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(Deut 16:18 - 21:9)

D'varim/Deuteronomy 20:12   And if it will not make peace with you and it makes war with you, you shall besiege it.


Verses 10-15 of D'varim chapter 20 deal with wars that are optional, "This is what you are to do to all the towns which are at a great distance from you, which are not the towns of these nations" (v. 15, CJB) in contradistinction to the cities of the Land, of the seven nations "As for the towns of these peoples, which ADONAI your G-d is giving you as your inheritance, you are not to allow anything that breathes to live" (v. 16, CJB). Wars against the seven nations that Israel was to dispossess as they entered the Land of Israel were not optional, they were a direct commandment of the L-rd: "the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, seven nations much larger than you ... you must doom them to destruction: grant them no terms and give them no quarter" (7:2, JPS). Outside the Land itself, however, Israel was allowed to offer peace terms. If the people accepted both bringing tribute and being in servitude, then the people and their city were left unharmed; if not, then all the males were killed and the females, animals and possessions were taken as booty.

The grammar of our verse is quite straightforward: is a Hiph'il prefix 3fs from the root , here referring to the city making peace; is a Qal affix 3fs with a vav reversive from the root , to do or to make, again referring to the city; is a Qal affix 2ms with a vav reversive from the root , to besiege, here referring to the people of Israel, who are to besiege the city. The word 'with you' appears twice: and , vocalised differently because the former is "in pause" - the word at the end of a phrase.

Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi comments that "Scripture informs you that if it will not make peace with you, its end will be to make war with you". Since the verse presents only the two alternatives: making peace or making war, the sages have deduced (Sifrei 200) that this is a binary choice - simply doing nothing is not going to work. Put another way, if the city will not accept the Israelite terms of peace, then war is inevitable. Even if the Israelites were to walk away, war would follow since the people of the city would then make war with the Israelites. Using slightly stronger language, the Living Torah translates the verse this way: "If they reject your peace offer and declare war, you shall lay siege". Notice how the translators use "you shall" rather than "you will" to emphasise that the Israelites are commanded to follow through with defeating the city.

Yeshua encountered this requirement to defeat the enemy rather than ignoring them when they attacked several times in His ministry. "And just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, 'What do we have to do with You, Yeshua of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are -- the Holy One of G-d!' And Yeshua rebuked him, saying, 'Be quiet, and come out of him!' And throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice, and came out of him" (Mark 1:23-26, NASB). Yeshua had simply entered the synagogue and the unclean spirit cried out without any recorded challenge or provocation - conflict was inevitable, so Yeshua simply cast it out without further argument. On another occasion, Yeshua had crossed over the Galil to the area on the east known as the Decapolis, the Ten Cities, and encountered a man who was possessed by many demons. Mark takes up the story: "And seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said, 'What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High G-d? I implore You by G-d, do not torment me!' For He had been saying to him, 'Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!'" (Mark 6:5-8, NASB). Yeshua had barely arrived and got out of the boat, when the demon possessed man came running from the tombs in the near distance and forced the encounter. Again, the enemy had to be immediately and summarily dealt with, so Yeshua cast the demons out of the man into an adjacent herd of swine who promptly drowned in the sea, and the man was restored to his senses.

Rav Sha'ul also encountered direct opposition that wouldn't go away by itself. "Once, when we were going to the place where the minyan gathered, we were met by a slave girl who had in her a snake-spirit that enabled her to predict the future. She earned a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes. This girl followed behind Sha'ul and the rest of us and kept screaming, 'These men are servants of G-d Ha'Elyon! They're telling you how to be saved!' She kept this up day after day, until Sha'ul, greatly disturbed, turned and said to the spirit, 'In the name of Yeshua the Messiah, I order you to come out of her!' And the spirit did come out, at that very moment" (Acts 16:16-18, CJB). Although Sha'ul tried ignoring the distraction for several days, the conflict was inevitable and eventually he had to deal with and defeat the enemy.

Sha'ul told the Ephesians that they were in a battle, not necessarily of their choosing or desire, but a battle nevertheless. This is why he told them, "Use all the armor and weaponry that G-d provides, so that you will be able to stand against the deceptive tactics of the Adversary" (Ephesians 6:11, CJB). It was not a case of 'if' but 'when' - the battles would come, sometimes on a daily basis, sometimes less frequently, sometimes as often as hourly. The enemy is relentless and attacks again and again using every possible angle and leverage that he can bring or steal to bear against us. Yeshua warned that these conflicts and battles would even happen inside families: "A brother will betray his brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death" (Matthew 10:21, CJB). However close the combat may seem, Sha'ul emphasises, we must not lose focus on who is the attacker and who is the instrument: "For we are not struggling against human beings, but against the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers governing this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm" (Ephesians 6:12, CJB). In spite of offering terms of peace and trying to develop working relationships, because this is driven supernaturally by the enemy of our souls, the warfare is inevitable and certain.

What are we to do in these situations? As with the ancient Israelites, we do offer terms of peace to those who are immediately confronting us, as Rav Sha'ul wrote, "If possible, and to the extent that it depends on you, live in peace with all people" (Romans 12:18, CJB), recognising that our instructions are to destroy the enemy, taking no prisoners and giving no quarter: "So take up every piece of war equipment G-d provides; so that when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist; and when the battle is won, you will still be standing" (Ephesians 6:13, CJB). We take up the weapons that G-d has provided, knowing that this is a fight to the death - of the enemy - and we stand firm in Him. We do everything that we can to avoid collateral damage, to the people and situations that are being used to attack us, but we insist on the battle being won "For although we do live in the world, we do not wage war in a worldly way; because the weapons we use to wage war are not worldly. On the contrary, they have G-d's power for demolishing strongholds. We demolish arguments and every arrogance that raises itself up against the knowledge of G-d; we take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, CJB), both in ourselves and in others. We do not seek victory for ourselves, but that everyone and everything should come into obedience and relationship with G-d and His Messiah, Yeshua.

Further Study: Revelation 3:10-11; Revelation 14:12

Application: Are you hard pressed by those closest to you? Do you suffer a daily barrage of attacks, insults or misunderstanding while trying to quietly serve G-d? Know that this is the heat and the hour of the battle, but that you can and will stand in Him who has chosen you and placed you for such a time as this.

© Jonathan Allen, 2010

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