Chapter 7


Driving Out the Nations

        • When the Lord brings you into the promised land, He will drive out the many nations that are currently occupying it. Those seven nations- the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites are all larger and more powerful than you are. When the Lord hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must destroy them completely. Don’t make any treaties with them, or show them any mercy. Don’t intermarry with them by letting your daughters marry their sons or by letting your sons marry their daughters because they will turn your children away from following Me and they will worship other gods. If this happens, the Lord will become angry and quickly destroy you. This is what you are to do instead: tear down their altars, smash their sacred stone pillars, cut down their Asherah poles, and burn their carved idols. You are to do this because you belong to the Lord your God and are a holy people. The Lord your God has chosen you to be His special people out of all the nations of the earth.

            • This blatant call to what most skeptics label “holy war” or “genocide” is hard for some Christians to reconcile with the stark contrast of New Testament directives. How should we, as Christians, respond to these inevitable questions? Does the Bible Say Anything About Holy War from Gotquestions is a great place to start. Some selected quotes:

              • First, the authors draw a distinction between “holy war” and “just war”:

                • The concept of ‘holy war’ is most commonly expressed as a war justified on the grounds of religious differences. As typically understood, this concept is neither taught nor encouraged by the Bible. The ancient Israelites were never given a broad mandate to wage war on behalf of their faith, though they were given a specific time, place, and that which they were instructed to conquer. Jesus Christ explicitly contradicted the holy war concept through both His teachings and His example. The concept of ‘just war,’ meaning justifiable war waged by a legitimate government, is not the same as a ‘holy war.’”

                • …the nation of Israel was given a mandate only to conquer the land of Canaan (Numbers 34:2). This command was for a specific place, time, and people, not an endorsement of religious warfare. Nor was the conquest of Canaan made on the basis of religion, in and of itself. On the contrary, God repeatedly stated that this conquest was due to the wickedness of the Canaanites, not the merit of Israel (Deuteronomy 9:4–6). Historically, this is exactly how the nation of Israel interpreted these commands. No attempts were made to conquer other lands or to expand that territory through combat.”

            • It’s also important to realize that God was not just kicking out an innocent people in order to present their land to the Israelites. This was a specific judgment upon these pagan people groups for the atrocities that they committed on a regular basis and it had taken quite a long time for them to get to this point- but God had always known they would get there (Genesis 15:16). As Guzik notes “…the depraved nature of the worship of the Canaanites, who worshipped male and female gods of sex and who practiced human sacrifice with their own children.” God also told the Israelites in no uncertain terms that if they adopted these practices, their fate would be identical to the pagan nations He cast out before them.

          • Christians are strictly forbidden from using violence in an attempt to spread their faith. Christ directly told His disciples not to use violence to further His ministry (Matthew 26:52–54)…The example of the earliest believers was that of civil disobedience (Acts 5:25–29) and submission (Romans 13:4–5), never armed revolution or conquest. In fact, for the first three centuries of its existence, Christianity was effectively illegal, yet it spread throughout the Roman Empire.”

          • Atheists routinely accuse “religion” as being the predominant historical cause of war. The source above provides these statistics:

          • The occurrence of ‘holy war,’ historically speaking, is rare. Secular historians note that more than 90 percent of the wars fought in human history had no religious motivation. The remaining 7 percent of conflicts account for about 2 percent of all deaths in war. Islam accounts for more than half of these religious wars, despite existing for only about 1/3 of human history; in Islam’s first three centuries, its growth was fueled by armed conquest. If there’s any reason the concept of ‘holy war’ exists, it’s fair to say that reason is Islam.”

          • It’s also worth noting that atheistic regimes have resulted in untold millions of deaths, just in the last 100 years alone. Religious belief, historically, hasn’t been a major cause of conflict, while non-belief has enabled some of history’s worst atrocities.”

          • All of this information withstanding, the HCSB commentary declares this foundational Christian truth: “God, in His sovereign grace, makes decisions based upon His omniscient wisdom in line with plans and purposes known, and knowable, only to Him. What seems arbitrary and even unfair must be understood as the best possible action for God to take. This was true of His election (choice) of Israel, but one people out of the myriads from which He could have chosen. To impose human ‘standards’ of fairness and righteousness and all wise God is the height of arrogance. He is answerable to no man (Romans 9:20).”

