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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Deuteronomy

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7.1–10.11 : Risks to covenantal faith upon entry to the land.

The first issue is that Israel enters an already inhabited land, whose greater population and worship apparatus it must confront (ch 7 ). Thereafter, successful habitation carries its own risks: complacency and loss of historical memory (ch 8 ).

7.1–26 : The war of conquest.

Two topics are treated: the command to destroy the original occupants of Canaan (vv. 1–3,6,17–24 ); and the command not to worship their gods (vv. 4–5,7–15,25–26 ). The editors join the two themes at v. 16 .

1 :

An after‐the‐fact literary compilation more than a historical portrayal: The peoples included in the “table of nations” vary considerably (Gen 15.19–21; Ex 3.8,17; 13.5; 23.23; 33.2; 34.11; Deut 20.17; Josh 3.10; 9.1; 11.3; 12.8; 24.11; Judg 3.5; 1 Kings 9.20; Ezra 9.1; Neh 9.8; 2 Chr 8.7 ). Hittites (Gen 23.10; 25.9; 49.29–30; 50.13; Num 13.29 , etc.), the Hittite Empire (ca. 1700–1200 BCE) in fact flourished not in Canaan but in Anatolia, in central Turkey. The Jebusites, the pre‐Israelite inhabitants of Jerusalem, retained control of the city until conquered by David several centuries after the conquest (2 Sam 5.6–7 ). The latter narrative implies the nonimplementation of this law. The ideal number seven, which signifies completion or totality ( 28.7; Gen 1 ; the plague list of Ps 78.44–51 and 105.28–36 in contrast to Ex 7–12 ), suggests that the enumeration may be artificial.

2 :

This requirement for destruction is anomalous: Earlier sources contemplate only expulsion (Ex 23.23–33; cf. 34.11 ). The definition and requirements of the “ban” vary considerably throughout the Bible: total destruction of people and property (here; 13.15–17; 20.16–17; 1 Sam 15.3 ); sparing of property ( 2.34–35; 3.6–7 ); sparing of women, children, and property ( 20.10–14 ). Finally, other narratives more realistically speak of the failure of conquest except in limited areas and the use of conquered populations for labor (Josh 15–17; Judg 1; 3.1–6 ). These factors suggest that the law of the ban is an anachronistic literary formulation. It first arose centuries after the settlement; it was never implemented because there was no population extant against whom it could be implemented. Its polemic is directed at internal issues of religious purity in sixth‐century Judah. Often the authors of Deuteronomy stigmatize as “Canaanite” older forms of Israelite religion that they no longer accept (see v. 5n.; 16.22n.; 18.9–14n. ). Utterly destroy, or “place under the ban,” or “devote.” That which is “devoted” is set aside for divine use and denied to humans. The war of conquest, as a holy war, should not be one where the individual profits through plunder (see 12.29–31n.; 13.15n.; 20.1–20n.; Josh 7 ). The law addresses apostasy as opposed to ethnicity; it is directed against apostate Israelites in 8.20; 13.15–17 .

3 :

This prohibition against intermarriage does not fit easily after v. 2 , suggesting several layers of editing. It is also inconsistent with 21.10–14 , which seems more likely to reflect the original policy.

5 :

See Ex 34.13 . Pillars, stone monuments that marked places where God appeared and were thus originally legitimate in worship (Gen 35.14; Ex 24.4; Hos 3.4 ). Only subsequently were they prohibited as alien (Ex 23.24; 34.13; Lev 26.1; Deut 12.3; 16.22; 2 Kings 18.4 ). Sacred poles, or, with text note a, Asherim. The singular, “Asherah,” preserves the name of an important Canaanite goddess (1 Kings 18.19 ) known from Ugarit; here the word designates merely the wooden pole, tree, or image that represented her ( 16.21; Judg 6.25–26,28 ).

6–16 :

The meaning of Israel's covenantal relationship to God.

6 :

For suggests that the verse (also 14.2 ) originally continued v. 3 , since it provides the rationale for total separation from the Canaanites, not for the destruction of their cult sites. This verse summarizes Deuteronomy's view of Israel's relation to God. Holy, lit. “set aside as separate,” as is clear here. Chosen, the precondition of Israel's elected status. His treasured possession ( 14.2; 26.18; Ex 19.5; Ps 135.4; Mal 3.17 ), designating Israel as the exclusive property of God; cf. 4.20n. , where a different Heb word is used. Just as the monarch is entitled to private “treasure” not in the public domain (1 Chr 29.3 ), so does God single Israel out for a special relationship.

9–11 :

A sermon on the second commandment that radically revises its meaning. The reuse of key phrases and inversion of the order of punishment and blessing in 5.9–10 mark the citation.

9 :

Covenant loyalty, NRSV translates the same word as “steadfast love” at 5.10 (see note).

10 :

In their own person, individually or personally. The repetition of the phrase, bracketing the key idea that God does not delay, highlights the rejection of vicarious punishment ( 5.9n.; Ex 34.7 ). Instead, the sermon argues for individual retribution, as in criminal law ( 24.16 ), while deleting any reference to the transmission of punishment across generations.

12–14 :

The blessings of fertility do not come from the nature gods of Canaan but from Israel's God (see Hos 2 ). Natural fertility is here made contingent upon obedience to the covenant.

13 :

Increase … issue ( 28.4,18,51 ), originally two Ugaritic fertility deities; the second, “Astarte,” is named at 1 Kings 11.5 .

15 :

Cf. Ex 15.26 .

17–26 :

Israel need not fear nations more powerful than it since, according to the idea of the holy war, God “is present with you” in battle (v. 21; 6.15; cf. 20.1–4 ). These verses echo ideas found in Ex 23.20–33 .

20 :

Pestilence, see Ex 23.27–28n.; Josh 24.12 .

22 :

Abbreviating Ex 23.29–30 ; contrast 9.3 .

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