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Daniel Block: Deuteronomy 7 opens with series of temporal clauses that set the stage for the presentation of the test of Israel’s love for Yahweh (v. 2b). The policy of ḥērem is to be implemented when

(1) Yahweh has brought the Israelites into the Promised Land,

(2) he has cleared away the opposition,

(3) he has delivered the Canaanites into the hands of the Israelites, and

(4) the Israelites have defeated them.

As in 6:10, the test of Israel’s love for Yahweh will come when God’s promises have been fulfilled.

Peter Craigie: In summary, when the Israelites conquered their new land, they were to destroy the old inhabitants, refusing to enter into any kind of treaty with them, either political or marital. Any kind of treaty would be a compromise and would lead to disaster; therefore the Israelites were to destroy systematically the physical religious “furniture” of their enemies, indicating thereby their complete lack of recognition for the gods of their enemies.

Michael Grisanti: Scholars have suggested variously that the focus of ch. 7

(1) warns against making an alliance with the Canaanites (Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1–11, 357, 77),

(2) exhorts holy and obedient conduct (Christensen, Deuteronomy 1:1–21:9, 152, 159),

(3) centers on some aspect of the extermination of the Canaanites, i.e., holy war (Craigie, 177; Merrill, Deuteronomy, 176; Thompson, 127; Tigay, Deuteronomy, 84), or

(4) highlights God’s faithfulness to his promises (Hall, 149).

Although ch. 7 relates to all those issues, the following thematic statement more completely summarizes the heart of the chapter. God’s choice of Israel as his special nation (and his continued faithfulness to them) must always be central to their identity. As a result, God demands the extermination of the Canaanites. God’s choice of Israel should be a treasured reality, and Israel’s identity must be guarded against corruption.

Gerald Gerbrandt: The key for unlocking the content of the chapter, the window through which one must view it, is verse 6. It presents the central premise of the chapter, election (God has chosen [elected] you), and proclaims its implications: on the one hand, separation (You are a people holy); and on the other hand, abundance and safety (to be his people, his treasured possession).

The three principal words of the verse (holy, chosen, and treasured possession) thus provide the structure for the chapter. The opening verses spell out what it means to be holy: to live as a holy people requires separation from the neighboring peoples and their religious ways (vv. 1–5). The central portion of the chapter declares that Israel has been chosen, or elected, yet clarifies that that this relationship was initiated by God and is based not on merit but solely on God’s undeserved love (vv. 7–11). If Israel remains true to its election, it will be blessed beyond all measure (vv. 12–16), it will be God’s treasured possession in the land that God is giving (vv. 17–26).


A. (:1-2) Destroy (Cut off) the Occupying Idolatrous Nations

1. (:1) Mighty Activity of God in Clearing Away the Nations

“When the LORD your God shall bring you into the land

where you are entering to possess it,

and shall clear away many nations before you,

the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you,”

Daniel Block: Moses’ introduction of the antagonists makes it clear that the challenges a previous generation of Israelites faced have not diminished in the intervening thirty-eight years (1:28). He highlights the strength of the enemy with five expressions:

(1) the nations are many;

(2) they are the same nations that had faced their ancestors;

(3) they are seven nations (a literary figure representing the totality of the population);

(4) they are more numerous;

(5) and they are stronger than Israel. This is a frank assessment of the challenge facing his people (cf. v. 17).

2. (:2) Military Activity of the Israelites in Destroying the Nations

“and when the LORD your God shall deliver them before you,

and you shall defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.

You shall make no covenant with them

and show no favor to them.”

Daniel Block: Based on a recently published Hittite text describing the ritual, the emphatic verbal expression haḥarēm taḥarîm (“to destroy totally”) seems to serve as shorthand for a complex series of actions:

(1) defeating the military forces of a city;

(2) slaughtering the population;

(3) burning the town;

(4) sowing it with salt (Judg. 9:45);

(5) pronouncing a curse on it (Josh. 6:26);

(6) consecrating it to Yahweh.

