Exodus 23:31
And I will set your bounds from the Red sea even to the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and you shall drive them out before you.
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(31) Thy bounds.—Those whose highest notion of prophecy identifies it with advanced human foresight naturally object to Moses having foretold the vast extent of empire which did not take place till the days of David and Solomon. It is impossible, however, to understand this passage in any other way than as an assignment to Israel of the entire tract between the Desert, or “Wilderness of the Wanderings,” and the Euphrates on the one hand, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea on the other. “The River” (han-nahar) has no other meaning in the Pentateuch than “the Euphrates.” And this was exactly the extent to which the dominions of Israel reached under Solomon, as we see from the description in Kings and Chronicles (1Kings 4:21; 1Kings 4:24; 2Chronicles 9:26). It had, according to Moses (Genesis 15:18), been already indicated with tolerable precision in the original promise made to Abraham.

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.In Exodus 23:23, the limits of the Land of Canaan, strictly so called, are indicated; to this, when the Israelites were about to take possession of it, were added the regions of Gilead and Bashan on the left side of the Jordan Numbers 32:33-42; Joshua 13:29-32. These two portions made up the holy land, of which the limits were recognized, with inconsiderable variations, until the final overthrow of the Jewish polity. But in this verse the utmost extent of Hebrew dominion, as it existed in the time of David and Solomon, is set forth. The kingdom then reached to Eloth and Ezion-geber on the AElanitic Gulf of the Red Sea 1 Kings 9:26, and to Tiphsah on the "River," that is, the River Euphrates 1 Kings 4:24, having for its western boundary "the Sea of the Philistines," that is, the Mediterranean, and for its southern boundary "the desert," that is, the wildernesses of Shur and Paran (compare Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4). 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. Compare this place with Genesis 15:18 Numbers 34:3. The sea of the Philistines, i.e. the Mediterranean or midland sea, upon whose coast the land of the Philistines lay. The desert, of Egypt or Arabia; whereof see Genesis 16:7 Exodus 15:22. The river, to wit, Euphrates, as it is expressed Deu 1:7 11:24, which is oft called the river by way of eminency. All within these bounds were given them by God, but upon conditions, which they manifestly broke, and therefore were for the most part confined to a much narrower compass. And I will set thy bounds,.... The bounds of the land of Canaan, which in process of time it should reach unto, though not at once, not until the times of David and Solomon, 2 Samuel 8:1 which bounds were as follow:

from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines: the Red sea was the boundary eastward, as the sea of the Philistines, or the Mediterranean sea, was the boundary westward:

and from the desert unto the river; the desert of Shur or Arabia, towards Egypt, was the boundary southward, as the river Euphrates was the boundary northward, and is the river here meant, as the Targum of Jonathan expresses it; and so Jarchi interprets it, and generally others:

for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; the greater part upon their entrance into it, and settlement in it, and the rest afterwards:

and thou shalt drive them out before thee; not all at once, but by degrees, as before observed.

And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea {q} of the Philistines, and from the {r} desert unto the {s} river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.

(q) Called the Sea of Syria.

(r) Of Arabia called desert.

(s) That is, Ephraim.

Verse 31. - And I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea even unto the sea of the Philistines. This passage by itself would be sufficient to confute Dr. Brugsch's notion, that the Yam Suph (or "Red Sea" of our translators) is the Lake Serbonis, which is a part of the Mediterranean or "Sea of the Philistines," and cannot stand in contrast with it. The "Sea of the Philistines" and the "Red Sea" mark the boundaries of the Holy Land East and West, as the "Desert" and the "River" (Euphrates) do its boundaries North and South. That Moses here lays down those wide limits which were only reached 400 years later, in the time of David and Solomon, and were then speedily lost, can surprise no one who believes in the prophetic gift, and regards Moses as one of the greatest of the Prophets. The tract marked out by these limits had been already promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18). Its possession by Solomon is distinctly recorded in 1 Kings 4:21, 24; 2 Chronicles 9:26. As Solomon was "a man of peace," we must ascribe the acquisition of this wide empire to David. (Compare 2 Samuel 8:3-14; 2 Samuel 10:6-19.) The river (han-nahar) is in the Pentateuch always the Euphrates. The Nile is ha-y' or. A powerful kingdom established in Syria is almost sure to extend its influence to the Euphrates. I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand. Compare Joshua 21:44, for the first fulfilment of this prophecy. Its complete fulfilment was reserved for the time of David. Thou shalt drive them out. The mass of the Canaanites were no doubt "driven out" rather than exterminated. They retired northwards, and gave strength to the great Hittite kingdom which was for many centuries a formidable antagomst of the Egyptian and Assyrian empties.

CHAPTER 23:32-33 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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