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3.61 Deuteronomy -- Treatment of Foreigners: Canaanites

         b. As was covered earlier, no mercy was to be shown to the inhabitants of Canaan.  Total destruction was decreed, based on the peoples' behavior, not their race.

         You must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.  Do not intermarry with them. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire  (Deut 4:2-5).

         In the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes (Deut 20:16).

God gave Israel the task of  conquering and replenishing the land.  Israel did not need to be afraid of the power of the inhabitants.  God would fight for His people, and would do to these nations what He had done to Pharaoh in Egypt.  However, it was to be a progressive and gradual cleansing of the land (Deut 7:17-26Deut 9:1-3).  Should Israel fall away from God and adopt the practices of the Canaanites, they would likewise be destroyed (Deut 7:4Deut 8:19-20).


This mandate of destruction was limited in time and place.  The targeted nations were named (Deut 7:1Deut 25:17-19).  Israel was acting as the agent of God's judgment, just as in later generations many foreign nations would fill that role against Israel.   There was no justification for Israel to extend this policy towards other nations, or beyond the time of the conquest of Canaan.  Neither is there any justification for later Christian crusaders and colonists to apply these verses to their own situations.

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