Most of these elements are featured in Deuteronomy 13:15–16[16–17], which provides the fullest description of the policy.

Eugene Merrill: However all these peoples came to be in the land, they were trespassers in the eyes of the Lord, for he already had promised Abraham to give the land to him and his descendants (Gen 12:1,7; 13:17; 15:18). The Lord himself would therefore drive them out and deliver them over (n tan) to Israel, who would defeat them. But Israel must follow this up by subjecting these hopelessly unrepentant idolaters to the rem that is, to total and unexceptional destruction. The verb “destroy them totally” used to describe this act occurs only in the causative stem (he rîm) and means “to devote someone or something to the Lord by exterminating it.” This drastic action was taken as a form of immediate divine judgment upon those who had sinned away their day of grace (cf. Gen 15:16; Lev 18:24-30). It also was to preclude their wicked influence on God’s covenant people who would otherwise tend to make covenant and intermarry with them (Deut 7:3) and adopt their idolatry (v. 4), something that, in fact, did take place because of Israel’s failure to obey the rem decree. The net result was violation of the first two commandments (v. 4; cf. 5:7-10; 6:13-15).

Peter Craigie: You shall not make a treaty with them (v. 2)—the word translated treaty here is berîṯ, the same word employed for “covenant.” The word gives a clue to the reason for the harsh policy of war to be employed by the Israelites. The Israelites were bound primarily by their berîṯ (covenant, treaty) with the Lord, and though this was a religious bond, it was also a political bond, for it set aside Israel as a distinctive nation among other nations. To make a treaty with other nations would indicate a lack of faithfulness on the part of the Israelites to their suzerain God. Likewise, the Israelites were forbidden to undertake a marriage alliance with them; although there may be a prohibition of mixed marriages between Israelites and non-Israelites implicit here, the specific prohibition probably has in mind the forging of political treaties by means of marriage. This course of action, as with the making of a treaty (v. 2), would be an indication of compromise and could lead to a disruption of the covenant faithfulness to the one God: he would turn your son aside from following after the Lord and they would serve other gods. Thus both prohibitions (vv. 2–3) have in mind the preservation of the covenant relationship with the Lord by forbidding any relationship that would bring that first and most important relationship into danger. The covenant relationship was to be guarded further by positive action, namely the total destruction of the various types of religious equipment employed in Canaanite religion (v. 5).

B. (:3-4) Forbid the Seductive Temptation of Mixed Marriages

1. (:3) Categoric Prohibition

“Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them;

you shall not give your daughters to their sons,

nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.”

Michael Grisanti: Socially, the Israelites are forbidden to allow their sons or daughters to intermarry with Canaanite men and women (7:3); such marital alliances would result from making treaties with these peoples. Marriages between Israelites would strengthen the fabric of God’s people; marriages made with non-Israelites would weaken that fabric (McConville, 153). Israel’s history is replete with examples of idolatry that followed Israelite intermarriage with pagan peoples (cf. Solomon [1Ki 11:3] and Ahab [1Ki 16:30–33]). Though “mixed” marriages were not prohibited across the board (Nu 12:1; Dt 21:10–14), intermarriage would generally lead to idolatry, which would in turn occasion the wrath of Yahweh.

2. (:4a) Cause of Perversion and Idolatry

“For they will turn your sons away from following Me

to serve other gods;”

3. (:4b) Catastrophic Judgment Prevented

“then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you,

and He will quickly destroy you.”

C. (:5) Destroy (Cut Off) Everything Facilitating Idolatry

“But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars,

and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim,

and burn their graven images with fire.”

Daniel Block: Altars were viewed as the tables of the gods, on which worshipers presented offerings of food and beverage. In pagan cultic contexts, “pillars” (maṣṣēbôt) were upright stones often engraved with religious symbols, symbolic of the male deity. Asherah poles were wooden symbols representing the female principle in the Canaanite fertility religion. They were probably carved in the form of a woman with exaggerated sexual features. Pesîlîm is a generic term for carved images, though sacred images were often plated with gold or silver.

