Deuteronomy 7:2
And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
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(2) And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee. . . .—It would be possible to read, “Then the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee, and thou shalt smite.” Or the sentence might also be divided thus: When the Lord thy God shall bring thee in, and shall have delivered the nations from before thee, and thou hast smitten them, then thou shalt utterly destroy them”—i.e., shalt make them chêrem, a devoted or accursed thing. Perhaps this last way of dividing the clauses is, upon the whole, to be preferred. But in any case it should be noted that Jehovah’s deliverance of the nations into Israel’s hand is to precede their defeat and extermination. Indiscriminate attack and massacre are not to be thought of. (See for a further Note on this, Joshua 13) All the operations described in Joshua—the sieges of Jericho and Ai, the southern campaign and the northern campaign—were alike undertaken under Divine direction. The same may be said of the battles in Moses’ lifetime, whether against Amalek, Sihon, Og, Arad, or Midian. The same is true of the judges, and of David’s operations against the Philistines after he came to the throne (2Samuel 5:19, &c). The principle was acknowledged by Ahab in his attack on Ramoth-gilead (1 Kings 22).

Thou shalt make no covenant with them.—The reason for this is too obvious to need comment. If Israelites and idolaters were united—still more if they were intermingled in marriage—there was an end to the distinction of race and religion—an end to the supremacy of Israel or the isolation of the people of Jehovah, as exhibiting His Law and the blessings of His government to mankind. It must be remembered, however, that the isolation here commanded was only a means to an end; it was not the end itself. It may be further observed that as soon as the danger of idolatry was at an end, the isolation of Israel in a great measure ceased. The object of giving the people a land of their own, and supremacy among the surrounding nations, was to enable them to develop the religion which was to prepare the way for Christianity. When the religious principles of the nation were sufficiently fixed to make their political supremacy unnecessary, this supremacy was taken away.

Deuteronomy 7:2. Thou shalt smite and utterly destroy them — That is, in case they continued obstinate in their idolatry, they were to be destroyed, as nations, or bodies politic. But if they forsook their idolatry, and became sincere proselytes to the true religion, they would then be proper objects of forgiveness, as being true penitents. For, says God himself, by Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 7:8,) At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation to destroy it, if that nation turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil which I thought to do unto them. Thou shalt make no covenant with them — See Exodus 23:32; Exodus 24:12. To make a covenant with and to spare such incurable idolaters, would have been cruelty to themselves and their posterity.

7:1-11 Here is a strict caution against all friendship and fellowship with idols and idolaters. Those who are in communion with God, must have no communication with the unfruitful works of darkness. Limiting the orders to destroy, to the nations here mentioned, plainly shows that after ages were not to draw this into a precedent. A proper understanding of the evil of sin, and of the mystery of a crucified Saviour, will enable us to perceive the justice of God in all his punishments, temporal and eternal. We must deal decidedly with our lusts that war against our souls; let us not show them any mercy, but mortify, and crucify, and utterly destroy them. Thousands in the world that now is, have been undone by ungodly marriages; for there is more likelihood that the good will be perverted, than that the bad will be converted. Those who, in choosing yoke-fellows, keep not within the bounds of a profession of religion, cannot promise themselves helps meet for them.See Deuteronomy 6:10 note.2-6. thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them—This relentless doom of extermination which God denounced against those tribes of Canaan cannot be reconciled with the attributes of the divine character, except on the assumption that their gross idolatry and enormous wickedness left no reasonable hope of their repentance and amendment. If they were to be swept away like the antediluvians or the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, as incorrigible sinners who had filled up the measure of their iniquities, it mattered not to them in what way the judgment was inflicted; and God, as the Sovereign Disposer, had a right to employ any instruments that pleased Him for executing His judgments. Some think that they were to be exterminated as unprincipled usurpers of a country which God had assigned to the posterity of Eber and which had been occupied ages before by wandering shepherds of that race, till, on the migration of Jacob's family into Egypt through the pressure of famine, the Canaanites overspread the whole land, though they had no legitimate claim to it, and endeavored to retain possession of it by force. In this view their expulsion was just and proper. The strict prohibition against contracting any alliances with such infamous idolaters was a prudential rule, founded on the experience that "evil communications corrupt good manners" [1Co 15:33], and its importance or necessity was attested by the unhappy examples of Solomon and others in the subsequent history of Israel. No covenant with them, to spare them, or permit them to dwell with thee in the land. Other nations had more favour, but these were for their great wickedness, and for the good of Israel, devoted to utter destruction.

