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A Chosen People


When the L ord your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you—the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you— 2and when the L ord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy. 3Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the L ord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. 5But this is how you must deal with them: break down their altars, smash their pillars, hew down their sacred poles, and burn their idols with fire. 6For you are a people holy to the L ord your God; the L ord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

7 It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the L ord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8It was because the L ord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the L ord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the L ord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10and who repays in their own person those who reject him. He does not delay but repays in their own person those who reject him. 11Therefore, observe diligently the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that I am commanding you today.

Blessings for Obedience

12 If you heed these ordinances, by diligently observing them, the L ord your God will maintain with you the covenant loyalty that he swore to your ancestors; 13he will love you, bless you, and multiply you; he will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock, in the land that he swore to your ancestors to give you. 14You shall be the most blessed of peoples, with neither sterility nor barrenness among you or your livestock. 15The L ord will turn away from you every illness; all the dread diseases of Egypt that you experienced, he will not inflict on you, but he will lay them on all who hate you. 16You shall devour all the peoples that the L ord your God is giving over to you, showing them no pity; you shall not serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

17 If you say to yourself, “These nations are more numerous than I; how can I dispossess them?” 18do not be afraid of them. Just remember what the L ord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the L ord your God brought you out. The L ord your God will do the same to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20Moreover, the L ord your God will send the pestilence against them, until even the survivors and the fugitives are destroyed. 21Have no dread of them, for the L ord your God, who is present with you, is a great and awesome God. 22The L ord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to make a quick end of them, otherwise the wild animals would become too numerous for you. 23But the L ord your God will give them over to you, and throw them into great panic, until they are destroyed. 24He will hand their kings over to you and you shall blot out their name from under heaven; no one will be able to stand against you, until you have destroyed them. 25The images of their gods you shall burn with fire. Do not covet the silver or the gold that is on them and take it for yourself, because you could be ensnared by it; for it is abhorrent to the L ord your God. 26Do not bring an abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be set apart for destruction like it. You must utterly detest and abhor it, for it is set apart for destruction.

17 If thou shalt say in thine heart. Since it was a matter of great difficulty to destroy such a multitude of men, and despair itself would drive them to madness, so that it would be frivolous for the Israelites to cut off all hope of mercy, God anticipates their fear, and exhorts them to the strenuous execution of His sentence. From whence we gather some useful instruction; whenever God commands anything which exceeds our power, we must still obey and boldly break through whatever obstacles present themselves to impede us. In all arduous matters, therefore, let this doctrine come to our aid, that whatever is contrary to God’s will may easily be annihilated by His almighty power. But since terror, presented to our eyes, immediately so lays hold of all our senses that we lie as it were torpid, God recalls to the recollection of the Israelites what abundant grounds of confidence He had supplied them with. For all the miracles He had wrought were so many proofs of His invincible power; and hence they should conclude that nothing was to be dreaded, provided God should go before them, and that, therefore, being assured of victory, they should not descend to any treaties.

20. Moreover, the Lord thy God will send the hornet. Since the destruction of their enemies might seem long, if they were only to be slain by their hands and weapons, and again, because it was scarcely credible that, without defending themselves, they would voluntarily stretch forth their own throats, God promises that in another way also He would supply the means of their conquest. Therefore, lest the Israelites, imagining that their enemies would be prompt and vigorous in resistance, should be alarmed or affrighted, God declares that other forces should be at hand, for that hornets or other poisonous insects should destroy all the fugitives. The same declaration is found in Exodus 23; and what God had promised, Joshua relates that He performed. (Joshua 24:12.) But inasmuch as these nations were not to be destroyed in a moment, lest the people should therefore grow weary or become inactive, God anticipates this, and reminds them that this delay would be advantageous, for when all the inhabitants were exterminated, the wild beasts would occupy the empty land. The prolongation of the war, therefore, ought not to trouble them, for by it God provided for His people’s welfare, since, if the men were speedily destroyed, they should have to contend with wild beasts. But though the passage which I have quoted from Exodus is similar in terms, yet I have designedly placed it under another head; for God here refers to the extermination of the Gentile nations with another object, i.e., lest any of the ancient pollutions should remain in the land, and lest the Israelites should mingle with the ungodly, by whose arts they might at length be drawn away to spurious religions.

25. The graven images of their gods. He again impresses upon them the object of the destruction of the nations, but he goes further than before. He had before forbidden them to worship their gods. He now commands them to consume their graven images with fire, for since the people were prone to superstition, such snares might easily have alienated them from God’s pure worship. Nor does he command them merely to melt the gold and silver so as to alter its shape, but he altogether interdicts its use, since it would be a contagious plague; for he shews how greatly God abominates idols, inasmuch as whosoever should touch the materials of which they were molten, would contract pollution and become accursed. This great severity might indeed seem to condemn the metals which were created for man’s use, as if they were impure, and as if the perfectness of natural things was liable to be corrupted by man. But in this way idolaters would contaminate the sun and moon, when falsely regarding them as objects of corrupt worship; and it must be answered that the gold and silver itself was by no means polluted by this impious abuse; but that, although free from all stain in itself, it was polluted in respect to the people. Such was the uncleanness of animals, not that they had in themselves any pollution, but because God had interdicted their being eaten. The pollution therefore which is now mentioned arises from a similar prohibition; for otherwise the ignorant people could not be restrained, and hence God would have that to be abominable which in itself was pure. Still this was a political precept, and only given temporarily to the ancient people; yet we gather from it how detestable idolatry is, which even infects the works of God themselves with its own filthiness.

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