        • The Lord didn’t choose you and bestow His affection upon you because you were a large nation, in fact you were the smallest of all. Instead, it was just because the Lord loved you and was keeping His oath that He made to your fathers. That’s why He rescued you from the slavery and oppression you endured under Pharaoh in Egypt. Therefore, understand that Yahweh is indeed God. He is the faithful God who graciously and loyally keeps His covenant for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands. However, He doesn’t hesitate to directly pay back and destroy those who hate Him. Therefore, keep all His commands, statutes, and ordinances that I’m giving you today.”

          • HCSB notes, “In a covenant context such as this, love does not refer to the emotional of providential aspect of God’s character. In those senses, He loves all people equally (Matthew 5:45; John 3:16). Here the term is synonymous with choice. The Lord is saying that He chose Israel simply because he chose her; His ‘love’ is His loyalty to the covenant He has granted. This sheds light on the difficult statement ‘I have loved Jacob, but I hated Esau’ (Malachi 1:2-3; Romans 9:13). ‘Love’ and ‘hate’ do not signify emotions of attraction or revulsion, but are expressions of the presence or absence of a special bond of loyalty (Luke 14:26).”

        • If you listen to and obey all of the Lord’s commands, the Lord will keep His covenant with you just as He swore to your fathers. He will love you, bless you, and give you many children. He’ll bless your children and make your land and livestock productive. You will be more blessed than any other nation. Neither your livestock nor your people will suffer from infertility or from the terrible diseases you’ve seen in Egypt. However, He’ll inflict those diseases on the nations who hate you. You must destroy all the people that the Lord hands over to you. Don’t pity them or worship their gods because that will be a trap for you.

        • You may be tempted to think to yourselves, “These nations are bigger than we are! How will we conquer them?” But don’t be afraid. Remember what the Lord did to Pharaoh and all of Egypt which you saw with your own eyes: the signs and wonders that He performed, the terrible things that God sent against them, how He brought you out of Egypt by His power. He will do the same to these people you now fear.

        • Don’t be afraid. The great and awesome Lord your God is among you. He will send a panic against your foes until even all the survivors who are hiding from you die. You won’t be able to destroy all these people at once. If you did, the wild animals would multiply too quickly and become a problem for you. Instead, God will drive the people out little by little. The Lord will throw them into confusion until you have conquered all the kings and destroyed them. No one will be able to oppose you- you will destroy them all.

          • Many Bible translations render the word “panic” above as “hornets.” HCSB notes that this could be literal, but as the meaning of the Hebrew word is obscure we can’t know for sure. “The ability of hornets to drive away whole armies is understandable, given the devastation of Egypt wrought by plagues of gnats, flies, and locusts. On the other hand, hornets (Hebrew tsir’a) might more accurately be translated ‘panic’ as suggested by Exodus 23:27-28).”

          • Guzik writes, “The way easiest for Israel was for God to clear all Israel’s enemies out at once. But this easy way had consequences Israel could not see or appreciate…Sometimes to our frustration, this is the way God often works in our life. He clears things away little by little even though we might prefer it all at once. But God wanted Israel to grow spiritually in the process of taking the Promised Land.”

        • You must burn all of their carved idols and don’t covet or take for yourselves any of the silver and gold that is on these idols. If you do, it will become a trap to you. God abhors these things and you must not bring anything that is detestable to the Lord into your homes or you will be destroyed just like them. You must also abhor these things that are set apart to be destroyed.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Worship of false gods is detestable to the Lord: It denies that God is unique and rejects His demand for exclusive worship (Deuteronomy 5:7-9). The horrific and disgusting rituals typically associated with pagan worship were antithetical to God’s holy nature, but Israel was in danger of being led into similar beliefs and practices (Deuteronomy 12:31; 13:12-17). An Israelite who acknowledged false gods committed an act of treason. The only remedy was complete and total destruction of these detestable objects.”

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