Exodus 23 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Exodus 23
Pulpit Commentary
Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
Verse 1. - The ninth commandment is here expanded and developed. Thou shalt not raise a false report, forbids the origination of a calumny; the other clause prohibits the joining with others in spreading one. Both clauses have a special reference to bearing witness in a court, but neither would seem to be confined to it.
Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:
Verse 2. - Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil. Rather, "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to evil." A law alike for deed, for word, and for thought. The example of the many is to be shunned. "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." But "strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13, 14). It is extraordinary that so many, even of professing Christians, are content to go with the many, notwithstanding the warnings against so doing, both of the law and of the Gospel. Neither shalt thou speak, etc. Rather, "Neither shalt thou bear witness in a cause to go aside after a multitude to put aside justice." The general precept is followed by a particular application of it. In judging a cause, if thou art one of the judges, thou shalt not simply go with the majority, if it he bent on injustice, but form thine own opinion and adhere to it.
Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.
Verse 3. - Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause. After the many precepts in favour of the poor, this injunction produces a sort of shock. But it is to be understood as simply forbidding any undue favouring of the poor because they are poor, and so as equivalent to the precept in Leviticus 19:15, "Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor." In courts of justice, strict justice is to be rendered, without any leaning either towards the rich, or towards the poor. To lean either way is to pervert judgment.
If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.
Verse 4. - Thine enemy's ox. A private enemy is here spoken of, not a public one, as in Deuteronomy 23:6. It is remarkable that the law should have so far anticipated Christianity as to have laid it down that men have duties of friendliness even towards their enemies, and are bound under certain circumstances to render them a service. "Hate thine enemies" (Matthew 5:43) was no injunction of the Mosaic taw, but a conclusion which Rabbinical teachers unwarrantably drew from it. Christianity, however, goes far beyond Mosaism in laying down the broad precept - "Love your enemies."
If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
Verse 5. - If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee, etc. The general meaning of the passage is clear - assistance is to be given to the fallen ass of an enemy - but the exact sense of both the second and third clauses is doubtful. Many renderings have been suggested; but it is not clear that any one of them is an improvement on the Authorised Version. Thou shalt surely help with him. The joint participation in an act of mercy towards a fallen beast would bring the enemies into friendly contact, and soften their feelings towards each other.
Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause.
Verse 6. - As in verse 3 men were warned not to favour the poor unduly in courts of justice out of compassion for them, so here there is a warning against the opposite, and far more usual error, of leaning against the poor man in our evidence or in our decisions The scales of justice are to be held even; strict right is to be done; our feelings are not be allowed to influence us, much less our class prejudices.
Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.
Verse 7. - Keep thee far from a false matter. Hold aloof, i.e., from anything like a false accusation. Neither bring one, nor countenance one, else those mayest cause the death of an innocent and righteous man, and bring down on thyself the vengeance of him, who will not justify the wicked.
And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.
Verse 8. - And thou shalt take no gift. The worst sin of a judge, and the commonest in the East, is to accept abribe from one of the parties to a suit, and give sentence accordingly. As such a practice defeats the whole end for which the administration of justice exists, it is, when detected, for the most part, punished capitally. Josephus tells us that it was so among the Jews (Contr. Apion. 2:27); but the Mosaic code, as it has come down to us, omits to fix the penalty. Whatever it was, it was practically set at nought. Eli's sons "turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment" (1 Samuel 8:3). In David's time, men's hands were "full of bribes" (Psalm 26:10). Solomon complains of wicked men" taking gifts out of their bosoms to pervert the ways of judgment" (Proverbs 17:23). Isaiah is never weary of bearing witness against the princes of his day, who" love gifts and follow after rewards" (Isaiah 1:23);who "justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him" (Isaiah 5:23). Micah adds his testimony - "Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward" (Exodus 3:9-11). The gift blindeth the wise. See Deuteronomy 16:19.
Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Verse 9. - Thou shalt not oppress a stranger. This is a repetition of Exodus 22:21, with perhaps a special reference to oppression through courts of justice. For thou knowest the heart of a stranger. Literally, "the mind of a stranger," or, in other words, his thoughts and feelings. Thou shouldest therefore be able to sympathise with him. CEREMONIAL LAWS (vers. 10-19).
And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof:
Verses 10, 11. - Law of the Sabbatical year. Days of rest, at regular or irregular intervals, were well known to the ancients and some regulations of the kind existed in most countries But entire years of rest were wholly unknown to any nation except the Israelites. and exposed them to the reproach of idleness. (See Tacit. Hist. 5:4: - "Septimo die otium placuisse ferunt, quia is finem laborum dedit; dein, blandiente inertia, septimum quoque annum ignaviae datum"). In a primitive condition of agriculture, when rotation of crops was unknown, artificial manure unemployed, and the need of letting even the best land sometimes lie fallow unrecognised, it may not have been an uneconomical arrangement to require an entire suspension of cultivation once in seven years. But great difficulty was probably experienced in enforcing the law. Just as there were persons who wished to gather manna on the seventh day (Exodus 16:27), so there would be many anxious to obtain in the seventh year something more from their fields than Nature would give them if left to herself. If the "seventy years" of the captivity were intended exactly to make up for omissions of the due observance of the sabbatical year, we must suppose that between the time of the exodus and the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the ordinance had been as often neglected as observed. (See 2 Chronicles 36:21.) The primary object of the requirement was, as stated in ver. 11, that the poor of thy people may eat, what the land brought forth of its own accord in the Sabbatical year being shared by them (Leviticus 25:6.). But no doubt it was also intended that the Sabbatical year should be one of increased religious observance, whereof the solemn reading of the law in the ears of the people at the Feast of Tabernacles "in the year of release" (Deuteronomy 31:10) was an indication and a part. That reading was properly preceded by a time of religious preparation (Nehemiah 8:1-15), and would naturally lead on to further acts of a religious character, which might occupy a considerable period (ibid. chs. 9. and 10.). Altogether, the year was a most solemn period, calling men to religious self-examination, to repentance, to the formation of holy habits, and tending to a general elevation among the people of the standard of holiness. What they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. There was to be no regular ingathering. The proprietor, his servants, the poor, and the stranger were to take what they needed; and the residue was to be for the cattle and for the beasts that were in the land (Deuteronomy 25:6, 7). Thy vineyard - thy oliveyard. Corn, wine, and oil were the only important products of Palestine; and this mention of the vineyard and the oliveyard shows that one and the same law was to hold good of all the lands in the country, however they might be cultivated. The whole land was to rest.
But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard.
Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.
Verse 12. - Law of the Sabbath, repeated. Nothing is here added to the teaching of the Fourth Commandment; but its merciful character is especially brought out. Men are called on to observe it, in order that their cattle may obtain rest, and their servants, together with the stranger that is within their gates, may find refreshment. It is to be borne in mind that the foreign population of Palestine was mostly held to hard service. (See 2 Chronicles 2:17, 18.) Verse 13 contains two injunctions - one general, one special: -

