Saturday, December 1, 2012

Exodus 23:27-33 Terror and Snares

"I will send my terror ahead of you
and throw into confusion every nation you encounter.
I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run.
I will send the hornet ahead of you
to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way.
But I will not drive them out in a single year,
because the land would become desolate
and the wild animals too numerous for you.
Little by little I will drive them out before you,
until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.
I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines,
and from the desert to the River.
I will hand over to you the people who live in the land
and you will drive them out before you.
Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods.
Do not let them live in your land,
or they will cause you to sin against me,
because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you."
Exodus 23:27-33 (NIV)
This passage is actually a continuation of the matters which were spoken of in the previous passage (Exodus 23:20-26).  I would have put the whole discussion of Exodus 23:20-33 into one post, but it was just getting too long so I had decided to split it.  Besides, we were already discussing many significant issues:  the identity of the angel of the LORD, the Israelites' dealings with the inhabitants of the land of Canaan who worshipped other 'gods', God's blessings upon those who would obey Him, etc.
These further verses (v.27-33) are also going to raise some issues.  In this section, God gives more details about how He will remove Israel's enemies from the promised land.  He would send His terror ahead of the Israelites and cause their enemies to react in confusion.  Note:  This happens in other places in Scripture, where, despite the fact that the enemies of Israel are more numerous than the Israelites, God does something to throw them into confusion and the tide of the battle is turned in the Israelites' favor.
Here are some examples:
I Chronicles 14:8-17  David becomes king and the Philistines seek to defeat him in battle.  He defeats them and credits God with the victory and claims that God had broken out against David's enemies.  Note that the Philistines abandon their gods which they had apparently brought with them into this battle and David gives orders to have these idols burned with fire.  A second battle with the Philistines is also mentioned in this passage.  In this one, David is instructed to wait until he hears the sound of marching in the tops of the trees, which indicates that God has gone out ahead of them against their enemies.  This battle is also successful, and the surrounding nations fear David because they know that God fights for him.
Exodus 15 In the song of Moses and Miriam, as they sang to the LORD after He had delivered the Israelites from Pharaoh's hand in Egypt, verses 14-16 are full of phrases which indicate that the enemies of the LORD were incapacitated:   They tremble, are gripped with anguish, are terrified, melt away, terror and dread fall upon them, they are still as a stone.  This example is current to our passage, and it is clear that God is fighting in behalf of His people. 
Other examples which you may look up are II Chronicles 14:9-14, II Chronicles 17:10 and II Chronicles 20:1-30.  The last one is particularly detailed as to the attitude of the Israelites and the reality of the LORD's efforts on their behalf.]
Interestingly, God tells the Israelites in Exodus 23:29 that He will drive their enemies out of the promised land gradually.  Otherwise, God notes, the land would become desolate and overrun with wild animals.  Instead, God would drive their enemies out little by little, until they had increased in number and were able to take possession of the land in an effective manner.
God says that He "...will establish your [Israel's] borders from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the River." (Exodus 23:31)  In other words, their land would be from the Red Sea (the modern Gulf of Aqaba) to the Mediterranean Sea and from the desert (northern Sinai) to the Euphrates River.  
He warns them that they must drive the current inhabitants out of the land, or else the worship of their 'gods' would become a snare to the Israelites.  In Scripture, a snare is a symbol of destruction, not just something which will trip you up a bit.  You can picture an animal caught in a snare:  It is not just inconvenienced, it is most likely dead or at least headed that way.  In the same way, worship of other gods "will certainly be a snare to you."  (Exodus 23:33 NIV)  The Israelites were not to make a covenant with these peoples and allow them to live in the land.  God says that if they did, it would cause the Israelites to sin against God (v.33)  Note that He does not say it "might" cause them to sin, but rather, it "would" cause them to sin...and the worship of other gods would "certainly" (not "possibly") become a snare to them.

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