New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Exo 23:1 You shall not spread a false report-
This is paralleled in the second half of the verse with being a false witness. Spreading gossip quietly is as bad as standing up in court as a false witness. 

Don’t join your hand with the wicked to be a malicious witness-
Here and in :2 we see the tendency to adopt positions based upon the view of the majority which surround us.

Exo 23:2 You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; neither shall you testify in court to side with a multitude to pervert justice-
We go astray “like sheep” (Is. 53:6)- we tend to sin because of others’ influence, because we’re not as strongly individualistic and independent as we like to think we are. God has never advocated democracy as a means of governing His people, because of His awareness of our tendency to follow the majority; and "crowd / multitude" can mean just that, the majority.

Exo 23:3 neither shall you show partiality to a poor man in his legal case-
As noted on :4, this could be a command not to show partiality in the heart, when we are called upon to give an opinion or judgment upon another. We are warned here against bias in any way- feeling pity for a poor man who has done wrong is as bad as bias toward the wealthy (:6). Economic status is of no matter, compared to human behaviour and the human person.

Exo 23:4 If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again-
Those "going astray" are the spiritually weak (Heb. 5:2). We are to be concerned for them, rather than ignoring them because we don't like which stable they came from.
These are further examples of how God’s law differs from human laws in that it criminalizes internal attitudes. It was impossible to prove the sin of omitting to help your enemy’s animal, nor enforce the law against it- because it would’ve been invisible to others. Yet the God who sees all stands in judgment upon our innermost thoughts and desires. Note too that sins of omission are just as bad as sins of commission; the man who refused to help the animal could’ve returned to his home that day feeling he hadn’t actually committed anything wrong. But his sin of omission would’ve been noticed by God.

Exo 23:5 If you see the donkey of him who hates you fallen down under his burden, don’t leave him, you shall surely help him with it-
The psychological intensity of our inner battles is recognized throughout Scripture. This Divine law perceived that in such a case, there would be the inner temptation to “forbear” assisting; but no, “you shall surely release it”. The very structure of Biblical Hebrew as a language is often instructive as to how God wishes us to perceive things. There is actually no specific word in Biblical Hebrew for ‘to think’ – instead there is a word meaning ‘to say in one’s heart’. And there are times when the word is wrongly translated simply “say” (e.g. 1 Sam. 16:6 – NEB correctly renders as “thought”). This provides a window into understanding how the Greek logos means both ‘speech’ and ‘reason’; and sets the backdrop for the repeated teaching of Jesus that God counts human thoughts as if they are the spoken word or acted deed. But my point in this context is that the Hebrew Bible continually focuses our attention upon the internal thought processes – for here is the real ‘Satan’, the real enemy to true spirituality.

Exo 23:6 You shall not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits-
The Hebrew mishpat, "justice", s.w. "ordinances", has a wide range of meaning. The idea is of judgment, as if God and His Angels gave these laws as their considered judgment after considering the human condition, and Israel were to abide by them. And thereby they became the judgments or justice of Israel. His judgment / justice is to be ours. But the word also has the idea of a right or privilege; and that is how we should see God's laws. They are only felt as a burden because of human hardness of neck towards God's ways. His laws are not of themselves burdensome, but rather a privilege and blessing to show justice to others. The law was indeed "holy, just and good" (Rom. 7:12), designed to inculcate a holy, just and good life (Tit. 1:8), a way in which a man should "walk" in daily life (Lev. 18:4), a culture of kindness and grace to others which reflected God's grace to man. If we dwell upon the idea of "rights" carried within the word mishpat, we note that the law begins in Ex. 21:1,2 (also Dt. 15:12-18) with the rights of a slave- those considered to have no rights in the society of that day. The "rights" to be afforded by us to others are the essence of God's rightness / justice.  

We are warned in :3 against bias in any way- feeling pity for a poor man who has done wrong is as bad as bias toward the wealthy (:6). Economic status is of no matter, compared to human behaviour and the human person.