1. "Be circumspect" (or cautious, careful) "in respect of all that I command you."

2. "Do not so much as utter the name of any false god." Not even to mention their names, was to show them the greatest contempt possible; and, if followed out universally, would soon have produced an absolute oblivion of them. Moses, it may be observed, scarcely ever does mention their names. Later historians and prophets had to do so, either to deliver the true history of the Israelites, or to denounce idolatries to which they were given. There are many words one would wish never to utter; but while wicked men do the things of which they are the names, preachers are obliged to use the words in their sermons and other warnings.
And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.
Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year.
Verses 14-17. - Law of Festivals. "The sanctification of days and times," says Richard Hooker, "is a token of that thankfulness and a part of that public honour which we owe to God for admirable benefits, whereof it doth not suffice that we keep a secret calendar, taking thereby our private occasions as we list ourselves to think how much God hath done for all men; but the days which are chosen out to serve as public memorials of such his mercies ought to be clothed with those outward robes of holiness whereby their difference from other days may be made sensible" (Eccles. Pol. 5:70, § 1). All ancient religions had solemn festival seasons, when particular mercies of God were specially commemorated, and when men, meeting together in large numbers, mutually cheered and excited each other to a warmer devotion and a more hearty pouring forth of thanks than human weakness made possible at other times. In Egypt such festivals were frequent, and held a high place in the religion (Herod. 2:58-64:). Abraham's family had probably had observances of the kind in their Mesopotamian home. God's providence saw good now to give supernatural sanction to the natural piety which had been accustomed thus to express itself. Three great feasts were appointed, of which the most remarkable features were -

1. That they were at once agricultural and historical - connected with the regularly recurrent course of the seasons, and connected also with great events in the life of the nation;

2. That they could be kept only at one spot, that namely where the tabernacle was at the time located;

3. That they were to be attended by the whole male population. The three festivals are here called -

1. The Feast of Unleavened Bread (ver. 15), the early spring festival, at the beginning of barley harvest in the month Abib (Nisan), commemorative of the going forth from Egypt;

