Deuteronomy 20:18
That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done to their gods; so should you sin against the LORD your God.
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Deuteronomy 20:18. That they teach you not to do after all their abominations — Here is the great reason for the aforesaid severe execution; they were most abominable idolaters, who offered their children to Moloch; they were magicians, wizards, necromancers, and guilty of all those abominations and filthy lusts mentioned Leviticus 18. So that God thought them not fit to live any longer upon the face of the earth; for had they been spared, after obstinately rejecting terms of peace, they would undoubtedly have sought to infect the Israelites with their filthy idolatry; and it was mercy to the human race in general not to suffer such a wicked, contagious generation to subsist. From the words here quoted, That they teach you not, &c., a Jewish writer justly observes, “If they repented and forsook their idolatry, the Israelites might let them live;” for then there was no such danger in sparing them. Accordingly Rahab, her father, mother, brethren, and all her kindred, were preserved alive, and so were the Hivites or Gibeonites, on condition of servitude, which they themselves offered, Joshua 9:11-15. See Joshua 11:11-20; Jeremiah 18:7-8.20:10-12 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. That they teach you not to do after all their abominations,.... This is another reason why they were to be utterly destroyed, not only because of the abominations which they committed, but to prevent the Israelites being taught by them to do the same; wherefore, as before observed from Jarchi, such as became proselytes were suffered to live among them, because there was no danger of idolatry from them, which even proselytes of the gate renounced; and though all other abominations are included, yet this is particularly respected, as appears from the following clause:

which they have done unto their gods; to the honour of whom not only many superstitious rites and ceremonies were performed, and idolatrous actions committed, but acts of lewdness, and even unnatural uncleanness:

so should ye sin against the Lord your God; a sin the most provoking to him, as the sin of idolatry was; and cause his anger to rise to such a degree, as to suffer them to be carried captive from the land he gave them to inherit; and which afterwards, was the case, and that through learning the manners and customs of these people; see Psalm 106:34.

That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.
18. The one Pl. passage in this law, see introd. note.

abominations] See on Deuteronomy 7:25, Deuteronomy 12:31, Deuteronomy 17:1.

19 f. Of Sparing the Fruit Trees in a Siege

In a prolonged siege, Israel, while eating of the besieged’s fruit-trees, shall not destroy them (Deuteronomy 20:19). Trees which do not yield food may be cut down for siege-works (Deuteronomy 20:20).—In the Sg. address.

The practice of cutting down the enemy’s fruit trees was common. Several Assyrian kings boast of it: cp. Tiglath Pileser iii. (quoted in E.B. 4512): ‘The plantations of palms which abutted on his rampart I cut down.’ Both Pompey and Titus cleared away the trees round Jerusalem, the latter for a distance of 90 stadia (Josephus VI. B.J. i. 1, viii. 1, v. B.J. iii. 2). Mohammed destroyed the palms of the Banu Nadir, and justified this in an oracle, Ḳuran lix. See also Doughty Ar. Des. i. 23.

On invading Moab Israel cut down the fruit-trees and stopped the wells, in obedience to a word of Jehovah by Elisha (2 Kings 3:19; 2 Kings 3:25). That prophet, therefore, and his biographer cannot have known of this law of D, which shows a real advance in the ethics of warfare.—Further on Sieges see O. C. Whitehouse art. ‘Siege’ in E.B.; Billerbeck, Festungsbau im Alten Orient.If the hostile town, however, did not make peace, but prepared for war, the Israelites were to besiege it; and if Jehovah gave it into their hands, they were to slay all the men in it without reserve ("with the edge of the sword," see at Genesis 34:26); but the women and children and all that was in the city, all its spoil, they were to take as prey for themselves, and to consume (eat) the spoil, i.e., to make use of it for their own maintenance.
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