Exo 23:7 Keep far from a false charge, and don’t kill the innocent and righteous-
These commandments seem aimed particularly at judges and witnesses in court. But all Israel were to know the basis upon which judgment should be made. Keeping far from a false charge may mean that frivolous, obviously false complaints shouldn't even be entertained. Just as those clearly innocent shouldn't be condemned. The two commandments go together in that wasting time upon that which is obviously untrue, giving thereby credibility to slander, is as bad as condemning the innocent.  

For I will not justify the wicked-
GNB takes this as meaning "for I will condemn anyone who does such an evil thing".
The Septuagint uses the word translated “imputed” in the NT with regard to sacrifices [symbolic of Christ’s death on the cross] being “reckoned” to a person (Lev. 7:18; Num. 18:27,30); and of Shimei asking David not to “reckon” his guilt to him, to judge him not according to the obvious facts of the case (2 Sam. 19:20). The Old Testament is at pains to stress that Yahweh will not justify the guilty (Ex. 23:7; Is. 5:23; Prov. 17:15). This is where the unique significance of Jesus comes in. Because of Him, His death and our faith in it, our being in Him, God can justify the wicked in that they have died with Christ in baptism (Rom. 6:3-5), they are no longer, they are only “in Christ”, for them “to live is Christ”. They are counted as in Him, and in this way sinners end up justified.

Exo 23:8 You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds those who have sight and perverts the words of the righteous-
"The righteous" in view may be those giving testimony, or being judged. Their words become perverted if those judging them have ulterior motives for not taking their words on face value.

Exo 23:9 You shall not oppress an alien, for you know the heart of an alien, since you were aliens in the land of Egypt-
Try to see the historical events which occurred to Israel as relevant to you personally. They were "types of us". Note how 1 Cor. 10:1 speaks of "our fathers"- even when Paul is writing to Gentiles. He intended them to see in the Jewish fathers a type of themselves. Israel's keeping of the Passover implied that each subsequent Israelite had personally been redeemed that night. All down the years, they were to treat the stranger fairly: "for you know the heart of an alien". The body of believers, the body of Christ, is not only world-wide geographically at this point in time; it stretches back over time as well as distance, to include all those who have truly believed. This is why David found such inspiration from the history of Israel in his own crises (e.g. Ps. 77).

The Exodus is the most alluded to historical incident of the Old Testament- it's a pattern to us all. Israel were not to be passive to their history of redemption, and neither can we be. Both the ten commandments and the rest of the law began with reference to Israel's exodus deliverance: "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me..." (Ex. 20:2,3); the rest of the law began with the commands about releasing slaves because this was the outcome of their own exodus experience: "Now these are the ordinances which you shall set before them. If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years and in the seventh he shall go out free without paying anything" (Ex. 21:1,2). And throughout the law, there were references to the exodus as the motive for obeying the law, e.g. Ex. 23:9 "You shall not oppress an alien, for you know the heart of an alien, since you were aliens in the land of Egypt".

Exo 23:10 For six years you shall sow your land, and shall gather in its increase-
The assumption at this point was that those hearing these words would soon be established in the promised land. God foreknew they would not, but He goes ahead with His ideal potentials with absolute enthusiasm and legitimate enthusiasm. The parallel here is with six days of work followed by the seventh day of rest. The seventh year was therefore to be a temporary suspension of the curse, the possibility of having a taste of the Kingdom now; just as we today can live "the eternal life", the kind of life which we will eternally live in the Kingdom. The idea of the Sabbath year was also to lead Israel away from the mentality of justification by works. And that was to involve faith in God's provision, rather than trust in our own works.

Exo 23:11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the animals of the field shall eat. In the same way, you shall deal with your vineyard and with your olive grove-
It’s true that often, although not always, poverty is partly due to poor decisions and mismanagement, and any aid given is often misused. And it’s true that the materially poor are partly poor [in many cases] exactly because of that. And yet the Bible teaches generosity to “the poor”. There is no attempt in the Bible teaching about “the poor” to subdivide them into the genuinely poor, and those who are poor because of their own fault or laziness, or who are asking for support when they don’t actually need it. A person who comes to you claiming need is “the poor”. Thus Israel were not to farm their land in the seventh year, “that the poor of your people may eat” (Ex. 23:11). This immediately raised the issue that all manner of people could eat the fruit which grew naturally on the land that year- but there is no legislation to try to limit who had access to it. Those who had food in their barns might eat what grew- but there was no mechanism within the law which controlled that. The point is, in our spiritual poverty we are just the same. We are in that position partly because of our human situation and other factors over which we have no control; but also partly and largely because we choose to be in it. We cry to God for the riches of His forgiveness- and we waste it, by doing the same sin over and again. Our hold on spiritual things is weak, we don’t respond with the grace and appreciation we ought to. We’re spiritually lazy. We’re no better than those who are materially poor through nothing but their own fault. Our generosity to them is a reflection of our recognition of this.

