7 These are the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir (their lands Joshua gave as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel according to their tribal divisions- 8 the hill country, the western foothills, the Arabah, the mountain slopes, the desert and the Negev—the lands of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites):
9 the king of Jericho one
the king of Ai (near Bethel) one
10 the king of Jerusalem one
the king of Hebron one
11 the king of Jarmuth one
the king of Lachish one
12 the king of Eglon one
the king of Gezer one
13 the king of Debir one
the king of Geder one
14 the king of Hormah one
the king of Arad one
15 the king of Libnah one
the king of Adullam one
16 the king of Makkedah one
the king of Bethel one
17 the king of Tappuah one
the king of Hepher one
18 the king of Aphek one
the king of Lasharon one
19 the king of Madon one
the king of Hazor one
20 the king of Shimron Meron one
the king of Acshaph one
21 the king of Taanach one
the king of Megiddo one
22 the king of Kedesh one
the king of Jokneam in Carmel one
23 the king of Dor (in Naphoth Dor ) one
the king of Goyim in Gilgal one
24 the king of Tirzah one
thirty-one kings in all.
Here we find a list of kings and nations that were defeated by Joshua and the Israelites. Now, surprisingly, there is something rather significant about this list. These kings and nations listed here were conquered for one of two reasons. First, some of them were from far away cities that did not want to make a peace treaty with Israel and so they were defeated in battle. The Israelites weren’t on some kind of rampage, destroying everything possible because we read in Deuteronomy, God tells the Israelites to send envoys to the nations that are far off so that a peace treaty could be agreed upon. This is what happens with the Gibeonites – the Israelites thought they were a far off people, and so made a treaty with them to become allies!
But all the other kings listed here were from nations that directly surrounded Israel’s territory. In Exodus and Deuteronomy, God commands Israel to conquer these nations specifically because their wickedness and false religion would become a dangerous stumbling block to God’s chosen people. And this is indeed what happens, that Israel is constantly ensnared by the terrible norms of surrounding cultures. You can see this kind of zero-tolerance God has with idolatry and sin, that entire cities have to be conquered in order to safeguard the people of God from immorality.
Now, this may seem extreme, and one of those, “man, the OT is so harsh!” moments. but remember what Jesus teaches us on the sermon on the mount about sin:
Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.
Jesus’ teaching is the same as what we see in Joshua, but focused on the individual rather than community. The fact is that God has not changed at all in this regard, that he cannot tolerate the presence of sin because he is just so holy – he was in the OT, he was in the NT, and he is now…The problem is that we have changed. We have transformed God into a not-so-holy ordinary guy, and that’s why we’re so shocked when we read about his holy wrath. It is not God who suddenly lightened up in the NT, but it is we who have increased our tolerance for the sin around us. Instead of being scandalized by the God we see in Joshua…maybe we should be more scandalized by the people we have become.
1. In what ways do you see yourself becoming more like the world around you?
2. What precautions do you take to make sure that your identity as a Christ follower remains strong?
3. What do you think are the major ways in which you are most influenced by the world?