For any believer who has ever witnessed to an atheist, there are several classic questions that you are accustomed to being asked. Among these is the question of the love of God. It typically goes like this: “if God is a God of love, why did He ask the Israelites to go and kill all the inhabitants of Canaan?” Why would God give Israel a law that includes a command not to kill and then ask them to literally embark on a genocide rampage? To understand this, we need to know who the inhabitants of the land where, what they did and symbolized, and why God wanted them to die.
The first Biblical mention of the Amorites is in Gen 10:16 as one of the sons of Canaan. Very often, the Bible mentions the Amorites along with the Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Jebusites and the Girgashites. These were all Canaanite tribes that eventually had conflicts with Israel for the land. The Amorites were not originally the most powerful Canaanite tribe, but they increased their territory and wealth through military conflict (Numb 21:25). They were originally mountain dwelling people who later expanded into the plain (Josh 11:3, 24:8). The Amorites became the predominant tribe in Canaan and more significantly, they were the only tribe that extended beyond the Jordan river and the borders of Canaan (Deut 1). It is important to note that the Canaanite nations were already in the land even before Abraham got there, hence the name of the region. However, there was something about them that God hated, and for that reason, He was going to destroy them and give their land to Abraham’s seed.
A lot has been said about the curse of Canaan, however, when this subject is mentioned, people almost always talk about Ham and his other offspring – Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya. It is not very common to hear anyone talk about the surviving Canaanites in today’s world, it is as if they were all destroyed by Israel. When Bible teachers do talk about them, it is almost always in the context of slavery since the assumption is that they were all black skinned. Nowhere in the Bible is that assumption confirmed however. In my opinion, the inhabitants of the Middle East today (the Arabs) are not Canaanites, but the mixed offspring of Ishmael and Edom. That topic however will be the subject of a future discussion.
The Iniquity of the Amorites
But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. – Genesis 15:16
The fifteenth chapter of Genesis tells the story about Abraham’s dream concerning his unborn offspring. God told him about the slavery that his seed would be subjected to and the land that they would return to possess. God indicated to Abraham that that possession would have to be on hold, until the current inhabitants had forfeited their rights to the land via unrighteous living. The passage did not indicate the lifestyle of the inhabitants, but it is safe to assume that Abraham knew what it was since he was living among them in the plain of Mamre (the Amorite).
So what was wrong with these tribes? Deuteronomy 7:5-16 explains why God abhorred them. They were steep in idolatry and hated God. Deut 9:1-6 further explains that the reason the inhabitants of the land are being driven out is because of their wickedness and not because of Israel’s special status. Amos 9:7 makes it clear that God was going to drive out the Canaanites whether Israel was ready or not. He brought the Philistines into Canaan at the same time that He brought in the Israelites. If Israel refused, the Philistines wouldn’t.
In Abraham’s time, idolatry was not the simple ‘harmless’ practice we like to claim it is today. It involved temple prostitution (both male and female), child sacrifices and a lot of ritual murders. The land was full of sexual sins and immorality, incest and adultery. They committed whoredom with all kinds of strangers, the Assyrians, Egyptians, Chaldeans and they brought forth the fruit of Sodomy (Ezek 16:46). They were proud, idle and had no regard for the poor (Ezek 16:49). We get a glimpse of how bad it was in Ezek 16:1-6 where God by the mouth of the prophet described how Jerusalem was polluted in its own blood and spiritually dead. Jerusalem was founded through the union of the Amorites and the Hitites, these were its founding fathers (Ezek 16:1, 45).
When they finally entered the land, the children of Israel failed to kill the inhabitants, consequently adopting the Canaanite practices after intermarrying with them (Judg 3:5-7). This was the reason why God drove out the Canaanites, and it would be the same reason that God would drive Israel out as well.
Due to the extensive racial mixing in today’s world, there is no clear cut distinction between the different gene pools. The average DNA sample analyzed yields a result that lists all the different countries/races that have added their genes to the ancestral pool. There is only one population group that still maintains genetic homogeneity. For this reason, the common argument about the futility of genetic tracing has gained ground. However, every tree is known by its fruits, so wherever we can find the Canaanite fruits, there we will find the Amorite.
Just as the Amorites spread throughout and beyond Canaan in Biblical times, the Amorite spirit and ways are likewise spreading in our times. Sodomy, sexual immorality and adultery have become fashionable in many parts of the world and are rapidly spreading to others. What was once an act of shame has now become a badge of honour. Violence and murder are rarely gruesome to us anymore, we see it all the time on TV and have become de-sensitized to it. Celebrities, and those highly esteemed in our society openly and unashamedly promote witchcraft and satanism. They tell the children that it is all harmless fun and ‘cool’; and that hell and the devil do not exist anyway. They stand in the open places to blaspheme the name of God and to curse the people. They have banished the fear of the creator from their hearts. But the Word of God makes it clear that it is because of the wickedness of the inhabitants that the Lord will drive them out (Deut 1:5).
Why is all this even significant for us? To enter the Promised Land, Israel had to overcome resistance from the Amorites. For spiritual breakthroughs in our life, we must first overcome the temptation to follow the desires and lusts of the Amorites. If we yield to their onslaught (mental or physical), we will never enter into God’s promise for our lives. It is not a coincidence that the media fills our homes with images of all these abominations; it is all designed to draw our attention away from God. If we yield, we are in danger of being defiled and damned forever (Rev 3:4-5). If we overcome, then will the devil flee from us in this life (Jas 4:7) and we will be granted access to the tree of life in the next (Rev 22:14)