It was a growing problem. The Lord told the Israelites to completely drive out the peoples of the land. But for some of the tribes, when the people weren’t easily defeated, they kind of gave up after awhile and relented:
For the Reubenites and Gadites:
“but the Israelites did not drive out the Geshurites and Maacathites. So Geshur and Maacath live in Israel to this day” (Jos 13:13)
“But the descendants of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem. So the Jebusites live in Jerusalem among the descendants of Judah to this day” (Jos 15:63)
“But they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer. So the Canaanites live in Ephraim to this day, but they are forced laborers” (Jos 16:10)
“The descendants of Manasseh could not possess these cities, because the Canaanites were determined to stay in this land. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they imposed forced labor on the Canaanites but did not drive them out completely” (Jos 17:13).
Of course there were excuses as to why they didn’t drive out the land. For Ephraim and Manasseh, the descendent of Jospeh, they only saw the iron chariots of the Canaanites.
“…the Canaanites who inhabit the valley area have iron chariots, bot at Beth-shean with its towns and in the Jezreel Valley” (Jos 17:16).
Joshua’s response was this:
“You have many people and great strength…you can also drive out the Canaanites, even though they have iron chariots and are strong” (Jos 17:17-18).
When the Canaanites wouldn’t move easily, the tribe of Ephraim compromised. They made them forced laborers.
Manasseh did the same thing with the Canaanites. Their excuse was “the Canaanites were determined to say in this land” (Jos 17:12-13) as in, ‘they are not easy to drive out.’
Fro the tribe of the Reubenites and Gadites, they were unable to drive out the Geshurites and Maacathites. While we don’t have their excuse for sure, but archaeology of Bethsaida, the capitol of Geshur, is massively fortified. It wasn’t going to go down easily.
And for Judah being able to drive out the Jebusites, the challenge was that they lived in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was built on a hill with cliffs surrounding it, making it difficult to conquer. And Judah didn’t.
But is this what God said?
But Didn’t You Say, Lord….
This is what the Scripture says, right there in black and white:
“This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites” (Joshua 3:10).
(The Scriptures highlighted in blue are the ones that they were “unable to drive out.”)
Doesn’t this say, “he will certainly drive out before you” these peoples? And if so, why didn’t he?
Sometimes when the Lord says he will do something, we are tempted to not do our part or only do our part half-heartedly, stopping when things get hard. But just because the Lord says He will help us does not mean we do nothing.
And this was his modus operandi. When they went into battle, he helped them gain victory through sending hail, through the walls of Jericho collapsing, and generally giving them strategy that allowed places like even Lachish to fall in two days.
“One of you routed a thousand because the LORD your Gd was fighting for you, as He promised” (Jos 23:7).
So indeed, the Lord was helping. But He wasn’t doing everything for them. Instead, he was putting a strong wind at their backs and going before them for their success.
The Lord said he would drive out the Canaanites before them. But when they saw the iron chariots of the Canaanites, they became intimidated. But Joshua told them plainly, you are a great nation and you can drive them out (Jos 17:17-18).
And he expected them to not stop just because it was hard. But rather to continue, with the help of the Lord, to drive them out:
“The Lord your God himself will push them out for your sake. He will drive them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the Lord your God promised you” (Jos 23:5).
But if they stopped fighting, if they stopped in the process of obeying the full measure of the Lord, there would definitely be trouble.
“But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.” (Jos 23:12-13).
The full obedience was to “drive out the nations” before them (3:10; 13:6). If it became difficult, they were not to stop but to obey the Lord fully. Unfortunately this did not happen. There’s more to be said of this.
But for now, it’s important that when the Lord says He will do something for us, it doesn’t mean we don’t do our part. It doesn’t mean we sit and do things half-way, and get upset when it doesn’t turn out as planned. Just because the Lord is with us doesn’t mean things will be easy. Or quick. But He will help us if we do not give up.
Let’s not give up to our dying breath the full obedience to the Lord.