But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. (Genesis 15:16)
After calling Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, God promised to give the land of the Amorites (Canaan) to his descendants. Abraham asked for assurance which God gave by devouring Abraham’s sacrifice in a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp (Genesis 15:8-17). The Lord explained that the growing nation of Israel would prosper for 400 years, though in cruel bondage in Egypt (Genesis 15:13-15). God promised to also judge and punish Egypt for her cruelty to Abraham’s seed. (Genesis 15:14; Proverbs 14:31,32).
Everything belongs to God, even animals and land on which men dwell. (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 50:10-12). The land of God’s promise to Abraham’s descendants was occupied by seven nations who would be destroyed for their hateful iniquity. (Deuteronomy 7:1-10; Acts 13:17-19). By metonymy the Amorites are put for those seven nations in Genesis 15:16. The sins of the Amorites had not yet become so great that God would destroy them from off His land. The Lord’s longsuffering and unwillingness to destroy the righteous with the wicked (Genesis 18:23) allowed these nations to continue to exist for a few more centuries. In Abraham’s lifetime God would judge other wicked people such as those of the cities of the plain (Genesis 18:16-23; 19:24,25). Lot’s family was warned to flee Sodom lest they be consumed in the iniquity of the city (Genesis 19:15). Every nation will answer to God who also grants it power to exist. There is no power but of God (John 19:11; Romans 13:1).
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. The king’s favor is toward a wise ser vant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame (Proverbs 14:34-35).
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God (Psalm 9:17).
Some have questioned how a good God could order the nations of Canaan to be destroyed and the land given to Israel. The answer is that wickedness had become so entrenched in them, that God’s mercy and longsuffering had been expended. He executed judgment upon them. Israel was only given the land on this condition. God is a merciful, longsuffering Savior, but one day He will also be judge, jury, and executioner of unrepentant sinners.
The point at which iniquity so saturates a nation that God judges and destroys it is determined in the longsuffering but just heart of God. He is the judge of all (Hebrews 12:23), including nations (Psalms 67:4; 82:8).
Once in the days of Noah, God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. After much striving with man to repent, He destroyed the world with a flood (Genesis 6:5-8; 1 Peter 3:19-21). After the flood, Noah and his family were given the earth to populate and possess. He was not unrighteous to give Noah’s faithful family what He had taken from Adam’s unfaithful sons. The wicked and slothful one-talent-man had his talent taken and given to another (Matthew 25:28). The fleshly nation of Israel had God’s name taken away and His name given to righteous men of the nations (Isaiah 65:15; Acts 11:26). Many examples of this just judgment of God are found throughout the Scriptures.
Are you living faithfully before God? Are you contributing righteousness that calls and (for a time) grants sinners time to repent and turn to God? Sin matters. Immorality or iniquity in society matter also. When iniquity is full, God is just in His judgment and we can be assured His mercy has been sufficiently applied. Are you living to fill up the cup of wrath or helping family, friends and your world drink of the Lord’s mercy? HJS