Exodus 23:29
I will not drive them out from before you in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against you.
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(29) The beast of the field.—Comp. 2Kings 17:25-26, where we find that this result followed the deportation of the Samaritans by the Assyrians.

Exodus 23:29. Lest the land be desolate — The Israelites were not numerous enough to people all the land immediately. Providence had likewise another end in view in suffering some of the Canaanites to remain in the land: they were to prove Israel, and show whether they would hearken unto the commandment of the Lord, Jdg 3:4. And the beast of the field multiply — The wild beasts from Arabia Deserta made frequent inroads into Canaan, in quest of prey, and were not to be driven out but by continual hunting.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.Beast of the field - i. e. destructive animals. 29, 30. I will not drive … out … in one year; lest the land become desolate—Many reasons recommend a gradual extirpation of the former inhabitants of Canaan. But only one is here specified—the danger lest, in the unoccupied grounds, wild beasts should inconveniently multiply; a clear proof that the promised land was more than sufficient to contain the actual population of the Israelites. Desolate, void of inhabitants in a great measure, because thy present number is not sufficient to occupy and manage their whole land. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year,.... This is observed before hand, lest the Israelites should be discouraged, and fear they should never be rid of them; and it was so ordered in Providence for the following reason:

lest the land become desolate; there being not a sufficient number of Israelites to replace in their stead, to repeople the land, and to cultivate it; and yet their number was very large, being, when they came out of Egypt, as is generally computed, about two millions and a half, besides the mixed multitude of Egyptians and others, and during their forty years in the wilderness must be greatly increased:

and the beast of the field multiply against thee; there being so much waste ground for them to prowl about in, they would so increase as to make head against them, and be too many for them; or, however, it would be difficult to keep them under control: the Targum of Jonathan adds,"when they shall come to eat their carcasses (the carcasses of the Canaanites slain in war), and may hurt thee.''

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.
29, 30. The expulsion of the Canaanites will however be gradual: it will not be completed till the Israelites are numerous enough to fill effectually the territory vacated by them. Hence, with verbal variations, Deuteronomy 7:22. The representation is in striking contrast to the idealized pictures of rapid conquests drawn in the Deuteronomic sections of the book of Joshua, from which the popular conception of the ‘extermination of the Canaanites’ is derived (e.g. Joshua 10:28-43; Joshua 11:16-23; Joshua 21:43-45); but it agrees with the accounts given in the older strata of Joshua and Judges, according to which there were many districts from which the Israelites were unable to expel the Canaanites, and the country as a whole was only occupied by them gradually (Joshua 13:13; Joshua 15:63; Joshua 16:10; Joshua 17:11-18, Jdg 1:19; Jdg 1:21; Jdg 1:27-35; Jdg 1:9). The historical reason why the Canaanites thus remained so long in many parts of the land was because the Israelites had not the military resources enabling them to cope with them (cf. Jdg 1:19); but the fact nevertheless remained one which many religiously-minded Israelites found it difficult to reconcile with their sense of Jehovah’s sovereignty; and different moral, or religious, theories were framed to account for it. Here it is explained as due to Jehovah’s care that unoccupied spots should not be left in the land, on which wild beasts might multiply and become a danger to the Israelites (2 Kings 17:25 f.; cf. Leviticus 26:22, Ezekiel 14:15; Ezekiel 14:21): for other theories, see Jdg 2:20 to Jdg 3:4 (comp. LOT.8 p. 165 f.).

31a. Israel’s territory will reach, beyond Canaan itself, from the Red Sea to the ‘sea of the Philistines’ (i.e. the SE. coast of the Medit. Sea including the Philistine territory itself), and from ‘the wilderness (i.e. the wilderness on the S. of Palestine) to the Euphrates. An ideal description of the extent of Isr. territory, once, at least according to tradition, realised in history, under Solomon (1 Kings 4:21). For similar promises, see Genesis 15:18, Deuteronomy 11:24 (whence Joshua 1:4); and cf. (in the picture of the restored Israel of the future) Isaiah 27:12.

the River] i.e. the River, κατʼ ἐξοχήν, to the Hebrews, the Euphrates. The word, when the Euphrates is intended, is always in RV. printed with a capital R: see e.g. Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 27:12, Psalm 72:8; Psalm 80:11.