Eugene Merrill: The “sacred stones” represented the male procreative aspect of the Canaanite fertility religion; and the Asherah, the female. Asherah was also the name of the mother goddess of the Canaanite pantheon, the deity responsible for fertility and the productivity of soil, animals, and humankind. She was represented by either an evergreen tree or by a pole that also spoke of perpetual life. The cult carried on in their name was of the most sensual and sordid type, one practiced in the temples and also under the open sky at high places and in groves of trees. Prominent in its services was sacred prostitution involving priests and priestesses who represented the male and female deities.

Gerald Gerbrandt: Israel’s election calls forth a holy people, a people committed to exclusive worship of God as proclaimed by the first commandment and the Shema (6:4–9). As Moberly suggests, with a metaphoric use of the term ḥerem, Deuteronomy calls for total loyalty to the Shema, a loyalty that requires complete separation. Disregard of this holiness is most explicitly represented by covenants with other peoples, intermarriage, and the cult of the Canaanites.


A. Holiness

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God;”

B. Election

“the LORD your God has chosen you”

C. Treasured Possession

“to be a people for His own possession

out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”

Peter Craigie: The reason for Israel’s policy of war lay in her election and holiness, two important religious themes which are related directly to the covenant. The Israelites were a holy people because of their relationship to God, which separated them, or cut them off (apparently the original sense of the root qdš, “holy”), from other peoples and practices. Their holy character does not indicate inherent merit, but rather divine choice; God had chosen Israel to be a people prized more highly than all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The Heb. seḡullāh, translated prized … highly, describes the special relationship between the Lord and his people; the cognate Akkadian word (sikiltu) is used in a treaty seal from Alalaḫ to describe the king as a “treasured possession” of his god. Thus Israel’s character as a holy people gave them no ground for pride, but imposed on them the responsibility of their calling.

Michael Grisanti: The noun (segullâ; GK 6035), “treasured possession,” also occurs in five other passages to describe Israel’s privileged status (Ex 19:5; Dt 14:2; 26:18; Ps 135:4; Mal 3:17) and Yahweh’s affection for his chosen people. Elsewhere it refers to a king’s private fortune (1Ch 29:3; Ecc 2:8). In an Akkadian text a king is depicted as the special possession (sikiltum) of a god, and in a Ugaritic letter a Hittite king (the suzerain) reminds a Ugaritic king (the vassal) that he is the Hittite king’s servant and sglt (Weinfeld, Deuteronomy 1–11, 368). In language reminiscent of Exodus 19:4–6 (where Moses lays before the covenantal nation God’s primary expectations of them, so that they are a “banner nation” before the nations of the world), Moses explains the theological foundation for this demand to exterminate the Canaanites and all of their religious utensils. Because of their identity (chosen, holy people, treasured possession), Israel must avoid idolatry and clearly manifest their God-given identity to all surrounding nations (cf. Dt 14:2; 26:18; Ps 135:4; Mal 3:17; Tit 2:14; 1Pe 2:9).

John Schultz: “treasured possession” — The Hebrew word is cegullah, which means something that is kept under lock and key because of its great value. The KJV translates it sometimes: “jewel.” Israel was God’s “treasure hidden in a field,” and “the pearl of great value” in Jesus’ parables.

Gerald Gerbrandt: Through this election, Israel becomes God’s treasured possession (one word in Hebrew). The term emphasizes that Israel belongs to God—it is not free or independent—even as it underscores the special status of Israel.

Chapter 7 is an exposition of this verse and its three key terms:

verses 1–5 — Israel as a holy people

verses 7–11 — Israel as a chosen people

verses 12–26 — Israel as a treasured possession.

Deuteronomy’s concern is to confront and reject any misunderstanding of election that might ground it in Israel’s merit. Election is simply based in God’s undeserved love. The gracious basis of this love is incomprehensible: it remains a mystery, indeed must remain a mystery. But its reality is fundamental. Israel is bound to God through God’s love. The question before Israel is whether it will return that love to God (cf. v. 11; 6:4–9).

