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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Deuteronomy 7

CHAP. VII.

Moses enjoins the destruction of the seven nations of Canaan, forbids all communion with them, and promises the Israelites God's blessing upon their obedience.

Before Christ 1451.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land Moses, well foreseeing how apt the Israelites would be to fall into idolatry, thought it necessary to insist particularly upon this article: accordingly, in the sequel of his speech, he desires them to remember what it was that God expected they should do to the seven idolatrous nations of Canaan; and how they were to behave when he delivered them into their hands. In the promise made to Abraham, Gen 15:19 there is mention of ten nations promised to his posterity; but, as this promise was above four hundred years before, it is easy to suppose, that some of those people, by affinities with their more powerful neighbours, might now be called by the names of that people to which they were joined. In Gen 15:19 before cited, there is no mention of the Hivites; and, besides the other six here enumerated, we have the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kedmonites, and Rephaims, which seem to have been only lesser families included in mount Lebanon, as appears from Judges 3:3. The Hivites seem to be the people called Rephaims in Genesis 15:0. Bochart is of opinion, that the Kenites and Kenizzites were extinct between the age of Abraham and Moses: but that cannot be true; for we read of the Kenites, both in Moses's time, and long after, Numbers 24:21. Jdg 1:16. 1Sa 15:6 and Joshua 10:5-6. The dreadful execution to be done on the Canaanites by the divine command, has been urged as an act of the greatest cruelty and injustice. Some have endeavoured to extenuate this, by arguing from the present passage, compared with Jos 11:19-20 that conditions of peace were to be offered to them: but waving that, in consideration of verses 1, 2. 5. 16 and many other parallel texts, and comparing chap. Deu 20:15-16 with Joshua 11:6-7; Jos 11:23 it may with greater certainty, says Dr. Doddridge, be replied, 1. That God, as their offended creator, had a right to their forfeited lives; and, therefore, might as well destroy them and their posterity by the sword of the Israelites, as by famine, pestilence, fire and brimstone rained from heaven, or any other calamity appearing to come more immediately from himself. 2. That the wickedness of this people, especially as aggravated by the destruction of Sodom, was such as made the execution done upon them an useful lesson to neighbouring nations. Compare Genesis 15:16. Leviticus 20:27. Jude 1:4; Jude 1:7. Wis 12:3; Wis 12:7; Wis 12:3. That the miracles wrought in favour of the Israelites, not only at their coming out of Egypt, but at their entrance on Canaan, proved that they were indeed commissioned as God's executioners, and, consequently, that their conduct was not to be a model for conquerors in ordinary cases. 4. That there was a peculiar propriety in destroying those sinners by the sword of Israel, as that would tend to impress the Israelites more strongly with an abhorrence of the idolatry and other vices of these nations, and consequently subserve that design of keeping them a distinct people, adhering to the worship of the true God, which was so gracious to mankind in general as well as to them in particular. After all, had any among the Canaanites surrendered themselves at discretion to the God of Israel, a new case would have arisen, not expressly provided for in the law, in which, it is probable, God, upon being consulted by Urim and Thummim, would have spared the lives of such penitents, and either have incorporated them with the Israelites by circumcision, or have ordered them a settlement in some neighbouring country, as the family of Rahab seems to have had; Joshua 6:23. See Doddridge's Lectures, p. 354 and Waterland's Scripture Vindicated, p. 2. We refer to the end of the twentieth chapter for reflections on the destruction of the seven nations of Canaan.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. Thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them i.e. In case they continue obstinate in their idolatry, they are to be destroyed as a nation or body politic: but if they forsook their idolatry, and became converts to the true religion, they would then be, what God required, penitents, and proper objects of forgiveness; for this is a rule laid down in Scripture, and founded in reason. Jeremiah 18:7-8. See Dr. Sykes's Conn. of Nat. and Rev. Rel. ch. 13.

Verse 3

Ver. 3. Neither shalt thou make marriages with them The reason is added in the following verse, because there was a danger, if they loved their wives, that they might be drawn over to their idolatry. On the same account the apostle warns Christians against such unequal matches. 2 Corinthians 6:14. From this verse it is justly inferred, that the Canaanites might be spared, upon their repentance and reformation from idolatry; for there could be no occasion for this injunction, if it be supposed that nothing which breathed was to be saved alive, but all were utterly to be destroyed. What end could it serve, to forbid intermarriages with a people supposed not at all to be? See Dr. Sykes as above.

Verse 5

Ver. 5. Destroy their altars—and cut down their groves See Exodus 34:13. It is well known, that nothing was more common among idolaters, than consecrated trees and groves: to cut down those groves was reckoned a heinous crime; see Lucan's Pharsalia, book 3: ver. 361 of Rowe's translation. Sir Isaac Newton infers from this passage, that the Canaanites had no temples; for that Moses, in commanding the Israelites to destroy their sacred places, makes no mention of temples, as he would have done had there been any in those days. See his Chronol. p. 221.

Verse 6

Ver. 6. The Lord hath chosen thee "Hath distinguished thee by peculiar laws and special favours, Exo 19:5 yet not leaving himself without witness among any of the nations."

