Deuteronomy 20:15
Thus shall you do to all the cities which are very far off from you, which are not of the cities of these nations.
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20:10-12 The Israelites are here directed about the nations on whom they made war. Let this show God's grace in dealing with sinners. He proclaims peace, and beseeches them to be reconciled. Let it also show us our duty in dealing with our brethren. Whoever are for war, we must be for peace. Of the cities given to Israel, none of their inhabitants must be left. Since it could not be expected that they should be cured of their idolatry, they would hurt Israel. These regulations are not the rules of our conduct, but Christ's law of love. The horrors of war must fill the feeling heart with anguish upon every recollection; and are proofs of the wickedness of man, the power of Satan, and the just vengeance of God, who thus scourges a guilty world. But how dreadful their case who are engaged in unequal conflict with their Maker, who will not submit to render him the easy tribute of worship and praise! Certain ruin awaits them. Let neither the number nor the power of the enemies of our souls dismay us; nor let even our own weakness cause us to tremble or to faint. The Lord will save us; but in this war let none engage whose hearts are fond of the world, or afraid of the cross and the conflict. Care is here taken that in besieging cities the fruit-trees should not be destroyed. God is a better friend to man than he is to himself; and God's law consults our interests and comforts; while our own appetites and passions, which we indulge, are enemies to our welfare. Many of the Divine precepts restrain us from destroying that which is for our life and food. The Jews understand this as forbidding all wilful waste upon any account whatsoever. Every creature of God is good; as nothing is to be refused, so nothing is to be abused. We may live to want what we carelessly waste.Directions intended to prevent wanton destruction of life and property in sieges.10-20. When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it—An important principle is here introduced into the war law of Israel regarding the people they fought against and the cities they besieged. With "the cities of those people which God doth give thee" in Canaan, it was to be a war of utter extermination (De 20:17, 18). But when on a just occasion, they went against other nations, they were first to make a proclamation of peace, which if allowed by a surrender, the people would become dependent [De 20:11], and in the relation of tributaries the conquered nations would receive the highest blessings from alliance with the chosen people; they would be brought to the knowledge of Israel's God and of Israel's worship, as well as a participation of Israel's privileges. But if the besieged city refused to capitulate and be taken, a universal massacre was to be made of the males while the women and children were to be preserved and kindly treated (De 20:13, 14). By this means a provision was made for a friendly and useful connection being established between the captors and the captives; and Israel, even through her conquests, would prove a blessing to the nations. No text from Poole on this verse. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee,.... As all such were reckoned that were without the land of Israel, even all in their neighbouring nations, the Moabites, Edomites, Ammonites, Syrians, &c. for the children of Israel never went to war with any very distant nations, unless they came unto them and invaded them; nor did they seek to carry their conquests to any great distance, when the most powerful and victorious, as in the days of David and Solomon:

which are not of the cities of these nations; of these seven nations, as the Targum of Jonathan, the seven nations of the land of Canaan; all that were not of them were accounted foreign cities, and at a distance.

Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these {f} nations.

(f) For God had appointed the Canaanites to be destroyed, and made the Israelites the executers of his will, De 7:1.

15. these nations] near or round Israel.When this was finished, the shoterim were to appoint captains at the head of the people (of war). פּקד, to inspect, to muster, then to give the oversight, to set a person over anything (Numbers 3:10; Numbers 4:27). The meaning "to lead the command" (Schultz) cannot be sustained; and if "captains of the armies" were the subject, and reference were made to the commanders in the war, the article would not be omitted. If the shoterim had to raise men for the war and organize the army, the division of the men into hosts (Zebaoth) and the appointment of the leaders would also form part of the duties of their office.
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