Deut 20:11 (ESV) - And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to
you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for
you and shall serve you.
The operative word in Deut 20:11 is מַס (mas or mis) and means "forced labor" as per the BDB entry - see appendix below. Thus it is correctly translated by the major modern versions in all its occurrences, eg, Gen 49:15, Ex 1:11, Josh 16:10, 17:13, Judges 1:28, 30, 33, 35, 2 Sam 20:24, 1 Kings 4:6, 5:13, 14, 9:15, 21, 12:18, 2 Chron 8:8, 10:18, Esth 10:1, etc.
Politics vs Spirituality
There are two ways to view the situation of a conquered populations: the ensuing politics and the ensuing spiritual condition - both are important considerations for the all-conquering Israel in Joshua' time. Thus, we have several possibilities:
- The conquered population is allowed to live in their cities and simply pay tribute and remain free provided they pay taxes, etc. The problem here is the continued use of the false gods and the enticing false worship associated with the population. This was part of the purpose of conquering the population - to be rid of their false gods.
- The conquered population is reduced to serfdom and their culture and gods eliminated - this was the LORD's decision and removes the temptation for the Israelites to embrace false worship
Hence the directive in Deut 20:11.
APPENDIX - BDB entry for מַס
I. מַס noun masculine 1 Ki 5:27 usually: collective body of forced
labourers, task-workers, labour-band or gang, also (late) forced
service, task-work, serfdom ( ᵑ7 מִסָּא, especially in phrase מַסְּקֵי
מִיסִּין (implying late and [for Biblical Hebrew] false sense
'tribute,' so Late Hebrew מַעֲלֵי מָסִּים; √ unknown, probably
loan-word; follows analogue of ע׳׳ע); — absolute ׳מ 1 Kings 5:27 +;
לָמַ֑ס Joshua 17:13 +; הַמַּ֑ס 2 Samuel 20:24 +; plural מִסִּים Exodus
labour-band, labour-gang, body of task-workers for public service, formed by levy upon the people by Solomon וַיַּ֫עַל הַמֶּלֶךְ
שׁלֹמֹה מַס מִכָּליִֿשְׂרָאֵל 1 Kings 5:27, amounting to 30,000 men
v.1 Kings 5:27; אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלָה ׳הַמּ 1 Kings 9:15; ׳וַיַּעֲלֵם שׁ
לְמַס עֹבֵד 1 Kings 9:21 and Solomon levied them for a toiling
labour-band (compare Genesis 49:15; Joshua 16:10) = ׳לְמַס וַיַּעֲלֵם
שׁ2Chronicles 8:8; apparently instituted, earlier, by David, compare
וַאֲדֹרָם עַלהַֿמַּ֑ס 2 Samuel 20:24, i.e. had charge of the body of
labourers, so 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 5:28; 1 Kings 12:18 2 Chronicles
a. of labour-bands, slave-gangs of Israel in Egypt, only שָׂרֵי מִסִּים Exodus 1:11 (J) gang-overseers.
b. of conquered populations, subject to forced labour: יִהְיוּ
לְךָ לָמַס וַעֲבָדוּךָ Deuteronomy 20:11 compare Judges 1:30,33,35
(see GFM), Isaiah 31:8; Lamentations 1:1; so ויהי לְמַס עֹבֵד Joshua
16:10 (compare Genesis 49:15; 1 Kings 9:21); וַיִתְּנוּ
אֶתהַֿכְּנַעֲנִי לָמַ֑ס Joshua 17:13, compare (׳וַיָּ֫שֶׂם וגו) Judges
in General: וַיְהִי לְמַסעֹֿבֵד Genesis 49:15 and he (Issachar) became a slaving labour-band (poem in J; compare Joshua 16:10; 1
Kings 9:21); compare רְמִיָּה תִּהְיֶה לָמַ֑ס Proverbs 12:24 (here
apparently of individual)
forced service, serfdom (or possibly (in late passage) tribute = enforced payment, compare Late Hebrew, ᵑ7, see above), only of Ahasuerus: ׳וַיָּשֶׂם הַמֶּלֶךְ מַס עַלהָֿאָרֶץ וגו Esther 10:1.