Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy 7

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Deuteronomy 7

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Be Separate; Obey and Be Blessed

Israel is not to intermarry with the peoples of Canaan, because, as God tells them, "they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods" (verse 4). Regrettably, the Israelites will not obey this command, and the history of Israel and Judah will reveal the bad results. Indeed, we may think of individual examples in the Old Testament like Solomon, whose many foreign wives induced him to forsake the living God, or the influence of the pagan Queen Jezebel on King Ahab. Yet, even for us today, God says basically the same thing (compare 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul makes it clear that a Christian is not to marry a person of a different faith. The Living Bible renders this passage as follows: "The [Christian] wife is part of her husband as long as he lives; if her husband dies, then she may marry again, but only if she marries a Christian." God wants us to be happy, and He knows that an interfaith marriage is not going to be as peaceful, joyful and productive as it otherwise would be. Moreover, God is concerned that His child might be influenced by the unbelieving spouse to forsake Him—which happened time and time again in ancient Israel and Judah. And a believer usually is a more effective instrument in doing God's work when he or she has a believing partner, so they can serve as a team.

In this same chapter of Deuteronomy, God promises the nation that if they will obey Him, they will be blessed in their possessions, and He will "take away from [them] all sickness" (7:15; compare Exodus 23:25). But neither the ancient nor the modern Israelites have lived a lifestyle pleasing to God. And, as a consequence, they were, are, and will be plagued with sicknesses and terrible diseases (compare Leviticus 26:16, 21, 25). Although an individual's sickness can be caused by his own sin, such as by smoking, this does not have to be the case. Polluted air, for example, can cause sickness. In this case, the person breathing the air did not sin, but those responsible for polluting the air because of greed—abandoning the responsibility God gave man of caring for the environment—did sin. Indeed, the fact that there is sickness in the world at all is ultimately a result of the general state of mankind being cut off from God due to the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Deuteronomy 7:20 explains that when the Israelites enter the Promised Land, God will fight for them to hand it over to them. We read, "Moreover the Lord your God will send the hornet among them until those who are left, who hide themselves from you, are destroyed." He had similarly told Israel in Exodus 23:27-28: "I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you." We will later see that God does send hornets. Indeed, even though Israel fights, their sword does not bring them victory—rather, God does. Moses states: "Therefore understand today that the Lord your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly as the Lord has said to you" (9:3). So God gives them their part to play—but they are not truly responsible for their victory. Following the conquest, He explains, "I sent the hornet before you which drove them out from before you, also the two kings of the Amorites, but not with your sword or with your bow" (Joshua 24:12). Sadly, Israel's future disobedience will show just how true this is. For as part of the penalty for forsaking God, Israel will suffer ignominious defeat at the hands of their enemies. "The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them.... You shall be only oppressed and plundered continually, and no one shall save you" (Deuteronomy 28:25, 29). Thus, trusting in their weapons of war will be utterly useless. True security lies only in God's protection and deliverance.

Today, converted Christians are instructed by God not to fight in war at all (compare Matthew 5:44; Matthew 26:52; Romans 12:20; 2 Corinthians 10:3-4; James 4:1-2; 1 John 3:15). And in the wonderful world to come, when God's Kingdom rules the earth, mankind as a whole will not learn the way of war anymore (Isaiah 2:4).