Exo 23:12 Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your handmaid, and the alien may be refreshed-
God’s sensitivity to animals shines through the Law- the fact even animals are living beings and not mere machines should be felt by us too. God’s intention was to inculcate an all round spirit of sensitivity and culture of kindness to others in human life, and that included animals. Our hope of experiencing the "rest" of the Kingdom (Heb. 4:9) means that we are to give "rest" to others in this life.

Exo 23:13 Be careful to do all things that I have said to you; and don’t invoke the name of other gods, neither let them be heard out of your mouth-
We need to let passages like Eph. 5:3–5 have their full weight with us. Fornication, covetousness, all uncleanness should not be “named amongst us”, in the same way Israel were not to take even the names of the Gentile idols onto their lips (Ex. 23:13) – “but rather giving of thanks”, knowing that those who do such things will not be in the Kingdom of God. A thankful attitude, thinking and speaking of those things with which we will eternally have to do, is to replace thinking and talking about all the things which shall not be our eternal sphere of thought in the Kingdom age. And yet our generation faces the temptation like none before it – to privately watch and read of those things, vicariously involved in them, whilst being under the illusion that we’re not actually doing them ourselves. For this is what the entertainment industry is based around.

It is man who is to record or remember / memorialize the things of Yahweh's Name (s.w. Ps. 20:7; 45:17; Is. 12:4; 26:13), making no mention / record of the name of other gods apart from Yahweh (s.w. Ex. 23:13; Zech. 13:2). But in Ex. 20:24 it is God who records or remembers His Name when He is worshipped acceptably. We see here the mutuality between God and man which is achieved in worship when it is done His way.

Yahweh repeatedly forbad His people to mention the name of other gods. In the Ancient Near East, all conflict between peoples and nations was seen as conflict between gods. The role of prophets or priests on either side was to bring curses upon the other gods. And so they repeated the names of the other gods in incantations supposed to bring curses upon those gods. This however is forbidden to God's people. They instead were to focus upon the Name of their God Yahweh. And we see in this a pattern for ourselves; to focus upon the ultimate truth and truths of the one true God, and not be caught up in wishing cursing upon  those who believe otherwise. To focus upon the positive, which is the source of all victory, rather than going on the defensive against other views by cursing them.

Exo 23:14 You shall observe a feast to Me three times a year-
The law was based around regular rituals. God knew that this was what His people needed, and although under the new covenant we don't have such structure, the true Christian life is really one of having the right habits. 

Exo 23:15 You shall observe the feast of unleavened bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib (for in it you came out from Egypt), and no one shall appear before me empty-
"Empty" may mean that they were to not attend without bringing a sacrifice, with empty hands. But "empty" is s.w. "without cause", "in vain". Attendance at the feasts was not to be mere ritual, appearing before Yahweh for no purpose. The meaning of the feasts was to be allowed to have the spiritual results intended. And this is a challenge to all whose Christian lives involve regular attendance at meetings. We can so easily slip into a rut of ritual observance, just going through motions "without cause". 

Exo 23:16 And the feast of harvest, the first fruits of your labours, which you sow in the field: and the feast of harvest, at the end of the year, when you gather in your labours out of the field-
"Your labours" is put by metonymy for "the crops you grew with your labour". And the best of them were to be given to God. We are to understand this as a resignation of human works; the Sabbath year and weekly Sabbath sought to teach the same. Living in the spirit of this meant that daily work was no longer simply the result of the curse in Eden; the work was done "as unto the Lord", and for Him rather than as merely for self preservation.

