In order for the Israelites to receive their inheritance in the land of Canaan they had to overcome those already living in the area. Although God would be with them, they still had to conquer seven nations greater than they were in order to possess Canaan (Deuteronomy 7:1-2). Below are brief descriptions of some of the nations and peoples living in and around the land of milk and honey at the time of Joshua.
The Ammonites are descended from Ben-ammi, who is Lot's son through his younger daughter (Genesis 19:36-38). Lot is the nephew of the patriarch Abraham. Many times they are mentioned with the Moabites, who are also descended from Lot but through his older daughter.
At one time the western boundary of the tribe ran all the way to the Jordan River and Dead Sea. By the time of Joshua, however, they had lost a substantial part of their land to the Ammorites (Numbers 21:21-25). God commanded the children of Israel, as they traveled toward their inheritance in Canaan, to avoid any conflict with the Ammonites as they passed near their land (Deuteronomy 2:19).
The chief god of the people was the pagan deity Molech, the worship of which required human sacrifices.
Toward the end of King Jehoiakim's rule over Judah (598 B.C.) God sent a confederation made up of Ammonites, Moabites and others to punish the Jews for their sins (2Kings 24:1-4).
The Amorites descended from Canaan (Genesis 10:15-16) and are known to have produced giant people (Deuteronomy 3:11, Amos 2:9). God commanded the Israelites to totally destroy these people in order to fully receive their inheritance in the land (Deuteronomy 20:16).
At the time of Moses, King Sihon and the Amorites lived just east of the Dead Sea and south of the river Jabbok. Sometime before Israel took possession of the land God promised them, they conquered the area previously populated by the Ammonites (Numbers 21:26).
The Israelites, under Moses, destroyed the tribe and took all of their cities which included Heshbon (Numbers 21:21- 26). After their conquest nothing more of note is mentioned about the Amorites in the Bible.
The land of Bashan, at the time of Moses and Joshua, was ruled by King Og. The king was the last of the Rephaim or giants that lived east of the Jordan. He was so big that, conservatively, his bed was 13 1/2 feet long and 6 feet wide (Deuteronomy 3:11)!
After the children of Israel defeated the Amorites they battled Og and his people at Edrei. The king, his sons and all his people were completely destroyed and his land taken and given to some of the tribes of Israel (Numbers 21:32-35; Deuteronomy 3:10, 12; Joshua 13:11-12).
The Edomites were the descendents of Esau, who was called Edom (which means 'red) due to being born with red hair (Genesis 25:21-25). He was the son of the patriarch Issac and twin brother to Jacob (who God renamed Israel). Esau, sometime after Jacob cheated him out of his birthright blessing (Genesis 27), migrated to the area around Mt. Seir (Genesis 36:6-8). God gave this area to Esau to live in (Deuteronomy 2:5).
God commanded the Israelites, as they were approaching the borders of Edom, to not cause any trouble to their distant brother (Deuteronomy 2:1-8). The land of Edom was not to be part of Israel's inheritance from God.
The Moabites, like the Ammonites, are descendants of Lot. His drunken sex with his oldest daughter, after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, produced a son named Moab (Genesis 19:23-25, 30-36).
The children of Moab did not worship the true God. The god of the people was called Chemosh, a pagan deity that required human sacrifices (see 2 Kings 3:27).
As the Israelites approached the land of Moab God told them to not fight with or cause trouble for the people. Israel was not to receive any part of the land of Moab as an inheritance from God (Deuteronomy 2:9).
For information regarding the Hittites near the land of Canaan please see our map Ancient Near East Empires.