Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
16. And thou shalt consume all the people which the LORD thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee.
16. Absumesque omnes populos quos Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi: non parcel oculus tuus els, nec coles deos eorum, quid laqueus erunt tibi.
17. If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them?
17. Quum dixeris in corde tuo, Plures sunt gentes illae quam ego: quomodo potero expellere eas?
18. Thou shalt not be afraid of them; but shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt;
18. Ne timeas tibi ab eis: recordando recorderis quae fecerit Jehova Deus tuus ipsi Plaraoni, et omnibus Aegyptiis;
19. The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the LORD thy God brought thee out; so shall the LORD thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid.
19. Probationum magnarum quas viderunt oculi tui, et signorum, portentorumque, et manus validae, brachiique extenti quo eduxit to Jehova Deus tuus: sic faciet Jehova Deus tuus omnibus populis a quorum conspectu times tibi.
20. Moreover the LORD thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed.
20. Praeterea crabronem immittet Jehova Deus tuus in cos, donec pereant qui superfuerint, et quia absconderint sea facie tua.
21. Thou shalt not be affrighted at them: for the LORD thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible.
21. Ne paveas a facie eorum: quia Jehova Deus tuus est in medio tui, Deus maximus et terribilis.
22. And the LORD thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.
22. Expelletque Jehova Deus tuus gentes illas a facie tua paulatim paulatim: non poteris absumere eas cito, ne multiplicetur contra to bestia agri.
23. But the LORD thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed.
23. Attamen tradet eas Jehova Deus tuus coram to, et conteret eas contritione maxima, donec perdantur ipsae.
24. And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them.
24. Tradetque reges earum in manum tuam, et perdes nomen earum de sub coelo: non consistet quisquam coram te, donec perdas cos.
25. The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the LORD thy God.
25. Sculptilia deorum ipsorum combures igni: non concupisces argentum, et aurum quae sunt super ca, et capias tibi: ne illaquees to in illo: abominatio enim Jehovae Dei tui est.
26. Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.
26. Neque introduces abominationem in domum tuam, et sis anathema sicut illud: detestando detestaberis illud, et abominando abominaberis illud, quia est anathema.
16. And thou shalt consume all the people. It is plain from the second part of the verse wherefore He commands the people of Canaan to be destroyed, when He forbids their gods to be worshipped. This precept, therefore, corresponds with the others, where He dooms in like manner these nations to utter destruction. I now pass over what I have explained elsewhere, i.e., that the vengeance which God exercised against these obstinate and ten-times lost people cannot be ascribed to cruelty. For since 400 years ago it had been said to Abraham that their iniquity was not yet full, they could not be treated with severity equal to their deserts, when they had so licentiously and wickedly abused God’s long-suffering. But we must take notice of God’s design in so particularly enjoining on the Israelites utterly to destroy whatever should be found there; for besides that He had once doomed them all to the destruction they merited, He would have the land also, in which His name was to be invoked, purged from all pollutions. Now, if any of the old inhabitants had survived, they would soon have endeavored to revive their corruptions, and since the Israelites were otherwise more disposed than enough to superstition, they would easily have been attracted to the worship of idols. This, then, is the reason why God forbids them to shew these people any humanity or clemency, as I have reminded you to be clear from the context; for these things stand in connection, that they should not spare the nations nor worship their gods. The reason which is subjoined, “for it will be a snare or stumblingblock to you,” must be extended to the whole context, viz., that it would be fatal to the Jews if they should spare the nations which would allure them to impiety.
17 If thou shalt say in thine heart. Since it was a matter of great difficulty to destroy such a multitude of men, and despair itself would drive them to madness, so that it would be frivolous for the Israelites to cut off all hope of mercy, God anticipates their fear, and exhorts them to the strenuous execution of His sentence. From whence we gather some useful instruction; whenever God commands anything which exceeds our power, we must still obey and boldly break through whatever obstacles present themselves to impede us. In all arduous matters, therefore, let this doctrine come to our aid, that whatever is contrary to God’s will may easily be annihilated by His almighty power. But since terror, presented to our eyes, immediately so lays hold of all our senses that we lie as it were torpid, God recalls to the recollection of the Israelites what abundant grounds of confidence He had supplied them with. For all the miracles He had wrought were so many proofs of His invincible power; and hence they should conclude that nothing was to be dreaded, provided God should go before them, and that, therefore, being assured of victory, they should not descend to any treaties.
20. Moreover, the Lord thy God will send the hornet. Since the destruction of their enemies might seem long, if they were only to be slain by their hands and weapons, and again, because it was scarcely credible that, without defending themselves, they would voluntarily stretch forth their own throats, God promises that in another way also He would supply the means of their conquest. Therefore, lest the Israelites, imagining that their enemies would be prompt and vigorous in resistance, should be alarmed or affrighted, God declares that other forces should be at hand, for that hornets or other poisonous insects should destroy all the fugitives. The same declaration is found in Ex 23; and what God had promised, Joshua relates that He performed. (Jos 24:12.) But inasmuch as these nations were not to be destroyed in a moment, lest the people should therefore grow weary or become inactive, God anticipates this, and reminds them that this delay would be advantageous, for when all the inhabitants were exterminated, the wild beasts would occupy the empty land. The prolongation of the war, therefore, ought not to trouble them, for by it God provided for His people’s welfare, since, if the men were speedily destroyed, they should have to contend with wild beasts. But though the passage which I have quoted from Exodus is similar in terms, yet I have designedly placed it under another head; for God here refers to the extermination of the Gentile nations with another object, i.e., lest any of the ancient pollutions should remain in the land, and lest the Israelites should mingle with the ungodly, by whose arts they might at length be drawn away to spurious religions.
25. The graven images of their gods. He again impresses upon them the object of the destruction of the nations, but he goes further than before. He had before forbidden them to worship their gods. He now commands them to consume their graven images with fire, for since the people were prone to superstition, such snares might easily have alienated them from God’s pure worship. Nor does he command them merely to melt the gold and silver so as to alter its shape, but he altogether interdicts its use, since it would be a contagious plague; for he shews how greatly God abominates idols, inasmuch as whosoever should touch the materials of which they were molten, would contract pollution and become accursed. This great severity might indeed seem to condemn the metals which were created for man’s use, as if they were impure, and as if the perfectness of natural things was liable to be corrupted by man. But in this way idolaters would contaminate the sun and moon, when falsely regarding them as objects of corrupt worship; and it must be answered that the gold and silver itself was by no means polluted by this impious abuse; but that, although free from all stain in itself, it was polluted in respect to the people. Such was the uncleanness of animals, not that they had in themselves any pollution, but because God had interdicted their being eaten. The pollution therefore which is now mentioned arises from a similar prohibition; for otherwise the ignorant people could not be restrained, and hence God would have that to be abominable which in itself was pure. Still this was a political precept, and only given temporarily to the ancient people; yet we gather from it how detestable idolatry is, which even infects the works of God themselves with its own filthiness.