Offering Peace Before War

Shemot 23:23-33, Shemot 34:11-16, Bemidbar 21:21-26, Bemidbar 33:51-56, Devarim 2:24-36, Devarim 7:1-6, Devarim 20:10-18.

There are verses that seem to explicitly declare that all Canaanites must be obliterated and that no possibility of peaceful coexistence exists and speak of the need to rid the land of Israel of its Canaanite inhabitants.

However, a different picture emerges from Yehoshua 11 which summarizes the Wars of Conquest:

(19) There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon; they took all in battle. (20) For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, to come against Israel in battle, that they might be utterly destroyed, that they might have no favour, but that they might be destroyed, as the Lord commanded Moses.

According to these verses, it seems that had it not been for Hashem hardening their hearts, some of the Canaanite cities might have made peace with Israel, implying that peace was, in fact, an option! How can this be reconciled with the verses in Torah? Were the Israelites supposed to negotiate for peace or not

  • Prohibition of marriage & covenantsDevarim 7 also speaks of annihilating the Seven Nations, but then continues to warn the people against making covenants with or marrying the Canaanites. If the people are supposed to be utterly destroyed, why is there a concern lest the nation make alliances? What is the relationship between the two commandments?
  • Calling to Sichon – In recounting the battle with Sichon the Emorite in Devarim 2, Moshe says that before fighting, he sent Sichon "דִּבְרֵי שָׁלוֹם", asking permission to pass through his lands. Is this equivalent to the seeking of peace discussed in Devarim 20? If so, what does it teach about the lawfulness of negotiating with Canaanites? Does the fact that Sichon lived on the eastern side of the Jordan make a difference?
  • Saving Rachav – If all Canaanites were supposed to be destroyed, why were the spies allowed to save Rachav, as described in Yehoshua 6? Was she an exceptional case or just one example of a larger accepted practice?
  • The Gibeonites' trickeryYehoshua 9 describes how the Gibeonites felt a need to pretend that they hailed from a distant city so as to convince the Israelites to make a treaty with them, implying that peace was not an option. If so, however, why did the Israelites not kill them when they discovered that they were duped?
  • Canaanites in Shofetim and Melakhim – Both Shofetim 1 and Melakhim I 9 speak of Canaanites who remained in the land and were forced to pay tribute/ labor tax. In Shofetim 2, the tribes are then chastised for making treaties with the inhabitants, while in Melakhim, Shelomo's similar actions receive no rebuke. Is subduing rather than conquering the Canaanites allowed or not?
  • The divine command In Devarim 2 to Sichon clearly means going into battle. But strangely enough, the Moses’ first measure consists of sending messengers carrying an offer of peace!

The Manassites were unable to occupy these towns; the Canaanites maintained their hold on that part of the country. When the Israelites grew stronger, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out (Joshua 17:12-13).

Later, in the history of Israel, Solomon spares the Canaanites in his day:

All the survivors of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites who did not belong to Israel—that is, those of their descendants who survived in the land wherever the Israelites had been unable to annihilate (lehaharimam) them—all were employed by Solomon as perpetual forced labor, which they still are (I Kings 9:20-21)

Isaac Arama (c. 1420–1494),
contends that the Torah’s commandment to proclaim peace requires:
“Entreaties and supplications offered in the most conciliatory possible
way, in order to turn their hearts (…) for this follows necessarily from
the human wisdom of peace, and the Divine will consent (…) For if we
find that He commanded ‘You shall not destroy its tree [that is, that
found in the city of the enemy], to lift against it an axe’ [Deut. 20:19], all
the more so should we take care not to commit damage and destruction
to human beings.”

Isaac Abravanel (1437–1508), commenting on Deuteronomy 20:10,
advances three reasons to justify an offer of peace prior to the commencement
of hostilities: (a) it is proper to follow the ways of God, Who does not desire
[people’s] death and the destruction of the world, but forgives the penitent;
(b) peaceful conquest denotes the power and magnanimity of the ruler; (c) the
outcome of war is at best uncertain and at worst catastrophic. He argues that
women and children are to be spared since they are by nature non-combatants

