Ki Tissa: The Seven Canaanite Nations – a People Or a Concept?

At the end of Parshat Ki-Tisa, God prepares the Jewish people for their entry into the land of Israel (which awaited them shortly if not for the subsequent sin of the spies), and we see the following commandment: “Observe thou that which I am commanding thee this day, behold, I am driving out before thee the Amorite, and the Cananite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goes, lest they be for a snare in the midst of thee.”(34:11,12)

The children of Israel are about to set foot into the land of Israel, which is heavily populated by several different nations. God does not ignore the fact (like we do today) that there is a definite “Canaanite problem”, and he gives the solution straight up: The Jews must give the Canaanite nations three possible options: (see Rambam, Hilchot Milachim, Chapter 6 regarding the three letters that Joshua sent)

To accept the fact that the Jewish people are taking over their land even before the Jews enter, and then they can remain in the land as long as they agree to the conditions of obeying the seven Noachide Laws, taxes, and servitude.
If this is unacceptable to them, they have the right to leave the country immediately.
Their final option is to stay and fight to prevent the Jews from settling the land, and the halacha regarding their entire population of men, women, and children is: “And thou shalt not allow a soul to live.” After being defeated in war, they are not permitted to “regret” or change their minds and say: Wait, we made a mistake and we are willing to give up and accept the first option. For they have already surrendered their right to remain and live in Israel.
That isn’t Kahane speaking, that is the Bible.

A Fifth Column

The great commentator the Abarbenel, on the aforementioned verse, comments on this final commandment which prohibits the making of a pact with the nations of the land after they have been defeated in war, and explains the reasoning behind it: “Because after they (the Jewish People) took the land from them, there is no doubt that they will seek to do evil to the Jews. For this the verse says, ‘the land whither you goest’, meaning because you, the Jews, came to this land and took it from its inhabitants; you stole and conquered it, how can they ever make a covenant of peace and love with you?! In other words, if there is a war (with enemies from outside), they will join your enemies and fight against you.”

Here, the Abarbenel has taught us a tremendous lesson by entering the psyche of the conquered nation. The halachic prohibition of making a covenant with the inhabitants of the land who fought against you and tried to prevent you from settling the land is derived from a very logical consideration which takes into account the natural feelings of the nations from which the land was conquered. For a nation which believes with all its heart that we stole their land will never comes to terms with such a situation, and will forever wait for the day when he can take his land back. Even if today he realizes that he hasn’t the opportunity to overcome the Jews and even shows signs of accepting the way things are and even smiles at us, he will join the enemy as a fifth column. How can one ignore these very troubling, but very natural and normal feelings that fester in the hearts of the “loser” – feelings that will be carried over to the children, who become even more frustrated than the parents.

For this reason the halacha comes to tell us that we must drive out those nations who refuse to accept Jewish rule and our conditions. The moment they engage in war with us and lose, they will never stop yearning and aspiring to take back the land they see as theirs.

History Repeats Itself

The Abarbenel pulls the rug out from all of those who babble about laws only applying to the Seven Nations. According to logic and reason, there is absolutely no difference between the Seven Nations and the Ishmaelites today. They rose up against us and tried to drive us into the sea. They wage a cruel war, and unleash vicious terror in their struggle to wipe us off of the face of the earth. In so doing, they have become the “Eighth Nation”, joining the list of the original seven, for the same concepts hold concerning them. (Similar things can be seen in Trachtate Avoda Zara, 20, Tosfos, and in many other laws whose origin is from the Torah, yet are applied to all nations since the codifiers did not see a reason to differentiate between them and the Seven Nations.)

How Should a Jewish Government Behave?

Can there be the slightest doubt that the words of the Abarbenel also apply to the Ishmaelites of today in Israel, who after their defeat, “seek to do evil to the Jews”, and will always wait for that great day when they can actualize their vision of “slaughter the Jews”? Can there be any value to a treaty with them, other than enabling them to buy time and get stronger until the moment arises when they are confident enough to try and massacre all of us? a true Jewish government would carry out the last part of the letter sent by Joshua to the Canaanites giving them the option of fleeing for their lives, or suffering the consequences!

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