Why did God delay the possession of Canaan and led the Israelites to Egypt?

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God’s Promise of the Possession of Canaan

God granted Abraham a promise for His faithfulness: “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:7,8).

The Lord added to the spiritual promises the assurance that the whole land of Canaan was to belong to Abraham and to his offspring. This promise is not new. It had been given repeatedly in the past (Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:7, 18–21). This time, Abraham was informed that the promise would be accomplished, which means that his children were to possess the land so long as they be obedient to the conditions of the covenant, and that ultimately the God-fearing offspring, both literal and spiritual, would inherit the heavenly Canaan.

The Lord also revealed the future to Abraham saying, “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). This revelation made clear that Abraham and his descendants would be wanderers for four generations.

A quick review shows us that Abram’s son Isaac was “persecuted” by Ishmael (Galatians 4:29; Genesis 21:9). Jacob was threatened by Esau his brother (Genesis 27:41–43) and later from Laban (Genesis 31:2, 21, 29). Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers and later unfairly jailed (Genesis 37:28; 39:20). The children of Israel, at end, were greatly oppressed by the Egyptians after Joseph’s death (Exodus 1:8, 12).

Why Did God Delay His Promise?

God delayed the possession of Canaan for the following reasons:

1- The Lord wanted to protect the Israelites from the heathen influences of the Canaanites and gather them to a separate location away from pagan corruptions.

2- It would take time for Abraham’s seed to multiply to the point of being able to take over the country of Canaan. And the Land of Goshen in Egypt was the perfect fertile place (Genesis 45:18) where the Israelites can multiply, grow, and flourish in number (Genesis 47:6).

3- The Lord wanted to bless Isreaelites by giving them great possessions: “But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. . . ” (Genesis 15: 14-16). This promise was remarkably fulfilled in the miraculous deliverance of the Hebrews from bondage, and in the immense wealth they carried with them: “And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:36).

4- The Lord waited because “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). There is a fixed degree of iniquity beyond which nations may not go without inviting the judgments of God. The deep moral degeneration to which the Canaanites fell by the time of Moses is exhibited in their mythological literature. They describe their gods as blood-thirsty and cruel beings, killing and deceiving each other, and being immoral beyond imagination. They sacrificed their children, worshiped serpents, and practiced wicked rituals in their temples. The Amorites represented all the inhabitants of Canaan (Joshua 24:15; Judges 6:10; etc.). So, when their cup of inequity was full, the Amorites lost their land as the Lord predicted (Numbers 21:31-32; Joshua 10:10; 11:8).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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