אֵין עוֹשִׂין מִלְחָמָה עִם אָדָם בָּעוֹלָם עַד שֶׁקּוֹרְאִין לוֹ שָׁלוֹם. אֶחָד מִלְחֶמֶת הָרְשׁוּת וְאֶחָד מִלְחֶמֶת מִצְוָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, י) "כִּי תִקְרַב אֶל עִיר לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ וְקָרָאתָ אֵלֶיהָ לְשָׁלוֹם". אִם הִשְׁלִימוּ וְקִבְּלוּ שֶׁבַע מִצְוֹת שֶׁנִּצְטַוּוּ בְּנֵי נֹחַ עֲלֵיהֶן אֵין הוֹרְגִין מֵהֶן נְשָׁמָה וַהֲרֵי הֵן לְמַס. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, יא) "יִהְיוּ לְךָ לָמַס וַעֲבָדוּךָ". קִבְּלוּ עֲלֵיהֶן הַמַּס וְלֹא קִבְּלוּ הָעַבְדוּת אוֹ שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ הָעַבְדוּת וְלֹא קִבְּלוּ הַמַּס. אֵין שׁוֹמְעִין לָהֶם עַד שֶׁיְּקַבְּלוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם. וְהָעַבְדוּת שֶׁיְּקַבְּלוּ הוּא שֶׁיִּהְיוּ נִבְזִים וּשְׁפָלִים לְמַטָּה וְלֹא יָרִימוּ רֹאשׁ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אֶלָּא יִהְיוּ כְּבוּשִׁים תַּחַת יָדָם. וְלֹא יִתְמַנּוּ עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל לְשׁוּם דָּבָר שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם. וְהַמַּס שֶׁיְּקַבְּלוּ שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מוּכָנִים לַעֲבוֹדַת הַמֶּלֶךְ בְּגוּפָם וּמָמוֹנָם. כְּגוֹן בִּנְיַן הַחוֹמוֹת. וְחֹזֶק הַמְּצוּדוֹת. וּבִנְיַן אַרְמוֹן הַמֶּלֶךְ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (מלכים א ט, טו) "וְזֶה דְבַר הַמַּס אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלָה הַמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה לִבְנוֹת אֶת בֵּית ה' וְאֶת בֵּיתוֹ וְאֶת הַמִּלּוֹא וְאֵת חוֹמַת יְרוּשָׁלָםִ" (מלכים א ט, יט) "וְאֵת כָּל עָרֵי הַמִּסְכְּנוֹת אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ לִשְׁלֹמֹה" (מלכים א ט, כ) "כָּל הָעָם הַנּוֹתָר מִן הָאֱמֹרִי" (מלכים א ט, כא) "וַיַּעֲלֵם שְׁלֹמֹה לְמַס עֹבֵד עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה" (מלכים א ט, כב) "וּמִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא נָתַן שְׁלֹמֹה עָבֶד כִּי הֵם אַנְשֵׁי הַמִּלְחָמָה וַעֲבָדָיו וְשָׂרָיו וְשָׁלִישָׁיו וְשָׂרֵי רִכְבּוֹ וּפָרָשָׁיו":
War is not conducted against anyone in the world until they are first offered peace (and refuse it), whether this is a Discretionary War or a War of Mitzvoh, as it says, “when you come close to the city to fight with it, you shall call to it to make peace” (Deut. 20:10). If they make peace and accept the Seven Commandments incumbent upon the Sons of Noah (Gentiles), none of them are killed, but they must pay us tribute, as it says, “and they shall be for you a tributary, and they shall serve you” (Deut. 20:11). If they propose to accept upon themselves the payment of the tribute but not servitude to us or they accept servitude but not the tribute, we ignore their proposal until they accept both. The servitude referred to here is one of disgrace and is demeaning. They are not to raise their heads up to Israel for any reason. They must be subjugated to us and may never be assigned to a Position over us. The tribute they must pay shall be for service of the king, with their bodies and their money, such as the building of the walls37Of Jerusalem. and the strengthening of fortresses and the building of the royal palace and similar, as it says, “And this is the account of the levy which King Solomon raised to build the Temple of G-d, and his palace, and Milo, and the wall of Jerusalem…and all the store-cities which Solomon had…the Emorites who remained…and Solomon imposed a head-tax, until this very day. And of the Children of Israel, Solomon made none a bondsman; but they were the soldiers and his servants and his officers and his captains and those in charge of his chariots and his horsemen” (I Kings 9:15-22).
וְיֵשׁ לַמֶּלֶךְ לְהַתְנוֹת עִמָּהֶם שֶׁיִּקַּח חֲצִי מָמוֹנָם אוֹ הַקַּרְקָעוֹת וְיַנִּיחַ כָּל הַמִּטַּלְטְלִין אוֹ הַמִּטַּלְטְלִים וְיַנִּיחַ הַקַּרְקָעוֹת כְּפִי מַה שֶּׁיַּתְנֶה:
The king may make a deal with them that he can take half of their money or land and leave all their moveable goods or take their moveable goods38Or, chattel. and leave their lands. This is all in accordance with whatever arrangement he makes with them.
וְאָסוּר לְשַׁקֵּר בִּבְרִיתָם וּלְכַזֵּב לָהֶם אַחַר שֶׁהִשְׁלִימוּ וְקִבְּלוּ שֶׁבַע מִצְוֹת:
It is forbidden for us to lie to them in their peace treaty or deceive them after they have made peace and have accepted the Seven Commandments.
וְאִם לֹא הִשְׁלִימוּ אוֹ שֶׁהִשְׁלִימוּ וְלֹא קִבְּלוּ שֶׁבַע מִצְוֹת. עוֹשִׂין עִמָּהֶם מִלְחָמָה וְהוֹרְגִין כָּל הַזְּכָרִים הַגְּדוֹלִים. וּבוֹזְזִין כָּל מָמוֹנָם וְטַפָּם. וְאֵין הוֹרְגִין אִשָּׁה וְלֹא קָטָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, יד) "וְהַנָּשִׁים וְהַטָּף" זֶה טַף שֶׁל זְכָרִים. בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּמִלְחֶמֶת הָרְשׁוּת שֶׁהוּא עִם שְׁאָר הָאֻמּוֹת. אֲבָל שִׁבְעָה עֲמָמִין וַעֲמָלֵק שֶׁלֹּא הִשְׁלִימוּ אֵין מַנִּיחִין מֵהֶם נְשָׁמָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, טו) "כֵּן תַּעֲשֶׂה לְכָל" וְגוֹ' (דברים כ, טז) "רַק מֵעָרֵי הָעַמִּים" (דברים כ, טז) "לֹא תְחַיֶּה כָּל נְשָׁמָה". וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר בַּעֲמָלֵק (דברים כה, יט) "תִּמְחֶה אֶת זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק". וּמִנַּיִן שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְדַבֵּר אֶלָּא בְּאֵלּוּ שֶׁלֹּא הִשְׁלִימוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יהושע יא, יט) "לֹא הָיְתָה עִיר אֲשֶׁר הִשְׁלִימָה אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּלְתִּי הַחִוִּי ישְׁבֵי גִבְעוֹן אֶת הַכּל לָקְחוּ בַמִּלְחָמָה" (יהושע יא, כ) "כִּי מֵאֵת ה' הָיְתָה לְחַזֵּק אֶת לִבָּם לִקְרַאת הַמִּלְחָמָה אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמַעַן הַחֲרִימָם". מִכְלַל שֶׁשָּׁלְחוּ לָהֶם לְשָׁלוֹם וְלֹא קִבְּלוּ:
If they do not come to peaceful terms or they make peace but do not accept the Seven Commandments, we engage in war against them and slay all their adult males. We take all their money and children as spoils. We do not kill the women or minors, as it says, “the women and the children” (see Deut. 20:14 and 2:34) which means the male children. To what do we refer? To a Discretionary War with one of the other nations. However, with one of the Seven Nations or with Amalek who do not make peace, we leave no soul alive, as it says, “so you shall do with everyone…only of the cities of the nations…do not leave alive any soul” (Deut. 20:15-16), and regarding Amalek it says, “erase the memory of Amalek” (Deut. 25:19). How do we know that this is referring to those who do not make peace with us? For it says, “there was no city which came to peace with the Children of Israel except the Chivites, dwellers of Givon. Everything, they took in the war. For from G-d their hearts were strengthened to the call of war with Israel, so that they may be destroyed.” (Joshua 11:19-20). They were offered peace, and refused.
