Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Forced Assimilation: Native American girls from the Omaha tribe at Carlisle School, Pennsylvania, c1876. (

And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
Judges 3:5-7

I'm torn reading this, as I imagine the Israelites were torn in living it. On the one hand, the invaders have quietened down, and made peace with the residents of the land, taking on their customs, and inter-marrying. Would that the European invaders of the Americas have done the same with the native peoples of those lands, those countries may have had a very different history, and the systemic racism we see today may have been avoided. On the other hand in thus assimilating the Israelites, as the minority, begin to lose their identity, and their own fragile culture disintegrates. This may explain why minority immigrant groups in western countries hold on so tightly to their traditions, their religions, marriage customs, foods and language. Losing these aspects of self is to effectively disappear as a group. Assimilation is a double-edged sword.

The Israelites in assimilating lost not only their own traditions but their faith too. It is not their assimilation, their adopting the customs of the people amongst whom they dwell, which is surely part of peaceful living, dwelling among rather than apart from, but their faithlessness, this turning away from God in the pursuit of short term gain that is their downfall. The chapter continues:

Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushanrishathaim eight years.1

As the Israelites' identity waned they became subject to discrimination: they are among but still different to the Canaanites, and this is reason enough to oppress them, just as the Egyptians had done a century or two earlier. Not despite, but perhaps even because they assumed to be the same as the Canaanites, worshipping the same gods even, that king Chushanrishathaim decides to enslave them. They are rising above their station, taking over. The same reason that Egypt took the same course of action. Of course, as described here the decision to have them enslaved was entirely God's, as punishment for their sin, their lack of faith. Repeatedly, throughout the book of Judges the Israelites lose their faith, suffer the consequences, are redeemed by a God-chosen judge, live some years or decades of peace and then start the whole process again. But overtime there is a downward spiral. Judges is a story of disintegration brought on by assimilation, in turn brought on by the desire to live an easy life, rather than a life of faith and courage.

What shortcuts am I taking today, I wonder, what compromises am I making in pursuit of an easy life—and where will it lead me?

1 Judges 3:8