Exodus 23:28
And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) I will send hornets.—Heb., the hornet. Comp. Joshua 24:12, where “the hornet” is said to have been sent. No doubt hornets might be so numerous as to become an intolerable plague, and induce a nation to quit its country and seek another (see Bochart, Hierozoic. iv. 13). But as we have no historical account of the kind in connection with the Canaanite races, the expression here used is scarcely to be taken literally. Probably the Egyptians are the hornets intended. It was they who, under Rameses III., broke the power of the Hittites and other nations of Palestine, while the Israelites were sojourners in the wilderness. Possibly the term was chosen in reference to the hieroglyphic sign for “king” in Egypt, which was the figure of a bee or wasp. The author of the Book of Wisdom seems, however, to have understood the expression literally (Wisdom Of Solomon 12:8-9).

23:20-33 It is here promised that they should be guided and kept in their way through the wilderness to the land of promise, Behold, I send an angel before thee, mine angel. The precept joined with this promise is, that they be obedient to this angel whom God would send before them. Christ is the Angel of Jehovah; this is plainly taught by St. Paul, 1Co 10:9. They should have a comfortable settlement in the land of Canaan. How reasonable are the conditions of this promise; that they should serve the only true God; not the gods of the nations, which are no gods at all. How rich are the particulars of this promise! The comfort of their food, the continuance of their health, the increase of their wealth, the prolonging their lives to old age. Thus hath godliness the promise of the life that now is. It is promised that they should subdue their enemies. Hosts of hornets made way for the hosts of Israel; such mean creatures can God use for chastising his people's enemies. In real kindness to the church, its enemies are subdued by little and little; thus we are kept on our guard, and in continual dependence on God. Corruptions are driven out of the hearts of God's people, not all at once, but by little and little. The precept with this promise is, that they should not make friendship with idolaters. Those that would keep from bad courses, must keep from bad company. It is dangerous to live in a bad neighbourhood; others' sins will be our snares. Our greatest danger is from those who would make us sin against God.Hornets - Compare the marginal references. The word is used figuratively for a cause of terror and discouragement. Bees are spoken of in the like sense, Deuteronomy 1:44; Psalm 118:12. 28. I will send hornets before thee, &c. (See on [22]Jos 24:12)—Some instrument of divine judgment, but variously interpreted: as hornets in a literal sense [Bochart]; as a pestilential disease [Rosenmuller]; as a terror of the Lord, an extraordinary dejection [Junius]. Hornets, properly so called, as may be gathered from Joshua 24:12 Deu 7:20. Hornets are of themselves very troublesome and mischievous; but these it is very probable were like those Egyptian flies, Exodus 8:21, of an extraordinary bigness and perniciousness. Nor is it strange that such creatures did drive many of these people from their habitations; for many heathen writers give us instances of some people driven from their seats by frogs, others by mice, others by bees and wasps; of which see Herodotus, Diodorus, Pliny, Elian, Justin, &c. He names these three people, either for all the rest, because they were the most potent about the time of Israel’s first entrance into Canaan, and gave them most trouble; or because these three were more infested with hornets than the other nations, as being more numerous and dangerous.

And I will send hornets before thee,.... Which may be interpreted either figuratively, and so may signify the same as fear before which should fall on the Canaanites upon hearing the Israelites were coming; the stings of their consciences for their sins, terrors of mind, dreading the wrath of the God of Israel, of whom they had heard, and terrible apprehensions of ruin and destruction from the Israelites: Aben Ezra interprets it of some disease of the body, which weakens it, as the leprosy, from the signification of the word, which has some affinity with that used for the leprosy; and so the Arabic version understands it of a disease: or rather, the words are to be taken literally, for hornets, which are a sort of wasps, whose stings are very penetrating and venomous; nor is it any strange or unheard of thing for people to be drove out of their countries by small animals, as mice, flies, bees, &c. and particularly Aelianus (q) relates, that the Phaselites were drove out of their country by wasps: and Bochart (r) has shown that those people were of a Phoenician original, and inhabited the mountains of Solymi; and that this happened to them about the times of Joshua, and so may probably be the very Canaanites here mentioned, as follow: the wasps, in Aristophanes's comedy which bears that name, are introduced speaking of themselves, and say, no creature when provoked is more angry and troublesome than we are (s):

which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee; which three are mentioned instead of the rest, or because they were more especially infested and distressed with the hornets, and drove out of their land by means of them.

(q) Hist. Animal. l. 11. c. 28. (r) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 4. c. 13. col. 541. (s) Aristoph. Vespae, p. 510.

And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
28. the hornet] so Deuteronomy 7:20; Joshua 24:12 (E). The writer imagines swarms of this terrible insect employed to clear the Canaanites away before Israel, and expel them even from their hiding-places (see Dt. l.c.).

the Hivite, &c.] see on Exodus 3:8.

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. Exodus 23:28In addition to the fear of God, hornets (הצּרעה construed as a generic word with the collective article), a very large species of wasp, that was greatly dreaded both by man and beast on account of the acuteness of its sting, should come and drive out the Canaanites, of whom three tribes are mentioned instar omnium, from before the Israelites. Although it is true that Aelian (hist. anim. 11, 28) relates that the Phaselians, who dwelt near the Solymites, and therefore probably belonged to the Canaanites, were driven out of their country by wasps, and Bochart (Hieroz. iii. pp. 409ff.) has collected together accounts of different tribes that have been frightened away from their possessions by frogs, mice, and other vermin, "the sending of hornets before the Israelites" is hardly to be taken literally, not only because there is not a word in the book of Joshua about the Canaanites being overcome and exterminated in any such way, but chiefly on account of Joshua 24:12, where Joshua says that God sent the hornet before them, and drove out the two kings of the Amorites, referring thereby to their defeat and destruction by the Israelites through the miraculous interposition of God, and thus placing the figurative use of the term hornet beyond the possibility of doubt. These hornets, however, which are very aptly described in Wis. 12:8, on the basis of this passage, as προδρόμους, the pioneers of the army of Jehovah, do not denote merely varii generis mala, as Rosenmller supposes, but acerrimos timoris aculeos, quibus quodammodo volantibus rumoribus pungebantur, ut fugerent (Augustine, quaest. 27 in Jos.). If the fear of God which fell upon the Canaanites threw them into such confusion and helpless despair, that they could not stand before Israel, but turned their backs towards them, the stings of alarm which followed this fear would completely drive them away. Nevertheless God would not drive them away at once, "in one year," lest the land should become a desert for want of men to cultivate it, and the wild beasts should multiply against Israel; in other words, lest the beasts of prey should gain the upper hand and endanger the lives of man and beast (Leviticus 26:22; Ezekiel 14:15, Ezekiel 14:21), which actually was the case after the carrying away of the ten tribes (2 Kings 17:25-26). He would drive them out by degrees (מעט מעט, only used here and in Deuteronomy 7:22), until Israel was sufficiently increased to take possession of the land, i.e., to occupy the whole of the country. This promise was so far fulfilled, according to the books of Joshua and Judges, that after the subjugation of the Canaanites in the south and north of the land, when all the kings who fought against Israel had been smitten and slain and their cities captured, the entire land was divided among the tribes of Israel, in order that they might exterminate the remaining Canaanites, and take possession of those portions of the land that had not yet been conquered (Joshua 13:1-7). But the different tribes soon became weary of the task of exterminating the Canaanites, and began to enter into alliance with them, and were led astray by them to the worship of idols; whereupon God punished them by withdrawing His assistance, and they were oppressed and humiliated by the Canaanites because of their apostasy from the Lord (Judges 1 and 2).
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