2. The Feast of Harvest (elsewhere called "of weeks") at the beginning of summer, when the wheat crop had been reaped, commemorative of the giving of the law; and

3. The Feast of Ingathering (ver 16) in Tisri, at the close of the vintage, when all the crops of every kind had been gathered in, commemorative of the sojourn in the wilderness. The first of the three, the feast of unleavened bread, had been already instituted (Exodus 13:3-10); the two others are now for the first time sketched out, their details being kept back to be fined in subsequently (Leviticus 23:15-21, and 34-36). Here the legislator is content to lay it down that the great feasts will be three, and that all the males are to attend them.
Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:)
Verse 15. - The feast of unleavened bread. This commenced with the Passover, and continued for the seven days following, with a "holy convocation" on the first of the seven and on the last (Leviticus 23:5-8). Unleavened bread was eaten in commemoration of the hasty exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:34). A sheaf of new barley - the first-fruits of the harvest - was offered as a wave-offering before the Lord (Leviticus 23:10-14). Every male Israelite of full age was bound to attend, and to bring with him a free-will offering. In the time appointed of the month - i.e., on the fourteenth day (Exodus 12:18). None shall appear before me empty. This rule applies, not to the Passover only, but to all the feasts.
And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.
Verse 16. - The feast of harvest. Fifty days were to be numbered from the day of offering the barley sheaf, and on the fiftieth the feast of harvest, thence called "Pentecost," was to be celebrated. Different Jewish sects make different calculations; but the majority celebrate Pentecost on the sixth of Sivan (May 25). The main ceremony was the offering to God of two leavened loaves of the finest flour made out of the wheat just gathered in, and called the first-fruits of the harvest. The festival lasted only a single day; but it was one of a peculiarly social and joyful character (Deuteronomy 16:9-11). Jewish tradition connects the feast further with the giving of the law, which must certainly have taken place about the time (see Exodus 19:1-16). The firstfruits. Rather, "Of the first-fruits." The word is in apposition with "harvest," not with "feast." Which thou hast sown. The sown harvest was gathered in by Pentecost; what remained to collect afterwards was the produce of plantations. The feast of ingathering. Called elsewhere, and more commonly, "the feast of tabernacles" (Leviticus 23:34; Deuteronomy 16:13; Deuteronomy 31:10; John 7:2), from the circumstance that the people were commanded to make themselves booths, and dwell in them during the time of the feast. The festival began on the 15th of Tisri, or in the early part of our October, when the olives had been gathered in and the vintage was completed. It lasted seven, or (according to some) eight days, and comprised two holy convocations. In one point of view it was a festival of thanksgiving for the final getting in of the crops; in another, a commemoration of the safe passage through the desert from Egypt to Palestine. The feast seems to have been neglected during the captivity, but was celebrated with much glee in the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:17). In the end of the year - i.e., the end of the agricultural year - when the harvest was over - as explained in the following clause.
Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD.
Verse 17. - Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God. This seems to moderns a very burthensome enactment. But we must remember that Palestine is not bigger than Wales, and that great gatherings had great attractions for many in the ancient world, when they were the only means by which information was spread, and almost the only occasions on which friends and relations who lived far apart could expect to see each other. The European Greeks had, in their Olympian and other games, similar great gatherings, which occurred once or twice in each year, and, though under no obligation to do so, attended them in enormous numbers. It may be doubted if the religious Hebrews felt the obligation of attendance to be a burthen. It was assuredly a matter of great importance, as tending to unity, and to the quickening of the national life, that they should be drawn so continually to one centre, and be so frequently united in one common worship. Most students of antiquity regard the Greek games as having exerted a strong unifying influence over the scattered members of the Grecian family. The Hebrew festivals, occurring so much more frequently, and required to be attended by all, must have had a similar, but much greater, effect of the same kind.
Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.
Verse 18. - Law of the Paschal sacrifice. That the Paschal lamb is here intended by "my sacrifice," seems to be certain, since the two injunctions to put away leavened bread, and to allow none of the victim's flesh to remain till the morning (see Exodus 12:10), are combined in the Paschal sacrifice only. Of all the offerings commanded in the law the Paschal lamb was the most important, since it typified Christ. It may therefore well be termed, in an especial way, "God's sacrifice." By the fat of my feast some understand the fat of the lamb, others the best part of the feast (Keil) - i.e., the lamb itself. In Exodus 34:25, which is closely parallel to the present place, we read, for "the fat of my feast," "the sacrifice of the feast of the passover."
The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.
Verse 19. - Law of first-fruits. The first of the first-fruits may mean either "the best of the first-fruits" (see Numbers 18:12), or "the very first of each kind that is ripe" (ib, verse 13). On the tendency to delay, and not bring the very first, see the comment on Exodus 22:29. The house of the Lord. Generally, in the Pentateuch we have the periphrasis" the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to put his name there" (Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, 14; Deuteronomy 16:16; Deuteronomy 26:2, etc.); but here, and in Exodus 34:26, and again in Deuteronomy 23:18, this "place" is plainly declared to be a "house" or "temple." Law against seething a kid in the mother's milk. The outline of law put before the Israelites in the "Book of the Covenant" terminated with this remarkable prohibition. Its importance is shown -

