One of the last things Moses did before his death was to instruct Israel as to how things were to be done when they came into the Promised Land. The last three chapters of Numbers and the entire book of Deuteronomy detail God’s final instructions to Moses and his delivering them to Israel. These final chapters of Numbers focus on the division of the land among the tribes, while Deuteronomy focuses on how they were to live when they took possession of the land.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan; Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.” (Numbers 33:50-53)
When Israel took possession of the land of Canaan, they were to drive the inhabitants out completely and destroy all their paintings and statues as well and their religious centers to prevent the people from turning to other religions. Forty years before, God had commanded, “Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images,” in Exodus 23:24. Destruction of their places of worship would eliminate the temptation to experiment with the religion.
There is a tendency to begin to worship the picture or statue itself, and in Exodus 20:4-5 God had commanded, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God…” The importance of the command can readily be seen in the Catholic veneration of figures of the Virgin Mary or various saints and of Jesus.
“And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man's inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit.” (Numbers 33:54)
The land was to be assigned to individual families by casting lots, a random process which gives us the root for the word lottery. While the exact process is unknown, it was a process designed to minimize human control, thus giving truly random results.
“But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.” (Numbers 33:55)
Failure to drive out the previous inhabitants would cause distractions for Israel, like a pit of sand getting in one’s eye. There would be constant ethical, moral and religious conflicts, and pressure to lower Israel’s standards, resulting in breaking their covenant or contract with God.
Deuteronomy 7:3-4 commands, “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.” The Separation was for religious differences, not for racial ones.
It is the same principle which Paul states in II Corinthians 6:14-18. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
“Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them.” (Numbers 33:56)
If Israel began to adopt the moral standards or religion of those other peoples, they would suffer the same judgment that had caused God to take their land from them and give it to Israel. Deuteronomy 11:26-28 advises, “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.
An activity always produces the same result. It is the height of stupidity, or as Einstein said, evidence of insanity to expect a different result when you do the same thing. Change in results requires a change in behavior. If we do what others have done, we cannot rightly expect a different outcome, and have only ourselves to blame if we are not satisfied.