed into water it displaces a certain amount of water, in other words the water and the object cannot occupy the same space. In this case as the people push into Canaan the inhabitants must at the same time be either pushed out or killed, resulting in Israel increasingly occupying the land area at the same time removing or forcing out the previous inhabitants. The word is also translated inherit. For an inheritance to take effect the owner has to die in order to pass the land to the heir. Which implies the original owner (Canaanites) had to die. Or if we note God is the owner, obviously He cannot die, but someone must die in His place, in this case the Canaanites. God, as the owner, gives over what He had loaned to the Canaanites for a time and until He was ready to pass the land on to His children, Israel. So then taking possession, inheriting, being the necessary first verb in the sequence of verbs requires the act of the heir to actually take possession. And so the command to take possession necessarily follows the act of crossing into the land.
(This seems to apply, unless I am allegorizing, the thought that my body belongs to God, He gave it to me to dwell in and take possession of and drive out the inhabitants of it. I am not to be a slave to my flesh any longer but make my flesh a slave to me, through mortification of the flesh. The authority to do so comes by command of God.)
So then as Israel passes deeper and deeper into the territory more and more inhabitants are either killed or driven out before them.
-destroy/perish, ie. cause to perish or destroy, It is a common word for to die, and used in piel and hiphil in the sense of kill or break down (houses, idols, kingdoms). used in for Egypt being destroyed even though Pharoah refused to admit it.
So beside the inhabitants what was Israel to destroy? maskit/pictures, ie. engraved stone figures, statues of idols of their making. a carved figure. God forbids the making and setting up of stone images in the land and bowing down to it in worship. this word also can mean imagination, opinion, thoughts, imagery. Ezekiel was shown some secret rooms the priests had in the temple where they kept stone idols (maskit). yet in and the words is used of the "conceits of the heart" thus the imaginations of the heart. These would have been images that represented the gods the inhabitants worshipped. they are symbols of what drove their daily lives. They focused and paid off these idols expecting favorable blessings in return. thus, everything that symbolized other gods were to be destroyed. No semblance of them were to be exempt. In other words, the wood or stone is not the issue, but the thought, imaginations behind the stone that is the issue.
They were also to destroy all the images/selem. this word refers to a likeness or representation. ti is actually the word that is used for man being made in God's image(selem) which is later explained not that we look like God, but that we have dominion over creation as God's vice-regent , and the idea of spiritual, intellectual, moral likeness to God.
This image is a wood or stone image that represents the god they worship, as Dagon, or the calf Aaron made, etc. i think the difference between these two words is the former emphasizes the thoughts, imaginations of the heart, while the latter refers to the tangible object. The latter is further identified as those molten images. Whereas the former referred to stone images, the latter refers to those metal images that were cast.Like the golden calf of Aaron.
The third verb is pluck down, exterminate, demolish/samad-This word always means to destroy or annihilate and is always used in passages dealing with vengeance or the judgment of God. It usually is the result of sudden catastrophe as in warfare. They are to demolish the 'high places' bamah. These were worship areas usually a structure of some sort like a platform or even could refer to a building such as a sanctuary or an altar. These were normally placed on the heights like ridges or hills. cf. ; ; ; These would have been supplied with the corresponding idols and stone pillars, etc. It would have been like a temple or shrine. These were the places of worship. So then as they entered the land they were to destroy the images, idols of metal, stone, wood, the places of worship and the even the imaginations or thinking behind all of these gods. They were to destroy anything that would cause them to worship something other than God.
This verse clearly depicts and instructs the total elimination from our lives of anything that competes with God for our worship.
Here is the word yarash again so this is a summary of what they were to do with teh additional instruction to dwell in the land yashab, ie. to settle down and remain in it. Thus to rest in the land. They can do so if they have completely driven the idolatrous inhabitants and destroyed everything that symbolizes their culture of idolatry. from their symbols of cutlic worship to the thinking that stands behind that culture.
They were not to be conformed to that world but be transformed by the renewing of their mind.
The reason they can do this is found in the latter half of the verse set off by
chiy/because or for
God has given the land to them to yarash/take possession of.
This is not of their own doing. God is the one who has given them the land. The word is natati it is a qal pf. The thought is that it has been given already, though they have not actually taken possession of it. It is kind of like an inheritance that a person has waiting for them at the death of the owner. The inheritance belongs to them already though they have not taken possession of it yet. nevertheless it belongs to them still.
Israel was to take the land on the basis that God gave it to them.
It is akin to what we are told to do in NT wherein we are to mortify the deeds of the flesh, ; put off the old man, . It is because of what God has done that precipitates that and obligates the beneficiary to act so.
It is akin to what we are told to do in NT wherein we are to mortify the deeds of the flesh, ; put off the old man, . It is because of what God has done that precipitates that and obligates the beneficiary to act so.
Our bodies belong to God. We are bought with a price. And NT counterpart to this is what I think Paul has in mind when he speaks of not being conformed to this world. Well Israel had to eradicate the Canaanite world so they wouldn’t be tempted to be conformed to it rather than being transformed by the Word of God -to exterminate and destroy them.
Thirdly, the method of division is laid out in v.54 exposing the sovereignty of God. There would be no room for favoritism. God would do the choosing of land sections for each tribe. This is laid out in Joshua.
finally, we have the warning against neglect, v.56
if you do not drive out (yarash) the inhabitants of the land from before you, He who you let remain from them will be
He who you let remain from them
will be
-for a thorn in your eyes
-for thorns in your sides
-they will vex/trouble you upon the land which you dwell in.
thorn/sek-a thorn, part of a plant
the idea of in your eyes is that they will be irritating like something that gets stuck in your eye. It is more than just a speck of dust that is irritating the eye here, rather it is far more serious. The idea of a thorn in the eye probably means that you quite possibly would lose your sight in that eye. So this is far more than an irritant, but would have a devastating impact on your quality of life.
The second word for thorns/sanin-is a synonym of the former, and comes from the root meaning barb, ; ; . These will be in your sides, something that is constantly nagging and irritating you.
The third word is vex/sarar-to show hostility, to trouble or harass, it means to distress, by putting into a narrow or confining place, thus to bind or tie up even. Used of God distressing Israel because of her sin, ; .
Rather than bringing blessing upon Israel by being in the land of promise it will instead be a curse. They will be constantly stressed in their new land, the complete opposite of what they would experience if they had obeyed the Lord.
v.56 explains further
What God had intended Israel to do to the inhabitants of the land will instead be done to them. Notice the personal pronouns used with the verbs. It is God who will do this.
I shall do unto you,
I thought to do unto them.
It will be according to what I thought to do to them
I will do to you.
It is God who gave them the land and if they refuse to do as God instructed them, ie. to go in and take possession of the land by driving out the inhabitants and destroying everything that hinted at idolatry. If they don't do that God will
Here is the crux of the matter for you and I:
We are called to take possession of our inheritance: to drive out, put to death the deeds of the flesh. We are to kill and put off the sin which so easily besets us. If we don’t deal with our sin it lies at the door and will control us. We are either slaves to our flesh or our flesh is a slave to us. Paul makes this clear in . We must eradicate from our lives all that would tempt us to sin as Israel was to destroy that which was in Canaan. If we don’t it will dominate us and ruin our lives.
Identify what sins to deal with, repent of them when you sin, put them to death and replace them with the thinking and actions of righteousness.
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