|<< Deuteronomy 20 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
Horses, and chariots - The most formidable elements of an Oriental host, which the Canaanites possessed in great numbers; compare Joshua 17:16; Judges 4:3; 1 Samuel 13:5. Israel could not match these with corresponding forces (compare Deuteronomy 17:16 note and references), but, having the God of battles on its side, was not to be dismayed by them; the assumption being that the war had the sanction of God, and was consequently just.
2And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people,
The priest - Not the high priest, but one appointed for the purpose, and called, according to the rabbis, "the anointed of the war": hence, perhaps the expression of Jeremiah 6:4, etc. "prepare ye" (literally consecrate) "war." Thus, Phinehas went with the warriors to fight against Midian (Numbers 31:6; compare 1 Samuel 4:4, 1 Samuel 4:11; 2 Chronicles 13:12).
3And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;
4For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.
5And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it.
The officers dedicated it - See Exodus 5:6 note.
Compare the marginal references. The expression is appropriate, because various ceremonies of a religious kind were customary among the Jews on taking possession of a new house. The immunity conferred in this verse lasted, like that in Deuteronomy 20:7 (compare Deuteronomy 24:5), for one year.
6And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it.
See the margin and references. The fruit of newly-planted trees was set apart from common uses for four years.
7And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.
8And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart.
9And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.
The meaning is that the "officers" should then subdivide the levies, and appoint leaders of the smaller divisions thus constituted.
10When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
Directions intended to prevent wanton destruction of life and property in sieges.
11And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.
12And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
13And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
14But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.
15Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
16But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
Forbearance, however, was not to be shown toward the Canaanite nations, which were to be utterly exterminated (compare Deuteronomy 7:1-4). The command did not apply to beasts as well as men (compare Joshua 11:11, Joshua 11:14).
17But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:
18That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.
19When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man's life) to employ them in the siege:
The parenthesis may he more literally rendered "for man is a tree of the field," i. e., has his life from the tree of the field, is supported in life by it (compare Deuteronomy 24:6). The Egyptians seem invariably to have cut down the fruit-trees in war.
20Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued.