Joshua 13:13 Yet the Israelites did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maacathites; but Geshur and Maacath live within Israel to this day.
The book of Joshua documents the arrival of the Jews to the promised land, after wandering for 40 years in the wilderness following their exodus from Egypt. As they were “driving out” the existing residents from the promised land, God instructed them to kill all the residents. And I do mean ALL the residents – man, woman, child. Young and old alike. In some cases they were told to kill all the animals as well. Everything that breathed they were to put to the sword. It’s brutal to read the book of Joshua and imagine what that must have been like. Frankly, it’s divinely sanctioned genocide.
But why? Why take such a brutal posture with indigenous populations in the region? God did not want the Israelites to adopt their religious practices: worshiping their gods, sacrificing children, and so on. Leaving some alive would give space for the survivors to corrupt the Israelites. The command may be brutal, but it’s also logical. A dead person cannot lead you astray.
This is why our verse for today caught my attention. In the middle of this long section documenting the complete destruction of the indigenous peoples by the Israelites there is v.13: “Yet the Israelites did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maacathites; but Geshur and Maacath live within Israel to this day.”
We’re not told why Joshua (leader of the Israelites) allowed this to happen. In fact, if you’re not paying attention reading this chapter you might miss it altogether. But we know that, years later, the Israelites did adopt some pagan practices and stray from God, which cost them dearly.
I’d like to think the Israelites just got tired of mass slaughter. Perhaps a spirit of compassion fell on them at the time. Yet it’s hard not to see their failure to kill as a mistake in the long run. God’s ways are truly not our ways. Heavenly Father I give you thanks that your love now extends to all peoples in all places through the Lord Jesus Christ. Give us grace to better understand you and your commands. Amen.