McIntosh: Perhaps more than any other chapter of Scripture, Deuteronomy 7 flies in the face of the modern passion for political correctness. In this chapter Israel is given property at the expense of a group of resident ethnic groups and told to eradicate them from the land. It was not because of their moral superiority, however, that they were chosen for such elevation. Israel was simply regarded as a people holy or separate by virtue of their relationship with God. It was God’s choice, and not their superior behavior, that made them special in his sight, his treasured possession. (Holman Old Testament Commentary)


A. (:7-8) God’s Choice of Israel

1. (:7) Negatively Stated – Not Based on any Merit

“The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you

because you were more in number than any of the peoples,

for you were the fewest of all peoples,”

2. (:8) Positively Stated – Based on God’s Love and Faithfulness

“but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore

to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand,

and redeemed you from the house of slavery,

from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

Michael Grisanti: God’s choice to set his love on Israel was based in God alone. . . Yahweh’s decision to love Israel and his fixed commitment to his oath provided the theological foundation for his delivering them from bondage in Egypt.

Gerald Gerbrandt: The consequence of election is a relationship—or in the language of Deuteronomy, a covenant (e.g., 5:2)—with a redeeming God. To know (7:9) is much more than merely intellectual awareness: it includes making the reality fully part of one’s total being, both thought and action. The phrase your God, used more than 240 times in Deuteronomy, highlights the relationship in this passage and is a reminder of it whenever used in the book. God’s faithfulness to the covenant means that Israel can count on God. If Israel responds faithfully by loving God and keeping the commandments (not two different responses but one and the same), its blessings will be endless (cf. vv. 12–16). Disobedience is not merely disregard of regulations but basically a personal rejection of God. And rejection has consequences. The language here recalls that of the second commandment (5:9–10), which contrasts the infinitely greater effect of God’s love with God’s discipline. The twice-used phrase repays in their own person, with its use of the singular noun, also suggests that the punishment is more limited than God’s covenant loyalty, which applies to a thousand generations. The only appropriate response thus is diligent observance of the Torah (v. 11).

B. (:9-10) God’s Faithfulness

1. (:9) Lovingkindness Towards Those Who Keep His Covenant

“Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God,

the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness

to a thousandth generation

with those who love Him and keep His commandments;”

Michael Grisanti: What does Yahweh expect from his redeemed people in light of the undeserved and miraculous demonstration of his great power in their behalf? He wants them to have a life-transforming knowledge of their covenantal Lord (7:9–10) and devote their entire beings to living in accordance with his demands (7:11).

2. (:10) Destruction Towards Those Who Hate Him

“but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them;

He will not delay with him who hates Him,

He will repay him to his face.”

Michael Grisanti: Moses uses a chiastic structure (evident in the Hebrew; cf. McConville, 158) to focus on the fact that God will destroy these covenantal rebels, and none will escape (7:10):

A Repay

B Those who hate him

C Destroy

C´ Do Not Delay

B´ Those who hate him

A´ Repay

Eugene Merrill: On the contrary, those who hate him will quickly experience his destruction. Again, “to hate,” in the context of covenant terminology, means “to reject, to repudiate as a covenant partner” (cf. 5:9; 9:28). Such covenant disloyalty deserves recompense, one described here (literally) as “repay to their face.” This expression occurs only here and probably means that the judgment would not be reserved for unborn generations but would fall immediately upon those who had sinned in this manner, right there and then. This view finds support in the fact that God “will not be slow” to repay (lit., “will not be afterward” in doing so).

C. (:11) Exhortation to Obey

“Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them.”

Eugene Merrill: Moses concluded this section of his command to dispossess the Canaanite nations by once more appealing to the “commands, decrees and laws,” meaning, of course, the covenant as a whole. By now it is clear that use of these terms not only constitutes a covenant reminder but serves to mark out significant divisions in the text (cf. 4:1,40; 5:1; 6:1,20; 8:11; 10:12-13; 11:1,32; 12:1; 26:16; 30:15-16). The exhortation resumes after this pivot point in a somewhat chiastic pattern in which vv. 12-16 reflect much of the sentiment of vv. 7-11 and vv. 17-26 match vv. 1-6.

