But of the cities of these people, which the LORD your God does give you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Deuteronomy 20:16. Thou shalt save alive nothing — No human creature; for the beasts, some few excepted, were given for a prey. This slaughter of all the people is to be understood only in case they did not surrender when summoned, but rejected the conditions of peace when offered them. In which case their condition was worse than that of any other people, whose males only were to be slain, Deuteronomy 20:14.Deuteronomy 7:1-4). The command did not apply to beasts as well as men (compare Joshua 11:11, Joshua 11:14).no seed, i.e. no man, as that word is oft used. Compare Joshua 10:40, with Deu 11:14. For the beasts, some few excepted as being under a special curse, were given them for a prey.
thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth; the reason of this severity was because of their wickedness, the capital crimes and gross abominations they were guilty of, and for which they deserved to die; and on account whereof they were reserved to this destruction, when the measure of their iniquities was full, such as idolatry, incest, witchcraft, soothsaying, necromancy, &c. see Leviticus 18:3.But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)16. But] Heb. rak, introducing an opposite case, see Deuteronomy 10:15.
thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth] Heb. any breath, i.e. human life (Genesis 2:7, 1 Kings 17:17, Isaiah 42:5), cp. the deuteronomic Joshua 10:40; Joshua 11:11; Joshua 11:14. Only in Genesis 7:22 does the phrase cover animals.Verses 16-20. - This was for cities at a distance; it was to be otherwise with the cities of the Canaanites. To them no offer of peaceful submission was to be made, and when the city was taken, all the inhabitants without reserve were to be destroyed. This was in accordance with God's command to Israel (Exodus 23:31-33; Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-3), and as a precaution against the risk of the people being seduced into idolatry by the heathen should they be allowed to remain in the land. But whilst engaged in besieging a town, they were not to destroy the fruit trees that were outside the walls; but trees that were not for food they might cut down and use in their operations against the city. Deuteronomy 20:10, Deuteronomy 20:11. On advancing against a town to attack it, they were "to call to it for peace," i.e., to summon it to make a peaceable surrender and submission (cf. Judges 21:13). "If it answered peace," i.e., returned an answer conducing to peace, and "opened" (sc., its gates), the whole of its inhabitants were to become tributary to Israel, and serve it; consequently even those who were armed were not to be put to death, for Israel was not to shed blood unnecessarily. מס does not mean feudal service, but a feudal slave (see at Exodus 1:11).
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