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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 50–56
Verses 50–56

While the children of Israel were in the wilderness their total separation from all other people kept them out of the way of temptation to idolatry, and perhaps this was one thing intended by their long confinement in the wilderness, that thereby the idols of Egypt might be forgotten, and the people aired (as it were) and purified from that infection, and the generation that entered Canaan might be such as never knew those depths of Satan. But now that they were to pass over Jordan they were entering again into that temptation, and therefore, 1. They are here strictly charged utterly to destroy all remnants of idolatry. They must not only drive out the inhabitants of the land, that they may possess their country, but they must deface all their idolatrous pictures and images, and pull down all their high places, Num. 33:52. They must not preserve any of them, no, not as monuments of antiquity to gratify the curious, nor as ornaments of their houses, nor toys for their children to play with, but they must destroy all, both in token of their abhorrence and detestation of idolatry and to prevent their being tempted to worship those images, and the false gods represented by them, or to worship the God of Israel by such images or representations. 2. They were assured that, if they did so, God would by degrees put them in full possession of the land of promise, Num. 33:53, 54. If they would keep themselves pure from the idols of Canaan, God would enrich them with the wealth of Canaan. Learn not their way, and then fear not their power. 3. They were threatened that, if they spared either the idols or the idolaters, they should be beaten with their own rod and their sin would certainly be their punishment. (1.) They would foster snakes in their own bosoms, Num. 33:55. The remnant of the Canaanites, if they made any league with them, though it were but a cessation of arms, would be pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides, that is, they would be upon all occasions vexatious to them, insulting them, robbing them, and, to the utmost of their power, making mischief among them. We must expect trouble and affliction from that, whatever it is, which we sinfully indulge; that which we are willing should tempt us we shall find will vex us. (2.) The righteous God would turn that wheel upon the Israelites which was to have crushed the Canaanites: I shall do to you as I thought to do unto them, Num. 33:56. It was intended that the Canaanites should be dispossessed; but if the Israelites fell in with them, and learned their way, they should be dispossessed, for God’s displeasure would justly be greater against them than against the Canaanites themselves. Let us hear this, and fear. If we do not drive sin out, sin will drive us out; if we be not the death of our lusts, our lusts will be the death of our souls.