For the first time in Joshua (chapter 16) we meet the Arkites and the Japhletites. Much later, David will have an advisor (who became his spy in Absalom’s court) who is an Arkite named Hushai. In a desperate moment, when Absalom should have struck at his father, Hushai advised Absalom to wait, giving David time to settle and strengthen his forces. We know nothing more of the Japhletites.
A phrase occurs in this chapter we find twice more in the book: “They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor” (see also 15:63; 17:12). If Israel could force them into slavery, why didn’t she drive them out? More to the point, why didn’t she just kill them?
A subtle point is being made here. Israel didn’t want to drive them out OR kill them, but chose rather to make them slaves and keep them, contrary to the command of God. The result was, of course, that Israel, being the newcomers, were dependent on the slaves and dependency always leads to subjection. It certainly did for Israel. Why didn’t Israel lead them to follow the Lord? She didn’t want to do that either. The resultant coexistence led to Israel’s downfall, just as compromise with the world – under the guise of using the world for noble purposes – leads to our own spiritual demise.