No Mercy

Michael Wittmer

READ : Deuteronomy 7:1-6

You must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy. (v. 2)

This is one of the most difficult passages in the whole Bible. How can we reconcile God’s command to exterminate entire nations with the God of love we find throughout Scripture? Can we imagine Jesus encouraging Israelite soldiers to slay helpless Hittite infants? One page cannot do justice to these hard questions, but here are three talking points.

First, God was patient with the inhabitants of Canaan. He gave them time to repent, waiting for their sin to reach its “full measure” before bringing judgment (Gen. 15:16 NIV). Second, desperate times call for desperate measures. The Canaanites were known for child sacrifice, witchcraft, and idolatry (Deut. 18:9-13, Lev. 18:24-28). If they were permitted to live, they would eventually tempt Israel to sin, which is precisely what happened (Deut. 20:16-18).

Third, Israel was God’s light to the nations (Isa. 49:6). If evil nations were allowed to darken that light, they would destroy God’s plan to reach others with the gospel. Thus, in order to protect Israel’s purity, not merely for her sake but also for the rest of the world, these dangerous, detestable nations had to die. In this way God’s command to show no mercy actually arose from his love tough love, to be sure, but love all the same.


Father, thank you for being patient with me.