Please choose a passage to read our commentary:
Moses commanded the Israelites not to fear their adversaries in the event of war because Yahweh, the great warrior, is the one who fights for them.
Moses prescribed regulations concerning how the Israelites are to conduct themselves in war against adversaries that are either far or near.
Moses asked the Israelites to protect the trees when they besiege a city. Non-fruit bearing trees could be cut down and used in building siegeworks, but fruit-bearing trees were to be left intact in order to produce food for the Israelite army.
The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth and last book of the Torah (“law”). It continues the story of the first 4 books and picks up exactly where the book of Numbers ends (with the people on the plain of Moab). Therefore, as we set the context for the book of Deuteronomy, it is important that we briefly summarize the theme of the previous books to see how the story of God unfolds.
Genesis describes God’s plan to bless the Israelites and the world through one man named Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). Exodus focuses on God’s loving act by which He rescued the Israelites from Egypt in order to have a covenant relationship with them. Once the children of Israel are redeemed, Leviticus instructs them to live a holy life that reflects the life of their covenant redeemer (cf. Lev. 19). Since the first generation of the Israelites failed to obey God wholeheartedly, the book of Numbers displays a strong contrast between God’s faithfulness and the nation’s failure. That is why the book of Deuteronomy reiterates and expands on the covenant to a new generation of Israelites poised to enter and conquer the Promised Land. The message of the book is centered around two key terms: love and loyalty (Deut. 6:4-5).
Moses provides the Israelites with instructions regarding their behavior in battle against the Canaanites, reassuring them that the Suzerain (Ruler) God Yahweh is the one who fights for them as He has done in the past. Therefore the people are to be courageous and fight, unlike their fathers, who refused to fight out of fear. This chapter consists of three directions for warfare: preparing and encouraging the Israelite army for battle (vv. 1-9), instructions for battle against adversaries far and near (vv. 10-18), and protection of trees when cities are besieged (vv. 19-20).
Deuteronomy 20 can be outlined as follows:
–The Law Concerning the Preparation for War (Deut. 20:1 – 9)
–The Law Concerning the Conduct of War (Deut. 20:10 – 18)
–The Law Concerning Fruit Trees (Deut. 20:19 – 20)