Chapter 1- The tribes of Judah and Simeon slaughter a whole bunch of people. The story of Caleb trading his daughter in exchange for someone to help defeat a city is repeated. The other tribes have trouble ousting the locals.
Well, this book is off to a gruesome start. When do I get to the God-is-love bit of the Bible?
“Then Adoni-Bezek fled, and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes.” (6) Seriously. That’s the charming kind of thing God’s people are up to already, and we’re only in the first chapter.
Verse 19, “So the Lord was with Judah. And they drove out the mountaineers, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland because they had chariots of iron.” That’s curious. The Lord was with them, but didn’t follow through on His promise to drive out the natives? God was defeated by chariots of iron?
The tribes of Benjamin, Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali and Dan have similar problems. Although in these cases, it’s a little more ambiguous as to whether God didn’t help, or the Israelites didn’t try. Except for the poor tribe of Dan: “And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountains, for they would not allow them to come down to the valley; and the Amorites were determined to dwell in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim…” (34,35) You mean to tell me that God promised this land to the Israelites, promised to defeat their enemies, and then let the locals drive the Dannites out of their land? Really?
Also, I’m not sure why the story of Caleb and his daughter is repeated here. It’s exactly word-for-word as it was recorded in the book of Joshua. Editing error? Or was it just really important for us to know that God is cool with people trading their daughters in exchange for war-making?
Chapter 2- The angel of the Lord tells Joshua that the local people who were not defeated will be a thorn in the Israelite’s side. Joshua dies. The Israelites begin worshiping Baal and Ashtoreth. God gets mad and starts punishing them. God establishes judges to help guide the people, but the people don’t heed them. God takes credit for leaving the natives in place as a “test” to see if the Israelites would stay faithful.
Didn’t Joshua already die…like, at the end of the book named after him? What’s with the repetition between books?
It’s abundantly clear in this chapter that those natives who were not driven out got to stay behind as part of God’s plan. The angel of the Lord said “I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side and their gods shall be a snare to you.” (3) God Himself said, “I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether or not they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.” (21,22) ‘Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.’ (23)
Let me see if I have this straight. The omniscient, all-knowing, mind-reading God of the Old Testament knows these people are going to be weak and will succumb to other gods, so He leaves the foreign people in place as a test? Why was the test necessary? Remember what I said about God as an abusive boyfriend? Yeah….
If you know something is going to be a “stumbling block” to people you love, and you truly want them to succeed, you do what you can take the temptation away from them! Like if your significant other is on a diet, you don’t bake a giant German chocolate cake. That would be a serious dick move on your part. I think God gets off on punishing people. He is setting them up for failure so He can enjoy beating them down.
“And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Where they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed.” (14, 15)
To His credit, He does establish judges to help guide the people, but the people don’t listen (as I’m sure He foresaw that they wouldn’t). I imagine it akin to putting a band-aid over a gaping knife wound, where God knew the knife was there, left it in place, and nudged the people towards it.
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that God’s declaration that He is leaving the natives as a “test” comes in verses 21-23, which is after the punishment began in verse 14. He already damn well knew what would happen, but He kept testing them anyway.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -Albert Einstein