Devarim Seven: Seven Nations

“When the Lord, your God, brings you into the land to which you are coming to possess it, He will cast away many nations from before you: the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivvites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful than you (Deuteronomy 7:1).” This is one of the things that I find particularly disturbing about Tanakh. I’ve heard numerous explanations about why the people needed to destroy the seven nations, and why there was no option for clemency for them. However, it doesn’t make it ok for me, coming from a twenty-first century perspective, to have entire nations slaughtered with no regard for the differences amongst the people within them. The fears of God and the people were intermarriage and idolatry, which had to be avoided at all costs, including mass murder. “For you are a holy people to the Lord, your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be His treasured people, out of all the peoples upon the face of the earth (Deuteronomy 7:6).” Therefore, because of the special relationship between God and the people, they were somehow obligated to carry out even this gruesome mission.

Once again, the relationship between the people and God is conditional. If the people follow the commandments, then God will stick to the covenant and bless the people in numerous ways. We are given a list of the blessings that God will give to the Israelites, including the curses that God will bestow on the other nations. “And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your soil, your grain, your wine, and your oil, the offspring of your cattle and the choice of your flocks, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you (Deuteronomy 7:13).” Blessings for us, curses for others. Does one nation really have to suffer for another one to come into its blessings?

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