Do not show favor to idolaters

The Literal Commandment

When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away 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 stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)

 

The literal commandment is that we should show no favor to idolaters.

The word "favor" in this verse is translated from a Hebrew word [chanan] that means "grace". This same word is used in the Aaronic benediction from Numbers 6:

"Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:

The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.'

So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them." (Numbers 6:23-27)

 

Messiah Says

Messiah implicitly affirmed this commandment when He spoke about the Law:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

 

Messiah also instructed His disciples that they should not "enter any city of the Samaritans" (Matthew 10:5) perhaps in obedience to this commandment. Samaritans were considered traitors and idolators and were despised by the Jews.

Between Judea and Galilee lay Samaria.

In the Old Testament, we read that after the deaths of King David and King Solomon, the Jewish kings really went downhill. The nation of Israel was actually split by civil war into two kingdoms: the northern kingdom of Israel, and the southern kingdom of Judah. Jerusalem was the captial of Judah, and Samaria was the captial of Israel.

Both kingdoms had fallen into immorality and idolatry, and were ripe for the judgment of God. The book of 2Kings tells us that the kingdom of Israel was removed first by the Lord for their sins, being exiled into Assyria. The Assyrians populated Samaria with their own people, and the remaining Jews intermarried with them, making a race known as the Samaritans - half Jew, half Assyrian.

Later, when the kingdom of Judah was judged by God and taken into exile by the Babylonians, they did not intermarry with other idolatrous cultures. So the Jews hated the Samaritans with a passion, esteeming them to be half-breeds, traitors, and idolaters. They would not associate with them, avoiding any and all contact.1

 

Pictures of Messiah

The apostle Paul commands the believers in the city of Corinth:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)

 

If we know, love, and worship the G-d of Israel, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the G-d who is Truth then how can we have any relationship with that which is utterly false and the idolaters who would embrace that falsehood?

By showing favor or grace to idolaters a person indicates their acceptance of the idolater and their idolatry. Matthew's gospel records the words of the Master instructing believers to separate themselves from unrepentant brothers. (Matthew 18:15-17) In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul exhorts the believers there to expel an unrepentant brother. We must prevent ourselves from associating with idolatry and instead follow fully in the footsteps of the Messiah who declared Himself to be "the way, and the truth, and the life". (John 14:6)

These commandments prohibiting idolatry picture Messiah by pointing to idols and telling us He is not like them.

 

How Messiah Fulfilled

Messiah fulfilled this commandment by not showing favor to idolaters.

 

Traditional Observance

This commandment is traditionally observed in a very literal manner: by not showing favor or grace to those who are unrepentant idolaters... regardless of time or place. The most common example of this is a prohibition against Jews marrying non-Jews (who Jews regard as idolaters whether they are involved with actual idols or not).

A different tradition regarding this commandment understands it to mean that we should not have any kind feelings towards idolaters and we should not find anything about them that is good or pleasing. Some of the Jewish sages went as far as to forbid saying "How handsome that heathen is, " or "How charming and pleasant he is." 2

 

Other Notes

We are able to fulfill this commandment today and should not show favor to idolaters.

 

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Footnotes

1. Ron Daniel Study Notes: John 4:1-26, taken 08/06/2011 from http://rondaniel.com/library/43-John/John0401.php [back]
2. Charles Wengrove, trans., Sefer HaChinuch (Jerusalem:Feldheim Publishers, 1984), vol 4, p299 [back]

Commandment Details

  • Mishneh Torah # 57
  • Mishneh Torah Book # 1
  • Mishneh Torah Book Knowledge
  • Mishneh Torah Category 4- Idolatry and Gentile Customs
  • Reference Deuteronomy 7:2
  • Scripture Book Deuteronomy
  • Chapter 7
  • Verse 2
  • English and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.
  • Hebrew ב וּנְתָנָם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לְפָנֶיךָ--וְהִכִּיתָם: הַחֲרֵם תַּחֲרִים אֹתָם, לֹא-תִכְרֹת לָהֶם בְּרִית וְלֹא תְחָנֵּם.
  • Greek 2 καὶ παραδώσει αὐτοὺς κύριος ὁ θεός σου εἰς τὰς χεῖράς σου καὶ πατάξεις αὐτούς, ἀφανισμῷ ἀφανιεῖς αὐτούς, οὐ διαθήσῃ πρὸς αὐτοὺς διαθήκην οὐδὲ μὴ ἐλεήσητε αὐτούς.
  • Parashah 45- Va'etchanan
  • Positive/Negative Negative
  • Sefer Hachinuch # 426
  • Sef. Hach. Command To show no mercy to idol-worshippers
  • Category Idolatry
  • We can fullfill today Yes

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