In Joshua 3:10 the Bible says that God will drive out the Jebusites, but only a little later it says this: “As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day.” How can both verses be true?


Good question. I can see how we might perceive the failure of the Benjamites and Judah to capture Jerusalem in the book of Joshua as a failure of the promise in Joshua 3:10. In this scripture Joshua told the people that they would know that God was among them when they drove out the Jebusites and other peoples from Canaan. Yet, in Joshua 15:63 we learn that at the end of the early wars of the Jews against the Gentiles in Canaan “Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites who were living in Jerusalem.” Given the editorial comment of the writer of Joshua “to this day the Jebusites live there with the people of Judah” we can conclude that even after Joshua died the Jebusites remained unconquered. I can see how one might perceive this as a failure of a promise of God.

However, you should consider the following. First, God was not giving an unconditional promise in Judges 3:10. It was conditioned on the faithful obedience of the people to God and to their leader Joshua. We know that the people were not entirely faithful and obedient. Achan sinned and kept back the spoils from the city of Jericho (Joshua 7). Despite this, God renewed the promise to (eventually) drive out the non-Jews in Joshua 13:6. “I myself will drive them out before the Israelites.” The fact is that God did fulfill his promises and he was faithful to Israel. Unfortunately, because of the stubbornness and disobedience of the people, the complete victory was delayed for several generations.

Eventually, however, God did fulfill his promise to Abraham and to Joshua. In 2 Sam 5:6 we learn that David was finally able to dislodge the Jebusites from Jerusalem. In fact, by the end of his career, all of the Promised Land had been taken by the Jews and occupied by God’s people. Under Solomon the Israelites occupied territory from Beersheba to near the Euphrates River. God fulfilled his promise to Joshua, but it was not fulfilled during Joshua’s lifetime.

John Oakes

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