I’m not really sure what the Israelites’ lifestyle was like during the time they were settling in the land of Canaan, but I imagine it was a little like when I go camping with my family. We like to tent camp, so we are pretty much out in the open spaces of the campground most of the time. There is little privacy and it is difficult not to get in each other’s way or interact with the campers around us because we are all sharing the common areas. Therefore, most everything happens in public including our emotional upsets and the tension that may develop between us.
A couple of years ago, we had a big family blow out on one of our camping trips and it resulted in so much tension that the trip was cut short because we couldn’t deal with the public airing of our dirty laundry so to speak and wanted to go back to the safety of our homes where we had four walls to contain things.
Camping among the inhabitants of Canaan had to be challenging for the Israelites. Their presence was a constant reminder that war was inevitable and their track record of annihilating their enemies left no doubt that they intended to conquer every nation within the territory that God had given them to possess. When it says “the land had rest’ (Judges 3:11, 30), during the interim periods of their engagement in warfare, it means there was a period of time when the atmosphere was peaceful, a time when the people were able to relax and take it easy.
When I was growing up, it seemed like our home was always filled with tension, at least it was when one or more of my parents were there. My mom and dad fought constantly and my dad who was an alcoholic had a tendency toward violence. Aside from the fear that was always present in my life, I had a problem with not being able to relax. I was always on the alert for my dad being triggered or my mom having a bad day at work. There was never any relief, even when I was sleeping. I was often awakened by shouts and screams and witnessed my dad beating up my mom on more than one occasion.
For the past 3 1/2 years, I have been living alone and have begun to enjoy the benefit of being able to relax whenever I am at home. I think the rest that came to the land after conflicts were resolved was God’s way of showing the Israelites what things would have been like if they had obeyed him and driven the occupants of the Promised Land out. The 40 years of rest may have been a type of compensation for the 40 years they spent in the wilderness or it may have been how long it took the Israelites to forget that peace and prosperity are a whole lot better than being unequally yoked to someone that believes a marriage license gives him or her the right to treat you like a sex object.