12:2 You must by all means destroy 1 all the places where the nations you are about to dispossess worship their gods – on the high mountains and hills and under every leafy tree. 2 12:3 You must tear down their altars, shatter their sacred pillars, 3 burn up their sacred Asherah poles, 4 and cut down the images of their gods; you must eliminate their very memory from that place. 12:4 You must not worship the Lord your God the way they worship.
1 tn Heb “destroying you must destroy”; KJV “Ye shall utterly (surely ASV) destroy”; NRSV “must demolish completely.” The Hebrew infinitive absolute precedes the verb for emphasis, which is reflected in the translation by the words “by all means.”
2 sn Every leafy tree. This expression refers to evergreens which, because they keep their foliage throughout the year, provided apt symbolism for nature cults such as those practiced in Canaan. The deity particularly in view is Asherah, wife of the great god El, who was considered the goddess of fertility and whose worship frequently took place at shrines near or among clusters (groves) of such trees (see also Deut 7:5). See J. Hadley, NIDOTTE 1:569-70; J. DeMoor, TDOT 1:438-44.
3 sn Sacred pillars. These are the stelae (stone pillars; the Hebrew term is מַצֵּבֹת, matsevot) associated with Baal worship, perhaps to mark a spot hallowed by an alleged visitation of the gods. See also Deut 7:5.