Deuteronomy 20:1 MEANING

Deuteronomy 20:1


(1) When thou goest out to battle--i.e., generally; not only in the immediate conquest of Canaan. Yet it may be observed that in the writings of Moses it is foreseen that the completion of the conquest will be gradual, and that Israel will have to go to battle many times before all enemies are overcome.

Horses and chariots.--The Israelitish army was chiefly, or rather entirely, composed of infantry, in most of the great victories won by them.

Verse 1. - When they found themselves opposed by an army more numerous than their own, and better furnished with the material of warfare, they were not to be afraid or discouraged, for Jehovah their God, who had brought them out of Egypt, would be with them to protect and help them (cf. Psalm 20:7). Horses and chariots. In these, which constituted the main strength of the nations with which they would have to contend, the Israelites were deficient; and to them these were always objects of terror in war (Joshua 11:4; Joshua 17:16; Judges 1:19; Judges 4:3; 1 Samuel 13:5).

20:1-9 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 8:12.When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies,.... There were two sorts of war the Israelites were engaged in, one commanded and another permitted, as Maimonides (c) distinguishes; one was by the order and appointment of God, as against the seven nations of Canaan; the other was voluntary and arbitrary, which was left to their own discretion and will, as they saw fit, when they were provoked or distressed, or were invaded by their enemies, or they saw reason to go out against them, and either act the offensive or defensive part, or both; and of each of these some things are said in this chapter:

and seest horses and chariots, and a people more than thou; the Israelites had no horses, and so no chariots, their armies were all infantry; but their neighbouring nations that made war with them had a large cavalry, and multitudes of chariots, which made them very formidable; thus Shishak, king of Egypt, in the times of Rehoboam, came against Jerusalem with 1200 chariots and 60,000, horsemen, and people without number; and Zerah the Ethiopian, in the times of Asa, came against him with an host of 100,000 men, and three hundred chariots, 2 Chronicles 12:2.

be not afraid of them; because of the strength of their cavalry, the terrible approaches of their chariots, and the number of their men:

for the Lord thy God is with thee; hence, as Hezekiah says, more would be with them than with their enemies, with whom was an arm of flesh, but with them the Lord their God, 2 Chronicles 32:7 and so the Targum of Jonathan,"for all of them shall be reckoned as one horse and one chariot before the Lord your God;''with whom numbers are nothing; and which adds,"for his Word shall be your help;''the eternal Logos, or Word of God; so Onkelos; and if God and his Word, his only begotten Son, are on the side of his people, they have nothing to fear from enemies, though ever so many and mighty:

which brought thee out of the land of Egypt; which is observed for the encouragement of their faith and confidence in him; for he that did that for them, what is it he cannot or will not do?

(c) Hilchot Melachim, c. 7. sect. 1.

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