Deuteronomy 20:17
But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:
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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.Forbearance, however, was not to be shown toward the Canaanite nations, which were to be utterly exterminated (compare Deuteronomy 7:1-4). The command did not apply to beasts as well as men (compare Joshua 11:11, Joshua 11:14).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.

But thou shalt utterly destroy them,.... Men, women, and children: some think this is to be understood only of such cities which did not accept of terms of peace; for they are of opinion that Joshua made proclamation of peace to all the cities of Canaan; which being not complied with, he destroyed them as they fell into his hands; and they suppose that the Gibeonites had not heard of such a proclamation, and therefore were spared; and it is certain that there were many who were suffered to live among them, who it may be thought were allowed on their becoming proselytes, which was one of the terms of peace, as Rahab and her household did, and which is the sense of some of the Jewish writers. Jarchi on the following verse observes, that if they repented, and became proselytes, they might be received: namely:

the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; one of the seven nations is here omitted, the Girgashites, as they are also in Exodus 23:23. It is said (b), that"Joshua sent three letters into the land of Israel before they went into it; in the first, whoever would turn (and flee) might; in the second, whoever would make peace might; in the third, whoever would make war might: the Girgashites, believing God, went to Africa, according to Isaiah 36:17, the land there is Africa; the Gibeonites made peace and dwelt in the land; thirty one kings made war, and fell:"

as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; Deuteronomy 7:1.

(b) T. Hieros. Shebiith, fol. 37. 3. Debarim Rabba, sect. 5. fol. 241. 2. Vid. Maimon. Hilchot Melachim, c. 6. sect. 5. & Migdol Oz in ib.

But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:
17. utterly destroy them] put them to the ḥerem in its severer form (see on Deuteronomy 2:34). But from the passages quoted above on tributary, Deuteronomy 20:11, we see that Israel did not put these nations to the ban but only to forced labour. Here D did not mitigate but aggravate the fate of the peoples conquered by Israel, and as Islam did, from religious motives.

the Hittite, etc.] Six nations, but LXX adds the missing seventh, the Girgashite. See on Deuteronomy 7:1.

as … commanded thee] may be an editorial addition founded on Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 7:25, cp. Exodus 23:31-33.

Deuteronomy 20:17It was in this way that Israel was to act with towns that were far off; but not with the towns of the Canaanites ("these nations"), which Jehovah gave them for an inheritance. In these no soul was to be left alive; but these nations were to be laid under the ban, i.e., altogether exterminated, that they might not teach the Israelites their abominations and sins (cf. Deuteronomy 7:1-4; Deuteronomy 12:31). כּל־נשׁמה, lit., every breath, i.e., everything living, by which, however, human beings alone are to be understood (comp. Joshua 10:40; Joshua 11:11, with Deuteronomy 11:14).
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