1. By its place here; and

2. By its being thrice repeated in the law of Moses (see Exodus 34:26; and Deuteronomy 14:21). Various explanations have been given of it; but none is saris-factory, except that which views it as "a protest against cruelty, and outraging the order of nature," more especially that peculiarly sacred portion of nature's order, the tender relation between parent and child, mother and suckling. No doubt the practice existed. Kids were thought to be most palatable when boiled in milk; and the mother's milk was frequently the readiest to obtain. But in this way the mother was made a sort of accomplice in the death of her child, which men were induced to kill on account of the flavour that her milk gave it. Reason has nothing to say against such a mode of preparing food, but feeling revolts from it; and the general sense of civilised mankind reechoes the precept, which is capable of a wide application - Thou shalt not seethe a kind in his mother's milk.

CHAPTER 23:20-31
Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
Verses 20-31. - THE REWARDS OF OBEDIENCE. God always places before men" the recompense of the reward." He does not require of them that they should serve him for nought. The "Book of the Covenant" appropriately ends with a number of promises, which God undertakes to perform, if Israel keeps the terms of the covenant. The promises are: -

1. That he will send an angel before them to be their guide, director, and helper (vers. 20 - 23).

2. That he will be the enemy of their enemies (ver. 22), striking terror into them miraculously (ver. 27), and subjecting them to other scourges also (ver. 28).

3. That he will drive out their enemies "by little and little" (ver. 30), not ceasing until he has destroyed them (ver. 23).

4. That he will give them the entire country between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean on the one hand, the Desert and the Euphrates on the other (ver. 31). And