And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee,.... Into their hands:

thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; men, women, and children; which was ordered not merely to make way and room for the people of Israel to inherit their land, but as a punishment for capital crimes they had been guilty of, such as idolatry, incest, murder, &c. wherefore though they were reprieved for a while for Israel's sake, till their time was come to possess the land, they were at length righteously punished; which observed, abates the seeming severity exercised upon them:

thou shalt make no covenant with them; to dwell in their cities and houses, and enjoy their lands and estates, on any condition whatever; and though they did make a league with the Gibeonites, that was obtained by fraud, they pretending not to be of the land of Canaan, but to come from a very distant country:

nor show mercy unto them; by sparing their lives, bestowing any favours upon them, or giving them any help and assistance when in distress: the Jews extend this to all other Heathen nations besides these seven; wherefore, if an Israelite, as Maimonides (z) says, should see a Gentile perishing, or plunged into a river, he may not take him out, nor administer medicine to a sick person. Hence Juvenal (a) the poet upbraids them with their unkindness and incivility; and says that Moses delivered it as a Jewish law, in a secret volume of his, perhaps referring to this book of Deuteronomy, that the Jews might not direct a poor traveller in his way unless he was one of their religion, nor one athirst to a fountain of water; and which led Tacitus (b), the Heathen historian, to make this remark upon them, that they entertained an hostile hatred against all other people.

(z) Hilchot Abodath Cochabim, c. 10. sect. 1, 2.((a) "Non monstrare vias", &c. Satyr 14. (b) Hist l. 5. c. 5.

And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them {a} before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:

(a) Into thy power.

2. deliver them up before] See on Deuteronomy 1:8.

thou shall utterly destroy them] put to the ban, herem. See on Deuteronomy 2:34.

make no covenant with them] no treaty or alliance; so in JE, Exodus 23:32; Exodus 34:12; cp. Joshua 9:6, 1 Samuel 11:1 ff. (instances of such).

Deuteronomy 7:2As the Israelites were warned against idolatry in Deuteronomy 6:14, so here are they exhorted to beware of the false tolerance of sparing the Canaanites and enduring their idolatry. - Deuteronomy 7:1, Deuteronomy 7:5. When the Lord drove out the tribes of Canaan before the Israelites, and gave them up to them and smote them, they were to put them under the ban (see at Leviticus 27:28), to make no treaty with them, and to contract no marriage with them. נשׁל, to draw out, to cast away, e.g., the sandals (Exodus 3:5); here and Deuteronomy 7:22 it signifies to draw out, or drive out a nation from its country and possessions: it occurs in this sense in the Piel in 2 Kings 16:6. On the Canaanitish tribes, see at Genesis 10:15. and Deuteronomy 15:20-21. There are seven of them mentioned here, as in Joshua 3:10 and Joshua 24:11; on the other hand, there are only six in Deuteronomy 20:17, as in Exodus 3:8, Exodus 3:17; Exodus 23:23, and Exodus 33:2, the Girgashites being omitted. The prohibition against making a covenant, as in Exodus 23:32 and Exodus 34:12, and that against marrying, as in Exodus 34:16, where the danger of the Israelites being drawn away to idolatry is mentioned as a still further reason for these commands. יסיר כּי, "for he (the Canaanite) will cause thy son to turn away from behind me," i.e., tempt him away from following me, "to serve other gods." Moses says "from following me," because he is speaking in the name of Jehovah. The consequences of idolatry, as in Deuteronomy 6:15; Deuteronomy 4:26, etc.
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