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©Laura Haverkamp

Chapter 2:26-37 (ESV)

Posted on January 30, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 2:26-37 (ESV) - “So I sent messengers from the wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon the king of Heshbon, with words of peace, saying, ‘Let me pass through your land. I will go only by the road; I will turn aside neither to the right nor to the left. You shall sell me food for money, that I may eat, and give me water for money, that I may drink. Only let me pass through on foot, as the sons of Esau who live in Seir and the Moabites who live in Ar did for me, until I go over the Jordan into the land that the Lord our God is giving to us.’ But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as he is this day. And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to take possession, that you may occupy his land.’ Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Jahaz. And the Lord our God gave him over to us, and we defeated him and his sons and all his people. And we captured all his cities at that time and devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors. Only the livestock we took as spoil for ourselves, with the plunder of the cities that we captured. From Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and from the city that is in the valley, as far as Gilead, there was not a city too high for us. The Lord our God gave all into our hands. Only to the land of the sons of Ammon you did not draw near, that is, to all the banks of the river Jabbok and the cities of the hill country, whatever the Lord our God had forbidden us.

Question to consider: How many years did God give the Amorites to repent?

This is one of those passages that horrifies readers of the Old Testament because Moses spoke of God hardening the heart of king Sihon of Heshbon of the Amorites, and the Israelites destroying all of the cities in that region including men, women, and children. Part of the horror comes from living two thousand years into the kingdom of Christ where the church has been God’s harvesters and not His sword. We are used to going into a foreign land and planting gospel seeds and harvesting the righteousness of Christ.

Another thing that contributes to the horror factor is that we have this errant view of cultures who have not yet been reached with the gospel as being somehow innocent before God because of their ignorance of sin. We especially think this way in regard to women and children. However, if God decided to wield the sword of Israel against a people, it was because their time of judgment had come.

As I frequently write, God is just, and justice is satisfied with two measures: judgment and mercy. God’s mercy is perfect, not infinite. At some point, justice must be satisfied. If mercy is rejected, then judgment is decreed. The Amorites received God’s mercy for many years leading up to this moment. He originally called Israel to judge the Amorites 38 years before this, but they refused until their weak attempt to do so in their own strength. At that point, Moses said, “And for many days we traveled around Mount Seir.” This seems like the understatement of the century given that “many days” was actually 38 years, but during that time, the Amorites did not repent despite the fact that God “put the dread and fear of [Israel] on the peoples who are under the whole heaven.”

Yesterday, I mentioned God’s mercy in the book of Jonah. When Jonah proclaimed God’s judgment would occur in 40 days on the Ninnevites, they repented in sackcloth and ashes. God gave the Amorites 40 years, and they still did not repent. We are not given their list of sins because God is not seeking our approval on what He can and cannot judge.

We have been given the revelation of God’s mercy through the finished work of Christ on the cross. Knowing God’s overwhelming grace, it is right to assume that the Amorites deserved the judgment that came upon them.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for giving us a desire to see people receive Your mercy. Help us to tell others of Your holiness as well as of Your love and grace. Help us to use Your Law such that the Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin, judgment and righteousness. Unlike king Sihon, we ask that You allow hearts to be softened to this message. Amen.