When the LORD your God shall bring you into the land where you go to possess it, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites…
When the Israelites were to cross into Canaan, they were directed to exterminate the seven nations they would find there. This is their commission. The invasion is to be conducted upon this principle. And here let us notice -
I. NATIONS, LIKE INDIVIDUALS, MAY BECOME INCORRIGIBLE. There can be no doubt that sin tends to a final and incorrigible condition if the Divine mercy is not accepted and allowed to exercise its undermining power. These nations of Canaan were manifestly in this hopeless, utterly ruined state. God regarded them as beyond redemption, and their continuance would only prove pestilential. It is well for individuals, as well as nations, to realize this sad possibility.
II. GOD HAS EVERY RIGHT TO REMOVE INCORRIGIBLES FROM THE EARTH, AS Creator, he has given them every advantage and chance. But the deceitful heart has spurned admonition and mercy. The result is that there is nothing left for them but to be cut off righteously, and that without remedy. But the propriety of extermination should be determined by the Lord himself (cf. Dr. Mozley's ' Old Testament Lectures,' No. IV., on 'Exterminating Wars').
III. THE ISRAELITES WERE SENT INTO CANAAN TO ESTABLISH THE TRUE WORSHIP OF GOD. They were not to be ashamed of their religion, but to establish it, and to allow nothing to interfere with it. As Abraham had entered Canaan centuries before as the promulgator of a new religion, so his descendants were to enter into the Promised Land with the view of establishing the religion of Abraham in spite of all possible opposition. They were not ordinary but religious emigrants.
IV. THE SPARING OF THE CANAANITES WOULD ONLY ENDANGER THEIR RELIGIOUS FAITH. Some people think they may associate with irreligious people, and even marry them, in the hope of bringing them to a better way of thinking. The plea is generally one got up in the interests of self-pleasing instead of duty. But such hopes are generally disappointed; and the Apostle Paul warns us distinctly against the temptation (2 Corinthians 6:14). Now, the Israelites were warned against making any covenant with the Canaanites or showing any mercy towards them. Association would only lead to apostasy on the part of Israel. It would be allowing the pestilence to propagate itself. The alternative for Israel was "Exterminate these incorrigible sinners, or by their seductions they will lead you on to your destruction at the hands of a just God" (ver. 4).
V. EXTERMINATION MAY CONSEQUENTLY, IN SOME OASES, BE THE ONLY COURSE CONSISTENT WITH THE DIVINE HONOR AND THE INTERESTS OF HIS KINGDOM. If people have a right to preserve themselves from a physical pestilence, have they not an equal right in the case of moral pollutions? Besides, the clear direction of God vindicates the whole procedure as right as well as wise (cf. Jellett's 'Moral Difficulties of the Old Testament,' p. 38; also Dr. Arnold's 'Sermons on Interpretation of Scripture,' p. 31). - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;
WEB: When Yahweh your God shall bring you into the land where you go to possess it, and shall cast out many nations before you, the Hittite, and the Girgashite, and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, seven nations greater and mightier than you;