Deuteronomy 20:20
Only the trees which you know that they be not trees for meat, you shall destroy and cut them down; and you shall build bulwarks against the city that makes war with you, until it be subdued.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
20:10-12 The Israelites are here directed about the nations on whom they made war. Let this show God's grace in dealing with sinners. He proclaims peace, and beseeches them to be reconciled. Let it also show us our duty in dealing with our brethren. Whoever are for war, we must be for peace. Of the cities given to Israel, none of their inhabitants must be left. Since it could not be expected that they should be cured of their idolatry, they would hurt Israel. These regulations are not the rules of our conduct, but Christ's law of love. The horrors of war must fill the feeling heart with anguish upon every recollection; and are proofs of the wickedness of man, the power of Satan, and the just vengeance of God, who thus scourges a guilty world. But how dreadful their case who are engaged in unequal conflict with their Maker, who will not submit to render him the easy tribute of worship and praise! Certain ruin awaits them. Let neither the number nor the power of the enemies of our souls dismay us; nor let even our own weakness cause us to tremble or to faint. The Lord will save us; but in this war let none engage whose hearts are fond of the world, or afraid of the cross and the conflict. Care is here taken that in besieging cities the fruit-trees should not be destroyed. God is a better friend to man than he is to himself; and God's law consults our interests and comforts; while our own appetites and passions, which we indulge, are enemies to our welfare. Many of the Divine precepts restrain us from destroying that which is for our life and food. The Jews understand this as forbidding all wilful waste upon any account whatsoever. Every creature of God is good; as nothing is to be refused, so nothing is to be abused. We may live to want what we carelessly waste.The parenthesis may he more literally rendered "for man is a tree of the field," i. e., has his life from the tree of the field, is supported in life by it (compare Deuteronomy 24:6). The Egyptians seem invariably to have cut down the fruit-trees in war. 20. thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee—It is evident that some sort of military engines were intended; and accordingly we know, that in Egypt, where the Israelites learned their military tactics, the method of conducting a siege was by throwing up banks, and making advances with movable towers, or with the testudo [Wilkinson]. No text from Poole on this verse. Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat,.... Which might be known not only by their not having fruit upon them, but by other tokens, and even at a time of year when there was no fruit on any, which might be sometimes the season of a siege:

thou shalt destroy and cut them down; if so to do was of any disservice to the enemy, or of any service to them, as follows; they had a liberty to destroy them if they would:

and thou shall build bulwarks against the city that maketh war, until it be subdued; build bulwarks of the trees cut down, and raise batteries with them, or make machines and engines of the wood of them, to cast stones into the city to annoy the inhabitants of it, in order to make them surrender, and until they do it. All this may be an emblem of the axe being to be laid to fruitless trees in a moral and spiritual sense; and of trees of righteousness, laden with the fruits of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, being preserved and never to be cut down or rooted up; see Matthew 3:10.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. bulwarks] Heb. maṣor, from the vb to besiege, therefore, siege-works, or circumvallation. See Micah 5:1 (Deuteronomy 4:14), Isaiah 29:3, Jeremiah 6:6, fell ye trees and heap up a wall against Jerusalem, cp Ezekiel 4:2, Jdg 9:46-49, 2 Samuel 20:15. Specimens of such works, of wicker and wood, are seen in Assyrian sculptures.

until it fall] Deuteronomy 28:52, Isaiah 32:19.Verse 20. - And thou shalt build bulwarks against the city... until it be subdued; literally, That thou mayest build a siege - he, an instrument for besieging, a rampart, or bulwark - against the city, till it come down (cf. Deuteronomy 28:52).



If the hostile town, however, did not make peace, but prepared for war, the Israelites were to besiege it; and if Jehovah gave it into their hands, they were to slay all the men in it without reserve ("with the edge of the sword," see at Genesis 34:26); but the women and children and all that was in the city, all its spoil, they were to take as prey for themselves, and to consume (eat) the spoil, i.e., to make use of it for their own maintenance.
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