Peter Craigie: On the basis of this divine love and choice, the Israelites are therefore persuaded to be obedient to the whole law (the commandment, and the statutes and the judgments, v. 11) which Moses was about to set before them.


A. (:12-16) Provision of Blessing Conditioned on Obedience

1. (:12-13) General Summary of the Link between Obedience and Blessing

a. (:12) Obedience

“Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.”

Peter Craigie: The prosperity, health, and success of the Israelites would be contingent upon obedience; only as they heard and were careful to obey God’s word would they continue to experience God’s faithfulness and loving kindness. It is this note of contingency that adds such solemnity to Moses’ discourse, for although God’s faithfulness and ability were beyond question, the course of the future would be dependent very largely on the people responding to their covenant obligations. This did not mean that obedience merited divine blessing, but rather that obedience maintained the proper covenant relationship with God; and his people could experience the blessing of God only when the covenant relationship, which involved reciprocal responsibilities, was properly maintained. Contingent upon this obedience would be their prosperity and fruitfulness in the land (vv. 13–14), their good health (v. 15), and their military success in the conquest (v. 16).

Gerald Gerbrandt: Election leads to Israel as God’s treasured possession. To be a treasured possession implies both that Israel is bound to God and that Israel has a special status.

b. (:13) Blessing

“And He will love you and bless you and multiply you;

He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil,

the increase of your herd and the young of your flock,

in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you.”

Peter Craigie: The ground would be fruitful and produce grain, new wine, and fresh oil; these three terms, denoting the substances in their simple or unmanufactured states, encompass the three principal food products of Palestine.

Daniel Block: All the expressions in verse 13b are linked with the Canaanite pantheon. Dāgān (“grain”) recalls Dagon, later the primary god of the Philistines (Judg. 16:23; 1 Sam. 5:2–7), though worship of this deity was widespread among the Canaanites. For “wine,” Moses substitutes the common word yayin (cf. 14:26) with tîrôš, which is cognate to the name of the god Tirshu/Tirash, attested in the El-Amarna letters and in Ugaritic texts. For olive “oil,” Moses substitutes the common word šemen (cf. 8:8) with yiṣhār, from a root meaning “shiny.” Some speculate that Yiṣhar is the name of the god of olive oil. The rare expression for “calves of your herds” (lit., “the increase of your cattle”) occurs elsewhere only in 28:4, 18, 51, and in Ex. 13:12. Replacing the more common ʿēgel (cf. 9:16, 21), šgr seems to be linked to the name of the deity Shaggar/Sheger, whose veneration has been attested in Ugaritic, Emar, Deir ʿAlla, and Punic texts.

However, the mythological connection is most transparent in the designation for “lambs of your flocks” (ʿašterôt ṣōʾnekā), which substitutes for the more common kebeś (cf. Ex. 29:39) or keśeb (Deut. 14:4). The veneration of Ishtar/Astarte, the goddess of fertility, was among the most widespread of any divinity in the ancient Near East. Moses’ preference for these rare expressions seems a deliberate stab at the jugular of Canaanite religion. In the land that Yahweh promised on oath to the ancestors, he alone guarantees the fertility of crops and herds. The pastor of Israel ends this promise of blessing in verse 14a with a final comprehensive promise: Israel will be blessed more than all the peoples.

2. (:14-16) Extension of God’s Blessing

a. (:14) Fruitfulness in Child Bearing

“You shall be blessed above all peoples;

there shall be no male or female barren among you

or among your cattle.”

b. (:15) Good Health

“And the LORD will remove from you all sickness;

and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt

which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you.”

Peter Craigie: In ancient Egypt, such diseases as elephantiasis, various types of boils, and afflictions of the eyes and bowels were particularly common and unpleasant. The Israelites would no longer be plagued with such sickness, but God would inflict it upon their enemies.

c. (:16) Military Success

“And you shall consume all the peoples whom the LORD your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.”