Exo 23:17 Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord Yahweh-
The Pentateuch uses the term "before Yahweh" or 'to see the face of God', usually translated as 'to come into God's presence'; this was a pagan term used at the time to describe seeing an image of a god (R.E. Clements, Exodus (Cambridge: C.U.P., 1972) p. 152). But Israel were being taught that their God had no image, but all the same, they could come into His presence.

Exo 23:18 You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread, neither shall the fat of My feast remain all night until the morning-
Perhaps this was to remove the temptation to go back and take part of the sizzling fat for themselves; for this was seen as the most tasty and desirable part of the animal. We are not to place fences around the law in the legalistic way Judaism has done, but we are to be aware of our own liability to spiritual failure, our weakness in the face of temptation; and to arrange our lives appropriately. Ex. 34:25 is parallel with this, and "My feast" is defined there as Passover.

Exo 23:19 The first of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of Yahweh your God-
God was to be honoured with "the first of the first". Yahweh was "one", or "the first [and only]", and so all was to be devoted to Him.

You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk-
The laws in the "Book of the Covenant" abruptly end with this, as if it summed up the spirit of all the others (Ex. 23:19; 34:26; Dt. 14:21). Middle Eastern goats often give birth to twins [the twinning rate of shammy goats is nearly 2.0, i.e. they nearly always have twins], and produce enough milk for both of them. It was customary to kill one of the goats so that the over supply of milk from the mother could be used by the owner, and this abundance of milk was used for boiling the killed baby goat. And kid goats were thought to be most tasty when boiled in their mother’s milk. It seems that God considered this narcissistic and absolutely over indulgent, and without thought to the feelings of the mother goat; even though goats (rather than sheep) are at times a symbol of sinners and the unclean. The principle is that narcissistic over indulgence at the expense of others' feelings is wrong. And our age like none other is full of this kind of thing. The rich indulge themselves in expensive restaurants whilst the poor go hungry. And yet we note that Solomon apparently thought that abundance of goat's milk (which arose from killing one of the kid goats) was a sign of Divine blessing (Prov. 27:27). The Mosaic law sought to inculcate a culture of kindness and extreme sensitivity to all, even animals- we are not to think that we "need not care a rush" for those who are unclean goats. Read like this, it is similar to the prohibitions of killing on the same a cow and a calf, or a ewe and her lamb (Lev. 22:28). It is likely that this was also related to a paganic fertility ritual, performed at harvest time (which is the immediate context of the prohibition); and God didn't want His people to even remotely be associated with that. For He alone was the source of all fertility. The prohibition not to boil a young goat follows straight on from the command to give the firstfruits to God. This was so that they might be blessed with fertility. Israel were not to seek to get around God requirements and principles by using a pagan ritual intended to assure fertility. The principle is that there is no short cut, no getting around God's principles, by using technology or tradition or secular wisdom.

Exo 23:20 Behold, I send an angel before you-
It seems that great stress is placed in Scripture on the Angels physically moving through space, both on the earth and between Heaven and earth, in order to fulfil their tasks, rather than being static in Heaven or earth and bringing things about by just willing them to happen. See on Gen. 18:10.

To keep you by the way-
Israel’s guardian Angel was to “keep” them in the way (Ex. 23:20), clearly echoing how the Angels kept the way to the tree of life in Eden. The same Hebrew word for “keep” occurs very often in Exodus in the context of Israel being told to keep God’s commands; but their freewill effort was to be confirmed by the Angel keeping them in the way of obedience. They were to “keep” themselves in the way (Dt. 4:9 and many others; s.w. “take heed”, “observe” etc.), but the Angel would keep them in it. This mutuality is developed in Ex. 23:21, where having said the Angel will keep them, Israel are told “Beware of him, and obey his voice”. “Beware” translates the same Hebrew word as “keep”. The Angel would keep them, but they were to keep to the Angel. And they didn't, and so that generation died and were not brought to the Kingdom as was potentially possible. This is an example of how we are intended to have a mutual relationship with the Lord, leading to Him strengthening us in the one way. This word translated “keep” is also translated “spies” in Jud. 1:24; the spies were the keepers in the way of Israel, to bring them in to the land. And yet the Angel at the exodus was their ‘keeper’ to bring them into the land. The spies were working in harmony with their Angels; and thus they succeeded.

