Darby's Bible Synopsis
When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
The following commentary covers Chapters 19, 20, and 21.
Chapter 19 opens with ordinances which contemplate the people in possession and enjoyment of the land; they were to observe them, that the land might not be defiled, and that the people might walk in the strength of Jehovah.
Three cities of refuge are appointed, and he who kills his neighbour, without hating him, is distinguished from the murderer: an important principle, as to the fate of the Jewish nation, which makes' a distinction between those who have taken a voluntary part in the death of the Lord, or who afterwards heartily approve the deed, and those who have done it ignorantly. The regulations of righteousness also against false witnesses are given here. In chapter 20 we have the ordinances relative to war.
In chapter 21 we have three interesting cases, because of the principles which apply to the ways of God with Israel: the case of the man found slain; that of the child of the hated wife; and that of the rebellious son. The land of Jehovah must be kept pure. Israel will have to make this confession in the latter days, and to clear themselves of the blood of Messiah. If the case of the two wives applies to Israel upon earth, it applies still more closely to Christ (Head of the Gentiles) and the assembly with whom He will inherit all things, although upon earth Israel be the wife beloved. However, Israel, as a rebellious son under the old covenant, is condemned and cut off; as regards the redeemed, the curse of the law has fallen upon another. Those who read the Bible are too well acquainted with the application of the end of this chapter to make it needful for me to dwell upon it. The point here under consideration is the defiling of the land, which Jehovah had given for an inheritance to the people; the hardness of heart of the priests in applying the precept under the circumstances is appalling, yet natural.
I will now briefly sum up the subjects we have looked at from Deuteronomy 16:18. We have the means, in point of authority, employed of God to maintain the people in His ways, and in the knowledge of His will, that they might enjoy the land in peace. Judges and officers were to be appointed, and to judge with uprightness. The priest and the judge, raised up in an extraordinary manner, were to communicate, in case of need, the judgment and will of God, and the people were to obey them. In case the people wished for a king, directions are given respecting his conduct. Directions are given for those Levites who should devote themselves to the service of Jehovah, in the place chosen by Him as His dwelling-place. The people, seeking to know the will of God, were not to consult diviners. Jehovah would raise up a prophet. Afterwards there is provision made to keep the land from being polluted with blood; the elders of the city were to take knowledge of the deed, whether the slayer had killed without set purpose. The cities of refuge present a beautiful type of the state of Israel, as to their sin, in having killed the Lord Jesus, whether ignorantly (as the grace of God looks upon it with regard to those who repent), or knowingly (as perseverance in rejecting Him would be the proof of): this is the principle upon which God will judge them. So, in this last point of view, the people were placed under the searching severity of the law. In chapter 20 provision is made to reconcile any war that might arise with the enjoyment of the land and the blessing of God, either individually or in case of conquest; and directions are given to secure the presence of the power of God, and to shew how the enemies were to be treated according to the mind of God; all mercy towards the nations of Canaan being prohibited, in order that Israel might not learn the abominations they were guilty of. Chapter 21 gives another provision for preventing the land from defilement by blood, while declaring (as elsewhere) that life belongs to God-that, when His rights are infringed, He will not wink at it. We cannot fail to see that the blood of Christ is, above all, that of which Israel is here (chap. 21) guilty (see Psalm 51), and the blood of Jesus is the only atonement for the sin which shed it. The elders excuse themselves by pleading their ignorance of what had been done. The same thing will take place with regard to Israel. So pleads also Paul. However, there is nothing but the blood of the heifer which never bore the yoke that can wipe away sin. Thus will the guilt of innocent blood be taken from off the people. The following directions are indeed practical directions for Israel; but they seem to me to contain, at the same time, some of God's principles towards His people. Thus Israel upon earth, and the assembly in heaven, have both been the true firstborn, whom God will not disinherit. And the rebellious son presents also Israel in final disobedience to God.
And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people,
And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;
For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.
And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it.
And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it.
And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.
And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart.
And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.
When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.
And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.
Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
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:
But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:
That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.
When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man's life) to employ them in the siege:
Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued.