Deuteronomy 7:1. Israel’s primary task as they entered the land of promise was to rid it of its current inhabitants. The time for ending their rebellion against God had come to an end. They were being removed so that the Kingdom of God on Earth could begin with Israel (1 Sam 8:7). Israel was God’s son His firstborn among the nations Ex 4:22-23. They were to be God’s holy nation and priests to the world. Israel could not possess the land and fully fulfil its calling while its current inhabitants resided there. Seven nations are listed who were larger and stronger than Israel. The Hittites origins were from Asia Minor. The Canaanites and the Amorites occupied the central plains and mountain range of Israel. The Girgashites occupied the area of Galilee. The Jebusites occupied the mountain city of Jebus, which would come to be Jerusalem.
Deuteronomy 7:2. Moses knew that the Lord would give Israel military success over their enemies. It was afterward, that the true danger would occur. These peoples were to be removed or destroyed totally. Israel was to make no treaties with them. In fact, they were to show no mercy. Why?
The term Amorite is the word used to describe the people who occupy Palestine. It first appears in Gen. 15:16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” The term Amorite is used in general to describe the people who were to be expelled from the land. The deities of Canaan are described as “the gods of the Amorites” (Josh. 24:15). So these idolatrous people were to be removed so that the Land and its new residents would bring God’s glory, and testimony to the world.
Deuteronomy 7:3-4 Israelites were not to intermarry with those who survived the battles to take the land and purge it of God’s enemies. This was an ongoing command given to Israel through succeeding generations that they should not intermarry with unconverted Gentiles. The risk of theological and worldview thinking was so important to the Lord that this command remains in effect to this day among both Jews and Christians. God said uncircumcised people would cause Israel to be seduced into paganism. Throughout Scripture uncircumcision is foundationally a theological term in both Old and New Covenants. If Israel ignored this command the Lord’s anger would be turned toward Israel and He would quickly destroy them. If there was genuine conversion, then marrying Gentiles was permitted. We find many Gentile women coming to faith in God and welcomed. Moses married a Cushite woman (Num. 12). Rahab, a madam of a Jericho bordello came to faith in the Lord and is listed as one of God’s most faithful servants (Heb. 11:31). Rahab later married an Israelite named Salmon and became the mother of Boaz an ancestor of King David and Jesus. To marry an unconverted idolater was to invite an advocate of idolatry into an Israelite home, an event that would be laced with peril as was seen in the house of Solomon which led eventually to God’s judgment on the nation and removal from the Land.
Deuteronomy 7:5 To be certain that intermarriage would not occur, Israel was commanded to kill all the people of the seven nations that were in the Land. They were to destroy their idolatrous altars and sacred stones or pillars, which may have been fertility symbols. Their Asherah poles also were to be smashed which were used in the worship of Asherah or Ashtarte, the female mistress of Baal. The prophets of Israel wrote extensively about this. Ahab, king of Israel, because of Jezebel his wife, constructed an Asherah pole in Samaria (1 Kgs. 16:29-33), which precipitated both king and queen being judged and sentenced to death by the Lord.
Deuteronomy 7:6-8 Israel is reminded that it was not because of their moral superiority, that they were chosen by the Lord. Their holiness was solely the result of their relationship with the Lord. Their connection came through God’s election, which made them special in his sight, his treasured possession. Israel is being warned here not to become proud of their election. Their being chosen was not because of their numbers for in fact they were the fewest of peoples. This likely refers to Abraham’s calling out from the multitude of people in the fertile crescent (Gen. 12:1-3). Their election was simply because God loved them; and it is His sovereign right to do so. And it was because of that love, that he brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand and redeemed them from slavery to be His servants. God’s choice of Israel spoke of God’s character, not Israel’s Ezekiel 36:16-27.
Deuteronomy 7:9-11 God’s sovereign choice implies that he alone is God. Not only is He sovereign but He is faithful, demonstrating His faithfulness by honoring his Word to a thousand generations of those who love him. He is an omnipotent ally and friend, but also a terrifying enemy as he will repay to their face those who hate him by those who reject His covenant. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and blessings.
Deuteronomy 7:12-16 God promised that he would keep his covenant with Israel on the condition that they pay attention to his laws and obey them. The blessings for obedience included multiplication of people and livestock, prosperity in their fields and orchards, freedom from the diseases that they saw in Egypt. God would inflict those horrible diseases on their enemies. These blessings would come through God’s love and care for them as they lived in the land. There would be a discernible distinction between Israel’s blessings contrasted with the unfruitfulness of the nations that they were going to dispossess. The first task of obedience would be Israel’s call to rid the land of all the peoples currently living there. God insisted that these hostile enemies of God be destroyed without pity, because of their clear threat to all that God wanted to do for and with Israel. Their gods and worldview would otherwise be a snare and a source of stumbling to them.
Deuteronomy 7:17-19 God knew that many of the army of Israel worried about the war they were about face against those nations. So, God reminded them of what he had done to Pharaoh and the army of Egypt, a more powerful nation than the Canaanites. Those standing there were eyewitnesses of what God did to Egypt and the Egyptians, and the miraculous signs and wonders that God performed. The God who defeated Egypt is same God who would fight on their behalf against the Canaanites. They needed to trust and obey Him, and He would give them victory.
Deuteronomy 7:20-23 Instead of fleeing from their enemies, their enemies would flee from them. Hornets are insects that inflict great pain and force people to try to outrun them. It’s possible that this might be literal, but it is likely that the hornet was used as a figure of speech for some terror, possibly the Lord himself. Instead of being afraid, Israel should fix their eyes on God, who was their chief warrior and defender and put their complete trust in him. They needed to fight but God was going to give them the victory. This was different than Egypt, in those battles God alone fought for Israel. God said He did not want to destroy their enemies all at once but … little by little. This was a blessing since they would not be entering a deserted land, otherwise wild animals would multiply around them and do them harm. As believers we are called also to warfare every day, putting to death the deeds of the flesh so we can live victorious lives (Rom. 6:13; 8:13; Col. 3:5; 1 Pet. 2:11). Although the greatest victory is already won (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 5:24), each of us is called to daily battles so that God may reign in our hearts, minds, and souls and bring victory to us. The Lord promised to deliver their enemies over if his people would fight faithfully.
Deuteronomy 7:24-26 The strength of Israel’s enemies appeared mighty, but they would not be able to stand against the Lord’s army. But after the battles Israel was to destroy the images of their gods. Some of those idols were covered with silver and gold, and there would be the temptation to possess those treasures. God warned his people to resist the temptation to covet them as they would lead to spiritual and physical death from God’s judgment (Achan in Josh. 7 after the battle of Jericho). Instead of the idols they would be destroyed. God wanted Israel to detest anything that would come between them and their God. Today our enemies are those things that keep us from being fully devoted followers and lovers of the Lord.