This is an evident allusion to the Angel-cherubim keeping the way to the tree of life. But did all Israel remain “in the way” whilst in the wilderness? Evidently not. Did the Angel fail? No. The Angel was given power and strength in order to potentially enable Israel to remain “in the way”, just as our Angels are given that same power. But Israel refused to work with the Angel; they didn’t make use of the Angel’s efforts to keep them in the way.

The command to prepare a way along which to flee to the cities of refuge (Dt. 19:3) is expressed with the very same words used about God through the Angels preparing a way for Israel to flee along, out of Egypt to the promised land (Ex. 23:20). This was obviously done purely at God’s initiative. But now, Israel were asked to do the same- to prepare a way for their and others’ salvation. When we reflect upon our own way of escape from this world, it’s clear enough that it was by grace. By God’s sole initiative we came into contact with the Gospel, or were born into such a family at such a time as enabled us to hear it. Our response to that grace must be like Israel’s- to prepare a way for others to flee, when they like us find themselves in a situation that is spiritually against them, although not of their conscious choice.

And to bring you into the place which I have prepared-
See on Hos. 12:13. “I go to prepare a place for you” (Jn. 14:1-3) is based upon the idea of Moses and the Angel bringing Israel “into the place which I have prepared” (Ex. 23:30).

The parable of the pounds describes the reward of the faithful in terms of being given ten or five cities (Lk. 19:17). This idea of dividing up groups of cities was surely meant to send the mind back to the way Israel in their wilderness years were each promised their own individual cities and villages, which they later inherited. The idea of inheriting "ten cities" occurs in Josh. 15:57; 21:5,26; 1 Chron. 6:61 (all of which are in the context of the priests receiving their cities), and " five cities" in 1 Chron. 4:32. As each Israelite was promised some personal inheritance in the land, rather than some blanket reward which the while nation received, so we too have a personal reward prepared. The language of inheritance (e.g. 1 Pet. 1:4) and preparation of reward (Mt. 25:34; Jn. 14:1) in the NT is alluding to this OT background of the land being prepared by the Angels for Israel to inherit (Ex. 15:17 Heb.; 23:20; Ps. 68:9,10 Heb.) . We must be careful not to think that our promised inheritance is only eternal life; it is something being personally prepared for each of us. The language of preparation seems inappropriate if our reward is only eternal life.

Exo 23:21 Pay attention to him, and listen to his voice. Don’t provoke him, for he will not pardon your disobedience, for My name is in him-
God’s Name being carried by the Angel explains how Moses later is recorded as talking with Yahweh face to face, even though we are also told that He cannot ever be seen by humans. Moses spoke with the Angel who carried the Yahweh Name, and who was therefore functionally as God to men. The same principle explains how men, and especially Christ, can be spoken of as God because they carried His Name, without this making them God Himself in person.

The Angel is described as not forgiving their sins, but in Ex. 32:30-32 Moses goes up to the 'LORD' (Angel) in the mount  and asks for forgiveness for the people's sin with the golden calf- see on Ex. 34:9. Moses knew God well enough to know that He is open to dialogue. The 'Lord' in the mount must have been an Angel because Moses saw his back parts- and there is no way this is possible of God Himself in person, "whom no man hath seen ,nor can see" (1 Tim. 6:16). "No man has seen God at any time" (John 1:18). This 'Lord' on the mount gave Moses the Law- and elsewhere we are told that the Law was ministered by Angels. The Angel on the mount then says He has sent "Mine Angel before thee" (to Canaan), Ex. 32:34. So we have one Angel sending another here. And it seems one Angel was prepared to forgive, the other wasn’t. What implications does this have for us, if we are to be made like unto the Angels (Lk. 20:35,36)? See on Josh. 24:17.

Exo 23:22 But if you indeed listen to his voice, and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and an adversary to your adversaries-
- see on Dan. 9:14. The opposite to not being forgiven (:21) is unity with God, so that our enemies are His.

