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Home -- Content: Series 7 (Laws) -- Translation: English -- Book: 1 (Tora) -- Part: 1 (Positive) -- Command: 187 -- Text
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The Sharia of Moses in the TORA
Part 1 - The 248 Positive Commandments of the Tora

187 - THE LAW OF THE SEVEN NATIONS*

*The seven nations have long ceased to exist, in which case, under Maimonides’ Third Principle, this commandment could not be counted as one of the 248 positive commandments.

Deuteronomy 20:7 -- “But you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the LORD your God has commanded you.”
Deuteronomy 7:1-2 -- 1 "When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, 2 and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them.”

This commandment and that which follows will be better understood in the light of the following passage from the Mishneh Torah: “We are not to engage in war with anyone whatever unless we first proclaim peace to him; this is applicable to both an optional and an obligatory war; for it is said, When you go near a city to fight against it, then proclaim an offer of peace to it. (Deuteronomy 20:10). If the inhabitants accept the offer of peace and take upon themselves the obligation to observe the seven commandments given to the Noachidae, we are not to slay a soul among them, and they merely become tributary, for it is said, then all the people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you, and serve you. (Deuteronomy 20:11)”*

* Mishneh Torah, Shoftim, Hilchoth Melachim VI, 1

“Three letters Joshua sent to the seven nations that occupied Canaan before entering the land. In the first letter he wrote: ‘He who wishes to flee may flee’; again he wrote: ‘He who wishes to accept peace may accept peace’; and finally: ‘He who wishes to engage in war may engage in war’.”*

* ibid., 5

Scripturally a proselyte of the seven nations was permitted to marry a daughter of Israel; but such marriage was subsequently prohibited on account of their natural hardness and cruelty.*

* ibid., Nashim, Hilchoth Issure Bi’ah XII, 22- 24

In conclusion, the following words of Maimonides are of interest: “You have, no doubt, noticed in the Torah how the commandment to annihilate the seven nations, and to let nothing that breathes remain alive, (Deuteronomy 20:16), is followed immediately by the words: lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 20:18); that is to say, you shall not think that this commandment implies an act of cruelty or of retaliation; it is an act demanded by the need for man to remove everything that might turn him away from the right path, and to clear away all obstacles in the road to perfection, that is, to the knowledge of God.”*

* Moreh Nebuchim I, 54

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