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Allow Me to Explain (27 of 439) – Friend or Foe?

July 30, 2011

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27. How should the Ammonites be treated? Deut 2:19, 2:37 vs. Judges 11:32, Jeremiah 49:2

God is not a static character.

Deuteronomy 2:19
And when you come near the people of Ammon, do not harass them or meddle with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the descendants of Lot as a possession.

Deuteronomy 2:37
Only you did not go near the land of the people of Ammon—anywhere along the River Jabbok, or to the cities of the mountains, or wherever the Lord our God had forbidden us.

Judges 11:32
So Jephthah advanced toward the people of Ammon to fight against them, and the Lord delivered them into his hands.

Jeremiah 49:2
Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will cause to be heard an alarm of war
In Rabbah of the Ammonites;
It shall be a desolate mound,
And her villages shall be burned with fire.
Then Israel shall take possession of his inheritance,” says the Lord.

Deuteronomy was written by Moses, and in these passages, Moses is recounting their exodus. Judges was much later, and Jeremiah – later still – is prophesying about the future.

When people change, opinions about them change. When people commit crimes, the law treats them differently.

In Deuteronomy, the Ammonites have no business with Israel, and Israel has no business with them. God was leading His people through the desert to the land He had in mind for them, and He didn’t want them waging war unnecessarily. Ammon was not deserving of judgment, and they weren’t in Israel’s land, so the Lord told them to walk on.

By Judges, the story has changed. Rewind to the beginning of Judges 11, and we read, in verse 4:

It came to pass after a time that the people of Ammon made war against Israel.

This is different, obviously. The Ammonites are no longer by-standers. They’re waging war. God has a serious interest in Israel: He’s going to use them to save the world. He defends them.

Jeremiah, by chapter 49, is in the midst of prophesying judgement on Israel’s enemies. He’s been through Egypt and Moab too, and not arbitrarily. These are nations who have set themselves against God’s people. Judgment is coming. Not because God is unjust or double-minded, just the opposite. The previous verse in Jeremiah 49 says,

Against the Ammonites. Thus says the Lord: “Has Israel no sons? Has he no heir? Why then does Milcom inherit Gad, And his people dwell in its cities?

Since the exodus God has said that land is for the descendants of Lot. The Ammonites were evicted, they resisted, they will be removed.

Yes, the Ammonites are treated differently as God’s story progresses, but only because they act differently. The Lord is not bipolar, but He is just.

And He’s just toward us as well. If I am living in peace with Him and His plan one day, and in rebellion the next – His treatment of me will change. The love of Christ will not change, but the justice of God requires a different response.

None of us would want it any other way. We want justice for the man who lives well until the day he commits a violent crime. The other side of the coin is that we want to know that when we come to God, He is faithful to forgive us. It goes both ways. His justice is perfect.

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