See commentary on Deu 7:9

Verses 6-11

Ver. 6-11. The reasons are here given for such cautious avoiding whatever might offend God. For, 1. They were a chosen generation to show forth his praises, and therefore bound to answer the gracious designs of God. There was in them no cause moving God to such peculiar regard, but his own sovereign choice and love; for they were the fewest in number, and had proved themselves sufficiently perverse and ungrateful in their conduct. He adds the promise made to their fathers, for whose sake they were beloved. Note; The promises of God in Jesus Christ are the only obligations we have upon him for his regard to us. 2. They would find their account herein; for God would be their friend if they loved and cleaved to him, but a mortal enemy if they turned from him, and shewed by their disobedience the enmity of their hearts against him. Hence learn, (1.) That godliness is the greatest gain, as attended with His love whose favour is better than life itself. (2.) That love and obedience are inseparable. (3.) That every wilful sinner is in heart a hater of God. (4.) That they who live at enmity with God bring down inevitable ruin upon their souls.

Verses 7-8

Ver. 7, 8. The Lord did not set his love upon you, &c.— To preserve them from pride and a conceit of their own greatness, Moses here advises them to remember, that it was not their numbers, their strength, or external grandeur, it was not any merit or qualification of their own, which had caused the Lord thus to choose and distinguish them. These great promises were made to their forefathers when they were a small family, and of little consideration in the world. The eminent virtues of those forefathers, or rather the free bounty and mere good pleasure of God, ver. 8 were the sources of those peculiar privileges; just as, out of his free, unmerited goodness, God makes one species of creatures more excellent than another, and bestows different gifts and advantages upon different individuals of the same species. God loved them, says Grotius, in remembrance of their fathers, and of the oath which he sware to them; and this, says he, is the election whereof St. Paul speaks, Romans 11:28. With respect to the election, they are beloved for the father's sake.

See commentary on Deu 7:9

Verse 9

Ver. 9. Know, therefore, that the Lord thy God Moses here reminds them, that as God's choosing them for his peculiar people was a matter of mere favour, to which they had no more right than any other nation of the world, so they should consider the fidelity of God, and beware of abusing their privileges; assuring them, that as the divine goodness and veracity would abundantly appear to them and their posterity if they religiously observed the conditions of the covenant, so would his justice, ver. 10 in making all such as should ungratefully violate them live to see the sad effects of their impiety. Though it be said in general terms, that God repayeth them who hate him—to destroy them; yet the context shews, that it is to be understood chiefly in relation to the Jews, who were under an extraordinary providence, and visited with temporal rewards or punishments, according to their obedience or disobedience. To their face, according to the sense which Onkelos gives it, signifies in this life; "they shall see in this life the just punishment of their idolatry." By the haters of God, ver. 10 are principally meant idolaters. See Exodus 20:5. The history of the world, however, bears this attestation to the justice of Providence, that nations in general are exalted by prosperity, or brought low by adversity, according as the spirit of piety and virtue prevails among them.

Verses 12-15

Ver. 12-15. Wherefore—if ye hearken to these judgments, &c.— See the notes on chap. 28: Respecting the diseases of Egypt, Mr. Locke observes, that they were noisome ulcers, which were called Egyptia, and with which the priests of Isis used to threaten the contemners of her worship.

Verse 19

Ver. 19. The great temptations Or, The great trials.

Verse 25

Ver. 25. Thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them The statues and images of their gods were sometimes overlaid with gold and silver. Moses therefore thinks fit to caution them against being tempted, by the richness of the materials, to convert any of their instruments of idolatry to their own private use; but to destroy them utterly, as Moses destroyed the golden calf, Exodus 32:20. Every thing which had been employed to an idolatrous use was an accursed thing, חרים charim, i.e. devoted to destruction, which no man might meddle with; or, if he did, he was devoted to destruction, as the thing itself was. See this exemplified in the case of Achan, Joshua 7:0 and Leviticus 27:28-29.

REFLECTIONS.—Moses encourages them to obedience, by an enlargement on the mercies which would attend them. 1. If they kept God's judgments, he would love them and bless them. Their posterity should be numerous to inherit the good land, and none of the diseases of Egypt should come near to destroy their lives, or make them uncomfortable. Diseases are God's scourge: may we never provoke him to lay it upon us in anger! 2. They are repeatedly commanded to destroy the people and their idols; the gold and silver, the beauty of the engraving, or the preciousness of the materials, must not lead them to spare the least relic: what God abhors, they must; and it is their safety to do so, lest they be snared thereby, and become accursed as the idols the heathen doated upon. Note; (1.) Covetousness is real idolatry. (2.) If we would avoid the curse, we must avoid the snare. (3.) Sin, the abominable thing which God hates, is to the true Israelite an object of utter detestation. 3. God promises to strengthen them to extirpate this devoted race. Though the conquest was difficult, from the number of the people and their strength, yet they need not fear them. The wonders that God had shown in Egypt they had seen, and ought to remember: he can and will as easily consume the Canaanites as he did the Egyptians. Besides, he promises to send his auxiliaries; the hornets shall go before, and with their envenomed stings torment and terrify them, that they may fall an easy prey. So soon can God make a despicable insect the instrument of his judgment; but above all, the mighty and terrible God himself is in the midst of them, and who shall stand before them? Note; (1.) Past experience should be brought forth, as encouragement under present difficulties. (2.) If God be for us, what matters it who are against us? (3.) Going forth, under God's promise, to war against our corruptions, we may, with confidence, be assured that sin shall not have dominion over us. 4. Their conquests shall be gradual as they multiplied to inhabit the land, not all at once, lest the beasts should increase upon them, allured by the carcases of the slain, and the desolations of the land. Note; (1.) Heaven is thus a gradual conquest. Grace by little and little takes increasing possession of the soul, till it is made completely perfect in glory. (2.) The destruction of the enemies of God's church and people is advancing by degrees; and, however long spared, and difficult to subdue, the decree, is sure; they shall be rooted out at last.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 7". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/deuteronomy-7.html. 1801-1803.