שְׁלֹשָׁה כְּתָבִים שָׁלַח יְהוֹשֻׁעַ עַד שֶׁלֹּא נִכְנַס לָאָרֶץ. הָרִאשׁוֹן שָׁלַח לָהֶם מִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לִבְרֹחַ יִבְרַח. וְחָזַר וְשָׁלַח מִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לְהַשְׁלִים יַשְׁלִים. וְחָזַר וְשָׁלַח מִי שֶׁרוֹצֶה לַעֲשׂוֹת מִלְחָמָה יַעֲשֶׂה. אִם כֵּן מִפְּנֵי מָה הֶעֱרִימוּ יוֹשְׁבֵי גִּבְעוֹן. לְפִי שֶׁשָּׁלַח לָהֶם בַּכְּלָל וְלֹא קִבְּלוּ. וְלֹא יָדְעוּ מִשְׁפַּט יִשְׂרָאֵל וְדִמּוּ שֶׁשּׁוּב אֵין פּוֹתְחִין לָהֶם לְשָׁלוֹם. וְלָמָּה קָשָׁה הַדָּבָר לַנְּשִׂיאִים וְרָאוּ שֶׁרָאוּי לְהַכּוֹתָם לְפִי חֶרֶב לוּלֵי הַשְּׁבוּעָה. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁכָּרְתוּ לָהֶם בְּרִית וַהֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים ז, ב) "לֹא תִכְרֹת לָהֶם בְּרִית" אֶלָּא הָיָה דִּינָם שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לְמַס עֲבָדִים. וְהוֹאִיל וּבְטָעוּת נִשְׁבְּעוּ לָהֶן בְּדִין הָיָה שֶׁיֵּהָרְגוּ עַל שֶׁהִטְעוּם לוּלֵי חִלּוּל הַשֵּׁם:
Joshua dispatched three communiqués before entering the Land. The first one he sent read, “Whoever wishes to flee, may flee”. The next read, “Whoever wishes to make peace, let him make peace”. The next read, “Whoever wishes to make war, make war”. If so, why did the residents of Givon go and deceive us39Saying, “we are from a distant land” when they could have simply made peace with us (Joshua 9:9).? He had sent the (first) letter to them, and they did not accept it. Being unaware of the Laws of Israel, they thought that we won’t again be offering them peace40After the first time, i.e., they would not have a second chance.. So, why was this matter difficult for the Heads41Of the Tribes., and they saw that it would have been proper to smite them by sword were it not for the oath42That they made with the Givonites.? Because they made a treaty with them, and it says, “make no peace treaty with them” (Deut. 7:2). Thus, their verdict was that they were to be serfs. Now, since we, in error, made an oath with them, by law, they should have been killed because they deceived us, were it not for the disgrace doing so would have caused to G-d’s Name.
עַמּוֹן וּמוֹאָב אֵין שׁוֹלְחִין לָהֶם לְשָׁלוֹם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כג, ז) "לֹא תִדְרשׁ שְׁלֹמָם וְטֹבָתָם כָּל יָמֶיךָ". אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים לְפִי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כ, י) "וְקָרָאתָ אֵלֶיהָ לְשָׁלוֹם" יָכוֹל עַמּוֹן וּמוֹאָב כֵּן. תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר לֹא תִדְרשׁ שְׁלֹמָם וְטֹבָתָם. לְפִי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים כג, יז) "עִמְּךָ יֵשֵׁב בְּקִרְבְּךָ" (דברים כג, יז) "בַּטּוֹב לוֹ לֹא תּוֹנֶנּוּ". יָכוֹל עַמּוֹן וּמוֹאָב כֵּן תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר וְטֹבָתָם. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שׁוֹאֲלִים בִּשְׁלוֹמָם אִם הִשְׁלִימוּ מֵעַצְמָם תְּחִלָּה מְקַבְּלִין אוֹתָן:
We do not extend offers of peace neither to Ammon nor to Moab, as it says, “do not seek as to their peace or their prosperity all your days” (Deut. 23:7). Our Sages have said that from what it says, “and you shall call upon her (the city) to peace” (Deut. 20:10) we might have thought that we can offer Ammon and Moab peace, were it not to say “do not seek their peace”. From the phrase, “With you he shall dwell…and you shall not wrong him” (Deut. 23:17) one would think that we can offer peace to Ammon and Moab. However, from the phrase, “and for their prosperity” we learn that although we do not offer them peace if they, on their own, make peace, we accept them.
כְּשֶׁצָּרִין עַל עִיר לְתָפְשָׂהּ. אֵין מַקִּיפִין אוֹתָהּ מֵאַרְבַּע רוּחוֹתֶיהָ אֶלָּא מִשָּׁלֹשׁ רוּחוֹתֶיהָ. וּמַנִּיחִין מָקוֹם לַבּוֹרֵחַ וּלְכָל מִי שֶׁיִּרְצֶה לְהִמָּלֵט עַל נַפְשׁוֹ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר לא, ז) "וַיִּצְבְּאוּ עַל מִדְיָן כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה' אֶת משֶׁה". מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ שֶׁבְּכָךְ צִוָּהוּ:
When we besiege a city which we want to capture, we do not encircle it from all four sides, but only on three. We leave one side open for them to flee. Anyone who wishes to escape with his life may so do, as it says, “and you shall deploy against Midian, as G-d had commanded Moses” (Numbers 31:7). By Tradition we have learned that this is what was meant.
לשלח שלום לערים שצרים עליהן - שנצטוינו בהלחמנו בעיר אחת מצד הרשות שנרצה להלחם בה, וזו היא שנקראת מלחמת הרשות, שנבטיח אותם שלא נהרגם אם ישלימו עמנו ויהיו לנו לעבדים, כלומר מעלים מס למלכנו וכבושים תחת ידינו. ואם לא ישלימו עמנו על הענין הנזכר אנו מצוים להרג מהם כל זכר שבעיר ההיא שהגיע לפרקו ונקח לנו הטף והנשים וכל שללה, ועל זה כלו יאמרו זכרונם לברכה מלחמת הרשות. ואמרו בספרי (כאן) אם אמרו מקבלין אנו עלינו מסים ולא שעבוד, שעבוד ולא מסים אין שומעין להם עד שיקבלו עליהם זו וזו.
To send peace to the cities that we besiege: That we were commanded in our fighting against a city by way of what is optional - that we want to fight against it, and that is what is called an optional war - that we assure them that we will not kill them if they make peace with us and become our servants; meaning to say that they raise a tax for our king and they be subdued under us. But if they do not make peace with us in the manner mentioned, we are commanded to kill all of their males in that city that have reached [maturity], and we take for ourselves the infants and the women and all of its booty. And about all of this, they, may their memory be blessed, said that it was an optional war. And they said in Sifrei Devarim 200, "If they said, 'We accept the taxes upon ourselves, but not the subjugation,' or 'subjugation, but not taxes' - we do not listen to them, until they accept this and that upon themselves."
משרשי המצוה. לפי שמדת הרחמנות היא מדה טובה וראוי לנו זרע הקדש להתנהג בה בכל עניננו גם עם האויבים עובדי עבודה זרה למעלתנו אנחנו, לא מצד היותם הם ראויים לרחמים וחסד, וגם כי יש בדבר הזה תועלת לנו להיות למלכנו עבדים יעבדוהו להעלות לו מס תמיד ולעשות מלאכותיו אם יצטרך מבלי שיוציא בהם הוצאה של כלום, ובהמיתנו אותם לא יהיה בדבר תועלת אחר שהם רוצים לעמד כבושים תחתינו, אבל יהיה בדבר השחתה והוראה עלינו במדת האכזריות, ויחסדנו שומע, ולהועיל על כל שזכרנו נצטוינו בזה.