Exo 23:23 For My angel shall go before you, and bring you in to the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Canaanite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite- 
This happened invisibly, with the Angel working through circumstances to weaken those tribes. But the Israelites failed to believe this verse, feeling that those tribes were far too strong for them (Num. 13:30-33). Only six of the seven nations of Canaan are mentioned (although LXX includes "the Girgashites"). Perhaps these six were to be destroyed first; then the Girgashites and then finally all the other tribes who lived in the territory promised to Abraham (:31). The inheritance was therefore to be given to Israel in stages, as they could handle it. But sadly they didn't want this, and refused to even take all the territory of these six nations.

And I will cut them off-
They had seen this done to Egypt (s.w. Ex. 9:15), and they were intended to understand this as a foretaste of their overcoming of all obstacles between them and inheritance of the Kingdom. We receive similar foretastes and encouragement in this life.

Exo 23:24 You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor follow their practices, but you shall utterly overthrow them and demolish their pillars-
The pillars were erected by the Canaanites in memoriam of various things which their gods had supposedly done for them, and were then worshipped in hope that the gods would come through for them again. So to worship them would mean accepting the entire thought, history and culture of Canaan. That Israel did so reflected their lack of faithfulness to their own fathers. Moses wrote Genesis to bring this history and true culture before them.

Exo 23:25 You shall serve Yahweh your God, and He will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from your midst-
These were the blessings specifically to be experienced by Israel in the wilderness, before they actually entered Canaan (:27,28). Hence the reference to bread [manna] and water. There was not one feeble person amongst them when they left Egypt (Ps. 105:37), and this was to continue. 

Exo 23:26 No one will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will fulfil the number of your days-
The idea is that there would be neither barren cattle nor barren land; because these were the blessings specifically to be experienced by Israel in the wilderness, before they actually entered Canaan (:27,28). In their resting places they would have sown and raised crops, at least to provide fodder for their animals. But these was not to be the case; for they rebelled, and wasted their years in the wilderness, as Ps. 90 laments.

Exo 23:27 I will send My terror before you, and will confuse all the people to whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you-
Jacob likens his guardian Angel to "the God before whom my fathers walked" (Gen. 48:16), who is called "the fear of  Isaac" (Gen. 31:42,53) when Jacob describes the personal presence of God in his life. So the "fear of God" is associated with an Angel; God sent His fear, an Angel, before Israel into Canaan, as promised explicitly in Ex. 23. As Rahab testified, the Canaanites had turned their backs in fear upon Israel; but they failed to believe it, and instead turned their backs in fear and wanted to return to Egypt. All the potential barriers between us and the Kingdom have been overcome- but we are to believe that.

Exo 23:28 I will send the hornet before you, which will drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before you-
The sending of hornets ahead of Israel parallels the sending of the Angel ahead of them (:23). The reference may be to literal hornets devastating and weakening the Canaanites; or it could refer instead to Egyptian tribes or the Philistines, some of whom had hornets on their armour, attacking and weakening the Canaanite tribes just before the Israelites arrived. This situation was providentially arranged by the Angel who went before Israel. The obstacles to our possessing the Kingdom seem huge and strong, but in fact they have been significantly weakened by God’s providence. Invisible to us, the Angels likewise are potentially preparing our way to enter the Kingdom.

The fear amongst the Canaanites prior to Israel's approach and the weakness of those nations was due to "the hornet" being sent before Israel (Dt. 7:20; Josh. 24:12); it would seem that this is a reference to the Angels softening up the Canaanite tribes, perhaps through inciting the Egyptians to raid them and ruin the economy. And specifically, the two kings of the Amorites attacking the other Canaanites. "The hornet" could also refer to the Phoenician raiders, who had hornets as totems; they too weakened Canaan before the Israelites arrived, and would have been manipulated to do so by an Angel. In Ex. 23:27 God says He will "send My fear before you, and will destroy all the people to whom you shall come". Jacob likens his guardian Angel to "the God before whom my fathers walked" (Gen. 48:16), who is called "the fear of Isaac" (Gen. 31:42,53) when Jacob describes the personal presence of God in his life. So the "fear of God" is associated with an Angel; God sent His fear, an Angel, before Israel into Canaan, as promised explicitly in Ex. 23. "The hornet" could have referred to literal hornets, used by God to destroy the nations of Canaan. For they were indeed a problem in the land; "Zorah" in Judah means "place of hornets". But I prefer the idea that the Angel manipulated Gentile nations to soften up the Canaanites before Israel's arrival. The same figure is found in Is. 7:18, where God whistled for the "fly that is in Egypt and the bee that is in Assyria". We note that this was all built in to God's wider plan; for had Israel entered Canaan 40 years before they did, they would've found the Canaanites that much stronger than they were after "the hornet" had weakened them for 40 years. It's as if God recalculated the program according to the great weakness of Israel. They didn't enter when they could have done, and so He used the period of their wilderness wanderings to make their entrance to the land that much easier than it would otherwise have been. 

