Deuteronomy 20:8 MEANING

Deuteronomy 20:8
Verse 8. - The shoterim were also to allow any that were naturally timid and fainthearted to return to their homes, lest, if they remained with the host, others, infected by them, should lose courage and become unfit for service. His brethren's heart faint; literally, flow down or melt (cf. Joshua 7:5). In Deuteronomy 1:28, this verb is rendered by "discouraged."

20:1-9 In the wars wherein Israel engaged according to the will of God, they might expect the Divine assistance. The Lord was to be their only confidence. In these respects they were types of the Christian's warfare. Those unwilling to fight, must be sent away. The unwillingness might arise from a man's outward condition. God would not be served by men forced against their will. Thy people shall be willing, Ps 110:3. In running the Christian race, and fighting the good fight of faith, we must lay aside all that would make us unwilling. If a man's unwillingness rose from weakness and fear, he had leave to return from the war. The reason here given is, lest his brethren's heart fail as well as his heart. We must take heed that we fear not with the fear of them that are afraid, Isa 8:12.And the officers shall speak further unto the people,.... According to Maimonides (n), the priest the anointed of war spoke to the end of Deuteronomy 20:7 and which the officers repeated after him to the people aloud, as before observed; and then after that an officer speaks of himself, or in his own words, and not in those of the priest, as follows:

what man that is fearful, &c. and then another officer causes all the people to hear it:

and they shall say, what man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? that has not courage to face his enemies, to whom the terrors of war, and especially of death, are dreadful; the Targum of Jonathan adds,"because of his sin;''whose sins stare him in the face, and lie heavy on his conscience; so that he is afraid he shall die in battle, and in his sins, and suffer divine vengeance; both these senses are observed in the Misnah (y). According to R. Akiba, a fearful and fainthearted man is one"that cannot stand in battle array, or behold a drawn sword; but R. Jose the Galilean says, he is one that is afraid of the transgressions he has committed; and therefore the law joins to this all those things for which a man may return;''as having built a new house, planted a vineyard, and betrothed a wife; that so it might be thought it was on account of one or other of these that he returned, and not through faintheartedness, either because of the terrors of war, or of his own conscience for his sins:

let him go and return to his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart; lest, by his pale looks and trembling joints, his fainting fits and swoons, he discourage the rest in the same company with him, and by his example make them unfit for war also.

(n) Ut supra. (Hilchot Melachim, c. 7. sect. 3.) (y) Misn. Sotah, c. 8. sect. 5.

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