What does Deuteronomy 7:1-5 really mean?

Deuteronomy 7:1-5 is about emphasizing the importance of the Israelites maintaining their distinctiveness and loyalty to God by avoiding intermarriage with other nations to prevent turning away from their faith and worshiping foreign gods.

1 “When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you,”
2 and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.
3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons,
4 For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.
5 But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.


Setting the Scene for Deuteronomy 7:1-5

In Deuteronomy chapter 7, we find the Israelites encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai, having recently been delivered from slavery in Egypt by the mighty hand of God. Moses, their faithful leader, stands before the people to deliver a message from the Lord. The scene is set in the vast desert wilderness, with the imposing presence of the mountain looming in the background, its peak shrouded in clouds.

The Israelites, a multitude of men, women, and children, have gathered to hear Moses speak. They are a diverse group, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, each with their own unique characteristics and histories. As Moses begins to address the people, he reminds them of the covenant that God has made with them, emphasizing the importance of obeying His commandments and remaining faithful to Him alone. The atmosphere is tense with anticipation, as the people listen intently to the words of their leader, knowing that their future as a nation depends on their obedience to God’s laws.

As Moses continues to speak, he warns the Israelites against intermarrying with the pagan nations that inhabit the land they are about to enter. He cautions them against forming alliances with these peoples, knowing that such relationships would lead them away from the worship of the one true God. The scene is charged with emotion as the Israelites grapple with the weight of this command, knowing that their choices will determine the course of their history. In this pivotal moment, the fate of the nation hangs in the balance, as they must decide whether to follow God’s ways or be swayed by the temptations of the world around them.

What is Deuteronomy 7:1-5 about?

God commands the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites to prevent the temptation of idolatry and intermarriage in this verse. This command might seem harsh and difficult to understand at first glance. However, God’s intention was to protect the spiritual purity and allegiance of His people. He knew that if the Israelites were surrounded by the Canaanites, with their indulgence in idol worship and practices that deviate from God’s teachings, the Israelites might stray from their faith and become influenced by these pagan beliefs. God was insuring a safe environment for the Israelites to grow in their faith and maintain a strong connection to Him by removing the Canaanites completely.

We can interpret this command as an act of love and protection from God. Just like a parent sets boundaries for their child to keep them safe from harm, God gave the Israelites a clear directive to preserve their spiritual well-being. God was preventing his people from being led astray and losing sight of their faith by eliminating the Canaanites. This verse serves as a reminder of the importance of staying true to our beliefs and being mindful of the influences around us that may lead us away from God’s path. It prompts us to reflect on the importance of maintaining spiritual purity and loyalty to God, even when faced with challenging circumstances or difficult decisions.

Understanding what Deuteronomy 7:1-5 really means

Deuteronomy, a pivotal book in the Torah and Old Testament, contains Moses’ address to the Israelites as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 7:1-5, God’s instructions to the Israelites regarding the nations in Canaan are outlined. The phrase “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess” underscores God’s active role in guiding and providing for His people, marking a transition from wandering to settlement, symbolizing fulfillment. The directive to “Drive out many nations before you” emphasizes the need to eliminate influences that could lead the Israelites astray, calling for purity and dedication to God’s commandments.

“Do not intermarry with them” stresses the importance of maintaining spiritual and cultural integrity, highlighting the significance of remaining distinct and faithful to God’s covenant. The command to “Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones” signifies a commitment to worshiping God alone, rejecting idolatry and false worship. These instructions echo themes found in related biblical passages like Exodus 34:12-16, Joshua 23:12-13, and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, emphasizing the avoidance of covenants with non-believers and the consequences of straying from God.

The relevance of these verses extends to modern times, urging individuals to uphold their faith and values amidst diverse beliefs and practices. It prompts believers to be vigilant against influences that may compromise their faith, advocating for discernment in relationships, media consumption, and lifestyle choices. Consider a young professional in a new city, facing conflicting values at work. They must choose between conforming to fit in or standing firm in their beliefs, mirroring the Israelites’ dilemma and highlighting the ongoing struggle of maintaining faith in a diverse environment.

Deuteronomy 7:1-5 serves as a poignant reminder of the necessity for faithfulness and purity in one’s spiritual journey. It calls for the active removal of influences that could lead one astray and wholehearted commitment to God’s ways. By embracing and applying these principles, individuals can navigate life with integrity and unwavering devotion to their faith, embodying the timeless message of spiritual discernment and steadfastness.

What does it mean to truly love and obey God?

Truly loving and obeying God goes beyond just outward observance or following rules. It involves a deep and genuine commitment to God that stems from the heart. This kind of love and obedience requires surrendering our own desires and will to align with God’s will, trusting Him completely, and walking in His ways. It means acknowledging His sovereignty, acknowledging His supremacy, and seeking to honor Him in all areas of our lives.

When we truly love and obey God, we prioritize Him above everything else in our lives. This means that we strive to please Him in our thoughts, actions, and decisions, seeking to bring glory to His name. It is about living a life that reflects our love for Him, showing reverence, respect, and obedience to His teachings and commandments. Our love and obedience to Him grow deeper and stronger as we walk in His ways and seek to follow His guidance, strengthening our relationship with Him.


Embrace the message of distinction in Deuteronomy 7:1-5 – choose the path that separates you from harmful influences and leads you closer to your purpose. Make a firm commitment to steer clear of negative habits and distractions that veer you off course. How will you navigate this challenge to stay true to your beliefs and values in a world filled with temptations?