Laws Concerning Times of Tribulation and Persecution
Deuteronomy 20:11 And if it gives you back an answer of peace, opening its doors to you, then all the people in it may be put to forced work as your servants.
Deu 20:12 If however it will not make peace with you, but war, then let it be shut in on all sides:
Matthew Henry Commentaries
They are here directed what method to take in dealing with the cities (these only are mentioned, Deu_20:10, but doubtless the armies in the field, and the nations they had occasion to deal with, are likewise intended) upon which they made war.
They must not make a descent upon any of their neighbours till they had first given them fair notice, by a public manifesto, or remonstrance, stating the ground of their quarrel with them.
In dealing with the worst of enemies, the laws of justice and honour must be observed; and, as the sword must never be taken in hand without cause, so not without cause shown.
War is an appeal, in which the merits of the cause must be set forth.
I. Even to the proclamation of war must be subjoined a tender of peace, if they would accept of it upon reasonable terms. That is (say the Hebrew writers), “upon condition that they renounce idolatry, worship Yahweh of Israel, as proselytes of the gate that were not circumcised, pay to their new masters a yearly tribute, and submit to their government:” on these terms the process of war should be stayed, and their conquerors, upon this submission, were to be their protectors, Deu_20:10, Deu_20:11.
Some think that even the seven nations of Canaan were to have this offer of peace made to them; and the offer was no jest or mockery, though it was of the Lord to harden their hearts that they should not accept it, Jos_11:20.
Others think that they are excluded (Deu_20:16) not only from the benefit of that law (Deu_20:13) which confines military execution to the males only, but from the benefit of this also, which allows not to make war till peace was refused. And I see not how they could proclaim peace to those who by the law were to be utterly rooted out, and to whom they were to show no mercy, Deu_7:2.
But for any other nation which they made war upon, for the enlarging of their coast, the avenging of any wrong done, or the recovery of any right denied, they must first proclaim peace to the.
Let this show,
1. Yahweh's mercy in dealing with sinners: though He might most justly and easily destroy them, yet, having no pleasure in their ruin, He proclaims peace, and beseeches them to be reconciled; so that those who lie most obnoxious to his justice, and ready to fall as sacrifices to it, if they make him an answer of peace, and open to him, upon condition that they will be tributaries and servants to him, shall not only be saved from ruin, but incorporated with His Israel, as fellow-citizens with the saints.
2. Let it show us our duty in dealing with our brethren: if any quarrel happen, let us not only be ready to hearken to the proposals of peace, but forward to make such proposals. We should never make use of the law till we have first tried to accommodate matters in variance amicably, and without expense and vexation. We must be for peace, whoever are for war.
II. If the offers of peace were not accepted, then they must proceed to push on the war. And let those to whom Yahweh offers peace know that if they reject the offer, and take not the benefit of it within the time limited, judgment will rejoice against mercy in the execution as much as now mercy rejoices against judgment in the reprieve.
In this case,
1. There is a promise implied that they should be victorious. It is taken for granted that Yahweh our Sovereign would deliver it into their hands, Deu_20:13.
Those enterprises which we undertake by a divine warrant, and prosecute by divine direction, we may expect to succeed in. If we take Yahweh's method, we shall have His blessing.
2. They are ordered, in honour to the public justice, to put all the soldiers to the sword, for them I understand by every male (Deu_20:13), all that bore arms (as all then did that were able); but the spoil they are allowed to take to themselves (Deu_20:14), in which were reckoned the women and children.
A justifiable property is acquired in that which is won in lawful war. Yahweh Himself owns the title: Yahweh our Sovereign gives it thee; and therefore He must be owned in it, Psa_44:3.
The Priest (Minister(s), Overseer Must Address the Congregation inTimes of Tribulation
Deuteronomy 20:2 Before the battle starts, a priest must come and speak to the troops.
Deu 20:3 He should tell them, "Listen, Israel, today you're going into battle against your enemies. Don't lose your courage! Don't be afraid or alarmed or tremble because of them.
Deu 20:4 Yahweh your Sovereign is going with you. He will fight for you against your enemies and give you victory."
Matthew Henry Commentaries
Israel was at this time to be considered rather as a camp than as a kingdom, entering upon an enemy's country, and not yet settled in a country of their own; and, besides the war they were now entering upon in order to their settlement, even after their settlement they could neither protect nor enlarge their coast without hearing the alarms of war.
It was therefore needful that they should have directions given them in their military affairs; and in these verses they are directed in managing, marshalling, and drawing up their own forces. And it is observable that the discipline of war here prescribed is so far from having any thing in it harsh or severe, as is usual in martial law, that the intent of the whole is, on the contrary, to encourage the soldiers, and to make their service easy to them.
I. Those that were disposed to fight must be encouraged and animated against their fears.
1. Moses here gives a general encouragement, which the leaders and commanders in the war must take to themselves: “Be not afraid of them, Deu_20:
1. Though the enemy have ever so much the advantage by their numbers (being more than thou), and by their cavalry (their armies being much made up of horses and chariots, which thou art not allowed to multiply), yet decline not coming to a battle with them, dread not the issue, nor doubt of success.”
Two things they must encourage themselves with in their wars, provided they kept close to Yahweh and their religion, otherwise they forfeited these encouragements:
(1.) The presence of Yahweh with them: “Yahweh your Sovereign is with thee, and therefore thou art not in danger, nor needest thou be afraid.” See Isa_41:10.
(2.) The experience they and their fathers had had of “Yahweh's power and goodness in bringing them out of the land of Egypt, in defiance of Pharaoh and all his hosts, which was not only in general a proof of the divine omnipotence, but to them in particular a pledge of what “Yahweh would do further for them.
