God is nothing if not a record keeper. God told Moses when they set out on their journey from Egypt to keep a record of everywhere they went. So from the very day the left Egypt as the people were burying their dead, he records every place by name. There are 41 place overall, which means all million plus people moved approximately once a year. You think God was giving them a message? Look what happens when you rebel against me; you will wander pretty much aimlessly and be kept from which you were promised.
Finally they end up on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. They’re ready to finally take possession of the land. He commands them to drive out all the inhabitants of Canaan, with an emphasis on all, including all their idols, images and places of worship. This drive to take the land is fundamentally a religious issue, it’s God or idols, there is no in between. Verse 53 is interesting:
Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess.
Notice that even though God has given them the land, they cannot just waltz in a settle down. They have to take possession, which won’t obviously be easy because they have to expel the current inhabitants. To take possession of whatever it is that God has given will always take effort in a fallen world. The idols and forces of evil need to be driven out, and they won’t go easily. There is no such thing as float downstream Christianity.
In the last couple verse God gives them a chilling warning:
55 “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”
Of course we know they don’t, and that he does. This tendency to go after false idols (a redundancy to be sure) is a theme throughout Israel’s history, and ours. It is the battle of human nature. Whether in time or eternity, if we pursue idols it never ends well.