Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, 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 thou;
1. Quum introduxerit te Jehova Deus tuus in terram in quam ingrederis possidendam, et avellerit gentes multas a facie tua, Hittaeum, Gergasaeum, Amorrhaum, Chananaeum, Perisaeum, Hivaeum, et Jebusaeum, septem gentes nmltas et robustiores te:
2. And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them:
2. Et tradiderit eas Jehova Deus tuus coram to, et percusseris eas: perdendo perdes eas: non inibis cum illis pactum, neque misereberis earum.
3. Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
3. Non junges te affinitate cum eis, filiam tuam non dabis filio ejus et filiam ejus non accipies filio tuo.
4. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods; so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.
4. Avocabit enim filium tuum a me, et colent Deos alienos: unde irascetur furor Jehovae in vos, ut disperdat te cito.
2. Thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them. Those who think that there was cruelty in this command, usurp too great authority in respect to Him who is the judge of all. The objection is specious that the people of God were unreasonably imbued with inhumanity, so that, advancing with murderous atrocity, they should spare neither sex nor age. But we must first remember what we shall see hereafter, i.e., that when God had destined the land for His people, He was at liberty utterly to destroy the former inhabitants, so that its possession might be free for them. We must then go further, and say that He desired the just demonstration of His vengeance to appear upon these nations. Four hundred years before He had justly punished their many sins, yet had He suspended His sentence and patiently borne with them, if haply they might repent. That sentence 303 is well known, “The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Ge 15:16.) After God had shewn His mercy for four centuries, and this clemency had increased both their audacity and madness, so that they had not ceased to provoke His wrath, surely it was no act of cruelty to compensate for the delay by the grievousness of the punishment. And hence appears the foul and detestable perversity of the human intellect. We are indignant if He does not smile at once; if He delays punishment our zeal accuses Him of slackness and want of energy; yet, when He comes forth as the avenger of guilt, we either call Him cruel, or at least complain of His severity. Yet His justice will always absolve Him; and our calumnies and detractions will recoil upon our own heads. He commanded seven nations to be utterly destroyed; that is to say, after they had added sin to sin for 400 years, so that their accumulation was immense, and experience had taught that they were obstinate and incurable. It will therefore be said elsewhere, that the land “spewed them out,” (Le 18:28,) as if it had eased itself, when burdened by their filthiness. If impiety is intolerable to the lifeless element, why should we wonder that God in His character of Judge exercised extreme severity? But if God’s wrath was just, He might surely choose whatever ministers and executioners of it He pleased; and when He had given this commission to His people, it was not unreasonable that He should forbid them to pity those whom He had appointed for destruction. For what can be more preposterous than for men to vie with God in clemency? and when it pleases the Master to be severe, for the servants to assume to themselves the right of shewing mercy? Therefore God often reproves the Israelites for being improperly merciful. And hence it came to pass that the people, whom they ought to have destroyed, became as thorns and briars to prick them. (Jos 23:13, and throughout the book of Judges.) Away, then, with all temerity, whereby we would presumptuously restrict God’s power to the puny measure of our reason; and rather let us learn reverently to regard those works of His, whose cause is concealed from us, than wantonly criticise them. Especially when He declares to us the just grounds of His vengeance, let us learn to subscribe to His decrees with the humility and modesty that becomes us, rather than to oppose them in vain, and indeed to our own confusion.
“On sait ce qui fur dit a Abraham,” etc. — Fr.