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I8. Covenanting with Idolaters and Unbelievers.    [Make a Comment]

We are not to enter into covenants with idolaters and unbelievers.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 23:28-33 (Maimonides RN48; Chinuch C93)
I will send hornets ahead of you to drive out the Hivi, Kena'ani and Hitti from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, which would cause the land to become desolate and the wild animals too many for you. I will drive them out from before you gradually, until you have grown in number and can take possession of the land. I will set your boundaries from the Sea of Suf to the sea of the P'lishtim and from the desert to the [Euphrates] River, for I will hand the inhabitants of the land over to you, and you will drive them out from before you. You are not to make a covenant with them or with their gods. They are not to live in your land; otherwise they will make you sin against me by ensnaring you to serve their gods.

Exodus 34:11-16
Observe what I am ordering you to do today. Here! I am driving out ahead of you the Emori, Kena'ani, Hitti, P'rizi, Hivi and Y'vusi. Be careful not to make a covenant with the people living in the land where you are going, so that they won't become a snare within your own borders. Rather, you are to demolish their altars, smash their standing-stones and cut down their sacred poles; because you are not to bow down to any other god; since ADONAI - whose very name is Jealous - is a jealous God. Do not make a covenant with the people living in the land. It will cause you to go astray after their gods and sacrifice to their gods. Then they will invite you to join them in eating their sacrifices, and you will take their daughters as wives for your sons. Their daughters will prostitute themselves to their own gods and make your sons do the same!

Numbers 25:3-15 (Maimonides RN52; Chinuch C427)
With Isra'el thus joined to Ba'al-P'or, the anger of ADONAI blazed up against Isra'el. ADONAI said to Moshe, "Take all the chiefs of the people, and hang them facing the sun before ADONAI, so that the raging fury of ADONAI will turn away from Isra'el." Moshe said to the judges of Isra'el, "Each of you is to put to death those in his tribe who have joined themselves to Ba'al-P'or." Just then, in the sight of Moshe and the whole community of Isra'el, as they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting, a man from Isra'el came by, bringing to his family a woman from Midyan. When Pinchas the son of El'azar, the son of Aharon the cohen, saw it, he got up from the middle of the crowd, took a spear in his hand, and pursued the man from Isra'el right into the inner part of the tent, where he thrust his spear through both of them - the man from Isra'el and the woman through her stomach. Thus was the plague among the people of Isra'el stopped; nevertheless, 24,000 died in the plague. ADONAI said to Moshe, "Pinchas the son of El'azar, the son of Aharon the cohen, has deflected my anger from the people of Isra'el by being as zealous as I am, so that I didn't destroy them in my own zeal. Therefore say, 'I am giving him my covenant of shalom, making a covenant with him and his descendants after him that the office of cohen will be theirs forever.' This is because he was zealous on behalf of his God and made atonement for the people of Isra'el." The name of the man from Isra'el who was killed, put to death with the woman from Midyan, was Zimri the son of Salu, leader of one of the clans from the tribe of Shim'on. The name of the woman from Midyan who was killed was Kozbi the daughter of Tzur, and he was head of the people in one of the clans of Midyan.

Deuteronomy 7:1-6 (Maimonides RN48, RN52; Meir MN19; Chinuch C93, C427)
ADONAI your God is going to bring you into the land you will enter in order to take possession of it, and he will expel many nations ahead of you - the Hitti, Girgashi, Emori, Kena'ani, P'rizi, Hivi and Y'vusi, seven nations bigger and stronger than you. When he does this, when ADONAI your God hands them over ahead of you, and you defeat them, you are to destroy them completely! Do not make any covenant with them. Show them no mercy. Don't intermarry with them - don't give your daughter to his son, and don't take his daughter for your son. For he will turn your children away from following me in order to serve other gods. If this happens, the anger of ADONAI will flare up against you, and he will quickly destroy you. No, treat them this way: break down their altars, smash their standing-stones to pieces, cut down their sacred poles and burn up their carved images completely. For you are a people set apart as holy for ADONAI your God. ADONAI your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his own unique treasure.

Deuteronomy 20:16-18 (Maimonides RN49; Chinuch C528)
As for the towns of these peoples, which ADONAI your God is giving you as your inheritance, you are not to allow anything that breathes to live. Rather you must destroy them completely - the Hitti, the Emori, the Kena'ani, the P'rizi, the Hivi and the Y'vusi - as ADONAI your God has ordered you; so that they won't teach you to follow their abominable practices, which they do for their gods, thus causing you to sin against ADONAI your God.

Deuteronomy 23:4-7(3-6)
No 'Amoni or Mo'avi may enter the assembly of ADONAI, nor may any of his descendants down to the tenth generation ever enter the assembly of ADONAI, because they did not supply you with food and water when you were on the road after leaving Egypt, and because they hired Bil'am the son of B'or from P'tor in Aram-Naharayim to put a curse on you. But ADONAI your God would not listen to Bil'am; rather, ADONAI your God turned the curse into a blessing for you; because ADONAI your God loved you. So you are never to seek their peace or well being, as long as you live.

2 Corinthians 6:14-16
Do not yoke yourselves together in a team with unbelievers. For how can righteousness and lawlessness be partners? What fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony can there be between the Messiah and B'liya'al? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement can there be between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God - as God said, "I will house myself in them ... and I will walk among you. I will be their God, and they will be my people."

Supportive Scripture

Deuteronomy 22:10
You are not to plow with an ox and a donkey together.


The Scriptures are plain in commanding that we are not to enter into covenants with idolaters and unbelievers in God, Yeshua, or the Bible. The kinds of covenants prohibited are not trivial agreements, but rather the kind that yoke individuals in causes for which the covenanting parties' understanding of God, morality, and ethics is material. Likewise, the kinds of idolaters contemplated are not those with minor personal bondages, but rather those whose idolatries render them unbelievers or persons whose judgments are likely to adversely affect the covenants into which they enter. The result of a believer entering into covenant with such a person can be isastrous because a believer's basis for conduct is God's Law, whereas an unbeliever recognizes no such authority.

The prohibition of this Mitzvah does not usually apply to contracts such as those to buy or sell a described item at a defined price, because the terms of such agreements are not vague and are usually not dependent on the moral and ethical values of the parties. On the other hand, partnerships of most kinds (especially marriage) by believers and unbelievers are prohibited because, in the course of continuously dealing with one another, partners must be biblically in accord in handling situations as they arise. In cases of unequal yoking, the covenanting parties hold different values and respond to different authorities for their conduct; the result is that, sooner or later, they will either dissolve their covenant and part ways, or the believing party will be persuaded by the unbelieving party to compromise his or her biblical principles. Many a marriage and business partnership has been shattered through unequal yoking.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch limit their mitzvot to the kinds of idolatries that are prevalent in the Tanakh - the kinds that involve unbelief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the consequent worship of heathen gods and physical idols. The people groups they include are the seven nations of Canaan and the Ammonites, Moabites, and heretics in general. They do not address idolatries of the heart and flesh.


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