The Promised Land was literally the land, or territory, that God promised to give to Abraham (initially named Abram) and his descendants. This promise was repeated to Abraham’s son Isaac and grandson Jacob (who would later be called Israel).
Some 400 years later, the promise was reaffirmed to Moses when he led the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt to return to this area.
Since the Canaanites inhabited the land at that time, it’s sometimes called the land of Canaan or simply Canaan. In addition to the Canaanite territory, the Promised Land also included the area inhabited by the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.
Although God promised this territory, the Israelites still needed to conquer and overcome the people living there, to which they did with varying degrees of success.
The historical area of Canaan is approximately present day Israel.
God gave the Promised Land to the descendants of Abraham, not because they deserved it, but to use them to punish other nations who were wicked. After he gave them the territory, their job was to drive out the other people (thereby punishing them). Though the nation of Israel did this to some extent, their efforts were incomplete. This was to their detriment and God’s dismay.
God also gave them laws to obey. They didn’t do a good job at following through with those either. Had they completely done all God instructed them to do, he would have given them even more territory: this time because they earned it. Sadly they didn’t do their part, so they never received all the land God wanted to give them. The Promised Land could have been bigger, but because of disobedience, the nation missed the full blessing of what God had in mind for them.
I think it’s that way with us sometimes. God wants to give us more, but we don’t do our part to receive it and so we miss out.
After spending 430 years in Egypt, the Israelites were finally freed — and one of the first things they did was complain and ask to go back to Egypt.
Then they spent 40 years in the desert. When they finally crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land, one of the first things they did was become discouraged and pine for the desert.
It is human nature to want to stick with what we know and remain in the familiar. But that is not how we grow and not the way of progress.
God often asks us to do the uncomfortable, to take risks, and do what we would rather not do. But it is when we leave behind what is known that real growth can occur; it is when we are outside our comfort zone, depending on God, that our relationship with him deepens.
Yes, we can remain in our own Egypt or own desert, but staying where we don’t belong is being stuck in something less than God’s best plan for us.
When God says to go, do it — and don’t think about going back.
[Numbers 14:3, Joshua 7:5, 7]
In earlier posts, I noted that after the Israelites left Egypt, they spent 40 years in the desert before entering the land God promised for them. I also observed that Moses waited 40 years before leading them out of Egypt. This makes for an unnecessary delay of 80 years.
However, why were they in Egypt in the first place?
God told Abram (later called Abraham) to “go to the land I will show you,” which he promised to give to Abram’s offspring. Abram went. His son Isaac and grandson Jacob were born there. Jacob had 12 sons. Joseph, his favorite, ended up in Egypt in a position of power. When a severe famine hit the entire region, Joseph invited his whole family to Egypt, where he had stockpiled plenty of food.
The famine lasted seven years. After which you would think that Jacob’s family would go home. But instead, they stayed in Egypt for 430 years — which God likely did not intend — eventually becoming slaves and suffering greatly. This all could have been avoided had Jacob remembered God’s promise to Abraham and returned to the place God intended them to be.
Instead, they spent 430 years as slaves in Egypt, when they could have been in the Promised Land the whole time.
[Genesis 12:1, 7, Joshua 24:4, Exodus 12:40]
The Israelites left Egypt for what should have been an eleven-day trek across the desert to the “promised land.” However, because of their disobedience, God gave them a 40-year timeout in the desert.
This, however, may not have been the first delay. Prior to that, Moses sensed that his place was to rescue his people, but when initial opposition occurred to his leadership, he high-tailed it out of there, only to spend 40 years hiding in the desert. Imagine that. Moses spent a total of 80 years of his life in the desert.
Now Moses’ initial 40-year desert retreat could have been a needed time of preparation, but I think not. God could have worked through him at any time — then or later. I think Moses shirked his initial call. He needed 40 years of alone time, tending to his sheep, before he would be ready to hear God and obey.
So, had Moses not procrastinated for 40 years and had the people of Israel not been disobedient, earning another 40-year delay, they could have arrived in the land God promised them 80 years sooner.
[Numbers 14:33, Acts 7:30]