I snoozed with my iPhone alarm this morning from about 5:00 until around 5:30. At that point I opened up my YouVersion Bible app and started reading the reading from yesterday (which I fell asleep reading last night) in Joshua 16 & 17. I remembered reading this last night, and came across similar statements a few times this morning:
Whenever the Israelites were strong militarily, they forced the Canaanites to do hard labor, but they never totally conquered them.
What?! Whenever they were at their strongest, they didn’t win?! Instead they made matters worse than not winning. They subjected the lands they conquered to forced labor. What began as a campaign of total annihilation became one of conquest. The difference being, many more people would flee annihilation, resulting in more survivors. Conquest with slavery brings about impurity within the land and a hope for the indigenous people to keep their land somehow.
A footnote sent me over to Judges 1 and the news didn’t get better
Whenever Israel was strong militarily, they forced the Canaanites to do hard labor, but they never totally conquered them.
The list goes on in Judges 1 to describe eight tribes out of twelve that didn’t finish the job! That’s only 66% of the tribes that God brought out of Egypt, fed in the wilderness, brought through the Jordan at flood stage!
I think it’s important that it doesn’t say they forced them to do labor whenever they couldn’t beat them. They forced them to do labor when they were “strong militarily.” The battles began with the people being weak and God being their strength. At Jericho they could have easily taken the city and annihilated it. At Ai they failed and their smugness began to show. God wanted to be their strength. God wanted to be obvious among them. God wanted to be their provider who undeniably gave them the promised-land.
When they turned it into the earned-land and tried to get it by their own means, they failed the most. There were times when they had a strategy that was fine, but whenever they altered God’s original plan, things went really off.
As long as they stayed weak, they kept to the plan. Let God be the boss, fulfill your calling, and watch the promised-land be delivered.