And you shall consume all the people which the LORD your God shall deliver you; your eye shall have no pity on them…
I. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES WAS IN CONFORMITY WITH THE ORDINARY PROCEDURE OF GOD IN THE MORAL GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD. If He choose, in punishing sinners, to visit at one time with a flood of waters, at another with fire from heaven, at another with a deadly epidemic, at another with the scourge of war, who shall dare to question the propriety of His choice in the weapons of destruction?
II. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES WAS IN PUNISHMENT OF SIN AND AS SUCH WAS JUST TOWARDS THEMSELVES. The vilest practices were rife among the people. Their very religion was a system of sorcery, sensuality, and depravity. The traces of ancient Syrian worship exhibit the vilest features of pagan idolatry. Their very gods were demons (Psalm 106:37). Human sacrifices were offered at their shrines. The grossest abominations were practised in their orgies. If such, then, was the light, what would the darkness be? In other words, if this was the religion of the country, what would the vices of the people be?
III. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES WAS A SPIRITUAL SAFEGUARD TO THE ISRAELITES. We are tempted to ask whether it was well that the Israelites should be made the executioners of God's wrath upon their brother man. Would they not be tempted to lose sight of their subordination to God's purpose, and to take up the cause with feelings of proper fanaticism? Again, would not the part to which they were called tend to foster in them cruelty and recklessness of human life? On the contrary, we find that the snare of the Israelites lay in the opposite direction, and that they were ever more ready to spare than to slay. No token appears of any tendency to rapacity or violence having been impressed upon the national mind, while the salutary lessons that were thus taught them are apparent. In no way could the Israelites have been so forcibly convinced of the hatefulness of idolatry and impurity as when they themselves were made God's ministers of vengeance against the crying evils. They were thus made witnesses against themselves should they ever adopt like abominations.
IV. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES WAS NECESSARY FOR THE MORAL PRESERVATION OF THE WORLD. Clearly it was an act of mercy to the little children of the Canaanites, who were cut off before they knew between good and evil. To the Israelites the extirpation of these nations was an act of mercy. Even crippled and curtailed as the Canaanites were, their influence for evil was too strong; but had they remained in larger bodies, and especially had the women been spared, piety would soon have become unknown among the people of God. But if the destruction of the Canaanites was an act of mercy to Israel, and necessary for their spiritual safely, it follows that it was not less a mercy to the whole world, and necessary for the preservation of the spiritual life of the entire family of mankind. The Church of the present day is but the continuation of the Church of the wilderness. Had that been destroyed, the materials of which the Saviour at His coming built the Church of the New Testament would not have been in existence. The impediments in the way of the Gospel would have been tenfold. To the present day the early ruin of the faith of God's people which would have resulted from the general toleration of the Canaanites would have borne its bitter fruits.
V. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES HAS A DEEP SYMBOLICAL AND PRACTICAL LESSON FOR US ALL. God changes not; the same principles direct His dealings now as then. The flesh must be mortified and subdued. See Jesus, our Joshua, stretches forth the spear. He commands the conflict; onward, then, and conquer.
(G. W. Butler, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee.