The Word Made Fresh
1“The LORD your God will lead you into the land you are going to possess. The LORD will clear out the peoples who live there, the seven nations larger and stronger than you – Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 2When you defeat them you must destroy them completely. Don’t make treaties with them; show no mercy. 3Do not intermarry with them, 4because that would result in your children turning away from me and serving other gods, and the LORD’s anger would explode and do away with you. 5Instead, you must tear their altars apart, smash their stone columns, cut down the carved poles honoring their gods and burn their idols. 6The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the people in the world to be set apart and sacred, the LORD’s precious possession.
7“The LORD did not choose you because there are so many of you, but because you are the fewest of all the nations around, 8and because the LORD loves you. The LORD honored your ancestors and promised to take care of you. The LORD has kept that promise, bringing you out of slavery with a great victory over Pharaoh, king of Egypt. 9The LORD your God is faithful and loyal for a thousand generations to those who keep the LORD’s commandments, 10but those who reject the LORD will be repaid by their own destruction. 11So, be sure to diligently keep the rules and regulations and laws I am giving you today.
12“If you faithfully follow the LORD’s laws, the LORD will keep the promise made to you that has been passed down from your ancestors. 13The LORD will love you, and bless you with children, with crops, with grain, with wine and oil, with calves born in your herds and lambs in your flocks – all these things will be yours in the land the LORD promised your ancestors. 14You will be blessed more than any other peoples. None of you will be without children, and the same goes for your flocks and herds. 15The LORD will protect you from every illness. You will not succumb to any of the diseases you encountered in Egypt, but they will afflict your enemies. 16You must completely defeat them and show no pity, for the LORD is giving them to you. Do not serve their gods; that would be the end of you.
17“If you think these nations are stronger than you, and wonder how you will defeat them, 18don’t be afraid. Remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and Egypt. 19Remember the trials the LORD brought on them, the mighty works, the signs and wonders from the LORD’s own hand, and know that the LORD will do the same to the nations you fear. 20The LORD will hound them like hornets until none of them are left. 21Don’t be afraid of them because the LORD your God, powerful and mighty, is with you. 22The LORD will drive them out before you little by little. If you were to sweep them away too quickly the wild animals would take over the land. 23But the LORD your God will give them to you. They will panic as you advance, until they are completely defeated. 24The LORD will hand their kings over to you. No one will remember them, and no one will be able to resist you; you will overcome them all. 25You must burn the statues and idols of their gods. Do not long for the silver and gold that covers those things lest you be ensnared by them. Those things are detestable to the LORD your God, 26so do not dare to bring them into your house or you will be marked for destruction along with them. You must completely and utterly detest these things.”
1-6: Having set the safeguards in the previous chapter, Moses now turns to the conquest of the land. He tells them to “utterly destroy” the peoples of the land. Once again, we note that this is Moses’ command, not God’s. Even so, notice that he warns them not to intermarry with the people of the land, which implies that the “utter” destruction does not include killing everybody. The command not to intermarry is directly related to the episode at Baal-Peor when the Midianite women seduced the Israelite men, leading to a plague and the death of thousands (see Numbers 25).
7-16: Here is a touching explanation of why God chose Israel. It is a covenant born out of God’s love for them, and it must be protected by their fidelity to God, just as the marriage covenant is protected by the fidelity of the couple to one another.
17-26: Moses encourages them not to be afraid of the task before them because of the size of the indigenous populations. Here is one reason why it is so important to remember their past: if God could defeat Egypt, surely the loosely connected tribes inhabiting the land of Canaan will be no match for them. The one thing they must remember is to guard against being enticed by the popular religions practiced in Canaan. They must not be attracted by the gold and silver figures representing pagan gods and goddesses – that concern is lifted up over and over as the primary temptation they will face.
Consider the “idols” that tempt people today – fame, fortune, popularity, sexual freedom, power – the list is almost endless. Think back on a time when your desire for one or more of these things temporarily captured your attention. Was it fulfilling? Did it deliver the blessings you thought it would? False gods and idols still abound in our world, perhaps more than ever before. We need to work on our fidelity to God and the things of God to help us navigate through the maze of distractions the world offers over and against faith.