It is from the roots of the commandment [that it is] because the trait of mercy is a good trait and it is fitting for us - the holy seed - to practice in all of our matters. Even if the enemies are idolaters, it is for our stature - not from the angle of their being fit for mercy and kindness. And also because this thing has a benefit to us, that our king have servants that serve him and always raise him a tax, and do his work - if he needs - without his expending any expenses on them at all. And there is no benefit to us in our killing them, since they want to stay subdued under us; but rather there will be destruction in the thing and [in its] teaching us the trait of cruelty; and 'the one who hears [it] will revile us.' And we are commanded about this, to benefit us in all that we have mentioned.
מדיני המצוה. מה שאמרו זכרונם לברכה (רמב''ם מלכים פ''ו) שדין קריאת השלום הוא בכל מקום, כלומר בין במלחמת מצוה בין במלחמת רשות, ומלחמת מצוה היא כגון שבעה עממין ועמלק. והכל אם השלימו עמנו, כלומר שקבלו עליהם מס ועבדות, וכמו כן שקבלו עליהם שבע מצות אין הורגין מהם כל נשמה ויהיו למס ועבדונו, אבל כשלא השלימו יש חלוק בין מלחמת מצוה לרשות, שבמלחמת מצוה אין מחיין מהם כל נשמה, ובמלחמת הרשות מניחין מהם הטף והנשים, כמו שכתבנו בסמוך, וכן מניחין רוח אחת בעיר מצור במלחמת רשות שיברחו משם, וכדאיתא בספרי, וילפינן זה מדכתיב (במדבר לא, ז) ויצבאו על מדין כאשר צוה יי וגו' ובמלחמת שבעה עממין מקיפין אותם מכל צד, ומכל מקום מודיעים אותם תחלה שאם רצונם להניח העיר ושילכו להם הרשות בידם.
From the laws of the commandment are what they, may their memory be blessed, said (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings and Wars 6:1) that the law of the call for peace is with every place - meaning to say whether in a commanded war or in an optional war. And a commanded war is, for example, [against] the seven [Canaanite] nations and Amalek. And [with] all, if they make peace with us - meaning to say, they took upon themselves the tax and servitude, and likewise that they took upon themselves the seven commandments - we do not kill a soul from them, and they will be for tribute and serve us. But when they do not make peace, there is a distinction between a commanded war and an optional: That in a commanded war, we do not keep a soul alive; whereas in an optional war we keep their infants and women alive, as we wrote adjacently. And likewise, in an optional war, we leave one side of a besieged city open, that they can run away from there, and as it is found in Sifrei Bamidbar 157. And we learn this from that which is written (Numbers 31:7), "And they gathered upon Midian as the Lord commanded." But in a war against the seven nations, we encircle them from all sides. However, we nonetheless inform them first that if their will is to leave the city and go away, the option is in their hand.
וכן מענין זה מה שאמרו גם כן, דבין מלחמת רשות או מצוה מתר לחלוצי הצבא כשיכנסו בגבול הגוים והם רעבים ואין בידם צידה לאכל אוכלין אפילו מאכלות אסורים, כגון נבלות וטרפות וחזירים ולשתות יין נסך, וכן דרשו זכרונם לברכה (חולין יז, א) ובתים מלאים כל טוב (דברים ו, יא), אפילו קדלי דחזירי התרו לנו, ועל זה נאמר (שם כ י) כי תקרב אל עיר וגו' עד גמר הפרשה. ויתר פרטי המצוה בפרק שני מסנהדרין ושמיני מסוטה.
And also from this matter is that which they also said, that whether it is an optional war or a commanded, it is permitted for the front line of the army when they enter into the borders of the gentiles, and they are hungry and and they do not have provisions, to eat [their] foods - and even forbidden foods, such as carcasses, and 'torn' [animals] and pigs - and to drink idolatrous wine. And so did they, may their memory be blessed, expound (Chullin 17a), "'And houses filed with everything good' (Deuteronomy 6:11) - even [fatty] pigs' necks were permitted to us." And about this is it stated (Deuteronomy 20:10), "When you approach a city, etc." until the end of the section. [These] and the rest of the details of the commandment are in the second chapter of Sanhedrin and the eighth of Sotah.
דָּבָר אַחֵר (דברים כ, י): וְקָרָאתָ אֵלֶיהָ לְשָׁלוֹם, רְאֵה כַּמָּה הוּא כֹּחוֹ שֶׁל שָׁלוֹם, בּוֹא וּרְאֵה בָּשָׂר וָדָם אִם יֵשׁ לוֹ שׂוֹנֵא הוּא מְבַקֵּשׁ וּמְחַזֵּר מַה לַּעֲשׂוֹת לוֹ, מַהוּ עוֹשֶׂה לוֹ, הוֹלֵךְ וּמְכַבֵּד לְאָדָם גָּדוֹל מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה לְאוֹתוֹ שׂוֹנֵא רָעָה, אֲבָל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֵינוֹ כֵן אֶלָּא כָּל עוֹבְדֵי כּוֹכָבִים מַכְעִיסִין אוֹתוֹ וְהֵן יְשֵׁנִים וְכָל הַנְּפָשׁוֹת עוֹלוֹת אֶצְלוֹ, מִנַּיִן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איוב יב, י): אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדוֹ נֶפֶשׁ כָּל חָי, וּבַבֹּקֶר הוּא מַחֲזִיר לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד נִשְׁמָתוֹ, מִנַּיִן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה מב, ה): נֹתֵן נְשָׁמָה לָעָם עָלֶיהָ. דָּבָר אַחֵר, בָּשָׂר וָדָם אִם יַעֲשֶׂה לַחֲבֵרוֹ רָעָה, אֵינָהּ זָזָה מִלִּבּוֹ לְעוֹלָם, אֲבָל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֵינוֹ כֵן, אֶלָּא הָיוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמִצְרַיִם וְהָיוּ הַמִּצְרִים מְשַׁעְבְּדִין אוֹתָם בְּטִיט וּבִלְבֵנִים, לְאַחַר כָּל הָרָעוֹת שֶׁעָשׂוּ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל חָס הַכָּתוּב עֲלֵיהֶן, וְאָמַר (דברים כג, ח): לֹא תְתַעֵב מִצְרִי כִּי גֵר הָיִיתָ בְּאַרְצוֹ, אֶלָּא רִדְּפוּ אַחַר הַשָּׁלוֹם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים לד, טו): בַּקֵּשׁ שָׁלוֹם וְרָדְפֵהוּ. דָּבָר אַחֵר, מַהוּ בַּקֵּשׁ שָׁלוֹם וְרָדְפֵהוּ, מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרַבִּי מֵאִיר שֶׁהָיָה יוֹשֵׁב וְדוֹרֵשׁ וכו' הָלְכָה אוֹתָהּ אִשָּׁה לְבֵיתָהּ, שֶׁהָיָה לֵיל שַׁבָּת וּמָצְאָה הַנֵּר שֶׁלָּה שֶׁכָּבָה, אָמַר לָהּ בַּעֲלָהּ הֵיכָן הָיִית עַד עַכְשָׁו, אָמְרָה לוֹ שׁוֹמַעַת הָיִיתִי לְרַבִּי מֵאִיר דּוֹרֵשׁ, וְהָיָה אוֹתוֹ הָאִישׁ לֵיצָן, אָמַר לָהּ בְּכָךְ וְכָךְ אֵין אַתְּ נִכְנֶסֶת לְבֵיתִי עַד שֶׁתֵּלְכִי וְתָרֹקִּי בְּפָנָיו שֶׁל רַבִּי מֵאִיר, יָצְאָה לָהּ מִבֵּיתוֹ. נִגְלָה אֵלִיָּהוּ זָכוּר לַטּוֹב עַל רַבִּי מֵאִיר, אָמַר לוֹ הֲרֵי בִּשְׁבִילְךָ יָצְאָה הָאִשָּׁה מִבֵּיתָהּ, הוֹדִיעוֹ אֵלִיָּהוּ זָכוּר לַטּוֹב הֵיאַךְ הָיָה הַמַּעֲשֶׂה, מֶה עָשָׂה רַבִּי מֵאִיר, הָלַךְ וְיָשַׁב לוֹ בְּבֵית הַמִּדְרָשׁ הַגָּדוֹל, בָּאֲתָה אוֹתָהּ אִשָּׁה לְהִתְפַּלֵּל וְרָאָה אוֹתָהּ, וְעָשָׂה עַצְמוֹ מִתְפַּסֵּק, אָמַר מִי יוֹדֵעַ לִלְחשׁ לָעַיִן, אָמְרָה לוֹ אוֹתָהּ אִשָּׁה אֲנִי בָּאתִי לִלְחשׁ, רָקְקָה בְּפָנָיו. אָמַר לָהּ, אִמְרִי לְבַעֲלֵךְ הֲרֵי רָקַקְתִּי בְּפָנָיו שֶׁל רַבִּי מֵאִיר, אָמַר לָהּ לְכִי