Behold, I send an Angel before you, to keep you in the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20-33) The Book of the Covenant terminates, very appropriately, with a series of promises. God is “the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” He chooses to “reward men after their works,” and to set before them “the recompense of the reward.” He “knows whereof we are made,” and by what motives we are influenced. Self-interest, the desire of our own good, is one of the strongest of them. If Israel will keep His covenant, they will enjoy the following blessings :—(1) The guidance and protection of His angel till Canaan is reached; (2) God’s help against their adversaries, who will, little by little, be driven out; (3) the ultimate possession of the entire country between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea on the one hand, the Desert and the Euphrates on the other; (4) a blessing upon their flocks and herds, which shall neither be barren nor cast their young; and (5) a blessing upon themselves, whereby they will escape sickness and enjoy a long term of life. All these advantages, however, are conditional upon obedience, and may be forfeited.
(20) I send an Angel before thee.—Kalisch considers Moses to have been the “angel” or “messenger;” others understand one of the created angelic host. But most commentators see in the promise the first mention of the “Angel of the Covenant,” who is reasonably identified with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Eternal Son and Word of God. When the promise is retracted on account of the sin of the golden calf, it is in the words, “I will not go up with thee” (Exodus 33:3).Exodus 23:20-21. Behold, I send an Angel before thee — The Angel of the covenant: accordingly, the Israelites, in the wilderness, are said to tempt Christ. It is promised that this blessed Angel should keep them in the way, though it lay through a wilderness first, and afterward through their enemies’ country; and thus Christ has prepared a place for his followers. Beware of him, and obey his voice; provoke him not — It is at your peril if you do; for my name — My nature, my authority; is in him.Exodus 3:2, Exodus 3:8; Joshua 5:13; Isaiah 63:9. Mark 2:7, is here ascribed to him, and God’s name is in him, and by comparing other scriptures, as Exodus 32:34 Acts 7:38,39 1 Corinthians 10:9. See Exodus 13:21 14:19.
to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared; to preserve the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness, from all their enemies that should set upon them, and to bring them safe at last to the land of Canaan, which he had appointed for them, and promised to them, and had prepared both in his purpose and gift for them, and would make way for their settlement in it by driving out the nations before them.Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)20. an angel] such as guided and protected the patriarchs (Genesis 24:7; Genesis 31:11; Genesis 48:16); cf. Exodus 14:19 (on Exodus 32:34, Exodus 33:2, see the notes), Numbers 20:16. It is true, the expression here used is ‘an angel’ (so Numbers 20:16 : contrast ch. Exodus 3:2); but he appears in v. 21 as Jehovah’s full representative (see on Exodus 3:2). Elsewhere in JE the pillar of cloud (see on Exodus 13:21), Hobab (Numbers 10:31), and the ark (Numbers 10:33), are severally described as guiding Israel in the wilderness.
20, 21. An angel is to guide Israel on its journey to Canaan: his instructions must be received with the same respect and fear as those of Jehovah Himself; for Jehovah will Himself be speaking in him.
20–33. Hortatory epilogue. The laws which Israel is to observe have been defined: and now Jehovah declares what He will do for His people if it is obedient to His voice (v. 22): He will give it prosperity, freedom from sickness and long life, success in its contests with the nations of Canaan, and extension of territory afterwards. Comp. the similar, but longer and more elaborated, hortatory discourses (including curses on disobedience), concluding the codes of H (Leviticus 26:3-45) and Dt. (Deuteronomy 28). It is remarkable that the commands which Israel is to obey are not those embodied in ch. Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:19, but (v. 22) those to be given it in the future by the angel on the way to Canaan. Perhaps (Bä.) the passage was written originally for a different context: but even if that were the case, it must be intended, where it now stands, to suggest motives for the observance of the preceding laws.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." Exodus 23:10-12, so Exodus 23:14-19 do not contain either the original or earliest appointment of the feasts, or a complete law concerning the yearly feasts. They simply command the observance of three feasts during the year, and the appearance of the people three times in the year before the Lord; that is to say, the holding of three national assemblies to keep a feast before the Lord, or three annual pilgrimages to the sanctuary of Jehovah. The leading points are clearly set forth in Exodus 23:14 and Exodus 23:17, to which the other verses are subordinate. These leading points are משׁפּטים or rights, conferred upon the people of Israel in their relation to Jehovah; for keeping a feast to the Lord, and appearing before Him, were both of them privileges bestowed by Jehovah upon His covenant people. Even in itself the festal rejoicing was a blessing in the midst of this life of labour, toil, and trouble; but when accompanied with the right of appearing before the Lord their God and Redeemer, to whom they were indebted for everything they had and were, it was one that no other nation enjoyed. For though they had their joyous festivals, these festivals bore the same relation to those of Israel, as the dead and worthless gods of the heathen to the living and almighty God of Israel.
