Burn local gods, kill their worshipers
Go to Canaan and kill them all1This land is yours for the taking. The LORD your God is giving it to you. He’ll drive out the seven nations living there now. Each nation is larger and stronger than you are: Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 2When the LORD your God gives them to you, you’ll need to finish them off. After you defeat them in battle, wipe them out by killing them all. Don’t make any peace treaty with them. Don’t show them mercy.
3Don’t marry any of their survivors. And don’t let your children marry them. 4Those people worship other gods. They’ll convince your people to do the same, to leave the LORD and worship other gods. When that happens, when Israel rejects God, he’ll get angry. Then he’ll quickly put an end to Israel. He’ll destroy you. 5Don’t let that happen. Instead, put an end to those nations. Destroy them. Tear down their sacrificial altars. Smash the stones that mark their sacred sites. Pull down those fertility-goddess Asherah posts and burn them to ashes.
God chose you over everyone else6You are God’s people. He picked you out of all the people in the world. You are holy to the LORD your God because you’re devoted to him. 7The LORD your God didn’t pick you because of your huge population. You were the smallest. 8You were less than others, but the LORD loved you nonetheless. He kept his promise to your ancestors. He took his power to Egypt when you worked there as the king’s slave labor. And he used that power to free you.
9There are some things you need to know about the LORD your God. First, he is God. You can count on him. He’ll keep his part of any agreement he makes with you. And he’ll do it for a thousand generations to come if those future descendants love him and obey his laws. 10But if you hatefully reject God, he’ll end you in a heartbeat. He doesn’t hesitate when it comes to those who hate him. 11So be careful to follow the law. Obey his rules and honor his decisions, which I’m telling you about today.
God is going to bless you plenty and then some12Listen to what the LORD your God tells you to do, and then do it. If you can manage that, he’ll keep his part of the agreement he made with you—and the promise he made to your ancestors. 13He’ll love you. He’ll bless you with lots of children and all the food you’ll need to feed them. You’ll have plenty of grain, wine, olive oil, and newborn livestock—calves and lambs among them. You’ll have all this, along with the land God promised your ancestors.
14God is going to bless you like no other nation. For one, in all your combined herds of cattle, you won’t find a sterile bull or an infertile cow. 15You’ll also say goodbye to the diseases you saw people suffering with in Egypt. This land will be a healthy place to live. God won’t inflict you with the sicknesses he’ll pound into your enemies.
Don’t pity enemies; kill them16The LORD your God is going to deliver your enemies into your custody. When you get them, kill them. Don’t pity them. And don’t let them trick you into worshiping their gods.
17Listen, you might doubt yourself. You might say, “How can we possibly beat these people? They’re a bigger nation, and stronger.” 18Don’t be afraid of them. Instead, remember what you saw the LORD your God do to Pharaoh in Egypt. 19Remember the plagues you saw him use in Egypt, when he freed you from slavery and brought you out of there. The LORD your God hasn’t changed. What he did in Egypt, he’ll do to any enemy who scares you. 20The LORD your God will send a plague of hornets if that’s what it takes to send your enemies running. Any of them left in hiding will die soon. 21So, for heaven’s sake, don’t be afraid of these people. The LORD your God is right there with you. He is so incredibly beyond amazing that it’s astounding.
Annihilation, little by little22The LORD your God will drive out the nations one by one, little by little. Not too quickly. If the locals suddenly disappeared, there wouldn’t be enough people left to hunt the wild animals. You’d have too many animals to deal with. 23But the LORD your God will eventually give you all the people in the land. They’ll become so confused that they won’t know what to do. In the end, they’ll die. You’ll kill them. 24One by one, God will give you their kings. That will be the end of them—the kings and their kingdoms. You’ll be unstoppable. You’ll destroy all your enemies.
Burn silver and gold from idols25Burn the carved wooden images of their gods. Don’t strip off the silver and gold they used to decorate the idol, and then keep it for yourself. Destroy it, too. Everything it represents is disgusting to the LORD your God. 26So don’t take it into your home because the LORD has tagged it for destruction. If you keep it, the tag comes with it. You’ll be marked for destruction, too. What it represents is absolutely disgusting. You’ve got to treat it that way because it is that way. So, destroy it.
People used stones to mark places where something spiritual happened—where they had a vivid dream or talked with God. Jacob had a now-famous dream about seeing a stairway into heaven, with angels coming and going. Afterward, “Jacob set up a large stone to mark the place where God spoke to him. He poured some wine over the rock, as an offering of thanks to God. He poured some olive oil, too, anointing the place as sacred” (Genesis 35:14). Even Moses did this: “Moses then took the time to write down everything the LORD told him. Early the following morning he got up and built an altar at the foot of the mountain. He built the altar out of 12 stones. Each stone represented one of the 12 tribes of Israel” (Exodus 24:4).
The text simply calls them “Asherah,” without describing what they are. But that’s the name of an ancient fertility goddess from the Sumerian civilization in what is now southern Iraq. One of her symbols was a “tree of life.” Some ancient jewelry shows the tree growing out of the goddess’s belly. The Asherah poles reported in the Bible apparently represented those trees. Some poles were carved, perhaps with an image of the goddess (2 Kings 21:7).
Israel began with one person, Abraham. God promised him a huge family of descendants, “more descendants than you would be able to count” (Genesis 13:16).
Sex was apparently one lure. Israelite men had recently gotten themselves lured into worshiping Baal, the main Canaanite god. The story appears in Numbers 25. Women of Moab seemed to invite the men to a meal. Then the women seduced some of the Israelite men to engage in either ritual sex or just plain ol’ illicit sex. This led the men into idolatry. Baal was considered a god of fertility in family, flocks, and fields. Some scholars say the idea behind one worship ritual was to entertain Baal by letting him watch people have sex. They did this so he would make it rain. It’s a tad gross, but some taught that the rain was Baal’s semen. So, if the sex of worshipers got Baal stimulated enough, he would make it rain in this predominately dry part of the world.
Worship practices for local gods such as Baal, mainly in Canaan, and Chemosh, in Moab, apparently included sex rituals. Some included human sacrifice, often of the most cherished babies—the firstborn sons. Sacrifices like that were supposed to show the gods how important they were to the people.
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