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Deuteronomy 20:19

When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?

2 Kings 3:19

You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones."

How to reconcile these two passages?

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  • The former is a general rule; the latter, a specific situation. – Lucian Apr 30 at 1:51
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The two situations in these passages are entirely different.

Deut 20:19 is describing a siege with a view to occupying the city and making it Israelite territory - they will want to use the city and surrounding land afterward. Therefore, they are instructed to minimize damage to the farmland.

2 Kings 3:19 is describing actions is a foreign land to bring the foreign land into submission, Moab in this case. Israel had no interest in occupying the land but only wanted tribute money. Therefore, Israel need to inflict maximum harm on the attacked nation.

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