“Manasseh did not drive out the House of Shean and its villages, or Taanak and its villages, or those who dwell in Dor and its villages or those who dwell in Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the intention of the Canaanites was to dwell in that land. When it came to pass that Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor but they did not disposes them entirely.”
And now one after the other, we find regions that did not entirely fall to the Israelites. The phrase that we find repeatedly, such and such a city “and its villages” literally reads, “and its daughters.” This is a figure of speech that reminds us that in the ancient times you would find that once a city was established, smaller villages would spring up around the main city. This provided both trade and protection for those living outside of the city walls — thus these villages could almost be seen as daughters of the main city.
Two things strike me as interesting as we enter into this string of partial victories. The first is that we often take for granted that the Canaanites would just be pushed out of the land. Yet these tribes and villages had been there for generations…many of them even before Abraham arrived in that region. As a result, they intended to fight for their land. God had given Israel the land, indeed, but they would need to take it from those who dwelt there and they would have to take it by force.
The second thing that strikes me about this passage is that the author points forward to the time when Israel would be established in the land and they would put these Canaanites to forced labor. Not only were the Canaanites unwilling to leave as the Israelites moved in their direction, the Canaanites were unwilling to leave even if it meant becoming slaves in the land that they still considered their own.
Somewhere we need to make the decision as to where the line is drawn when it comes to the land. In our more modern day, we celebrate the Pilgrims who traveled to America for religious freedom. Yet, the fact that they came here means that they left behind their land in the Old World to find new land here. For many of these Pilgrims, their faith meant not only were they persecuted in England, but had they stayed, they would have in essence become a servant to those around them (at least in religious matters). For many of them, that meant leaving for the hardships of the new world was the only reasonable option.
Here in modern America, though, I wonder sometimes whether there will come a time when we will have to make that decision ourselves. As America grows increasingly liberal and paganistic, to we remain and continue to be salt and light or do we immigrate to a place, perhaps like Africa, where we will be able to worship more freely? My prayer is that we don’t come to the point where we will have to make such a decision, the question we must ask ourselves, though, is when such a decision needs to be made and at what point do we act upon it. Again, let us pray that this is not a decision we will be forced to make.