הִתְרַצִּי לְבַעֲלֵךְ. רְאֵה כַּמָּה גָדוֹל הוּא כֹּחוֹ שֶׁל שָׁלוֹם. דָּבָר אַחֵר, אָמַר רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא תֵּדַע לָךְ כַּמָּה גָּדוֹל הוּא כֹּחוֹ שֶׁל שָׁלוֹם, שֶׁאָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁאָדָם מְקַנֵּא לְאִשְׁתּוֹ הַשֵּׁם הַקָּדוֹשׁ הַנִּכְתָּב בִּקְדֻשָּׁה יִמָּחֶה עַל הַמַּיִם, כְּדֵי לְהַטִּיל שָׁלוֹם בֵּין סוֹטָה לְבַעֲלָהּ. אָמַר רֵישׁ לָקִישׁ, גָּדוֹל הוּא הַשָּׁלוֹם, שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב דְּבָרִים שֶׁל בְּדַאי לִתֵּן שָׁלוֹם בֵּין יוֹסֵף לְאֶחָיו, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁמֵּת אֲבִיהֶן הָיוּ מִתְיָרְאִין שֶׁלֹא יִנְקֹם לָהֶן, וּמָה אָמְרוּ לוֹ (בראשית נ, טז יז): אָבִיךָ צִוָּה לִפְנֵי מוֹתוֹ לֵאמֹר כֹּה תֹאמְרוּ לְיוֹסֵף, וְאֵין אָנוּ מוֹצְאִים שֶׁצִּוָּה יַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ, אֶלָּא אָמְרוּ הַכְּתוּבִים דִּבְרֵי בְּדַאי מִפְּנֵי דַרְכֵי שָׁלוֹם. דָּבָר אַחֵר, חָבִיב הוּא הַשָּׁלוֹם שֶׁנְּתָנוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְצִיּוֹן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קכב, ו): שַׁאֲלוּ שְׁלוֹם יְרוּשָׁלָיִם. דָּבָר אַחֵר, חָבִיב הוּא הַשָּׁלוֹם שֶׁנְּתָנוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בַּשָּׁמַיִם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איוב כה, ב): עֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו. דָּבָר אַחֵר, חָבִיב הוּא הַשָּׁלוֹם שֶׁנְּתָנוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לַקְּרוֹבִים וְלָרְחוֹקִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה נז, יט): שָׁלוֹם שָׁלוֹם לָרָחוֹק וְלַקָּרוֹב. דָּבָר אַחֵר, חָבִיב הוּא הַשָּׁלוֹם שֶׁלֹא נְתָנוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לָרְשָׁעִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה מח, כב): אֵין שָׁלוֹם אָמַר ה' לָרְשָׁעִים. דָּבָר אַחֵר, חָבִיב הוּא הַשָּׁלוֹם שֶׁנְּתָנוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְפִינְחָס בִּשְׂכָרוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר כה, יב): הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לוֹ אֶת בְּרִיתִי שָׁלוֹם. דָּבָר אַחֵר, גָּדוֹל הַשָּׁלוֹם שֶׁאֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְבַשֵֹּׂר אֶת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם שֶׁיִּהְיוּ נִגְאָלִים אֶלָּא בַּשָּׁלוֹם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה נב, ז): מַשְׁמִיעַ שָׁלוֹם וגו'. דָּבָר אַחֵר, אָמַר רַבִּי לֵוִי חָבִיב הוּא הַשָּׁלוֹם שֶׁכָּל חוֹתְמֵיהֶם שֶׁל בְּרָכוֹת אֵינָן אֶלָּא בְּשָׁלוֹם, קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע חוֹתֶמֶת בְּשָׁלוֹם, פּוֹרֵס סֻכַּת שָׁלוֹם. הַתְּפִלָּה חוֹתֶמֶת בְּשָׁלוֹם. בִּרְכַּת כֹּהֲנִים חוֹתֶמֶת (במדבר ו, כו): וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם. דָּבָר אַחֵר, חָבִיב הוּא הַשָּׁלוֹם שֶׁאֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְנַחֵם אֶת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם אֶלָּא בְּשָׁלוֹם, מִנַּיִן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה סו, יב): הִנְנִי נוֹטֶה אֵלֶיהָ כְּנָהָר שָׁלוֹם. אָמַר דָּוִד מְבַקֵּשׁ הָיִיתִי לִשְׁמֹעַ מַהוּ שִׂיחָתוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְשָׁמַעְתִּי שֶׁהָיָה עָסוּק בִּשְׁלוֹמָן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים פה, ט): אֶשְׁמְעָה מַה יְּדַבֵּר הָאֵל ה' כִּי יְדַבֵּר שָׁלוֹם אֶל עַמּוֹ וְאֶל חֲסִידָיו וגו'. אָמַר רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן חֲלַפְתָּא, רְאֵה מָה חָבִיב הַשָׁלוֹם, כְּשֶׁבִּקֵּשׁ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְבָרֵךְ אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא מָצָא כְּלִי שֶׁהוּא מַחֲזִיק כָּל הַבְּרָכוֹת לְבָרְכָן בּוֹ אֶלָּא הַשָּׁלוֹם, מִנַּיִן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים כט, יא): ה' עֹז לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן ה' יְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּוֹ בַשָּׁלוֹם.
Alternatively, "proclaim peace unto it" (Deuteronomy 20), See how great is the power of peace. Come see, a human of flesh and blood, if he has an enemy he asks and asks what to do to him. What does he do to him? He goes and honor a man greater than him so that he will do evil to that same enemy. But the Holy One Blessed Be He is not so, rather all the idol worshipers anger him, and they sleep and all the souls rise up to him. From where do we know this? As it says, "He in Whose hand is the spirit of all life" (Job 12) And in the morning he returns to each and every one their soul. From where? As it says "He gives breath to the people upon it" (Isaiah 42) Alternatively: A human of flesh and blood, if his friend does evil to him it does not leave his heart for ever. But the Holy One Blessed Be He is not so, rather Israel was in Egypt and the Egyptians enslaved them with mortar and brick, and after all the evil they did to Israel, the Torah has mercy on them and it says "You shall not abhor an Egyptian for you were a stranger in his land", but rather pursue peace as it is written "seek peace and pursue it". (Psalms 34) Alternatively: Dear is peace, that the Holy One Blessed Be He gave it to Zion, as it says "Ask for the peace of Jerusalem". (Psalms 122) Alternatively: Dear is peace, that the Holy One Blessed Be He gave in the heavens, as it says "He makes peace in His high places". (Job 25) Alternatively: Dear is peace, that the Holy One Blessed Be He gave it to near ones and far ones, as it says "Peace peace, to the far and to the near". (Isaiah 57) Alternatively: Dear is peace, that the Holy One Blessed Be He did not give it to the wicked, as it says "There is no peace, said G-d, for the wicked". (Isaiah 48) Alternatively: Dear is peace, that the Holy One Blessed Be He gave it to Pinchas as his reward, as it says "Behold I give him my covenant of peace". (Numbers 25) Alternatively: Great is peace, that the Holy One Blessed Be He doesn't announce to Jerusalem that they will be redeemed except in peace, as it says "Announce peace..." (Isaiah 52) Alternatively: R' Levi said: Dear is peace, that all the closings of blessings are in peace. The reading of the Shema closes in peace: "Spread a sukah of peace", prayer closes in peace, the priestly blessing closes in peace "And He shall give unto you peace". Alternatively: Dear is peace, that the Holy One Blessed Be He only comforts Jerusalem with peace. From where do we know this? As it is written "Behold I will extend peace to her like a river" (Isaiah 66). David said, 'I asked to hear what the Holy One Blessed Be He says about Israel, and I heard him busy with their peace', as it says "I will hear what G-d the LORD will speak, He will speak peace unto His people, and unto his followers" (Psalms 85). R' Shimon Ben Chalafta said: See how dear peace is, when the Holy One Blessed Be He asked to bless Israel he found no vessel that could hold all the blessings to bless them with except for peace. From where do we know this? As it says "G-d will give strength unto his people, G-d will bless his people with peace". (Psalms 29)