Michael Grisanti: Making a transition to the next paragraph, Moses reminds the Israelites of their God-given task, the extermination of the Canaanites. Moses warns them against the natural sympathy they will feel for these pagans and presses them to carry out God’s bidding. If they spare the Canaanites and then worship their pagan gods, it may lead to Israel’s own ruin.

B. (:17-26) Promises that Should Combat Doubts and Fears

1. (:17) Problem that Gives Rise to Doubts

“If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I;

how can I dispossess them?’”

Peter Craigie: There was a danger that they might let their minds reflect on the strength of their enemy (v. 17), rather than upon the strength of their God.

Michael Grisanti: Verses 17–19 look back at the ways Yahweh had already demonstrated his great power, and vv.20–24 look forward to his enabling Israel for the task God has set before his people, the extermination of the Canaanites. Moses concludes his exhortation by warning the Israelites about the danger of worshiping false gods (vv.25–26).

2. (:18-24) Promises that Should Alleviate Fear

Daniel Block: His word of promise divides into two parts, in Hebrew each being introduced by a three-word admonition: “Do not be afraid of them” (v. 18a); and “Do not be terrified by them” (v. 21). Exhibiting remarkable proportion, the words of encouragement that follow these exhortations are virtually identical in length: the first consists of forty-five words, the second of forty-seven.

a. (:18-20) Promise of the Invincible Power of the Lord

“You shall not be afraid of them; you shall well remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: 19 the great trials which your eyes saw and the signs and the wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God brought you out. So shall the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20 Moreover, the LORD your God will send the hornet against them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you perish.”

Michael Grisanti: The word pair “miraculous signs and wonders” (hāʾōtōt wehammōpetîm) occurs twelve times in the OT to refer to Yahweh’s unparalleled deliverance of Israel from Egypt (Ex 7:3; Dt 4:34; 7:19; 26:8; 29:2; 34:11; Ne 9:10; Pss 105:27; 135:9; Jer 32:20–21).

Duane Christensen: Deut 7:17–26 is transitional in nature, continuing the discussion of the holy war that the people are about to wage in the Promised Land (the focus of 7:12–16), and setting the stage for the grand summary of Deuteronomic theology contained in 8:1–20. The people are urged not to be concerned with the strength of their enemy (7:17–18), but rather to recall the mighty acts of God in their behalf during the exodus from Egypt. On an earlier occasion it was failure to trust YHWH that led to defeat (cf. 1:27–28). Moses urges them this time not to fear.

The remedy for fear is memory. This is why each generation is called to experience the exodus from Egypt anew in cultic drama each year in the Feast of Passover. The mighty acts of God are not to be seen as mere actions in history, accomplished once and for all time at particular moments in the past. The exodus from Egypt is a paradigm. It is to be the personal reality of each member of the community, part of their own experience (see D. Christensen, ed., Experiencing the Exodus [1988] 3–40). When this becomes a reality, the individual has the inner resources to indeed “remember what YHWH your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt” (7:18) and to trust God to do it again (cf. Hab 3:2).

Eugene Merrill: A major difference this time, however, was that Israel was not leaving a land but entering one and would not flee from a pursuer but would instead chase others. One of God’s agents would be “the hornet” (v. 20), a terror so powerful and persistent that it would search out and destroy even those who hid themselves. Whether this should be understood as the insect, either literally or metaphorically, or as depression or discouragement, the fact remains that it was some instrument used by the Lord to assist Israel in conflict (cf. Exod 23:28; Josh 24:12).

Indeed, the hornet possibly could have been the Lord himself, for Moses went on to say that the Lord would be among his people as an awesome God and that he would drive the enemy from Canaan little by little (vv. 21-22; cf. v. 1, where the same verb, n al, occurs).

b. (:21-24) Promise of the Invincible Presence of the Lord

“You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.

And the LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. 23 But the LORD your God shall deliver them before you, and will throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 And He will deliver their kings into your hand so that you shall make their name perish from under heaven; no man will be able to stand before you until you have destroyed them.”

