“Naphtali did not dispossess those who dwell in the House of Shemesh or those who dwelt in the house of Anath; and they dwelled in the midst of the Canaanites who dwelt in the land. Thus, the House of Shemesh and the House of Anath became forced labor for them. And the Emorites tormented the sons of Dan in the mountainous region, thus they did not give them the ability to come down to the lower plains. And the Emorites were prepared to dwell in the mountains of Cheres, in Ayyalon, and in Sha’albiym, but the hand of the house of Joseph was glorious and they became forced labor. And the border of the Emorites was from ascents of Aqrabiym to the cliffs and above.”
We draw the introductory history to a close…again, this is designed to overlap the end of the book of Joshua and to prepare us for the context of the book of Judges that follows. Chapter 2 will shift from looking backwards to looking forwards and in many ways will summarize Judges as a whole. But for now, we must content ourselves with once again reflecting on the consequences of a partial victory. Indeed, there are benefits that can be gained through the forced labor of the pagan peoples, but largely the presence of the idolatry of the pagans has a devastating effect on the people.
But let us pose the question, what if the people were not inclined to stumble at the paganism of the Canaanites. Instead, what if the evangelistic fervor of the people were such that it was the Canaanites that were converting to Judaism? What a different conversation we might be having. Interestingly, while I am not an advocate of slavery in any form and the American manifestation of slavery that took place several centuries ago is not anything that could be described as good, may I at least offer that many Africans, who had grown up in an Animistic religion, were converted to Christianity. We don’t typically think of forced labor and slavery as being redemptive in any way, but shall we not celebrate the thousands of souls that were saved because of this horrible practice? Might we say with Joseph, that “While you intended it for evil, God intended it for good”?
Surely some of these Canaanites that were put to forced labor converted, but mostly the Canaanite practice influenced the Israelites to fall into sin. How about those influences in your life? Are your non-Christian friends influencing you or are you influencing them? At the end of the day, are they more like you or the other way around? A vital and healthy faith ought to influence others without being influenced by the unbelief of others. Though, much like ancient Israel, that doesn’t much happen in our churches. Were that it would. May we strive for it to be so.