Following their departure from Egypt, we know the children of Israel spent
40 years wandering in the wilderness prior to entering the Promised Land.
Num 14:33 And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness,
forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity,
until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness.
:34 According to the number of the days in which you
spied out the land, forty days, for each day you
shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years,
and you shall know my rejection.
32:13 So the LORD’s anger was aroused against Israel, and
He made them wander in the wilderness forty years,
until all the generation that had done evil in the
sight of the LORD was gone.
After the forty years the children of Israel with the help of God began
to clear the Promised Land of its inhabitants.
Deut 2:24 Rise, take your journey, and cross over the River
Arnon. Look, I have given into your hand Sihon the
Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to
possess it, and engage him in battle.
:25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of
you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who
shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and
be in anguish because of you.
31:1 Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel.
:3 "The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you;
He will destroy these nations from before you, and
you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses
over before you, just as the LORD has said.
:4 And the LORD will do to them as he did to Sihon and
Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when
He destroyed them.
This clearing of the Promised Land continued until a time was reached when
Scripture introduces the notion of ‘rest’.
Moses envisages this time of ‘rest’ in the book of Deuteronomy. (The land
east of the Jordan had just been cleared of its inhabitants, the tribe
Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh were instructed to have their
men of war assist the other tribes in gaining possession of the Promised
Land west of the Jordan.)
Deut 3:12 And this land, which we possessed at that time,
from Aroer, which is by the River Arnon, and half
the mountains of Gilead and its cities, I gave to
the Reubenites and the Gadites.
:13 The rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, the kingdom of
Og, I gave to half the tribe of Manasseh. ....
:18 And I commanded you at that time, saying: ‘The LORD
your God has given you this land to possess. All
you men of valor shall cross over armed before your
brethren, the children of Israel.
:19 But your wives, your little ones, your livestock
(I know that you have much livestock) shall stay
in your cities which I have given you,
:20 until the LORD has given rest to your brethren as
to you, and they also possess the land which the
LORD your God is giving them beyond the Jordan.
Then each of you may return to his possession which
I have given you.’
Once their brethren had obtained possession of the land west of the Jordan
and had ‘rest’, the men of war from the two and a half tribes would be free
to return to their families on the eastern side.
The point in time when this ‘rest’ was achieved was a milestone event.
Some view the ‘rest’ as having been achieved after only seven years. They
base this view upon the comparison of the following texts from the books
of Joshua and Deuteronomy.
Josh 14:6 Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal.
And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said
to him: "You know the word which the LORD said to
Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh
:7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the
LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land,
and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart.
:9 So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land
where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance
and your children's forever, because you have wholly
followed the LORD my God.’
:10 And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He
said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD
spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the
wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five
:12 Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD
spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the
Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and
fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me,
and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD
:13 And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the
son of Jephunneh as an inheritance.
:15 And the name of Hebron formerly was Kirjath Arba,
for Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.
Then the land had rest from war.
Deut 2:14 And the time we took to come from Kadesh Barnea
until we crossed over the Valley of the Zered was
thirty-eight years, until all the generation of
the men of war was consumed from the midst of the
camp, just as the LORD had sworn to them.
The reasoning is as follows:
Caleb was sent out as a spy, along with 11 others (Num 13:1-33),
from Kadesh Barnea 38 years before the end of the 40 years of
wandering in the wilderness. Some 45 years later Caleb was given
Hebron as his inheritance.
This would mean Caleb was given his inheritance 7 (45-38) years
after the end of the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
Due to verse 15 of Joshua chapter 14 (as quoted above) subsequently
mentioning the land had rest from war, the period of seven years of
warfare is suggested.
At first this line of reasoning seems correct.
However, the notion of the land gaining rest is detailed further in other
Josh 11:21 And at that time Joshua came and cut off the Anakim
from the mountains: from Hebron, from Debir, from
Anab, from all the mountains of Judah, and from all
the mountains of Israel; Joshua utterly destroyed
them with their cities.
:22 None of the Anakim were left in the land of the
children of Israel; they remained only in Gaza, in
Gath, and in Ashdod.
:23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that
the LORD had said to Moses; and Joshua gave it as an
inheritance to Israel according to the their divisions
by their tribes. Then the land rested from war.
In Joshua 14:12 Caleb stated that he trusted the LORD would be with
him in possessing the mountain and driving out its inhabitants. In a
subsequent verse (Josh 14:15) this mountain is titled Hebron and is
said to have been occupied by the Anakim. Joshua 11:21-23 though makes
it clear the Anakim were driven out of Hebron prior to the land gaining
rest from war. Therefore some period of time must have passed after
Caleb was allocated his inheritance and before the land gained ‘rest’.
The 'rest' is discussed further in other verses.
Josh 21:43 So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He
had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took
possession of it and dwelt in it.
:44 The LORD gave them rest all around, according to all
that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of
all their enemies stood against them; the LORD
delivered all their enemies into their hand.
:45 Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD
had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.
22:1 Then Joshua called the Reubenites, the Gadites, and
half the tribe of Manasseh,
:2 and said to them: "You have kept all that Moses the
servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed
my voice in all that I commanded you.
:3 You have not left your brethren these many days, up
to this day, but have kept the charge of the
commandment of the LORD your God.
:4 And now the LORD your God has given rest to your
brethren, as He promised them; now therefore, return
and go to your tents and to the land of your possession,
which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the
other side of the Jordan.
:9 So the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and
half the tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed
from the children of Israel at Shiloh, which is in
the land of Canaan, to go to the country of Gilead,
to the land of their possession, which they possessed
according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
The place where the state of ‘rest’ was announced and from which the two
and a half tribes left to return to their possession was Shiloh! However,
the place in which Joshua had earlier confirmed that the inheritance of
Caleb would be Hebron was not in Shiloh, but Gilgal.
To confirm it took 10 years to suppress the seven nations in Canaan we
have to compare the following two texts.
Acts 7:6 But God spoke in this way: 'that his descendants
would sojourn in a foreign land, and that they would
bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred
:7 And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I
will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall
come out and serve Me in this place’.
Acts 13:16 ... Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God,
(NIV) listen to me!
:17 The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers;
he made the people prosper during their stay in
Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that
:18 he endured their conduct for about forty years in the
:19 he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their
land to his people as their inheritance.
:20 All this took about 450 years.
It should be noted the NIV, NASB and a number of other translations relate
the 450 years to the verses 17-19 as quoted above. However, the King James
versions incorrectly relate this period to the narrative of the balance of
verse 20. (It should be noted that the King James rendering can not be
reconciled with other scriptural information provided, such as 480 years
of 1 Kings 6:1.)
By comparing these verses we can perceive the 400 years mentioned in
Acts 7:6 actually started when God 'chose the fathers', i.e. prior to
Jacob entering Egypt.
The 400 years expired at the time Egypt was punished and the children of
Israel were released from bondage (i.e. the Exodus). Following the Exodus
God caused the descendants of Jacob to wander in the desert for 40 years.
Since we are dealing with an overall total of 450 years in Acts 13:17-20,
we can calculate that it must have taken 10 years to overthrow the seven
nations in Canaan.
450 years - 400 - 40 = 10 years.
We now have confirmation that it did indeed take 10 years before the
previous inhabitants of the land were subdued and the state of ‘rest’
It had taken a total of 50 years to settle Israel in the Promised Land!