Deuteronomy Chapter 20

Deuteronomy Chapter 20 is about going to war. The Israelites were told not to be afraid when they are approaching battle and they see their enemies with chariots and armies that are far greater than their own. The Lord God who brought them out of Egypt will be with them during every battle, therefore they were not to fear anything.

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Instructions for Battle

Each time they will face their enemies, they were told that a priest was to speak to their armies to tell them not to be afraid or fainthearted because they will gain victory through the Lord. The officers of the army should address the men and tell them that they should not be afraid of anything.

If anyone does fear battle and is afraid of dying, he should go home or he might cause the other men to become disheartened. They are also to be told that if anyone has a house and has not lived in it to go home so that no one else will live in it if he dies. If anyone has become pledged to a woman, yet has not married her, he must go home and marry the woman before another man does.

Entering a City

They were told to offer each city a peace offering before entering. If they open their gates and accept the offer of peace, they were to take the people inside as slaves who will work for them. If they refuse, the Israelites may lay siege on the city. After they have come out victorious, all the men of the city shall face the sword and the rest can be taken as plunder.

They were told not to leave anything that breathes. They shall take the city and completely destroy the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites because this is what the Lord commanded.

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Deuteronomy 20 (King James Version)

1 When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

2 And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people,

3 And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;

4 For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.

5 And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it.

6 And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it.

7 And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.

8 And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.

9 And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people.

10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.

11 And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.

12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:

13 And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:

14 But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.

15 Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.

16 But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:

17 But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:

18 That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.

19 When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man’s life) to employ them in the siege:

20 Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued.

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