5. That he will bless their sustenance, avert sickness from them, cause them to multiply, and prolong their days upon earth (vers. 25, 26). At the same time, all these promises - except the first - are made conditional. If they will "beware" of the angel and "obey his voice," then he will drive their enemies out (vers. 22, 23): if they will serve Jehovah, and destroy the idols of the nations, then he will multiply them, and give them health and long life (vers. 24-26), and "set their bounds from the Red Sea even unto the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river" (ver. 31). So far as they fall short of their duties, is he entitled to fall short of his promises. A reciprocity is established. Unless they keep their engagements, he is not bound to keep his. Though the negative side is not entered upon, this is sufficiently clear. None of the promises, except the promise to send the angel, is absolute. Their realisation depends on a strict and hearty obedience. Verse 20. - Behold, I send a messenger before thee. Jewish commentators regard the messenger as Moses, who, no doubt, was a specially commissioned ambassador for God, and who might, therefore, well be termed God's messenger. But the expressions - "He will not pardon your transgressions," and "My name is in him," are too high for Moses. An angel must be intended - probably "the Angel of the Covenant," - whom the best expositors identify with the Second Person of the Trinity, the Ever-Blessed Son of God. To keep thee in the way is not simply "to guide thee through the wilderness, and prevent thee from geographical error," but to keep thee altogether in the right path. s, to guard thy going out and thy coming m, to prevent thee from falling into any kind of wrong conduct. The place which I have prepared is not merely Palestine, but that place of which Palestine is the type - viz., Heaven. Compare John 14:2: - "I go to prepare a place for you."
Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.
Verse 21. - Provoke him not. On the disobedience of the Israelites to this precept, see Numbers 14:11; Psalm 78:17, 40, 56, etc. My name is in him. God's honour he will not give to another. He does not set His Name in a man. The angel, in whom was God's Blame, must have been co-equal with God - one of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity.
But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.
Verse 22. - If thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak. The change of persons in the latter clause - "all that I speak," instead of "all that he speaks" - implies the doctrine of the perienchoresis or circuminsessio, that God the Father is in the Son and the Spirit, as they are in him. An adversary to thy adversaries. Rather "an afflictor of thy afflictors."
For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.
Verse 23. - The Amorites, and the Hittites, etc. The nations of Canaan proper, to whom the Gergashites are sometimes added. See the comment on 2 Samuel 3:8. I will cut them off. Or "cut them down," i.e., destroy them from being any longer nations, but not exterminate them, as is generally supposed. David had a "Hittite" among his "mighty men" (2 Samuel 23:39), and was on friendly terms with Araunah the "Jebusite" (2 Samuel 24:18-24).
Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.
Verse 24. - Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works. It is always to be borne in mind that with the idolatries of the heathen were connected "works of darkness," which it is shameful even to speak cf. The rites of Baal and Ashtoreth, of Chemosh, Molech, Rimmon, and the other Canaanite and Syrian deities were at once defiled by the abomination of human sacrifices, and polluted with the still more debasing evil of religious impurity. "The sacrifice offered to Ash-toreth," says Dr. Dollinger, "consisted in the prostitution of women: the women submitted themselves to the visitors of the feast, in the temple of the goddess or the adjoining precinct. A legend told of Astarte (Ashtoreth) having prostituted herself in Tyre for ten years: and in many places matrons, as well as maidens, consecrated themselves for a length of time, or on the festivals of the goddess, with a view of propitiating her, or earning her favour as hieroduli of unchastity... In this way they went so far at last as to contemplate the abominations of unnatural lust as a homage rendered to the deity, and to exalt it into a regular cultus. The worship of the goddess at Aphaca in Lebanon was specially notorious in this respect. The temple in a solitary situation was, as Eusebius tells us, a place of evil-doing for such as chose to ruin their bodies in scandalous ways... Criminal intercourse with women, impurity, shameful and degrading deeds, were practised in the temple, where there was no custom and no law, and no honourable or decent human being could be found." (Jew and Gentile, vol. 1. pp. 428, 429; Darnell's translation.) Thou shalt utterly overthrow them. The heathen gods are identified with their images. These were to be torn from their bases, overthrown, and rolled in the dust for greater contempt and ignominy. They were then to be broken up and burnt, till the gold and the silver with which they were overlaid was calcined and could be stamped to powder. Nothing was to be spared that had been degraded by idolatry, either for its beauty or its elaborate workmanship, or its value. All was hateful to God, and was to be destroyed.
And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.
Verse 25. - He shall bless thy bread and thy water. If the Israelites were exact in their obedience, and destroyed the idols, and served God only, then he promised to bless "their bread and their water" - the food, i.e., whether meat or drink, on which they subsisted, and to give them vigorous health, free from sickness of any kind, which he pledged himself to take away from the midst of them. Though Christians have no such special pledge, there is, no doubt, that virtuous and godly living would greatly conduce to health, and take away half the sicknesses from which men suffer, even at the present day.
There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil.
Verse 26. - There shall nothing out their young, nor be barren in thy land. This blessing could not have followed upon godly living in the way of natural sequence, but only by Divine favor and providential care. It would have rendered them rich in flocks and herds beyond any other nation. The number of thy days I will fulfil. There shall be no premature deaths. All, both men and women, shall reach the term allotted to man, and die in a good old age, having fulfilled their time. Godly living, persisted in for several generations, might, perhaps, produce this result.
I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee.
Verse 27. - I will send my fear before thee. The fear which fell upon the nations is seen first in the case of Balak and the Moabites. "Moab was sore aft-aid of the people, because they were many" (Numbers 22:3). Later it is spoken of by Rahab as general (Joshua 2:9, 11). A very signal indication of the alarm felt is given in the history of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:3, 27). I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. For the fulfilment of this promise see Numbers 21:3, 24, 35; Numbers 31:7; Joshua 8:20-24; Joshua 10:10, etc. Had their obedience been more complete, the power of the Canaanitish nations would have been more thoroughly broken, and the sufferings and servitudes related in the Book of Judges would not have had to be endured.
And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
Verse 28. - And I will send hornets before thee. This is scarcely to be taken literally, since no actual plague of hornets is mentioned in the historical narrative. "Hornets" here, and in Deuteronomy 7:20; Joshua 24:12, are probably plagues or troubles of any kind, divinely sent to break the power of the heathen nations, and render them an easier prey to the Israelites, when they made their invasion. Possibly, the main "hornets" were the Egyptians, who, under Rameses III., successfully invaded Palestine about the time of Israel's sojourn in the wilderness, and weakened the power of the Hittites (Khita). The Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite. By a common figure of speech, a part is put {or the whole - three nations for seven. The three names seem to be taken at random, but include the two nations of most power - the Canaanites and the Hittites.
I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.
Verse 29. - I will not drive them out from before thee in one year. The Divine action is for the most part "slack, as men count slackness" - it is not hasty, spasmodic, precipitate, as human action is too often. Men are impatient; God is strangely, wonderfully patient. He would not drive out the Canaanitish nations all at once -