וזאת תורת זבח השלמים (ויקרא ז יא). זש"ה דרכיה דרכי נועם וכל נתיבותי שלום (משלי ג יז), כל מה שכתוב בתורה, (לשון) [לשום] שלום הוא נכתב, אעפ"י שכתוב בתורה מלחמות, לשם שלום נכתבו, את מוצא שביטל הקב"ה את הגזירה מפני השלום, אימתי כשאמר הקב"ה למשה כי תצור (על) [אל] עיר ימים רבים וגו' (דברים כ יט), וכל אותו הענין, א"ל הקב"ה שיהא מחרים אותם, שנאמר כי החרם תחרימם (שם שם יז), ומשה לא עשה כן, אלא אמר עכשיו אני הולך ומכה, איני יודע מי חטא ומי לא חטא, אלא בשלום אבא עליהם, שנאמר ואשלח מלאכים ממדבר קדמות וגו' [דברי שלום לאמר] (שם ב כו), כיון שראה שלא בא בשלום הכה אותו, שנאמר ויכו אותו ואת בניו ואת כל עמו (במדבר כא לה), אמר לו הקב"ה אני אמרתי כי החרם תחרימם וגו', ואת באתה עליהם בשלום, חייך כשם שאמרת כך אני אעשה, שנאמר כי תקרב אל עיר להלחם עליה וקראת אלה לשלום (דברים כ י), לכך נאמר דרכיה דרכי נועם וכל נתיבותיה שלום (משלי יג יז).
(Lev. 7:11) THIS IS THE LAW OF THE SACRIFICE FOR PEACE OFFERINGS. This text is related (to Prov. 3:17): < WISDOM'S > WAYS ARE WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS, AND ALL HER PATHS ARE PEACE. Whatever is written in the Torah is written {as an expression of} [to establish] peace.25Tanh., Lev. 2:3. Although wars are written about in the Torah, they are written about for the sake of peace. You find that the Holy One cancelled the decree < of utter destruction (herem) > for the sake of peace. When? When the Holy One said to Moses (in Deut. 20:19): WHEN YOU BESIEGE A CITY A LONG TIME…., < YOU SHALL NOT DESTROY ITS TREES…. > Now concerning that whole matter, the Holy One had said that he would destroy them, as stated (above in vs. 17): NO, YOU SHALL UTTERLY DESTROY THEM. However, Moses did not do so. Rather he said: Am I to go and smite them now? I do not know who has sinned and who has not sinned. Instead, let me come against them in peace, as stated (in Deut. 2:26): THEN I SENT MESSENGERS FROM THE DESERT OF KEDEMOTH < UNTO KING SIHON OF HESHBON > WITH WORDS OF PEACE, SAYING: < …. > When he saw that he did not come in peace, he smote him, as stated (in Numb. 21:35): SO THEY SMOTE HIM, HIS CHILDREN, AND ALL HIS PEOPLE. The Holy One said to him: I myself told you (in Deut. 20:17): NO, YOU SHALL UTTERLY DESTROY THEM…. Now you have come to them in Peace. By your life, just as you have said, so will I do. Thus it is stated (in Deut. 20:10): WHEN YOU DRAW NEAR UNTO A CITY TO FIGHT AGAINST IT, YOU SHALL OFFER TERMS OF PEACE UNTO IT. Therefore, it is so stated (in Prov. 3:17): < WISDOM'S > WAYS ARE WAYS OF PLEASANTNESS, AND ALL HER PATHS ARE PEACE.
וְזֹאת תּוֹרַת זֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים. זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב: דְּרָכֶיהָ דַּרְכֵי נֹעַם וְכָל נְתִיבוֹתֶיהָ שָׁלוֹם (משלי ג, יז). כָּל מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה, לָשׂוּם שָׁלוֹם הוּא נִכְתַּב. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה מִלְחָמוֹת, אַף הַמִּלְחָמוֹת לָשׂוּם שָׁלוֹם נִכְתְּבוּ. אַתָּה מוֹצֵא, שֶׁבִּטֵּל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא גְּזֵרָתוֹ מִפְּנֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם. אֵימָתַי, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁאָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמֹשֶׁה, כִּי תָּצוּר אֶל עִיר יָמִים רַבִּים (דברים כ, יט) וְכָל אוֹתוֹ הָעִנְיָן, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שֶׁיַּחֲרִים אוֹתָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כִּי הַחֲרֵם תַּחֲרִימֵם (דברים כ, יז). וּמֹשֶׁה לֹא עָשָׂה כֵן, אֶלָּא אָמַר, עַכְשָׁו אֲנִי הוֹלֵךְ וּמַכֶּה מִי חָטָא וּמִי שֶׁלֹּא חָטָא. אֶלָּא בְּשָׁלוֹם אֲנִי בָּא עֲלֵיהֶם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וָאֶשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים מִמִּדְבַּר קְדֵמוֹת, דִּבְרֵי שָׁלוֹם, אֶעְבְּרָה בְּאַרְצְךָ (שם ב, כו-כז). כֵּיוָן שֶׁרָאָה שֶׁלֹּא בָּא לְשָׁלוֹם, הִכָּהוּ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיַּכּוּ אוֹתוֹ וְאֶת בָּנָיו וְאֶת כָּל עַמּוֹ (במדבר כא, לה). אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, אֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי, כִּי הַחֲרֵם תַּחֲרִימֵם, וְאַתָּה לֹא עָשִׂיתָ כֵן. חַיֶּיךָ, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁאָמַרְתָּ, כָּךְ אֲנִי עוֹשֶׂה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: כִּי תִּקְרַב אֶל עִיר לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ, וְקָרָאתָ אֵלֶיהָ לְשָׁלוֹם (דברים כ, י). לְכָךְ נֶאֱמַר: דְּרָכֶיהָ דַּרְכֵי נֹעַם וְכָל נְתִיבוֹתֶיהָ שָׁלוֹם (משלי ג, יז).
(Lev. 7:11:) “This is the law of the sacrifice for peace offerings.” This text is related (to Prov. 3:17), “The ways [of wisdom] are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Whatever is written in the Torah is written to [establish] peace. Although wars are written about in the Torah, they are written about for the sake of peace. You find that the Holy One, blessed be He, cancelled the decree [of utter destruction (herem)] for the sake of peace. When? When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses (in Deut. 20:19), “When you besiege a city a long time.” Now concerning that whole matter, the Holy One, blessed be He, had said that he should destroy them, as stated (above in vs. 17), “No, you shall utterly destroy them.” However, Moses did not do so. Rather he said, “Am I to go and smite who has sinned and who has not sinned? Instead, let me come against them in peace, as stated (in Deut. 2:26-27), “Then I sent messengers from the Desert of Kedemoth [unto King Sihon of Heshbon] with words of peace […]. I will traverse your land.” When he saw that he did not come in peace, he smote him, as stated (in Numb. 21:35), “So they smote him, his children, and all his people.” The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “I Myself told you (in Deut. 20:17), ‘No, you shall utterly destroy them,’ but you did not do this. By your life, just as you have said, so will I do.” Thus it is stated (in Deut. 20:10), “When you draw near unto a city to fight against it, you shall offer terms of peace unto it.” Therefore, it is so stated (in Prov. 3:17), “The ways [of wisdom] are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”

