At this point in Deuteronomy, Moses is continuing his affirmation of the faithful foundation of the Israelites by reminding them of what God has done for them in the past (bringing them out of Egyptian slavery) and what God will do in the near future (bringing them into the Promised Land). So the Israelites are to show their appreciation to God and to become righteous in His eyes through obeying His laws in the Promised Land, but that is not all that they need to do in the Promised Land...
Kill Them All
Hosea 6:6, which Jesus quotes in Matthew 9:13 and Mathew 12:7, states that God really wants mercy, not sacrifice. Of course, that seems more than a little contradictory considering the many different sacrifices God demanded through His Law. Also consider that God required the sacrifice of Jesus in order to be fully merciful. So even in the epitome of God's mercy, Jesus, there was a required sacrifice. It is really a mixed message, like going to war to promote peace.
Our study in Deuteronomy 7 is a study of sacrifice through war and mercy withheld, as per the will of God. Starting off with Deuteronomy 7:1:
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you-” NIVWe see here that God is going to drive out these nations, but as you continue to read the Bible, you find out that the Israelites themselves had to do at least some part of the actual driving out, such as in the conquest of Ai (Joshua 8). Maybe that means that God will help the Israelites drive out these nations. Yet it seems that even God's help is not an assurance of victory (Judges 1:19).
Perhaps more interesting is that God will drive out seven nations “larger and stronger” than the Israelites. In Numbers 26:51, we find that there were 601,730 Israelite men (20 years old or older). Conservatively add one woman per man plus a couple of children and you have an Israelite population of over 2.4 million people total. Yet there were seven larger nations to be driven out! Let us put this in perspective.
Most historians would say this is supposed to be around 1400 BC +/- 200 years. There were roughly 45 million people on earth in 1400 BC. So according to this verse, at least 16.8 million, or about 37% of the world's entire population lived in and around the land we now call Israel. To add perspective, consider that an estimated 7.6 million people live in Israel today, which is roughly the size of New Jersey, in our times where farming and sanitation techniques are advanced enough to support that population density.
Back to the heart of the matter, we find the fate of these supposed 16.8 million men, women, and children in the next verse. Deuteronomy 7:2 continues:
“and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. ” NIVThe Hebrew word châram is used to denote this total destruction, which is a word typically used for irrevocable sacrifices made to God in which the object of sacrifice is completely destroyed, such as by fire. Deuteronomy 7:16 reiterates:
“You must destroy all the peoples the LORD your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.” NIVIn case these references are not completely clear, we will flip ahead to Deuteronomy 20:16-17 which speaks of this subject again:
“However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you.” NIVShow no mercy. Show no pity. Do not leave alive anything that breaths, from the sheep in the pasture to the baby in the slave's arms. Genocide. Kill them all.
Why? Why should they kill them all? In a future study of Deuteronomy 9, we will come to discover that the Israelites will be enacting God's wrath on these nations.
This sets an incredibly disturbing precedent. Someone who thinks that they hear from God suddenly feels justified and compelled to eliminate an entire race or nation of people. This is the great evil of a theocracy.