He that saved them from those greater enemies would not suffer them to be run down by those that were every way less considerable, and thus to have all he had done for them undone again.
2. This encouragement must be particularly addressed to the common soldiers by a priest appointed, and, the Jews say, anointed, for that purpose, whom they call the anointed of the war, a very proper title for our anointed Redeemer, the captain of our salvation: This priest, in “Yahweh's name, was to animate the people; and who so fit to do that as he whose office it was as priest to pray for them? For the best encouragements arise from the precious promises made to the prayer of faith.
This priest must,
(1.) Charge them not to be afraid (Deu_20:3), for nothing weakens the hands so much as that which makes the heart tremble, Deu_20:3. There is need of precept upon precept to this purport, as there is here: Let not your hearts be tender (so the word is), to receive all the impressions of fear, but let a believing confidence in the power and promise of “Yahweh harden them.
Fear not, and do not make haste (so the word is), for he that believeth doth not make more haste than good speed. “Do not make haste either rashly to anticipate your advantages or basely to fly off upon every disadvantage.”
(2.) He must assure them of the presence of “Yahweh with them, to own and plead their righteous cause, and not only to save them from their enemies, but to give them victory over them, Deu_20:4. Note, Those have no reason to fear that have “Yahweh with them. The giving of this encouragement by a priest, one of “Yahweh 's ministers, intimates,
[1.] That it is very fit that armies should have chaplains, not only to pray for them, but to preach to them, both to reprove that which would hinder their success and to raise their hopes of it.
[2.] That it is the work of Yahshua's ministers to encourage His good soldiers in their spiritual conflict with the world and the flesh, and to assure them of a conquest, yea, more than a conquest, through Yahshua that loved us.
Uncleanness in the Camp
Deu 23:9 When you're at war and have set up camp to fight your enemies, stay away from anything that will make you unclean.
Matthew Henry Commentaries
Israel was now encamped, and this vast army was just entering upon action, which was likely to keep them together for a long time, and therefore it was fit to give them particular directions for the good ordering of their camp. And the charge is in one word to be clean.
They must take care to keep their camp pure from moral, ceremonial, and natural pollution.
I. From moral pollution (Deu_23:9): When the host goes forth against thy enemy then look upon thyself as in a special manner engaged to keep thyself from every evil thing.
1. The soldiers themselves must take heed of sin, for sin takes off the edge of valour; guilt makes men cowards.
Those that put their lives in their hands are concerned to make and keep their peace with Yahweh, and preserve a conscience void of offence; then may they look death in the face without terror.
Soldiers, in executing their commission, must keep themselves from gratifying the lusts of malice, covetousness, or uncleanness, for these are wicked things - must keep themselves from the idols, or accursed things, they found in the camps they plundered.
2. Even those that tarried at home, the body of the people, and every particular person, must at that time especially keep from every wicked thing, lest by sin they provoke Yahweh to withdraw his presence from the host, and give victory to the enemy for the correcting of his own people. Times of war should be times of reformation, else how can we expect Yahweh should hear and answer our prayers for success? Psa_66:18. See 1Sa_7:3.
II. From ceremonial pollution, which might befal a person when unconscious of it, for which he was bound to wash his flesh in water, and look upon himself as unclean until the evening, Lev_15:16.
A soldier, notwithstanding the constant service and duty he had to do in the camp, must be so far from looking upon himself as discharged from the observance of this ceremony that more was required from him than at another time; had he been at his own house, he needed only to wash his flesh, but, being in the army, he must go abroad out of the camp, as one concerned to keep it pure and ashamed of his own impurity, and not return till after sunset, Deu_23:10, Deu_23:11.
By this trouble and reproach, which even involuntary pollutions exposed men to, they were taught to keep up a very great dread of all fleshly lusts. It were well if military men would consider this.
III. From natural pollution; the camp of the Lord must have nothing offensive in it, Deu_23:12-14. It is strange that the divine law, or at least the solemn order and direction of Moses, should extend to a thing of this nature; but the design of it was to teach them,
1. Modesty and decorum; nature itself teaches them thus to distinguish themselves from beasts that know no shame.
2. Cleanliness, and, though not niceness, yet neatness, even in their camp. Filthiness is offensive to the senses Yahweh has endued us with, prejudicial to the health, a wrong to the comfort of human life, and an evidence of a careless slothful temper of mind.
3. Purity from the pollutions of sin; if there must be this care taken to preserve the body clean and sweet, much more should we be solicitous to keep the mind so.
4. A reverence of the divine majesty. This is the reason here given: For Yahweh walketh by His ark, the special token of his presence, in the midst of thy camp; with respect to that external symbol this external purity is required, which (though not insisted on in the letter when that reason ceases) teaches us to preserve inward purity of soul, in consideration of the eye of Yahweh, which is always upon us. By this expression of respect to the presence of Yahweh among them, they were taught both to fortify themselves against sin and to encourage themselves against their enemies with the consideration of that presence.
5. A regard one to another. The filthiness of one is noisome to many; this law of cleanliness therefore teaches us not to do that which will be justly offensive to our brethren and grieve them. It is a law against nuisances.
Keep the Camp in Sanitary Conditions and do Your Part
Deu 23:12 Choose a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself.
Deu 23:13 You must carry a pointed stick as part of your equipment. When you go outside to squat, dig a hole with it. When you're done, cover up your excrement.
Deu 23:14 Yahweh our Sovereign moves around in your camp to protect you and hand your enemies over to you. So your camp must always be holy. This way, Yahweh will never see anything offensive among you and turn away from you.