Today’s scripture chronicles Joshua’s campaign through southern Judah once the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land. You will recall God commanded them to seize the land and to annihilate the people who lived there. Many modern-day Christians find these chapters problematic, struggling mightily with the idea God would call down complete genocide of the inhabitants.
Joshua sweeps from region to region conquering all he encounters. I was originally confused about it all because I envisioned these regions as a kingdoms, since the text indicates each was presided by a king. On further investigation, I learned each of these locations (Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon and Debir) is a city in the province of Judah. And once I had that fixed in my mind, I realized Joshua’s military campaign is similar to the chronicles of other military campaigns through the ages.
What lingers, though, is the discomforting thought that God would call for the complete annihilation of the indigenous people. However, in my morning reflection time today, I came to a merging of concepts. Please bear with me.
My sister-in-law fought a valiant battle some years ago and pummeled breast cancer into submission. Needless to say, rejoicing abounded. Her treatment included radiation to kill cancerous cells, surgery to remove the known infected areas, and extensive chemotherapy to purge other pockets that might be “hanging about.” This was a full frontal assault. Why the three-pronged assault on her body? Obviously, it was to completely eradicate the cancerous cells from every nook and cranny lest they gain new strength and rise up and re-infect her body.
In the recent weeks, however, she was informed the cancer has returned, this time in her skeletal structure. Her new scans reveal some areas where cancer cells previously resided of which they were unaware until reading these new scans.
It occurred to me in the merging of concepts that God’s intention was for Joshua to completely eradicate the residents in these Canaanite communities because God knew that if they weren’t eradicated – even the isolated pockets – the Israelites would bear the risk of them rising up and infecting the Israelite nation with their idolatry. God instructed Joshua to completely purge the area of those pockets where the people worshiped false gods and bowed before idols.
It goes without saying God was proven correct (of course he was). The Israelites failed to eliminate all of the idol worshipping residents and this was the downfall of Solomon and the Davidic reign. Solomon married women from these communities who worshipped Ashtoreth, Milcom and Chemosh. He even provided worship spaces for them (1Kings 11:1-10).
When battling cancer, it is not sufficient to merely purge the known infected areas. To the extent possible, oncologists fight to eradicate cancer cells from the entire body wherever they might reside. Would you expect any less from a loving God who identified a threat to his people and his kingdom on earth?
Ever in search of illumination,