31b–33. Regarded by We., Di., Bä. and most critics as another expansion of the original text, similar to vv. 23–25a, partly because reverts to the subject of Israel’s attitude towards the gods of Canaan, already dealt with in v. 24, but chiefly because, whereas in vv. 27—Jehovah promises that He will Himself drive out the Canaanites before Israel, here their expulsion is laid as a duty upon Israel.

32, 33. No treaty of friendship or alliance to be entered into with the Canaanites, lest Israel be seduced by them into idolatry. The same warning (with the consequences of such alliance more fully developed), Exodus 34:12-16, Deuteronomy 7:2-5; cf. Joshua 23:12-13 (D2[197]), Jdg 2:2-3 (compiler).

[197] Deuteronomic passages in Josh., Jud., Kings.

33. for thou wilt serve their gods, for it will become a snare unto thee. So the Heb. literally. There must be some fault in the text; but the general sense of the passage is no doubt correctly given. ‘And thou shalt not serve,’ &c. (LXX., Pesh.; cf. Deuteronomy 7:16 b) would be the simplest change; but it is not easy palaeographically (ולא for כי).

a snare] i.e.—not, an enticement to sin, but—a lure to destruction. Cf. on Exodus 10:7; and see esp. 1 Samuel 18:21. Of the gods of Canaan, as here, Exodus 34:12, and in the reminiscences, Deuteronomy 7:16, Jdg 2:3; and of the Canaanites themselves, Joshua 23:13 (D2[198]). Warnings against holding intercourse with the Canaanites, and commands to overthrow their altars, &c. (vv. 23–25a, and 31b–33), are also characteristic of Deuteronomy: see e.g. Deuteronomy 7:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:2-3; Deuteronomy 12:29-31.

[198] Deuteronomic passages in Josh., Jud., Kings.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." Relation of Jehovah to Israel. - The declaration of the rights conferred by Jehovah upon His people is closed by promises, through which, on the one hand, God insured to the nation the gifts and benefits involved in their rights, and, on the other hand, sought to promote that willingness and love which were indispensable to the fulfilment of the duties incumbent upon every individual in consequence of the rights conferred upon them. These promises secured to the people not only the protection and help of God during their journey through the desert, and in the conquest of Canaan, but also preservation and prosperity when they had taken possession of the land.

Exodus 23:20-27

Jehovah would send an angel before them, who should guard them on the way from injury and destruction, and bring them to the place prepared for them, i.e., to Canaan. The name of Jehovah was in this angel (Exodus 23:21), that is to say, Jehovah revealed Himself in him; and hence he is called in Exodus 33:15-16, the face of Jehovah, because the essential nature of Jehovah was manifested in him. This angel was not a created spirit, therefore, but the manifestation of Jehovah Himself, who went before them in the pillar of cloud and fire, to guide and to defend them (Exodus 13:21). But because it was Jehovah who was guiding His people in the person of the angel, He demanded unconditional obedience (Exodus 23:21), and if they provoked Him (תּמּר for תּמר, see Exodus 13:18) by disobedience, He would not pardon their transgression; but if they followed Him and hearkened to His voice, He would be an enemy to their enemies, and an adversary to their adversaries (Exodus 23:22). And when the angel of the Lord had brought them to the Canaanites and exterminated the latter, Israel was still to yield the same obedience, by not serving the gods of the Canaanites, or doing after their works, i.e., by not making any idolatrous images, but destroying them (these works), and smiting to pieces the pillars of their idolatrous worship (מצבת does not mean statues erected as idols, but memorial stones or columns dedicated to idols: see my Comm. on 1 Kings 14:23), and serving Jehovah alone. Then would He bless them in the land with bountiful provision, health, fruitfulness, and length of life (Exodus 23:23-26). "Bread and water" are named, as being the provisions which are indispensable to the maintenance of life, as in Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 30:20; Isaiah 33:16. The taking away of "sickness" (cf. Exodus 15:26) implied the removal of everything that could endanger life. The absence of anything that miscarried, or was barren, insured the continuance and increase of the nation; and the promise that their days should be fulfilled, i.e., that they should not be liable to a premature death (cf. Isaiah 65:20), was a pledge of their well-being.

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