Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Deuteronomy
Book: Deuteronomy
Chapter: 20

Exhortation and proclamation respecting those who went to War.
(1-9) Peace to be offered, What cities were to be devoted.

1-9 In the wars wherein Israel engaged according to the will of
God, they might expect the Divine assistance. The Lord was to be
their only confidence. In these respects they were types of the
Christian's warfare. Those unwilling to fight, must be sent
away. The unwillingness might arise from a Man's outward
condition. God would not be served By men forced against their
will. Thy people shall be willing, Ps 110:3. In running the
Christian race, and fighting the good fight of Faith, we must
lay aside all that would make us unwilling. If a Man's
unwillingness Rose from weakness and fear, he had leave to
return from the War. The reason here given is, lest his
brethren's Heart fail as Well as his Heart. We must take heed
that we fear not with the fear of them that are afraid, Isa

10-12 The Israelites are here directed about the nations On
whom they made War. Let this show God's Grace in dealing with
sinners. He proclaims peace, and beseeches them to be
reconciled. Let it also show us our duty in dealing with our
brethren. Whoever are for War, we must be for peace. Of the
cities given to Israel, none of their inhabitants must be left.
Since it could not be expected that they should be cured of
their Idolatry, they would hurt Israel. These regulations are
not the rules of our conduct, but Christ's Law of Love. The
horrors of War must fill the feeling Heart with anguish upon
every recollection; and are proofs of the wickedness of Man, the
power of Satan, and the just vengeance of God, who thus scourges
a guilty world. But how dreadful their case who are engaged in
unequal conflict with their Maker, who will not submit to render
him the easy Tribute of Worship and praise! Certain ruin awaits
them. Let neither the number nor the power of the enemies of our
souls dismay us; nor let even our own weakness cause us to
tremble or to faint. The Lord will save us; but in this War let
none engage whose hearts are fond of the world, or afraid of the
Cross and the conflict. Care is here taken that in besieging
cities the Fruit-trees should not be destroyed. God is a better
friend to Man than he is to himself; and God's Law consults our
interests and comforts; while our own appetites and passions,
which we indulge, are enemies to our welfare. Many of the Divine
precepts restrain us from destroying that which is for our Life
and Food. The Jews understand this as forbidding all wilful
waste upon any account whatsoever. Every Creature of God is
good; as nothing is to be refused, So nothing is to be abused.
We may live to want what we carelessly waste.