3.63 Deuteronomy -- Treatment of Foreigners: Distant Nations
d. A fourth policy concerned relations with other unspecified foreign countries. The ideal situation was stated as:
You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you (Deut 15:6).
Specific rules of warfare were set in regard to distant cities. These cities were characterized as "enemies" "at a distance" (Deut 20:1-4, Deut 20:15). This denotes a punitive action against an overtly hostile nation. Even here, the Israelites first had to allow the city the opportunity to surrender, in which case the inhabitants were enslaved. If they did not surrender, the city could be attacked, and all males in it killed, while women and belongings were captured (Deut 20:10-15). These women could be forced into marriage (after a period of bereavement). If the man tired of his foreign wife, he could divorce her and expel her, but he was not allowed to enslave her (Deut 21:10-14).
The predominance of Israel over foreign nations was reversed if Israel defaulted on its obedience to God:
The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your fathers (Deut 28:36).
Their children would go into captivity (Deut 28:41). Even more drastic, God would bring against them a nation "from far away," to lay siege to Israel's towns. Families would eat their own children, and a new mother her own baby and afterbirth. You cannot get more graphic than that! (Deut 28:47-57). Israel would be scattered throughout the earth, and even return to Egypt to offer themselves as slaves, yet no one would buy them (Deut 28:64-8).
Thus, other nations would become witnesses of God’s dealings with Israel, for good or ill. Moses appealed to what Egypt would say if the Lord destroyed Israel (Deut 9:28). But more than that,
"all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you" (Deut 28:10)
-- or else Israel itself would become an object of horror, scorn, and ridicule to many nations (Deut 28:37). Foreigners would see Israel destroyed in a manner similar to Sodom, and all nations would ask why the Lord had done this. Here we see that God's use of the nations for divine purposes went both ways. Israel could either play the role of hammer or of anvil. God would be glorified through Israel either way. If the nations did not look on her with admiration and awe, then they would marvel at her devastation (Deut 29:22-28).