Rashi on Deuteronomy 2:26:1

Then I send messengers from the wilderness of Kedemoth - Although the Omnipresent had not commanded me to proclaim peace unto Sihon, I learnt to do so from what happened in the wilderness of Sinai, i.e. from an incident that relates to the Torah which existed before (kedmah) the world. For when the Holy One, blessed be God, was about to give it (the Torah) to Israel, God took it round to Esau and Ishmael. It was manifest before God that they would not accept it, but yet God opened unto them with peace. Similarly I first approached Sihon with words of peace. — Another explanation: Moses said to God, "I learnt this from what you, who existed before (kedmah) the world, did to Egypt. You could have burned them up with one flash of lightening, but you sent me to tell Pharaoh "let my people go" (Exodus 5:1).

Rashi Devarim 20:10-18

(10) כי תקרב אל עיר WHEN THOU APPROACHEST UNTO A CITY [TO FIGHT AGAINST IT]– Scripture is speaking of a war which is not obligatory upon them (as was the war against the seven nations of Canaan, referred to in v. 16), as it is distinctly stated in this section (v. 15) "Thus thou shalt do unto all the cities which are very far [from thee]" etc. (Sifrei Devarim 199:1).
(11) כל העם הנמצא בה ALL THE PEOPLE THAT IS FOUND THEREIN [SHALL BE TRIBUTARIES] – all: even if you find in it persons belonging to the seven nations which you have been commanded to exterminate, you are allowed to keep them alive (Sifrei Devarim 200:2).
למס ועבדוך [ALL THE PEOPLE … SHALL BE] TRIBUTARIES [UNTO THEE], AND THEY SHALL SERVE THEE – You must not accept their surrender until they take upon themselves both the payment of tribute and servitude (one alone is not sufficient) (Sifrei Devarim 200:3).
(12) ואם לא תשלים עמך ועשתה עמך מלחמה – Scripture tells you that if it does not make peace with you it will in the end make war against you (attack you) — if you leave it alone and go away (Sifrei Devarim 200:4). (The translation therefore is: AND IF IT WILL MAKE NO PEACE WITH THEE. IT WILL WAR AGAINST THEE).
וצרת עליה THEN THOU SHALT BESIEGE IT – This implies that you are entitled even to starve it out, to make it suffer thirst and to kill it (the inhabitants) by mortal diseases (Sifrei Devarim 200:5).
(13) ונתנה ה' אלהיך בידך means THEN THE LORD THY GOD WILL GIVE IT INTO THY HANDS – if you have done all that is prescribed in this section the Lord will in the end give it into your hands (Sifrei Devarim 200:6).
(14) והטף AND THE LITTLE ONES [… SHALT THOU TAKE UNTO THYSELF] – the male children, too. But how am I to understand (v. 13) "and thou shalt smite every male thereof"? As referring to the male adults (Sifrei Devarim 200:7).
(17) כאשר צוך [BUT THOU SHALT DOOM THEM TO DESTRUCTION: THE HITTITES, … AND THE JEBUSITES,] AS [THE LORD THY GOD] HATH COMMANDED THEE — The words: "as God hath commanded thee" are intended to include the Girgashites (the seventh nation that is not mentioned here) (Sifrei Devarim 201:4).
(18) למען אשר לא ילמדו [BUT THOU SHALT DOOM THEM TO DESTRUCTION …] THAT THEY TEACH YOU NOT TO DO [AFTER THEIR ABOMINATIONS] – Consequently if they repent of their abominations and wish to become proselytes you are allowed to accept them as such (Sifrei Devarim 202:1).
וקראת אליה לשלום. כי גדול השלום שהקב"ה שינה כשאמרה שרה ואדוני זקן וכן כתיב חבור עצבים אפרים הנח לו כדפרש"י לעיל ועוד כמה קולמוסין משתברין כמה דיו משתפך באחי יוסף אביך צוה לפני מותו לאמר כה תאמרון ליוסף וגו' ולא מצינו ביעקב שצוה כן אלא מפני השלום כתב וגם ברכת כהנים מסיים בשלום וכן שמונה עשרה ועוד שנו רבו' שואלין בשלום לעכו"ם מפני דרכי שלום. וגם המקדים שלום לחבירו צריך לכפול לו לשלום ולו' לו שלום עליך וברכה טובה וסמך ללשון זה מדכתיב כי תקדמנו ברכות טוב כלו' כי תקדמנו בשלום צריך להחזיר לו ברכת טוב פי' ברכה טובה ולכך אמר ר' יוחנן מימי לא הקדימני אדם לשלום ואפי' עכו"ם בשוק שאין דרך למהר כ"כ ולקדם לו שלום הקדמתי לו לפי שאם יקדים לי הייתי צריך לכפול לו שלום ואין כופלין שלום לעכו"ם. ועוד אמרו רבותי' מציאת חרש שוטה וקטן יש בהן גזל מפני דרכי שלום וכן מפרנסין עניי עכו"ם עם עניי ישראל מפני דרכי שלום ולכך בירך הקב"ה את עמו בשלום שנאמר ה' יברך את עמו בשלום:
וקראת אליה לשלום, “you shall first offer peace to that city. According to some sages the rule mentioned here even included nations who the Israelites had been ordered by G–d to kill every “soul.” However, this command did not apply if the inhabitants agreed to vacate the town and relocate outside the Holy Land. We know that peace is superior to war, i.e. hostility, from when G–d Himself changed what Sarah had thought about her husband when she considered him too old to impregnate her with effective sperm. (Genesis18,12) He did not tell him about that part of her reaction to the angel’s prediction that by the following year she would have a son. We have a verse in Hoseah 4,17: חבור עצבים אפרים הנח לו, “Ephrayim is addicted to images,- let him be.” This verse is quoted by Rashi in connection with the verse we just quoted from Genesis, where he says that this cannot be understood at face value, i.e. that the prophet should not predict doom for idol worshippers. Our author cites several additional examples of where we cannot take a quotation at face value, especially when the brothers after Yaakov’s funeral quote their father as having commanded them to ask Joseph for forgiveness. (Genesis 50,17) The Torah wrote this in order to preserve harmony between Joseph and his brothers, not because Yaakov had actually said these words. Both the blessings by the priests end with bestowing the blessing of peace and the last of the 19 benedictions in the amidah prayer that we recite at least three times daily, concludes with the blessing of shalom, peace. Our sages in the Talmud, tractate Gittin folio 61, bid us to greet a gentile with the blessing of shalom before waiting for him to greet us, and in the event that he does to respond with using the expression shalom twice. Seeing that this might appear insincere on our part, the Talmud urges us to greet him before he can greet us so that we can avoid using the word shalom twice when greeting him, something that is forbidden in the Talmud, tractate Gittin folio 62. On folio 59 in the same tractate we are also told not to accept something that had been found by a deaf person or a minor, as it might have come into his possession illegally. We are also to feed the poor of the gentiles, all in order to maintain harmonious relations with the gentiles, generally. For all these reasons Hashem blessed His people with shalom (Psalms 29.11)
כי תקרב אל עיר. פרש"י שהוא במלחמת הרשות. כתב הרמב"ן בשביל סוף הפרשה צריך לומר כן שצוה הכתוב שאם תעשה עמך מלחמה והכיתה כל זכורה לפי חרב ולהחיות הנשים וטף הזכרים מה שאין כן בערי ז' עממים שציוה להחרים גם הנשים והטף. אבל בפתיחת שלום אין חילוק בין ז' עממים לשאר האומות שגם בז' עממים פותחים להם לשלום ואם ירצו להתגייר מקבלין אותם כאשר עשה משה לסיחון. והתשובה היא שקבלו עליהם שבע מצות שנצטוו בני נח ואין צריכין להתגייר להיות גירי צדק. ונראה שיש עוד הפרש בשאלת שלום שבערים הרחוקות נשאל להם לשלום ושיהיו לנו למס ועבדונו אבל בערי העמים האלה נשאל להם לשלום ומסים ועבדות ועל מנת שיקבלו עליהם שלא יעבדו ע"ז. ויתכן גם כן שלא נצטרך להודיעם רק השלום והמסים והשיעבוד ואחר שיהיו משועבדים לנו נגיד להם שאנו עושים משפטים בע"ז ובעובדיה בין יחיד בין רבים. ורש"י פי' שבשבעה עממים אפי' אם ירצו להתגייר אין מקבלים אותם. ולא נהירא דבהדיא איתא בירושלמי ששלח יהושע מי שמבקש יבא וישלים וכן שלמה שהחיה מהם והעלם למס עובד ונתנם עבדים לבנות בית המקדש וביתו כמו שאומר והיו לך למס ועבדוך. פי' מס שיעלה בהם מלך ישראל או סנהדרין מס לבנות בית למלך וערי מסכנות ושיעבוד הוא שיוכל כל איש מישראל ליקח מהם לחטוב עצו ולשאוב מימיו ויתן לו שכרו. ואנשי גבעון מה שהוצרכו לבא בערמה שלא היו יודעים משפטים של ישראל בקריאת שלום והקדימו קודם ששלח להם יהושע או שלא רצו מתחלה לשמוע לדברי יהושע ובסוף פחדו ועשו עצמם נכרים והועיל להם ערמתם שלא יהיו לנו לעבדים אלא יהו עמנו בעלי ברית ועל זה הקפידו עליהם והיו נהרגים אלמלא השבועה ולפי' קללם יהושע ועשה להם כמשפט הראוי ליעשות בהם מה שנא' והיו לך למס ועבדוך שיהיו חוטבי עצים ושואבי מים לעדה ולמזבח השם. וי"מ והיה אם שלום תענך בעת הקריאה אבל אם ימאנו מתחלה שוב אין מקבלין אותן והגבעונים מאנו בתחלה ולא היה מן הדין לקבלן:
כי תקרב אל עיר, Rashi understands this paragraph as speaking of a מלחמת רשות, a war sanctioned by Hashem, but not conducted for reasons of self defense. Nachmanides, elaborating on this, adds that Rashi was forced to offer this interpretation on account of what is written a few verses later, i.e. that if in spite of peaceful overtures the inhabitants of the city described insist of conducting a war against the Israelites, then the males are to be killed, whereas the women and even the male children are to be kept alive, which is different from the rules of the Torah when the seven Canaanite nations will be attacked. There, all the inhabitants of such cities are to be killed regardless of sex or age. What is noteworthy is that even when confronting cities of the seven Canaanite nations about to be driven out from their country or to be killed, the Torah commands the people to offer surrender first. These Canaanites, if willing, will even be accepted as converts and thus escape death or forced exile. This is what Moses had done with the people under the rule of Sichon, King of the Emorite, one of the seven Canaanite nations. [This editor does not see evidence that any of Sichon’s subjects had converted to Judaism, although Rachav, who had hidden the two spies in Jericho, was saved and not enslaved or exiled, although judging from her own words she may have been close to conversion to Judaism long before Joshua crossed the Jordan. Ed.] It appears that there was a difference between the offer of peace to the cities of the seven nations on the one hand, and those in more distant countries, not Canaanites. The latter were informed that if they wanted to survive they could accept subservient status to the Israelites, work for them, etc, but lose their independence, whereas a similar offer to the Canaanite cities contained an additional rider, namely that they had to abandon idolatry and accept the seven Noachide laws. This had to be a minimum as the Torah had expressly forbidden sparing the lives of any idolatrous population in what was going to be the land of Israel. Once they would have become enslaved to the Jewish people, they would find out that their idols and any remnants of their religious symbols would be destroyed, in accordance with Torah law, which does not tolerate the existence of such relics of idolatry in the Holy Land. Rashi, on the other hand, states that no compromise of any kind was permitted with the seven Canaanite nations and they either were killed or had to emigrate to escape such a fate. According to his view, even total conversion to Judaism was not an option for them. Nachmanides does not concur, as he interprets the warning by the Torah in verse 18 that the presence of these people in the Holy Land represents a danger that they will influence the Israelites culturally and morally, as clearly demanding that these people must leave or be killed. The Jerusalem Talmud states that Joshua offered to such people that they become labourers for the Israel performing menial tasks, such as hewing wood and carrying water. Exodus 23,33 makes it plain that these people are considered as a cultural hazard “if they continue to practice their religion.” In Nachmanides’ view this means that if they abandon idolatry they may live in the land of Israel, but as slaves or serfs. We are familiar with the story of Gibeonites, who pretended to have come from outside the land of Canaan in order to qualify for conversion of sorts. When Joshua found out too late (after having made a solemn deal with them) that he had become the victim of a fraud, he did not kill these people but made labourers of them, a status that continued down to the time of Solomon over 400 years later. (Joshua chapter 9) If these Gibeonites had not first misrepresented themselves causing the Israelites to make a pact with them reinforced by an oath, Joshua would not have punished them by denying them all the rights that normal converts are entitled to. Under the unusual circumstances at that time Joshua saw himself forced to apply what is written in Some commentators interpret the line והיה אם שלום תענך, as applying only at the time when the offer is first made. If the offer is not accepted immediately, there is no second opportunity to save one’s life by means of converting to Judaism, so that Joshua would have acted illegally by granting them a second opportunity, and he should not have accepted them. [The fact is that there were bloody repercussions later on both in the time of King Sha-ul and King David. (Compare Bamidbar Rabbah, 8)
למען אשר לא ילמדו אתכם לעשות וגו'. שלא ילמדו אתכם לעבוד את השם הנכבד בשריפת בניהם ובנותיהם כאשר עשו לאלהיהם. והנה כבר הזהיר לא ישבו בארצם פן יחטיאו אותך לי כי תעבוד את אלהיהם והיא אזהרה בע"ז כי אם תכרות להם ולאלהיהם ברית ישבו בארצך רבים מהם ויפתוך לעבוד ע"ז וכאן הוסיף לבאר לא תחיה כל נשמה כי אפילו היחיד הנשאר ביניהם לעבוד לך יזכיר לך עבודתם לאלהיהם ואולי תתפתה אתה לעשות כן לשם ותחטא לפניו:
למען אשר לא ילמדו אתכם לעשות, וגו', “so that they will not teach you to act, etc.” so that they will not teach you how to worship Hashem by burning your children in His honour, as they do to their respective deities. Actually, the Torah had already warned the people not to allow these former inhabitants of the land of Canaan to remain in their land, as Hashem was afraid they would lead the Israelites to sin by adopting part of the religious mores that had prevailed in that land. (Exodus 23,33) This was part of the prohibition not to enter into any pact or alliance with those people, because, if they felt secure, they would remain behind in large numbers. Moses reinforces that original command by adding that the Israelites must not allow any of those former inhabitants of the land of Canaan to survive, without ifs or buts. Even individuals allowed to survive pose a spiritual danger to his environment. Observing such a person performing his cult arouses curiosity among the onlookers.

