Deuteronomy 7
Pulpit Commentary
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;
Verse 1. - (Cf. Genesis 15:19-21.) Of the ten nations named by God in his promise to Abraham, only six are mentioned here, those omitted being the Kenites, the Kennizites, the Kadmonites, and the Rephaim. The Rephaim were by this time extinct as a tribe, Og, "the last of the Rephaim," having been conquered, and he and his people destroyed by the Israelites. The three other tribes lay probably beyond the confines of Canaan, in that region promised to Abraham, but which was not included in the territory conquered by the people under Joshua. This may account for their not being mentioned here. One nation, the Hivites, appears here which is not in the enumeration in Genesis. This name seems to have been borne by more tribes than one, or by a tribe existing in divisions widely scattered, for we find the Hivite in the center of Palestine (Genesis 34:2), in the Shephelah (Joshua 9:7; Joshua 11:19), in the laud of Mizpeh under Hermon (Joshua 11:3), "in Lebanon, from mount Baal-hermon to the entering in of Hamath" (Judges 3:3), and among tribes in the north of Canaan (Genesis 10:17; 1 Chronicles 1:15). Their principal settlement was probably in that part of the country where the Antilibanus range terminates in Mount Hermon.
And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
Verse 3. - Neither shalt thou make marriages with them. Brought into intimate relations with idolaters, they might be seduced into idolatry; and where marriage was contracted with an idolater, the children might be brought up in idolatry. Such unions were forbidden.
For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
Verse 4. - From following me; literally, from after me, i.e. from being my servant and worshipper. Suddenly; rather, speedily (מהֵר, infin., of מָהַר, to be quick, to hasten, used as an adverb).
But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.
Verses 5-8. - They were not only to have no fellowship with the idolaters, but they were to root out their idolatry, everting their altars and destroying their idols; and this because they were a holy people, graciously chosen of God to be his special possession - a high privilege and honor which they were to be careful not to cast away. Verse 5. - Cut down their groves; rather, cut or hew in pieces their asherahs. These were, apparently, wooden pillars of considerable height, which were firmly planted in the ground (comp. Judges 6:25-27; Deuteronomy 16:21)? and were consecrated to the worship of a female deity, the companion of Baal; probably the same as that after-war, is known as Astarte, the Venus of the Syrians (see note on Deuteronomy 16:21).
For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.
Verse 6. - An holy people; a people consecrated to God, to be holy as he is holy (cf. Leviticus 11:43-45; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:26; Leviticus 21:6; Deuteronomy 23:14). A special people unto himself; literally, to be to him for a people of property (סְגֻלָּה), a people his own, his peculiar property (cf. Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18; and, for the meaning of the word, 1 Chronicles 29:3, "mine own proper good;" Ecclesiastes 2:8, "peculiar treasure of kings"); LXX., λαὸς περιούσιος, applied by St. Paul to Christians as the chosen and special property of Christ (Titus 2:14:). Above all people; rather, out of or from among all the peoples.
The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
Verse 7. - Set his love upon you. The Hebrew verb meaning primarily to cleave to, to be attached to, is used to express ardent and loving affection (cf. Genesis 34:8; Deuteronomy 10:15; Isaiah 38:17). The fewest of all people. It might have been supposed that, in choosing a people to be his special treasure, the Almighty would have selected some one of the great nations of the world; but, instead of that, he had chosen one of the smallest. They had, indeed, grown till now they were as the stars for multitude; but it was not in prospect of this that they were chosen. The election of Israel was purely of grace.
But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Verse 8. - Because the Lord loved you. Targum Onkelos, "Because he had complacency in you;" Vulgate, quia vobis junctus est. "Instead of saying, He hath chosen you out of love to your fathers, as in Deuteronomy 4:37, Moses brings out in this place love to the people of Israel as the Divine motive, not for choosing Israel, but for leading it out and delivering it from the slave-house of Egypt, by which God had practically carried out the election of the people, that he might thereby allure the Israelites to a reciprocity of love" (Keil).
Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
Verse 9. - To a thousand generations; rather, to the thousandth generation. As God is faithful to his covenant, and will show mercy and do good to those that love him, whilst on those who hate him he will bring terrible retribution, the people are warned by this to take heed against rebellion and apostasy from him (comp. Exodus 20:5).
And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.
Verse 10. - And repayeth them that hate him to their face. The phrase, "to their face "(אל פָנָיו, to their faces), has been variously explained. It has been taken as meaning, instantly, statim, hand cunctanter (Vulgate, Gesenius); openly, manifestly, palam (Grotius, Calvin, Michaelis); during life, in hac vita (Targum, Vatab.); in their presence, in their own sight (LXX., κατὰ πρόσωπον: Rosenmüller). The last seems the best. פָנֶהּ signifies properly, front, and אֶל פָנִים, to the front, before, in presence (cf. Leviticus 9:5; Exodus 23:17). The hater of God should be repaid, so that the man should himself see and feel that he had been smitten of God (cf. Isaiah 65:6; Job 34:11; Psalm 62:13 [Psalm 62:12]). And this retribution should come speedily: He will not be slack to him that hateth him; i.e. he will not delay to repay him.
Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.
Verse 11. - As God would thus summarily avenge himself of his adversaries, the people are exhorted to keep all his commandments, statutes, and rights.
Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers:
Verse 12. - On the other hand, obedience would bring blessing. Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken. The Hebrew conveys the idea of a reward as consequent on their hearkening; as there would be retribution for transgression, so would there be recompense for obedience. The Hebrew word represented by "wherefore" in the Authorized Version (עֵקֶב, from עָקֵב, the heel) denotes that which comes after, the end or last of anything (Psalm 119:33, 112), hence recompense, reward, wages, as the end or result of acting (Psalm 19:11; Psalm 40:15; Isaiah 5:23, etc.). The clause might, therefore, be translated, As a consequence or recompense of hearkening.... it shall be that, &c. Judgments, i.e. rights, rightful claims (מִשְׁפֻטִים). God, as the Great King, has his rights, and these are to be rendered to him by his subjects and servants. The mercy, i.e. the kindness, the favor (חֶסֶד), showed in the promises which God gave to their fathers, and engaged by covenant to fulfill.
And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.
Verse 13. - This favor would take effect in a blessing on the fruit of the womb, the produce of the field, and the increase of their flocks and herds (comp. Exodus 23:25-27). Thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. These comprise the fruitful products of the soil, and in their combination express general fertility and abundance. By corn (דִנָן) is undoubtedly to be understood the cereal products generally used for food. It may be doubted if tirosh (תִרושׂ), properly means wine. The word is often rendered in the Authorized Version by new wine, and this is the meaning generally given in the lexicons. As, however, it is almost constantly joined with corn and oil, the immediate products of the soil - at least as unchanged by any process or manufacture - it is rather to be regarded as designating ripe grapes than wine. That, moreover, which was to be gathered (Deuteronomy 11:14), which might be tithed (Deuteronomy 12:17; Deuteronomy 14:23), which might be described as fruit (2 Chronicles 31:5), as being in the cluster (Isaiah 65:8), and as capable of being dried up or parched (Joel 1:10), and trodden (Micah 7:15), could not be a fluid like fermented nine. As the grape juice, however, was that from which wine was elicited, tirosh is sometimes used tropically for wine (Isaiah 62:8; Hosea 4:11), Just as corn is used for bread (Lamentations 2:12; Hosea 7:14). The oil here mentioned, and elsewhere joined with dagan and tirosh, is the pure fresh olive oil (יִצְהָר, from צָהַר, to shine), obtained by pressure from the berries of the olive, and used for food as well as for other purposes by the Jews (see notes on Deuteronomy 8:8). Flocks of thy sheep. The Hebrew is very peculiar here; the same expression occurs only in this book (Deuteronomy 28:4, 18, 51). Literally rendered, it is the Astartes (Ashtaroth) of thy sheep. Kimchi says it means "the females of the sheep" (נקבות הצאן), and this Gesenius adopts, rendering the phrase by "ewes." Astarte ('Ash-toreth, plu. 'Ashtaroth) was the Phoenician Venus, and it is supposed that the females of the flock were called Astartes orVenuses, as propagating the flock. There is, however, another way of explaining the word as here used, by referring it to a root 'ashar (עָשַׁר), signifying to be multiplied, to be rich; whence the name given to the females as the multipliers of the flock, without any reference to Astarte.
Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.
And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee.
Verse 15. - The mercy of God should be showed to them also in preserving them from sickness, especially of a virulent and dangerous kind, such as they had seen in Egypt, where disease has in all ages readily assumed a malignant character ('Encyc. Brit.,' art. 'Egypt'), and where especially cutaneous diseases of the worst kind prevail (comp. Deuteronomy 38:27). Such diseases the Lord would rather cause to fall on their enemies.
And thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee.
Verses 16-26. - The heathen they were utterly to extirpate from the land which God was about to give them; mighty as these nations were, they were not to be afraid of them, for God would be with his people, and would deliver these nations, with their kings, into their hands. Not all at once, however, should the former occupants of the country be driven out; this should be done by degrees, lest, the land being suddenly depopulated, the wild animals would increase too much, so as to be a source of danger and trouble to the settlers; but ultimately they should be utterly destroyed, and with them all the objects and implements of their idolatrous worship. Verse 16. - And thou shalt consume; literally, eat, devour (וְאָכַלְתָּ). Unless they consumed them as one consumes food, they would be a snare to them, by tempting them to join in their idolatry.
If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them?
Verses 17, 18. - If thou shalt say in thine heart. The thought might rise in their minds, How can we ever compete with nations so much more powerful than we? But such thoughts they must repress, remembering what God had done for them to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and resting assured that the same would he do to the Canaanites.
Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt;
The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the LORD thy God brought thee out: so shall the LORD thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid.
Verse 19. - Temptations, etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:22).
Moreover the LORD thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed.
Verse 20. - Hornet (cf. Exodus 23:28). Instances are on record of armies being obliged to give way before swarms of insects by which they were attacked (as in the case of Julian, who was compelled by a host of flies and gnats to change his route in retreating from Parthia; Atom. Marcell., 24, 8); but it may be doubted if the statement here is to be understood literally, and not rather figuratively, as expressive of many and varied evils with which the fugitive Canaanites were to be visited until they were extirpated (cf. Joshua 24:12, compared with Joshua 10:22-27).
Thou shalt not be affrighted at them: for the LORD thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible.
And the LORD thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.
Verse 22. - (Cf. Exodus 23:30.)
But the LORD thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed.
And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them.
Verse 24. - The kings also of these nations should they utterly destroy, so that their memory should perish from the earth.
The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God.
Verses 25, 26. - The idols of the Canaanites they were utterly to destroy by fire, not saving even the silver or gold with which the images were overlaid, lest, if that were coveted and retained, it might bring them under the ban which fell on all things connected with idolatry; as happened in the case of Achan (Joshua 7.).
Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.
Verse 26. - Cursed thing; a thing devoted (הֵרֶם), either, as in this case, to destruction (comp. also 1 Kings 20:42; Zechariah 14:11; Malachi 3:24; [Malachi 4:6]) or, as elsewhere, to God (Leviticus 27:21; Numbers 18:14).

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