Military procedures against enemy cities
If city that was attacked belonged to one of seven nations of land of Canaan (mentioned at De 7:1), all inhabitants were to be devoted to destruction. (De 20:15-17; Jos 11:11-14; De 2:32-34; 3:1-7) If left in the land, these would be a danger to continued relationship of Israel with Jehovah God. He had let them live in land until their iniquity came to completion (Ge 15:13-21)
For cities not belonging to the seven nations, terms of peace would first be proclaimed. (De 20:10, 15) If city surrendered, inhabitants were put to forced labor. If they did not surrender, all males and all women not virgins were killed. Others were spared as captives. (De 20:11-14; compare Nu 31:7, 17, 18.) Killing all men removed danger of later revolt by city and also marriage of these men to Israelite women. These measures also helped to avoid phallic worship and diseases among Israelites
Trees producing food could not be cut down and used for siegeworks (De 20:19, 20)
Chariots were burned; horses were hamstrung to incapacitate them for battle, and later they were killed (Jos 11:6)
WHAT WE LEARN OF HOW JEHOVAH HANDLED WARS OF THE PAST:
WHEN Jehovah gave Israel the land that he had promised to Abraham, morally debased nations were occupying it. The Bible candidly reports that God decreed the destruction of those wicked nations, and he appointed the Israelites to be the executioners. (De 7:2) Many persons have criticized that action. Others humbly acknowledge that it is hardly appropriate for imperfect humans to set themselves up as judges of God. (Compare Eze 18:29.) Their desire is to understand God’s ways. What do they learn?
This record clearly demonstrates that all people are accountable to mankind’s Creator, Jehovah God, whether they profess to believe in him or not. It shows that God is patient but does not shut his eyes to wrongdoing. (Ge 15:16) It makes clear that Jehovah leaves the responsibility for young children on the shoulders of their parents; he does not relieve the parents of this and thus allow them to feel that their actions affect only themselves. (De 30:19; Jos 10:40) It also shows that all who will turn from their bad way and worship Jehovah can be spared from destruction.—Jos 6:25; 9:3–10:11.
The Bible clearly identifies the wicked practices in which the inhabitants of Canaan indulged. Halley’s Bible Handbook (1964, p. 161) concludes: "Archaeologists who dig in the ruins of Canaanite cities wonder that God did not destroy them sooner than he did." The lesson is clear: Jehovah does not forever tolerate wickedness.