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Deuteronomy 7 Study Notes


7:1 The seven nations were the inhabitants of Canaan who in some cases had lived there since the days of Abraham (Gn 12:6; 13:7; 15:21). Their long tenure there had not secured them any claim to the land, however, for in the plan of God Canaan had from ages past been allotted to Abraham and his descendants (Gn 12:1; 13:14-17; 15:18-21). The time had now come to dispossess these people so that Israel, the offspring of Abraham, could take their rightful place.

7:2 Completely destroy translates a Hebrew verb that has the technical meaning of placing someone or something under the ban (charam), an aspect of what may be described as “holy war” or “Yahweh war.” This was warfare initiated by the Lord to annihilate targets or bring them into his possession or under his dominion. The religious or theological nature of this kind of war is clear from the presence of the priests and of the ark of the covenant whenever God directed its use (20:1-4; Jos 6:1-5).

7:3-4 Prohibition against intermarriage between Israel and the nations was designed to protect Israel from the worship of other gods. Alluding to this text, Paul commanded, “Don’t become partners with those who do not believe,” and then he made a linkage with idolatry when he asked what agreement Christ can have with Belial or God’s sanctuary with idols (2Co 6:14-16).

7:5 Sacred pillars, usually of stone, marked places deemed to be holy because of the appearance there of deity. Sometimes they were erected by God’s people (Gn 28:18-22; 35:14; Ex 24:4), but usually they were associated with Baal worship (Ex 23:24; 34:13; 2Kg 18:4; 23:14). Asherah, the principal goddess of the Canaanite pantheon, was represented sometimes as a living tree (16:21; Mc 5:14) but most often as a wooden pole (1Kg 14:15,23; 16:33; 2Kg 17:10,16; Is 17:8). Both objects symbolized fertility rites and other rituals of the crudest kind.

7:6 The term possession translates a Hebrew noun (segullah) that describes an unusually precious treasure. It occurs also in Ex 19:5 upon the Lord’s offer of the Mosaic covenant to Israel at Mount Sinai. As Creator he has claim to all the peoples, but in line with his purposes to redeem them, he chose only the holy people Israel as the vehicle of his saving grace (Rm 9:1-5; 11:28-32).

7:7-8 God’s choice of Israel as “his own possession” (v. 6) was not based on any merit on Israel’s part but solely on his love for them (4:37). Their present position as imminent heirs of the land of promise was evidence of his love.

7:9 A thousand generations is a term denoting an immeasurable future and not a specific span of time. The point is that God’s covenant loyalty is boundless and unending. Though Israel (and mankind in general) might prove to be unfaithful to the Lord, the promises of God to the nation cannot fail to be fulfilled (30:1-10; Jr 31:31-34; Ezk 36:24-32; Rm 11:29).

7:10-11 On hate see 5:9. Directly pays back is literally “pays back to their face.” It means that recompense is immediate and directly to the one who rejects God.

7:12-15 These blessings do not include the fundamental covenant relationship with the Lord per se. God’s promises depended on heeding and being careful to keep the covenant ordinances (28:1-4; Lv 26:3-13).

7:16 This echoes v. 2.

7:17-19 Memory would be one of the key instruments to keep Israel following the Lord’s commands (see 5:15; 8:2; 9:7; 15:15; 16:3,12; 24:9,18,22; 25:17; 32:7). Signs and wonders (words commonly joined in the OT; cp. 4:34; 6:22; 26:8; 29:3; Neh 9:10; Ps 135:9; Dn 6:27) were deeds done by the Lord to generate faith on the part of his people and to sustain them in times of doubt, such as the exodus deliverance referred to here (Ex 7:3; 8:23; 10:2; 11:9). Jesus also performed signs and wonders that only the Messiah could accomplish (Jn 2:11; 3:2; 4:54; 6:2,14; cp. Jn 20:30-31). Signs and wonders could also be performed by false prophets, however (Ex 7:11; Dt 13:1-2), so by themselves they did not attest to divine origination.

7:20 Hornets is likely a metaphor for military forces (1:44; Is 7:18-19) or other means, natural or otherwise, that the Lord would use to drive out the illegal residents of the land.

7:21-23 Awesome is literally “fearsome.” The reason not to fear the enemy is that the God in their midst is more fearsome than they are.

7:24 The threat to wipe out the names of Israel’s enemies indicates their utter destruction. When the Lord threatened to destroy Israel for worshiping the golden calf, Moses said that if that threat were carried out he would want his name erased from the Lord’s book. The Lord answered that only those who sinned against him would suffer that fate (Ex 32:32-33; Rm 9:3).

7:25-26 The warning not to covet went unheeded by Achan, who, following the conquest of Jericho, buried stolen silver and gold in his tent (Jos 7:20-23). Because these things had been placed under the ban (Hb cherem, cp. Dt 7:2), they should have been turned over as tribute to the Lord. Should any Israelites (like Achan) take such spoils into their houses, the annihilation that often accompanied cherem would fall on them. This is the meaning of the phrase set apart for destruction.