Deuteronomy 20

Talks for Growing Christians

Conduct in Warfare

Deuteronomy 20

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Lesson Number 20

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. When Israel went to war dedicated soldiers were encouraged by the priests.
  2. When Israel went to war domestic duties were still of primary importance
  3. When Israel went to war distant cities were offered terms of peace.

Practical Application

  1. Let’s motivate others to fight the good fight.


  1. What is the topic of Deuteronomy 20?
  2. What important role did the priests perform before a battle?
  3. List the four categories of men who were excused from going out to battle.
  4. What was the result of these regulations?
  5. How were distant cities handled differently in the Conquest than the cities of Canaan?


  1. Deuteronomy 20 contains formal instructions as to how warfare should be carried out in the Land of Canaan that God had given them, and also the wartime policy when confronting cities that were outside the land of Canaan. These instructions were not only good for the Conquest, but good for whenever Israel was engaged in warfare.
  2. Before every battle one of Israel’s priests would give an encouraging and challenging talk to the troops.
  3. 1. The man who had built a new house, but had not yet dedicated it.
    2. The man who had planted a new vineyard, but it was not yet productive.
    3. The man who was engaged to a woman, but had not yet married her.
    4. Any man who was afraid and fainthearted and didn’t want to go into battle.
  4. Israel’s army would consist only of highly dedicated and committed troops – a very effective fighting force, trusting in the Lord for victory.
  5. Cities in the land of Canaan were to be totally wiped out. Houses and fields were to be preserved, but all pagan life was to be eliminated. For cities outside the Land, where the foreign culture was far enough removed so as not to include God’s people, Israel was permitted to make peace treaties with them. These cities would become vassal states and pay annual tribute to Israel.


  1. It is significant and important to see that building homes, raising families, and planting crops were more important than fighting wars on God’s priority list. What might be an implication for us today? Are you showing support to those focused on domestic duties?
  2. God directed the priests to give a motivational talk to the troops before they went into battle. In the same way, we can motivate other believers to fight the good fight. How can you motivate fellow believers to be strong in their spiritual battle?


  1. Israel was to be ruthless in wiping out the pagan Canaanite presence in the Land. Are you as intent on ridding your life of sinful influence?

Key Verses

  • “Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” Deuteronomy 20:3-4
  • “But of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, 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, 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 20:16-18

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