Peter Craigie: The initial conquest would be sudden, but the process of settlement and complete conquest would be more gradual, while the Israelites grew sufficiently in number (i.e., while the promise of v. 13 was being fulfilled) to enable them to populate the land. The gradual changeover would thus avoid the danger of the land returning to a primitive state of natural anarchy: lest the wild beasts become too numerous for you. But during the gradual course of the conquest and settlement, God’s hand would be at work, and even those not immediately conquered would become anxious as they anticipated their own defeat: he will disturb them with great unrest until their annihilation (v. 23).

Daniel Block: However, to prevent his hearers from imagining that all they need to do is stand passively by and watch (Ex. 14–15), Moses adds a series of caveats to his promises of divine involvement.

(1) Although Yahweh will clear away the Canaanites, he will not do so in a single moment, but “little by little” (v. 22). He recognizes that the Israelites presently lack both the resources to eliminate them quickly and the population to occupy all the land that has been promised (cf. Ex. 23:30). The elimination of the population all at once would create a vacuum leading to a dangerous increase in the number of wild animals—presumably involving both scavenging creatures like jackals and more aggressive wolves and lions that actually threaten the Israelites (cf. 2 Kings 17:24–26).

(2) In verse 24b Moses declares that Yahweh will deliver the kings into the Israelites’ hands so they may obliterate their names from under the heavens (cf. 4:32). Since the ancients thought that people lived on in their children, the worst fate one could experience was to have his seed cut off and his name destroyed from his father’s household. The battle reports in the book of Joshua name several kings who opposed the Israelites, but the absence of royal names in the catalogue of defeated kings in Joshua 12:7–24 seems intentional.

(3) The concluding clause in verse 24, “you will destroy them,” summarizes the Israelites’ obligation in the conquest. Moses’ use of the same verb for “destroy” in verses 23 and 24 (hišmîd) reflects the synergy of divine and human involvement.

3. (:25-26) Prohibition that Should Protect Holiness

“The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. 26 And you shall not bring an abomination into your house, and like it come under the ban; you shall utterly detest it and you shall utterly abhor it, for it is something banned.”

Duane Christensen: The strong language of the concluding verses (Deut 7:25–26) bears witness once again to the demands of holiness in our relation to God. We must shun the very appearance of evil. Even the precious metals used to make “graven images of their gods,” however valuable they may be in themselves, are to be abhorred and discarded as “an accursed thing” (v 26). The story of the golden calf that Aaron made at Mount Sinai stands as a powerful reminder of this reality (see Exod 32).

Daniel Block: In verse 26 he identifies the root of the problem. Idolatry is not only seductive (“a snare”) and an abomination to Yahweh; the “abomination” is contagious. Contact with abominable objects neutralizes the Israelites’ status as a holy people and reduces them to being simply one among the nations, but it also renders the Israelites absolutely defiled and fundamentally degraded. There is only one solution for anything or anyone declared to be tôʿēbâ: the rigorous application of the policy of ḥērem.

Peter Craigie: In the concluding verses, the complete destruction both of the people of Canaan (v. 24) and of their religion (v. 25) is anticipated. The kings of the enemy states would be defeated and their temporal power and authority would be lost in the forgetfulness of human history. Their religion, pretending reality, would have its symbolic forms burned in fire. Even the precious metals (silver and gold) employed for decorating the idols, though they were valuable in themselves, were to be discarded as an abominable thing (vv. 25, 26). The association with false religions made the metals totally unsuitable for use within the Israelite community, which might again be tempted to misuse the materials to make a representation of God as had been done in the past (see Exod. 32).

John Schultz: Among a nation that had lived for centuries in Egypt, a land where idol worship was rampant, and where idols could be seen at the corner of every street, the pull toward idolatry must still have been rather strong. God wanted them to be protected against this kind of danger. He also knew the future of the people He had chosen, and loved. He knew that idol worship would be their undoing, and He wanted to postpone the disintegration of the nation as long as possible.