Of the three feasts at which Israel was to appear before Jehovah, the feast of Mazzoth, or unleavened bread, is referred to as already instituted, by the words "as I have commanded thee," and "at the appointed time of the earing month," which point back to chs. 12 and 13; and all that is added here is, "ye shall not appear before My face empty." "Not empty:" i.e., not with empty hands, but with sacrificial gifts, answering to the blessing given by the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:16-17). These gifts were devoted partly to the general sacrifices of the feast, and partly to the burnt and peace-offerings which were brought by different individuals to the feasts, and applied to the sacrificial meals (Numbers 28 and 29). This command, which related to all the feasts, and therefore is mentioned at the very outset in connection with the feast of unleavened bread, did indeed impose a duty upon Israel, but such a duty as became a source of blessing to all who performed it. The gifts demanded by God were the tribute, it is true, which the Israelites paid to their God-King, just as all Eastern nations are required to bring presents when appearing in the presence of their kings; but they were only gifts from God's own blessing, a portion of that which He had bestowed in rich abundance, and they were offered to God in such a way that the offerer was thereby more and more confirmed in the rights of covenant fellowship. The other two festivals are mentioned here for the first time, and the details are more particularly determined afterwards in Leviticus 23:15., and Numbers 28:26. One was called the feast of Harvest, "of the first-fruits of thy labours which thou hast sown in the field," i.e., of thy field-labour. According to the subsequent arrangements, the first of the field-produce was to be offered to God, not the first grains of the ripe corn, but the first loaves of bread of white or wheaten flour made from the new corn (Leviticus 23:17.). In Exodus 34:22 it is called the "feast of Weeks," because, according to Leviticus 23:15-16; Deuteronomy 16:9, it was to be kept seven weeks after the feast of Mazzoth; and the "feast of the first-fruits of wheat harvest," because the loaves of first-fruits to be offered were to be made of wheaten flour. The other of these feasts, i.e., the third in the year, is called "the feast of Ingathering, at the end of the year, in the gathering in of thy labours out of the field." This general and indefinite allusion to time was quite sufficient for the preliminary institution of the feast. In the more minute directions respecting the feasts given in Leviticus 23:34; Numbers 29:12, it is fixed for the fifteenth day of the seventh month, and placed on an equality with the feast of Mazzoth as a seven days' festival. השּׁנה בּצאת does not mean after the close of the year, finito anno, any more than the corresponding expression in Exodus 34:22, השּׁנה תּקוּפת, signifies at the turning of the year. The year referred to here was the so-called civil year, which began with the preparation of the ground for the harvest-sowing, and ended when all the fruits of the field and garden had been gathered in. No particular day was fixed for its commencement, nor was there any new year's festival; and even after the beginning of the earing month had been fixed upon for the commencement of the year (Exodus 12:2), this still remained in force, so far as all civil matters connected with the sowing and harvest were concerned; though there is no evidence that a double reckoning was carried on at the same time, or that a civil reckoning existed side by side with the religious. בּאספּך does not mean, "when thou hast gathered," postquam collegisti; for בּ does not stand for אחר, nor has the infinitive the force of the preterite. On the contrary, the expression "at thy gathering in," i.e., when thou gatherest in, is kept indefinite both here and in Leviticus 23:39, where the month and days in which this feast was to be kept are distinctly pointed out; and also in Deuteronomy 16:13, in order that the time for the feast might not be made absolutely dependent upon the complete termination of the gathering in, although as a rule it would be almost over. The gathering in of "thy labours out of the field" is not to be restricted to the vintage and gathering of fruits: this is evident not only from the expression "out of the field," which points to field-produce, but also from the clause in Deuteronomy 16:13, "gathering of the floor and wine-press," which shows clearly that the words refer to the gathering in of the whole of the year's produce of corn, fruit, oil, and wine.
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