According to wikipedia, a snare is a sort of trap that has been used for capturing animals since the beginning of time. They are still used to this day because they are simple, cheap, easy to set and very effective.
I came across this word while I was reading in Exodus about God preparing the way for His people’s taking of the promised land. God says that He will send a spirit ahead of His people to remove the current inhabitants, but also warns that no mercy should be given to the people, their religion, their gods, their customs and practices.
32 “You must make no covenant with them or with their gods. 33 They must not live in your land, lest they make you sin against me, for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
– Exodus 23:32-33
This is a common warning from God. He repeats it in Exodus 34:12 as He is giving the 10 Commandments to Moses, who later conveys this warning to the people in many places including Deuteronomy 7. After Moses, Joshua continues to echo God’s warning, especially in his farewell speech to the Hebrew people where he not only restates the warning, but explains what will happen should they ignore it.
12 “But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, 13 then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.
– Joshua 23:12-13
After this, David went on to reiterate this warning of becoming trapped in many of his Psalms (25, 140, 141) and his son Solomon restated it in Ecclesiastes 7. God warned His people about this issue many, many more times then I have document because He knew it would be a big problem and that, in fact, it would become Israel’s downfall as recounted in Judges.
1 The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”
– Judges 2:1-3
Think about how sad this is – God, Himself, warned the Hebrews not to even have any contact with the people and their evil ways. God knew that this simple contact would lead to relationships and then marriage and children and a merging of practices and customs and then gods. God knew where this would, and did lead.
“How barbaric and racist” some will say, “there it is, another example of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, being out of touch with today’s world.”
It’s important to understand that the problem was not with the people, the problem was with their practices of worshipping other gods – their practices of sinning and living apart from the one true God. Their practices led to barbarism and child sacrifice and sexual sin and drunkenness and fratricide and incest and more.
The same issue exists today, but not for the Hebrews looking for God’s original promised land, but for all Christians looking for God’s new promised land – eternal salvation. Jesus communicated the change and the trap very directly when He warned His disciples about begin caught unaware before the final judgement of God.
34 “Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, 35 like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. 36 Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”
– Luke 21:34-36
This applies to us because we can easily become ensnared by the sin in this world and find ourselves outside of God’s plan for us. Simple snares set by the evil one can cause us to become unaware for a second and before we know it, we are entangled and lost.
“Come, on!” Some will say, “How can a simple slip, a small sin, a little lie, an unchecked fear or worry, or a creeping doubt, cause me to lose my faith?”
Very easily. Remember the very definition of a snare – they are simple, cheap, easy to set and VERY EFFECTIVE. God knew what He was doing when he chose the word snare. He knew it would translate well to the people of that day. He knew it would be a jarring way to remember to stay vigilant.
James, Jesus’ brother, wrote this most sage advice in his epistle.
12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.
– James 1:12-18
Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Jesus and James all knew that the most minor of allowance for sin would open the door for more and ultimately would lead to the removal of God’s help – not help to remove the inhabitants of the original promised land, but help to ensure our entry into His coming promised land.