Friday, February 12, 2010


Chapter 20
Summary:Moses' speech continues:
"When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses, chariots, and people that outnumber you, do not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. When you go to battle, the priest shall approach and speak to the people, telling them not to be faint of heart, nor be afraid because of the strength of the enemy. For the Lord your God will go with you, to fight against your enemies and to save you from defeat.

"The officers shall address the people, asking if any man has just built a new house and has not yet dedicated it; if there is, he is to go home lest he die in battle and someone else dedicate it. The officer shall also ask if anyone has just planted a vineyard and has not yet tasted it's fruit; if there is, he is to go home, lest he die in battle and someone else eats it. The officer shall then ask if anyone has just become engaged to a woman, but has not yet married her; if there is, he is to go home, lest he die in battle and someone else marries her. The officer shall finally ask if there is anyone who is fearful or afraid; if there is, he is to go home, lest he spreads his fears to others. When the officers have finished speaking with the soldiers, they shall appoint captains of the armies to lead them.

"When you approach a city to fight against, first offer it a peace treaty and if they accept it, then you are to enslave the inhabitants. If they do not accept the treaty, and instead make war against you, you must conquer the city. When the Lord your God delivers the city into your hands, you shall kill every male with the edge of your sword. The women, the young girls, the cattle, and the spoils of the city, you are to keep for yourselves, you shall devour the spoils of your enemies which the Lord your God has given you. These instructions apply only to the cities outside of the promised land, not those within it.

"Of the cities that are contained in the land which the Lord your God has given you as an inheritance, you are not to allow anything to live that breathes, but are to utterly destroy them - namely, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord your God has commanded you. That these people not teach you their abominations which they have done in the name of their gods, causing you to sin against the Lord your God.

"While you are waging war against a city, you are not to destroy any of the fruit trees, nor may you cut them down with an axe. Only the trees that you know do not bear fruit may you destroy and cut down to use its wood for building fortresses against the city that made war with you, until the fighting has subdued."
Thoughts:Moses begins this chapter by stating that even if the Israelites seem outnumbered by the amount of horses, chariots, or enemy soldiers on the battlefield, that they are not to be afraid because God will protect the Israelites. Before going out to battle, a priest will tell them this same thing.

The officers of the armies will then address the troops and ask them if anyone has just built a house that hasn't been "dedicated", planted a vineyard that they haven't eaten from, or become engaged to a woman they have yet to marry, and then allow those applicable to return home to dedicate their homes, tend to their vineyard, or marry their bride to prevent someone else from doing so if they were to die in battle. Moses then says that the officers should then ask if there are any men that are afraid to fight, and if so, that they are to be sent home in order to prevent them from spreading their fears to other soldiers. Upon weeding these people out, the officers are then to appoint captains to lead the remaining troops.

Next Moses explains the proper protocol for conquering cities outside of the "promised land". First, offer them a "peace treaty", and if they accept then enslave them all. If they don't accept becoming enslaved, then they've "declared war" then the Israelites are to kill every male with the edge of their swords. But the women and young girls the soldiers may keep for themselves along with the spoils of the city.

When conquering the cities within the "promised land" however, the women and children must be slaughtered - along with the cattle and anything else that breathes - because those pesky women and children will apparently teach the Israelites all of their abominable customs. I guess the persuasive power of infants and children is too much of a risk to keep them alive as slaves, so the only option is to slaughter them all. At least the Midianites weren't all destroyed, Moses allowed the soldiers to keep all of the girls who were virgins for themselves. No matter how you attempt to spin this, no matter what "context" you believe this should be viewed in, there is simply no way you can justify killing "everything that breathes" - especially when included amongst this are infants and young children - as moral.

Moses ends the chapter by stating that when the Israelites are invading a city, that they are not to destroy any trees that bear fruit. They can build fortresses using trees that do not bear fruit until the fighting is done, but are not to harm any fruit bearing trees.

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