In Deuteronomy 2 Moses talks about Isreal’s relatives in Canaan (Edom, Moab, Ammon) and the giants they faced to get their land. In this chapter, Moses reveals two things. First, they have no reason to fear the giants dwelling among the Canaanites because these are only a remnant of the Rephaites (giants), the rest of them previously defeated by Israel’s relatives. Second that the promised land is a specific section of geography that God will give to the Israelites, and they should attempt to take land from their relatives unless God hands it over because that is their allotment.
Lesson number one, no reason to fear the giants:
It was the fear of the Rephaites (giants) that prevented them from entering the promised land for 40 years (Num 14:26-45). There are the Aankites in Canaan that the Israelites were supposed to face. Then there are the Emites that were defeated by the Moabites, and the Zamzummites who were defeated by the Ammonites. There is also a mention of the Horites driven out by Edomites (Esau) but it doesn’t appear they were giants. God wanted all of those giants in Canaan defeated, and used relatives of Abraham to do it.
Israel comes to the region after the Exodus from Egypt to take the promised land and they would have needed to purge the land of Canaanites that included the giants. Maybe this contributed to why God was annoyed with the negative report of the 10 scouts in Numbers 13 – 14, who said God is not with Israel and that the giants were too powerful. I think the point being made here is that if God can use Gentile nations who are simply related to Abraham to get rid of giants, imagine what he can do for his chosen people whom he rescued from Egypt and brought through the wilderness. They have nothing to fear because they have the greater blessing because they descend from Isaac (the promised seed) and Jacob (who inherited the blessing from the promised seed).
On the second lesson, the promised land is specifically defined by certain boundaries:
Deut 2:4 (NLT) Give these orders to the people: “You will pass through the country belonging to your relatives the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. The Edomites will feel threatened, so be careful. 5 Do not bother them, for I have given them all the hill country around Mount Seir as their property, and I will not give you even one square foot of their land.
Deut 2:8 “So we bypassed the territory of our relatives, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. We avoided the road through the Arabah Valley that comes up from Elath and Ezion-geber. “Then as we turned north along the desert route through Moab, 9 the Lord warned us, ‘Do not bother the Moabites, the descendants of Lot, or start a war with them. I have given them Ar as their property, and I will not give you any of their land.’”
Deut 2:16 “When all the men of fighting age had died, 17 the Lord said to me, 18 ‘Today you will cross the border of Moab at Ar 19 and enter the land of the Ammonites, the descendants of Lot. But do not bother them or start a war with them. I have given the land of Ammon to them as their property, and I will not give you any of their land.’”
They were not allowed to take the land of the Moabites, Ammonites, or Edomites. These nations are all descendants of or related to Abraham in some way, and so God bless them with their own land allotments based on the Abrahamic covenant. Moab and Ammon are the descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot (Gen 19:30-38). This makes them Isaac’s cousins and therefore Israel’s relatives. Edom (Esau) is Israel’s (Jacob’s) brother (Gen 25:19-26). Though Edom was the firstborn of Isaac (the promised seed of Abraham), Jacob took the birthright (Gen 25:27-34) and the blessing from him (Genesis ch. 27). That means Jacob (later renamed Israel), inherited the mantle of the promised seed and therefore the Israelites are the promised nation. However, Edom being a descendant of Abraham still has a blessing.
Abraham’s sons are Ishmael from Hagar (Genesis ch.16), Isaac from Sarah (Gen 21:1-7), and from his 2nd wife Keturah: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah (Gen 25:1-4).
All of these children become the nations we see in Moses’ era, however, only Isaac was the promised seed because he was born from Sarah the wife of the promise. God said he would bless all of Abraham’s children but on Sarah, a blessing was attached to her because the promise was that his wife Sarah would get pregnant (Genesis ch. 17). Learn more about Isaac as the promised seed here.
Isaac was the father of Jacob (Israel) and Esau (Edom). Ishmael is the father of the Ishmaelites (Gen 25:12-18). Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan. Dedan’s descendants were the Asshurites, Letushites, and Leummites (Gen 25:3). Midian is the father of the Midianites and they were living in Canaan. When Moses became a fugitive after murdering an Egyptian, he fled to Midian and lived there for 40 years (Acts 7:23), and married Zipporah the daughter of the high priest in Midian (Ex 2:11-22). They are also the ones who worked with the Moabites and Ammonites to seduce Israel (Numbers ch. 25, Deut 23:3-6). You can learn more about the Midianites here.
Three Gentile nations drove out Canaanites in the same region, and all of them were related to Abraham. Israel was told to conquer the remaining Canaanites but to leave these three nations alone because God had blessed them with the land they had because they were relatives of Abraham.
The boundaries of the promised land are given in Ex 23:31 and Num 34:1-12:
Exodus 23:31 “And I will fix your boundaries from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the eastern wilderness to the Euphrates River. I will hand over to you the people now living in the land, and you will drive them out ahead of you.
Numbers 31:1Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give these instructions to the Israelites: When you come into the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your special possession, these will be the boundaries. 3 The southern portion of your country will extend from the wilderness of Zin, along the edge of Edom. The southern boundary will begin on the east at the Dead Sea. 4 It will then run south past Scorpion Pass in the direction of Zin. Its southernmost point will be Kadesh-barnea, from which it will go to Hazar-addar, and on to Azmon. 5 From Azmon the boundary will turn toward the Brook of Egypt and end at the Mediterranean Sea. 6 “Your western boundary will be the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. 7 “Your northern boundary will begin at the Mediterranean Sea and run east to Mount Hor, 8 then to Lebo-hamath, and on through Zedad 9 and Ziphron to Hazar-enan. This will be your northern boundary. 10 “The eastern boundary will start at Hazar-enan and run south to Shepham, 11 then down to Riblah on the east side of Ain. From there the boundary will run down along the eastern edge of the Sea of Galilee, 12 and then along the Jordan River to the Dead Sea. These are the boundaries of your land.”
Joshua chapters 13-19 get into the details of how the land was to be divided among the tribes. When discussing the cities of refuge there is a promise of a chance to receive additional land if they keep the commands in Deut 19:8-9. This expansion may play into the curse over Moab and Edom to eventually be defeated by Israel in Num 24:17-19. Later Obadiah in his book proclaims the destruction of Edom because of their harsh treatment of Israel while they are being exiled by Babylon. So this protection over these nations and their allotment is governed by a conditional statement based on their conduct just like Israel’s security in Deut ch. 28. If these nations sinned against Israel while Israel did what was right there was a promise to hand their land over to Israel. Of course, both Israel failed to keep the commands and was exiled to Babylon, so they never had a chance to receive the expansion.
The lesson here is not to give in to fear when God has something we must fight for, we must trust that if he said it is ours then we have a right to it and he will give us favor in getting it. In addition, God did not tell them to just conquer whatever they wanted they had to go where they were assigned. Likewise, we cannot take whatever we want it must be something God promised to us. Furthermore, in Numbers 14:26-45 when God told them they would not enter the land for 40 years because they listen to the doubtful spies, they changed their minds and tried to fight anyway. However, God was not with them because he already made up his mind they would wait 40 years, so they were defeated by the Amalekites and were chased away. From this, we can gather that everything is in God’s timing and if God says no, the answer is NO. If we try to take something after God says wait we will get hurt.