Pastoral Commentary for Deuteronomy 20:1-21:21
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
God gave His people a wonderful promise. Even though the army coming against them was larger and more powerful, they need not fear, because the LORD would fight for them to give them the victory. Those who had built a new house, planted a new vineyard or taken a new wife were to be exempt from battle and were free to return home. Even those who were fearful were urged to return home so that their fear would not make their fellow soldiers fainthearted. In this way, it would be clear that the victory was the LORD's. Terms of peace were to be offered to cities surrounding the Promised Land, and when accepted the residents of those towns were to serve the Israelites. Otherwise, the residents were to be destroyed. The cities of "the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites" who occupied the Promised Land, however, were to be devoted to complete destruction. This was God's judgment on the wickedness of those people, which He had waited 430 years to bring about because their sin had "not yet reached its full measure" (Genesis 15:16). Now that their wickedness was complete, they were to be wiped out so that they could not lead Israel into idolatry. When a person was found murdered and no guilty party could be found, an atoning sacrifice was to be made for the people of the city nearest where the body was found. This provision, like so many others in Jewish Law, showed how precious life was to God. Laws were also established about marrying captive women, the rights of the firstborn son, and the treatment of a rebellious son. All these laws were intended to help set apart God's people.