-The laws of warfare for the children of Israel are described in this chapter again as a preparation for possession of the land. First of all, they were commanded to “not be afraid of them.” They would see seemingly insurmountable situations, but they were to trust in their God for victory after victory, which He promised them. When approaching the battle, the priest had an integral role as he was to come near before them and speak. The priest was to be the motivating force telling them not to be fainthearted, afraid, panicked, or trembling before the enemy. In other words, they were to be very strong and very courageous, “for the LORD your God is the One who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you (Deuteronomy 20:1-4, Joshua 1:3-9).”
-There were some details to take care before they went to war. They were commanded to “dedicate” their house, use the fruit of their own vineyard, marry their betrothed, and confirm their courage (Deuteronomy 20:5-8). At that point when the officers have finished speaking to the people, they were to “appoint commanders of armies at the head of the people (Deuteronomy 20:9).”
-Their approach to the city they were invading would be to initially offer it terms of peace. If the invaded city capitulated, they would become their forced labor force serving their new Hebrew masters. However, if they refused peace agreements and made war, the Israelites were commanded to besiege the city all around. When the LORD gives them the city after the besieging, they were to strike down all the men in the city with the edge of the sword. Only the women and children and animals in the city were to survive along with the spoils that they could take, which were not under a ban. These instructions were for all the cities that were very far from them and not nearby. The cities that the LORD was initially giving them were to be completely destroyed of anything that breathed. The Hittite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite who lived on Mount Zion were to be utterly disposed of. What was God’s reason for all this calamity? “So that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God (Deuteronomy 20:10-18).” The final couple of verses give instructions for saving food producing trees in the areas they would conquer (Deuteronomy 20:19-20). God knew that only He could create such sustenance; they were not tainted. And, He wanted to make sure His people were always stocked with food. God looks out for every detail of the operation doesn’t He?
-*Application* These commands may seem like atrocities to us in our placid, tolerant society, but God saw the future and knew completely the hearts of these detestable-pagan cultures as to their potential of ever changing towards His truth. God always wants to eradicate evil, and this was the only way that this was going to happen. Our current struggle with radical Islam is a prime example. Capitulating and caving to the enemy out of fear does not make them more compliant. It only raises more violence and a more dreaded future of sectarianism and totalitarianism. Take for example what just happened in Paris, France. It is our time to be strong and courageous without fear, panic, trembling, or faintheartedness. Yahweh is the only Living and True God! Sometimes He calls us to a just fight for our freedom and the gospel of Jesus even though war is a horrible thing.
Verse to Memorize: Deuteronomy 20:18