Bible Commentaries

Deuteronomy 20

Verses 1-20

It is necessary to bear in mind that these people were being led into the land not merely to find a possession for themselves as an established nation, but first as the scourge of God against a corrupt and corrupting people. In view of this fact war was inevitable, and therefore particular instructions were now given for the people's guidance in war.

First, they were charged to keep before them the vision of God, which alone would enable them to be free from fear in the presence of the foe. Before they went into battle it was ordained that the priest should authoritatively announce the presence of the authority and power of God.

Then the army itself was to be sifted. Men whose hearts were for the time being set on other things, houses, or vineyards, or wives, were not to go into the fighting line. Moreover, those who failed to see the vision of God and therefore were faint­hearted were to be refused.

Before attacking far­distant cities, an offering of peace was to be made. Where there was submission, a certain measure of leniency was to follow. In the case of the cities which the Lord gave them as an inheritance, the war was to be one of extermination. The reasons for this already have been revealed.

In connection with these commands occurs one of those remarkable evidences of the divine attention to the smallest matters. No trees were to be cut down which were of value to the sustenance of the people.