Driving Out the Nations
Moses continues to encourage, remind, and warn the people of Israel of all the things God taught them on their journey to the promised land. He is preparing them for his absence, knowing that from this time on they will no longer have him as their advocate to God. He has trained Joshua to take his place, but every parent worries for their children’s future as we are sure Moses did.
1 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally.[a] Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. 5 This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles[b] and burn their idols in the fire. 6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
Here it is. The magnitude of God’s favor and the cost it requires from those God blesses. Moses tells them that these nations that inhabit this land are larger and stronger. Yet still – God will drive them out and give the Israelites the land. However, there is a cost… they must destroy the inhabitants completely. They can show no mercy – because even the tiniest compromise will grow into sin. Even the tiniest compromise will be the sin of disobedience to God. He tells them not only to defeat them completely, but do not marry them, destroy everything, all their altars and idols must be smashed and burned. They are to remain holy before God, they cannot allow even the smallest seed of sin to remain. God knew that some of these families from Canaan were well-known and honorable. Marriage into some of these families would give them favor with those in the neighboring countries. But God forbid this, because they would eventually cause his people to sin with their ancient idols. This isolation from the world is part of the cost of God’s blessing and favor, but it would come with so much more benefit in relation to the cost to them.
7 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. 10 But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.
11 Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today.
Moses reminds them that the Lord’s favor is not based on their greatness, but on His. God is a being of His word, he made a promise to their ancestors and he was faithful to keep it. He gives a brief reminder of the salvation they were given from Egypt. Even thought they were stubborn and rebellious, and gave both God and Moses a difficult time – he was always faithful and he always blessed them. Moses then cautions them that although God will keep his covenant for a thousand generations to those who love him, he will also punish those who hate him. This is followed immediately with “therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today.” This connects “those who hate him” with those who do not follow his commands, decrees and laws. Those who are disobedient show their hatred of God in their disobedience and rebellion. This is important because Israel was once disobedient and rebellious. They have much to be thankful for because God did not destroy them in the desert when they rightfully deserved it. This is why Moses is reminding them and cautioning them.
12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. 13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you. 14 You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor will any of your livestock be without young. 15 The Lord will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you. 16 You must destroy all the peoples the Lord your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.
Every warning also comes with a reminder of the blessing that comes with obedience. Here Moses reminds them that God will continue to love them and bless them. They will increase in abundance in every area of their lives because of their obedience. All of God’s promises will be theirs as long as they obey. But they must be strong and not show pity to those who hate God, they must not allow mercy to the enemies of God or they too will be destroyed. Moses repeats this because of it’s importance, he knows how the human heart can be moved by mercy. This is why we have so many sayings such as “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
17 You may say to yourselves, “These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?” 18 But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. 19 You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear. 20 Moreover, the Lord your God will send the hornet among them until even the survivors who hide from you have perished. 21 Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. 22 The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. 23 But the Lord your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them. 25 The images of their gods you are to burn in the fire. Do not covet the silver and gold on them, and do not take it for yourselves, or you will be ensnared by it, for it is detestable to the Lord your God. 26 Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Regard it as vile and utterly detest it, for it is set apart for destruction.
Here now is the encouragement. Moses is reminding them of the awesome power of their Father God. They are not to fear the nations they will stand against because the victory is already won. If God promised it – it is done. All that time in the desert taught them how powerful God was, how trustworthy he was, and how to fully rely on Him and be obedient to Him. Moses fortifies this with these reminders and encouragements. He knows that they will face seemingly great odds, but God will show himself even more powerful. He gives them these reminders to encourage and keep them from fear. He tells them they will not conquer the whole land in one battle, but it will be a little by little process, and they can rest assured of the total destruction of the nations. Finally Moses reminds them again about the idols, this time in the context of their monetary value. It would have been easy for them to consider burning the idols and then using the silver or gold for themselves. But even the base metals have been tainted by their use for idolatry and God forbids even this use of the gold and silver. It must be destroyed completely and utterly and they must treat it with revulsion. It is detestable to God and therefore detestable to them if they love him.
These are good teachings to remember at a time such as we face in these days. As the earth hurtles towards the end of times, we need to always keep ourselves reminded to remain set apart for God as those who love him. Amen.
- Deuteronomy 7:2 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verse 26.
- Deuteronomy 7:5 That is, wooden symbols of the goddess Asherah; here and elsewhere in Deuteronomy