Before entering the land, Joshua presented the peoples living in the land of Israel with an ultimatum proposing three options: he who wishes to leave may leave, he who wishes to make peace (i.e. to submit) may make peace; and he who wishes to make war may make war. The Girgashite left, having had faith in the words of the Eternal who had bequeathed that land to the children of Israel, and settled in Africa. The Gibeonites made a submission agreement whereas thirty-one kings of Canaan chose to make war and perished (Talmud Yerushalmi, Shebi’it 6:1, 16b).

Nahmanides (13th c.) disagrees with Rashi on the basis of this contradiction:7 “Rashi wrote this based on the Sifre (Shoftim 199) where a similar text is taught; “Scripture is speaking of a battle waged of free choice.”

But the intent of our Rabbis with reference to this verse [before us] was not to say that the requirement of proclaiming peace applies exclusively to permissible, but not obligatory wars; rather their teaching [in the Sifre] refers only to the later section wherein there is a differentiation between the two kinds of wars [i.e in verses 13-14 declaring that if the enemy insists on war, then only the man are to be killed, but the women and 5 children are to be spared – the law applies only to a permissible but not to an obligatory war]. But the obligation to offer terms of peace before going into battle applies even to an obligatory war. It requires us to offer peace-terms even to the seven nations (of Canaan), for Moses proclaimed peace to Sihon, king of the Amorites, and he would not have transgressed both the positive and negative commandments in this section: “but you shall utterly annihilate them” (Dt 20:17), and “you shall let no soul remain alive” (Dt 20:16).

Rather, the difference between them (i.e. obligatory and permissible wars) is when the enemy does not make peace and continues to make war. Then, in case of the cities which are very far off, Scripture commands us to smite every male thereof and keep alive the women and male children, but in the cities of these peoples (i.e. the seven nations of Canaan in the event they refuse the call for peace), it commanded us to destroy even the women and children.

And so did our Rabbis say in Deuteronomy Rabbah, and also in Tanchuma and in the Talmud Yerushalmi: “Joshua the son of Nun fulfilled the laws of this section. What did Joshua do? Wherever he went to conquer, he would send a proclamation in which he wrote : “He who wishes to make peace may come forward and make peace; he who wishes to leave may leave, and he who wishes to make war may make war.” The Girgashite left. With the Gibeonites who made peace, Joshua made peace. The thirty-one kings who came to wage war—the Holy One, blessed be He, cast them down etc.” And, so indeed Scriptures states with reference to all cities (including those of the seven nations), “there was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon; they took all in battle. For it was of the Eternal to harden their hearts, to come against Israel in battle, that they might be utterly annihilated (lema‘an haharimam; Joshua 11:19-20).” Obviously, if they had wanted to make peace, the Israelites would have made peace with them. (Ramban to Dt. 20:10).

The Maharal adds a principle from the midrash by saying that Joshua's initiative was in accordance with the ethics of the Torah, even if it was not legally founded: It seems obvious that the Torah a priori encourages making an offer of peace to every city, as the quest for peace is a virtue of its own. Thus the Rabbis said: the greatness of peace can be gauged from the fact that even dealing with war, God said: “When you go to make war, begin with proclaiming peace”. (DtR 5:12 ; Yalkut Shimoni, Shoftim 923)