It’s not possible to read Deuteronomy 7 and not have some hard questions for God. As I read it, I thought of Adolf Hitler, the merciless German dictator who tried to kill all the Jews in Europe back in the 1940s. Does God have anything in common with Hitler?
In verses 2 and 3, God tells the Israelites to “destroy them without mercy. Don’t make any peace treaties with them, and don’t let your sons and daughters marry any of them.” And He wasn’t done yet. He also told the Israelites to destroy every idol they found and to keep nothing for themselves. Men, women, children—destroy everything. What’s more, said God, I will help you do it (verse 16). Now I don’t know how you view those commands, but you should have some questions for God.
Let me catch you up a bit before we drown in the deep waters of chapter 7. The Israelites are camped near the Jordan River in the plains of Moab. Just across the River is the promised land of Canaan. Before they go to possess it, Moses preaches four sermons in which he reminds Israel of it’s promises to God, and His to them. He implores them to keep God first in their lives by obeying him, and he outlines the consequences of disobedience. Chapter 7 is a part of the second sermon, which spans chapters 4 to 26 and focuses on the covenant between God and His chosen people, Israel. That’s the background in a nutshell.
As I read chapter 7, I found myself asking, Where’s God’s grace and mercy? After all, shouldn’t the people of these heathen nations have had a chance to repent before being wiped off the map? Yikes! After some careful study of this issue, I began to understand why God gave the command to destroy everything.
1. Deuteronomy 7 is about love and loyalty to God as expressed through obedience. Remember, God had selected Israel to be His human agents to help Him save a lost world led astray by Satan (Exodus 19:3-8; Deut. 4:6-8). This task is serious business to God. If Israel commits idolatry by associating with, and worshipping the pagan Gods of the heathen nations, they themselves would be destroyed. This wouldn’t stop God’s plan of salvation, but it would hamper it.
2. One of the signature sins of the heathen nations that Israel was to destroy was that of child sacrifice, notes one scholar, among other things. I believe God wanted to lay down a marker in the sands of time to let all people know that he would not overlook such abominations.
I then read something from the writings of Ellen G. White regarding Deuteronomy 7 that shed more light on Deuteronomy 7. Here’s what she wrote concerning God’s command to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan: “The inhabitants of Canaan had been granted ample opportunity for repentance. Forty years before, the opening of the Red Sea and the judgments upon Egypt had testified to the supreme power of the God of Israel. And now the overthrow of the kings of Midian, of Gilead and Bashan, had further shown that Jehovah was above all gods. The holiness of His character and His abhorrence of impurity had been evinced in the judgments visited upon Israel for their participation in the abominable rites of Baalpeor. All these events were known to the inhabitants of Jericho, and there were many who shared Rahab's conviction, though they refused to obey it, that Jehovah, the God of Israel, "is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath." Like the men before the Flood, the Canaanites lived only to blaspheme Heaven and defile the earth. And both love and justice demanded the prompt execution of these rebels against God and foes to man” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 492).
I’ve still got some questions for God about Deuteronomy 7 and I cannot wait to chat with Him face to face about it.
Here are three questions I want you to think about:
1. Does anything about God bother you? If so, what is it?
2. How do you hold on to your belief in God when you sometimes do not understand Him?
3. What idols in your life do you need to destroy?