1. Lest the land should become desolate, there being an insufficient population to keep down the weeds and maintain the tillage; and

2. Lest the beast of the field should multiply so as to become a danger to the new-comers. It is related that when the kingdom of Samaria was depopulated by the removal of the Ten Tribes, there was a great increase of lions, which preyed upon the scanty remnant left (2 Kings 17:25). Even in France, after the Franco-German war, it was found that in many districts wolves increased. A third reason why the nations were not subdued all at once, not mentioned here, is touched in Judges 2:21-23 - "The Lord left those nations, without driving them out hastily, that through them he might prove Israel, whether they would keep the way of the Lord to walk therein, or not."
By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.
And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.
Verse 31. - And I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea even unto the sea of the Philistines. This passage by itself would be sufficient to confute Dr. Brugsch's notion, that the Yam Suph (or "Red Sea" of our translators) is the Lake Serbonis, which is a part of the Mediterranean or "Sea of the Philistines," and cannot stand in contrast with it. The "Sea of the Philistines" and the "Red Sea" mark the boundaries of the Holy Land East and West, as the "Desert" and the "River" (Euphrates) do its boundaries North and South. That Moses here lays down those wide limits which were only reached 400 years later, in the time of David and Solomon, and were then speedily lost, can surprise no one who believes in the prophetic gift, and regards Moses as one of the greatest of the Prophets. The tract marked out by these limits had been already promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18). Its possession by Solomon is distinctly recorded in 1 Kings 4:21, 24; 2 Chronicles 9:26. As Solomon was "a man of peace," we must ascribe the acquisition of this wide empire to David. (Compare 2 Samuel 8:3-14; 2 Samuel 10:6-19.) The river (han-nahar) is in the Pentateuch always the Euphrates. The Nile is ha-y' or. A powerful kingdom established in Syria is almost sure to extend its influence to the Euphrates. I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand. Compare Joshua 21:44, for the first fulfilment of this prophecy. Its complete fulfilment was reserved for the time of David. Thou shalt drive them out. The mass of the Canaanites were no doubt "driven out" rather than exterminated. They retired northwards, and gave strength to the great Hittite kingdom which was for many centuries a formidable antagomst of the Egyptian and Assyrian empties.

CHAPTER 23:32-33
Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.
Verses 32, 33. - FINAL WARNING AGAINST IDOLATRY. The "Book of the Covenant" ends as it began, with a solemn warning against idolatry. (See Exodus 20:23.) "Thou shalt make no covenant with them nor with their gods." Thou shalt not even suffer them to dwell side by side with thee in the land, on peaceable terms, with their own laws and religion, lest thou be ensnared thereby, and led to worship their idols and join in their unhallowed rites (ver. 33). The after history of the people of Israel shows the need of the warning. From the exodus to the captivity, every idolatry with which they came into close contact proved a sore temptation to them. As the author of Kings observes of the Ten Tribes" - The children of Israel did secretly those things which were not right against the Lord their God, and they built them high places in all their cities... And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree; and there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the Lord carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger; for they served idols, whereof the Lord had said unto them, "Ye shall not do this thing" (2 Kings 17:9-12). Verse 32. - Thou shalt make no covenant with them. See below, Exodus 34:12-15. According to the forms usual at the time, a treaty of peace would have contained an acknowledgment of the gods of either nation, and words in honour of them. (See the "Treaty of Rameses II. with the Hittites," given in the Records of the Past, vol. 4. pp. 27-32.) This would have been equivalent to "making a covenant with their gods."
They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.
Verse 33. - They shall not dwell in the land. This law did not, of course, affect proselytes; nor was it considered to preclude the continuance in the land of the enslaved Gibeonites. It forbade any Canaanite communities being suffered to remain within the limits of Palestine on friendly terms with the Hebrews. The precaution was undoubtedly a wise one.

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