Troublesome Topic: Entering the Promise Land Required Obedience and Trust

Lesson 2 of 4

After their 40 years of wandering in the desert, and after the death of Moses, the children of Israel finally made it into the land God had promised them.

The land that was promised to Abraham extended from the Euphrates to the River of Egypt (Gen. 15:18-21).

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God told them He would not give them the entire land all at once for their population was not great enough to occupy all of it from the beginning. Thus, it would require more than one generation of faithfulness to God’s commands. It would require instilling in future generations the right attitudes toward God and life. Sadly, many of them failed at this and quickly turned to other gods. Despite their idolatry, it appears that God allowed David to come somewhat close to controlling all of the promised land, and the extent of Solomon’s control was even closer, reaching to part of the Euphrates. But Israel’s hold on the northernmost areas was short-lived.

Here’s a helpful map from

Numerous times the Bible indicates that this land was being given to them; it was God’s strength that would make it happen, not their own. Observe the way God’s word describes their entrance into that land:

the land which the YHVH (read Adonai) your ELOHIM gives you (Deut. 5:16)

the land where you are crossing over to possess (Deut. 6:1)

when the YHVH (read Adonai)  your ELOHIM brings you into the land he swore to your forefathers to give you, (Deut. 6:10)

go in and take possession of the land which the YHVH (read Adonai) swore to your forefathers (Deut. 8:1).

The word “conquer” is seldom used of their taking of the land. The emphasis of the biblical narrative is clear that it was God’s strength that was granting them possession of this promised land. It is troubling that editors and publishers of the Bibles we buy have so freely inserted section titles with the word “conquest” included. Such titles clearly go against the intent of the text and the predominating terminology of those passages. But it is not only the editors of the Bibles; college professors, authors of books on the Old Testament, preachers, and author of curricula for children almost universally use the word “conquest/conquer.” However, possessing or taking something that almighty God was giving them is quite distinct from conquering it. The first relies on God’s strength; the second is based on human strength.

The reason this terminology is important is that it speaks to the issue of dependence. God had brought them through the desert (the symbol of death) in order to teach them to depend on Him. He wanted them to keep depending on Him when they attained an easier life. I encourage you to stop using the word “conquest” for this context and find a way to describe it that coincides with the Bible’s emphasis.

There is a principle here that applies to the daily life of Jesus-followers. Whenever we feel led by God to take on a big challenge or pursue a big dream, it will be accomplished through a combination of trust and action, faith and risk. It should never be us by ourselves, but neither is God going to do it all for us. The Christian life was not designed as a spectator sport. In order for Him to work through us, we need to be willing to spend ourselves and even suffer hardship. In fact, God often waits until we act before He begins to do His part.

However, we can also learn something from the fact that God did not give the Israelites all the land all at once. God knows our limitations and our weaknesses. He will not call us to something that would overextend us beyond what He wants.

Our job is to trust and obey!

The next lesson in all three series on Covenants is God’s Covenant Was Expanded with David



Was the “river of Egypt” the great Nile River, or was it the Wadi found at the Easternmost border of Egypt? In Gen 15:18 it is called a river, but the word can also refer to a small stream. The name Egypt does not appear in the list of nations (Gen 15:19-21) the Israelites would displace. From that list of nations we can deduce that it was not the Nile, but the small stream on the Eastern edge of Egypt.