The conquest of towns (Deut 20:10-20:20)

“When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you as forced labor. If it does not submit to you peacefully, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. When Yahweh your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, the livestock, and everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which Yahweh your God has given you.”

The peace treaty offer is either no battle and forced slavery, or war with death to all the males. Those do not seem like very nice peace treaty terms for the opponents of Israel. Once you kill all the male warriors you make take their women and children as well as any livestock or anything within the town as your booty and spoils. This is a win/win situation for the Israelites.

“Thus you shall treat all the towns that are very far from you, which are not towns of the nations here. But as for the towns of these peoples that Yahweh your God is giving you for an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, just as Yahweh your God has commanded. Thus, they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods so that you may not sin against Yahweh your God.”

The far away towns are not a problem. However the traditional groups, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites that I remarked about in chapter 7 of this work are in big trouble. There is no mercy for these groups. Every living and breathing thing of these people must be destroyed. If they lived they might teach you the evil ways of their gods.

“If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human beings that should come under siege from you? You may destroy only the trees that you know do not produce food. You may cut them down for use in building siege works against the town that makes war with you, until it falls.”

Productive fruitful trees should be saved, but not the humans in the towns. However, you may cut down the unfruitful trees and use the wood of those trees to build things for the siege of the town.

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