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KJV Jeremiah 2 : 7

And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.

It seems one of the chief reason why the Canaanites were removed was their idolatry and unsual sexual behaviour which clearly defiled the land. Its clear from the following texts that the land had aready been defiled by the Canaanites

KJV Genesis 15 : 16

But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

KJV Leviticus 18 : 3

After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.

KJV Deuteronomy 9 : 4

Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.

There is no direct mention of defilement of the land by the Canaanites other than their unlawful behavior mentioned above.

Could it be because Israel was in a covenant relationship with God unlike the Canaanites that they are said to have defiled the land on their entrance.

How can one understand Jeremiah's statement?

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  • The Israelites did not defile the land right after entering it. It happened later. As a matter of fact, the conquest of Canaan served the same purpose as the flood during the days of Noah. Marching around Jericho for seven days, paralleled the ark being open for seven days before God closed its door. Dec 13, 2022 at 22:00

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The answer to this question in Jer 2:7 of how Israel "defiled my land" is actually answered later in the same book and elsewhere:

  • Jer 3:2 - “Lift up your eyes to the barren heights and see. Is there any place where you have not been violated? You sat beside the highways waiting for your lovers, like a nomad in the desert. You have defiled the land with your prostitution and wickedness.
  • Jer 3:9 - And because of the thoughtlessness of her prostitution, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.
  • Jer 16:18 - And I will first repay them double their iniquity and their sin, because they have defiled My land with the carcasses of their detestable idols, and they have filled My inheritance with their abominations.”

Indeed, the land had been defiled by the inhaditants before Israel:

Lev 18:27 - For the men who were in the land before you committed all these abominations, and the land has become defiled.

Defilement of the land is exactly what was predicted in the Torah:

  • Num 18:26-28 - But you are to keep My statutes and ordinances, and you must not commit any of these abominations—neither your native-born nor the foreigner who lives among you. For the men who were in the land before you committed all these abominations, and the land has become defiled. So if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it spewed out the nations before you.
  • Num 35:33, 34 - Do not defile the land where you live, for bloodshed defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land on which the blood is shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell. For I, the LORD, dwell among the Israelites.”
  • Deut 21:23 - you must not leave the body on the tree overnight, but you must be sure to bury him that day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
  • Deut 24:4 - then the husband who divorced her first may not remarry her after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination to the LORD. You must not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

Unfortunately, the subsequent history of Israel in the promised land (see Joshua and Judges) is a litany of failures and great abomination that defiled the promised land. The Israelites proved themselves no better than their predecessors in the land, because they also defiled the land.

The cure for this defiled land (due to the sin of the inhabitants) is clearly stated in Solomon's prayer of dedication at the opening of the temple in Jerusalem:

2 Chron 7:14 - if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.

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The answer is given in Jeremiah 2:11

Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols.

The meaning of heritage (KJV), or inheritance (NIV), or procession (Sefaria) has two folds. It can refer to the holy land as well as to the Israelites.

One confusion might be the translation of the word "entered" in KJV, let's review a few translation of Jeremiah 2:7b

but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination. (KJV)

But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. (NIV)

But you came and defiled My land, You made My possession abhorrent (Sefaria)

The word "entered" made us believe the Israelite defiled the land at time of Joshua. But if we took the meaning of "came", then the Israelite defiled the land when they had settled down, a period from Joshua until Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 2:11 can explain which understanding is more appropriate. It questions how come Israelites changed their God to worthless idols, that obviously was a situation that carryon in times after they settled down.

Therefore the more appropriate understanding of Jeremiah 2:7b is;

  1. The Israelites defiled the Holy land by worshipping the idols
  2. Then made the land as well as themselves detestable

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