But of the cities of these people, which the LORD your God does give you for an inheritance…
Is not this fierce irruption in Canaan with fire and sword precisely similar to the wave of Mahomedan conquest? Is it any way different from the most pitiless of heathen invasions? How can we justify such an acquisition of territory as this, whilst we are, at least in theory, so scrupulous about adding one acre of unjustly acquired land to our dominions, and cannot let one drop of blood be shed, even in a conquered race, without inquiry? The key to this difficulty was given in the very first confirmation of the grant made to Abraham. When the land of Canaan was made over to him and his descendants, he was told that they could not at once enter on possession, "because the iniquity of the Amorites was not full." The transference of territory was thus from the first viewed and treated as a judicial transaction. God reserves to Himself the right which all sovereigns must and do reserve — the right of removing offenders from the earth, and of confiscating their goods. In other respects this invasion finds a parallel in almost every century of history, and in every part of the world. It is, in point of fact, by conquest that civilisation has spread and is spreading upon earth, and in the career of progress the nations whose iniquities are full — that is to say, which have fallen too low for national redemption — have been swept away by the purer and stronger races. In this, therefore, there is no difference between the conduct of Israel and the conduct of other great nations. The difference consists in this — that while other nations have pushed their conquests for love of gain or glory, or through pride in their leader or mere lust of adventure, Israel entered Canaan as God's servant, again and again warned that they were merely God's sword of justice, and that if they forgot this, and began to think it was their own might that had emptied the land for them, they should themselves suffer the like extermination. Between this and many other outwardly similar conquests there was, in short, all the difference which there is between a righteous execution which rejoices the hearts of all good men, and a murder which makes us ashamed of our nature.
(Marcus Dods, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: