Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Illustration to Aesop's fable, The Wolf and the Crane. Source unknown
And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.
— Judges 1:28
Joshua sets the scene, and begins the genocidal process of ethnic cleansing. At the start of the book of Judges it seems the story will continue in the same way as Judah and Simeon go on the rampage, wiping out cites and whole tribes, but then the narrative changes. As early as verse twenty-one in the first chapter we learn that the Benjamites did not drive out the Jebusites from their land, but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day. Verse after verse follows describing how the Israeli tribes did not expel the residents from their land but dwelt alongside them, albeit in mostly a master/servant relationship. The downside of this cohabiting (from a purity perspective) is that the Israelites are now open to absorbing the culture of the conquered people, and as God warned through Moses and Joshua to take on the worship of their gods. This of course is exactly what happens, and Judges is the story of repeated straying from God's path, with the judges themselves attempting to bring Israel back to righteousness.
The book of Judges speaks of human weakness, of our tendency to be led by fear rather than faith, and this being especially true when we see rewards on the horizon, when we can raise ourselves up in some way, politically, financially, socially. Covetousness and hubris lead men astray, then and now. Judges reminds us how power corrupts and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is the thread that is woven throughout the books of the Bible, but starts in earnest here. In reading this I find it important not to distance myself too far from the characters and the situations. It may be myth and fiction rather than history, but all the more reason to pay attention. This is our story today, a fable for our times. If we have ears to hear.