Moses reminds the people that God has set them apart from the other nations. They are to remain separate, even down to forbidding intermarriage.
When we looked at Israel’s numbers we saw them as a large group. But by comparison to the other nations they were still small. This is one reason the first generation refused to follow God into the Promised Land initially. They knew they were outnumbered and outclassed. On their own they had no hope of defeating any of the people they were preparing to come against.
At this point Israel has already defeated four different kings. Moses lists seen more that they are going to come against and be victorious. Moses makes certain to tell them that this will not be something that they can take credit for. He tells them that God will hand them over to Israel. He also tells them what is to become of those people.
When Israel conquered the kingdoms on the eastern side of the Jordan they utterly destroyed them. There were no survivors. The only thing that remained was the livestock. None of their idols survived either. This was what God had commanded and what He commanded for the people they would face on the western side of the Jordan.
God chose this extreme to prevent contamination. He wanted to keep His people pure and separate. He knew that if He allowed survivors that Israel would wind up bringing their beliefs into the camp with them. They would wind up in the same situation that happened at Peor. He was NOT going to let that happen again. Eliminate the enticements completely. This included ALL items of worship. This was God’s way of cleansing the land to start again. In a “humanitarian” stance it sounds harsh but God had His reasons.
I find it interesting that Moses doesn’t mention the Gibeonites in this list of nations they would face. This is the group of people who would trick Joshua into making a treaty with them later on. They were in the Promised Land but the oath the people made kept them from destruction. I would say that God knew this group would happen so He left them off the list on purpose.
Another thing that struck me is that God is going to do this work in stages. He has Moses tell the people the reason for this is so that there won’t be a vacuum that brings in wild animals if they move too fast. This makes a LOT of sense but then what becomes of the men from Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh? They were supposed to fight with the rest of Israel until they had received their portion too. Did they have to remain until ALL the people were removed or until God finished with what He had planned for right away? If I remember right, when Joshua divided the land there was still remaining nations that had to be dealt with. Were the three tribes released to go home when Joshua divided the land or did they have to remain until all the nations were subdued? I’m thinking they got to go home after the casting of lots for the land. If so, was it then the tribe whose land was occupied the one who had to free it up?
Father God, I HATE death and war! I wish there was some other way for Israel. You wanted Your people as separate as possible. We tend to have wandering eyes; hence the need for the final commandment. The people Israel defeated actually got the same sentence that those who don’t have You as their Lord receive; death. Theirs was physical the day of fighting but it also included any hope for spiritual life after death.
Thank You that Your choice of people didn’t end with Israel. You want ALL people to come to You and You made a way for that to happen. Without Your intervention I wouldn’t be in Your special group; Your family. Thank You Lord for making me part of Your family. Help me not become “polluted” by looking at what the rest of the world has and trying to replace You with it. NOTHING is more important than You!