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Deuteronomy 20:1-15

Context
Laws Concerning War with Distant Enemies

20:1 When you go to war against your enemies and see chariotry 1  and troops 2  who outnumber you, do not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, is with you. 20:2 As you move forward for battle, the priest 3  will approach and say to the soldiers, 4  20:3 “Listen, Israel! Today you are moving forward to do battle with your enemies. Do not be fainthearted. Do not fear and tremble or be terrified because of them, 20:4 for the Lord your God goes with you to fight on your behalf against your enemies to give you victory.” 5  20:5 Moreover, the officers are to say to the troops, 6  “Who among you 7  has built a new house and not dedicated 8  it? He may go home, lest he die in battle and someone else 9  dedicate it. 20:6 Or who among you has planted a vineyard and not benefited from it? He may go home, lest he die in battle and someone else benefit from it. 20:7 Or who among you 10  has become engaged to a woman but has not married her? He may go home, lest he die in battle and someone else marry her.” 20:8 In addition, the officers are to say to the troops, “Who among you is afraid and fainthearted? He may go home so that he will not make his fellow soldier’s 11  heart as fearful 12  as his own.” 20:9 Then, when the officers have finished speaking, 13  they must appoint unit commanders 14  to lead the troops.

20:10 When you approach a city to wage war against it, offer it terms of peace. 20:11 If it accepts your terms 15  and submits to you, all the people found in it will become your slaves. 16  20:12 If it does not accept terms of peace but makes war with you, then you are to lay siege to it. 20:13 The Lord your God will deliver it over to you 17  and you must kill every single male by the sword. 20:14 However, the women, little children, cattle, and anything else in the city – all its plunder – you may take for yourselves as spoil. You may take from your enemies the plunder that the Lord your God has given you. 20:15 This is how you are to deal with all those cities located far from you, those that do not belong to these nearby nations.

1 tn Heb “horse and chariot.”

2 tn Heb “people.”

3 sn The reference to the priest suggests also the presence of the ark of the covenant, the visible sign of God’s presence. The whole setting is clearly that of “holy war” or “Yahweh war,” in which God himself takes initiative as the true commander of the forces of Israel (cf. Exod 14:14-18; 15:3-10; Deut 3:22; 7:18-24; 31:6, 8).

4 tn Heb “and he will say to the people.” Cf. NIV, NCV, CEV “the army”; NRSV, NLT “the troops.”

5 tn Or “to save you” (so KJV, NASB, NCV); or “to deliver you.”

6 tn Heb “people” (also in vv. 8, 9).

7 tn Heb “Who [is] the man” (also in vv. 6, 7, 8).

8 tn The Hebrew term חָנַךְ (khanakh) occurs elsewhere only with respect to the dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs 8:63 = 2 Chr 7:5). There it has a religious connotation which, indeed, may be the case here as well. The noun form (חָנֻכָּה, khanukah) is associated with the consecration of the great temple altar (2 Chr 7:9) and of the postexilic wall of Jerusalem (Neh 12:27). In Maccabean times the festival of Hanukkah was introduced to celebrate the rededication of the temple following its desecration by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (1 Macc 4:36-61).

9 tn Heb “another man.”

10 tn Heb “Who [is] the man.”

11 tn Heb “his brother’s.”

12 tn Heb “melted.”

13 tn The Hebrew text includes “to the people,” but this phrase has not been included in the translation for stylistic reasons.

14 tn Heb “princes of hosts.”

15 tn Heb “if it answers you peace.”

16 tn Heb “become as a vassal and will serve you.” The Hebrew term translated slaves (מַס, mas) refers either to Israelites who were pressed into civil service, especially under Solomon (1 Kgs 5:27; 9:15, 21; 12:18), or (as here) to foreigners forced as prisoners of war to become slaves to Israel. The Gibeonites exemplify this type of servitude (Josh 9:3-27; cf. Josh 16:10; 17:13; Judg 1:28, 30-35; Isa 31:8; Lam 1:1).

17 tn Heb “to your hands.”



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