Thanksgiving, Squanto, and the Providence of God
Once again it is the time of year known as Thanksgiving. The time where family and friends gather around food (and football) giving thanks for all of the things that have happened over the course of the year and how God has provided. This activity underscores one attribute of God that is seldom discussed and this is the attribute is known as Providence. This word, when used of God, describes Him as the divine Caretaker who works for the benefit of the creation (c.f., Ps. 145:15-16; Matt. 6:25-34). The ultimate act of Providence God has shown in the sending of His Son to be the Savior of the world (which is associated with a particular holiday after Thanksgiving) however in the event of Thanksgiving Day there is an example of God’s divine Providence to the pilgrims observed in the life of a man named Squanto.
Squanto (whose name may have formerly been Tisquantum) was a Native American of the Patuxet tribe that was located in what is now known as Plymouth Massachusetts. In the year 1605 Squanto was captured as a young boy and carried off into slavery in Europe, and it was at this time Squanto learned the English language. After about nine years Sir Ferdinando Gorges, a military colonist from England, had sent the Native Americans that were in slavery back to New England. However, in the year 1614, Squanto, along with other Native Americans, was captured by Captain Thomas Hunt, a lieutenant under the authority of John Smith (who founded the first English settlement called Jamestown in North America) and brought them back to Europe to be sold as slaves.
After several years Squanto managed to escape from slavery and returned to his native homeland to find most of his tribe was wiped out due to a plague. Over the course of time, Squanto reunited with Sir Ferdinando Gorges once more, and sent Squanto as an interpreter, along with a man named Captain Thomas Dermer up the Northeastern coast to trade with local Native American tribes. One such tribe was the Wampanoags who were very suspicions of Squanto due to his relationship with Captian Thomas Dermer. As a result of their suspicions, they turned Squanto into their leader named Massasoit, where he remained a prisoner of the Wampanoag tribe.
Corresponding with these events a tribe member by the name of Samoset, who spoke poor English, became friends of the pilgrims who had learned about the deaths and famine the pilgrims suffered due to a harsh winter. Samoset seeing their plight had introduced the pilgrims to Massasoit. In March of 1621 after Squanto’s imprisonment, the Wampanoags used Squanto’s English skills to communicate with the small colony of pilgrims the Wampanoags were watching that winter. It was then the pilgrims made a pact with the tribe that they would help the pilgrims survive if they did not kill the Wampanoag tribe that assisted them. After this agreement, Squanto was released from being a prisoner and was used as a guide and an interpreter to the pilgrims.
With the assistance of Squanto, the pilgrims were able to grow crops so that they would help them survive the following winter. In the Fall of 1621, the first Thanksgiving feast was given, which Squanto and ninety Massasoit Native Americans were in attendance. This particular feast lasted three full days and it was to celebrate the successful Fall harvest for the pilgrims.
In the brief historical account, there are several things to observe in Squanto’s life: The sinful actions of man, taking him several times as a slave and imprisonment. However, throughout Squanto’s life we also observe the Providence of God in how he was trained in the English language and became a close friend to a neighboring Native American tribe and the Europeans. These events equipped Squanto to assist and serve the pilgrims in their time of need.
William Bradford had this to say about Squanto working with the pilgrims:
After these thing he returned to his place called Sowams, some 40 miles from this place, but Squanto continued with them and was their interpreter and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation. He directed them how to set their corn, where to take fish, and to procure other commodities, and was also their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit, and never left them till he died.“Excerpts from William Bradford’s Journal.” Retrieved from https://www.quia.com/files/quia/users/terri%20delebo/ALLHONORS10/William_Bradford-OF_PLYMOUTH_PLANTATIONL.pdf. emphasis mine.
Another example of God’s Providence can be found in the sacred Scriptures with the life of Joseph. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers (Gen. 37:18-36). Joseph had great success in Egypt, however, he was falsely accused and thrown in prison (Gen. 39:1-23). While Joseph was in jail he had amassed authority in prison yet he was quickly forgotten about by one of the prisoner he assisted in saving his life (Gen. 40:1-21). It was during these series of circumstances the Lord, who was with Joseph the entire time through his sufferings, became the second in command to Pharoah and was in the position to save the entire known world from a devasting famine, which also included the brothers that betrayed him (Gen. chaps 41-45). When recounting his brother’s betrayal to them Joseph said the following:
5 “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 “For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance . 8 “Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.Genesis 45:5-8 NASB
Squanto, much like Joseph was sold into slavery and treated harshly. Squanto, similar to Joseph enslaved in a distant land having to learn a completely different culture. Squanto similar to Joseph was enslaved by people who he assisted. Squanto became influential to the tribes and the Europeans much like Joseph. Lastly, Squanto was used of God, like Joseph, to save people from perishing. Both Joseph and Squanto were examples of God’s divine providence and care for His creation.
As we gather together around the turkey and trimmings this Thanksgiving Day let us be thankful for God’s Providence that provides us with the food that we will all partake on this specific day. In addition, let us as believers be thankful of the attributes God possesses in Himself, which He uses to benefit and care for His creation, for His glory. Amen.
Until next time…
Soli Deo Gloria!
To read more articles by Dr. Luther Smith go to his website at www.drluthersmith.com
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