Exodus 34:13 MEANING

Exodus 34:13
(13) Ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves.--In the "Book of the Covenant" the command had been simply to "quite break down their images" (Exodus 23:24). Now, after the Israelites had displayed their idolatrous leanings, it is added that they are likewise to destroy the "altars" and the "groves." Altars were common among all the idolatrous nations, sometimes attached to temples (1 Kings 16:32; 2 Kings 21:4-5), sometimes separate from them (Numbers 23:1; Numbers 23:29; 2 Kings 16:10-11), and were used for much the same purposes as the Hebrew altars: i.e., for sacrifices, bloody and unbloody, and for burning incense. "Groves"--here mentioned for the first time--were peculiar to a limited number of nations, as the Assyrians, Babylonians, Ph?nicians, Syrians, and a few others. They appear to have been artificial constructions, either of wood or stone, or both, imitative of vegetable forms, and probably emblematic of the productive powers of nature. The worship connected with the "groves" was of a peculiarly gross and licentious character. The very name, asherah, was a modification of Ashtoreth, or Astarte. It is remarkable that nothing is said of destroying Canaannite temples--an indication that as yet they did not exist, and a mark of the high antiquity of the book.

Verse 13. - Ye shall destroy their altars, etc. This command is more sweeping than the corresponding one in the "Book of the Covenant" (Exodus 23:24), which expressly mentions only the "images." Here the destruction of idol-altars and idol-groves is further commanded. On idol-altars, see Numbers 23:1, 29; Judges 2:2; 1 Kings 16:32; 1 Kings 18:26, etc. Groves are here for the first time mentioned. They appear to have been artificial constructions, either of wood or metal, or both, more or less imitative of trees, and regarded as emblems of the Oriental nature-deities, especially Baal and Astarte or Ashtoreth. The word translated "grove" (asherah) is a modification of the name Ashtoreth. The well-known "sacred tree" of the Assyrians is probably an asherah.

34:10-17 The Israelites are commanded to destroy every monument of idolatry, however curious or costly; to refuse all alliance, friendship, or marriage with idolaters, and all idolatrous feasts; and they were reminded not with idolaters, and all idolatrous feats; and they were reminded not to repeat the crime of making molten images. Jealously is called the rage of a man, Pr 6:34; but in God it is holy and just displeasure. Those cannot worship God aright, who do not worship him only.But ye shall destroy their altars,.... On which they had sacrificed to their idols; since, if they were allowed to continue, they might be temptations to offer sacrifice thereon, contrary to the command of God:

break their images: of gold or silver, wood or stone, which they made for themselves, and worshipped as deities; seeing if these continued, the sight of them might lead to the worship of them, and so bring under the divine displeasure, as a breach of the command of God given them:

and cut down their groves; which were clusters of trees, where they had their temples and their idols, and did service to them, and where, besides idolatry, many impurities were committed. Such places were originally used by good men for devotion, being shady and solitary, but when abused to superstitious and idolatrous uses, were forbidden. It is said (n), the word for "grove" is general, and includes every tree they serve, or plant, for an idol.

(n) R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 72. 1.

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