Exo 23:29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate, and the animals of the field multiply against you-
The God who is so far away from this earth foresees the situations we will face in life, and like a true Father, arranges things so that they will not be too great for us to overcome. His sensitivity to us is amazing. The truth is that God would have given them the land immediately had they wanted it; He intended giving it to them by stages because of the weakness of their faith (see on :23).

Exo 23:30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and inherit the land-
The idea is as in GNB "until there are enough of you to take possession of the land". This implies that Israel were very small in number, and the land too great for them. This would confirm our suggestion on Ex. 12:37 that the numbers who left Egypt were far smaller than commonly thought.

Exo 23:31 I will set your border from the Red Sea even to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you-
Just as all the animals and everything in the eretz promised to Abraham was 'delivered into the hands' of Noah (s.w. Gen. 9:2), so the nations of that eretz were delivered into the hands of Israel (s.w. Ex. 6:8; 23:31; Dt. 2:24; 3:2,3; 7:24; 21:10; Josh. 2:24; Jud. 1:2). Tragically, like Adam in Eden [perhaps the same eretz promised to Abraham] and Noah in the new, cleansed eretz, Israel didn't realize this potential. What was delivered into the hand of Joshua (Josh. 2:24) actually wasn't delivered into their hand, because they disbelieved (Jud. 2:23); and this looks ahead to the disbelief of so many in the work of the Lord Jesus, who has indeed conquered the Kingdom for us. They considered the promise of the nations being delivered into their hand as somehow open to question, and only a possibility and not at all certain (Jud. 8:7; Num. 21:2 cp. Num. 21:34). Some like Jephthah (s.w. Jud. 11:32; 12:3), Ehud (Jud. 3:10,28), Deborah (Jud. 4:14), Gideon (Jud. 7:15) did, for a brief historical moment; but as individuals, and their victories were not followed up on. Instead they were dominated by the territory. And so instead, they were delivered into the hands of their enemies within the eretz (s.w. Lev. 26:25; Jud. 13:1). As discussed on :23, God's plan was to give them the Kingdom progressively. But they spurned it.  

Exo 23:32 You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods-
The people are made parallel with their gods; hence the warning that to marry the people meant covenant with their gods. The tragedy was that Israel were not thus identified with their God. The temptation to make a covenant with the supposed gods of the land was because it was thought this would guarantee fertility; whereas God promised fertility if Israel were loyal to their covenant with Him (:23). But they liked to think they could just guarantee themselves a good harvest by also making covenant with the fertility gods of the land. So we could identify the prime attraction of idolatry as being the promise of material success and stability which it carried with it. And that likewise is the essence of all our modern forms of idolatry.  

Exo 23:33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me-
We can make others sin (Ex. 23:33; 1 Sam. 2:24; 1 Kings 16:19). There is an urgent imperative here, to really watch our behaviour; e.g. to not drink alcohol in the presence of a brother whose conscience is weak.

For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you-
Twice in 1 Timothy, Paul speaks about a snare; the snare of the devil (1 Tim. 3:7), and the snare of wanting wealth (1 Tim. 6:9). The desire for wealth in whatever form is the very epitome of the devil, our inherent sin which we must struggle against. The idea of a snare is that it results in a sudden and unexpected destruction. The unexpectedness of the destruction should set us thinking: surely the implication is that those who are materialistic don't realize that in fact this is their besetting sin, and therefore their rejection in the end because of it will be so tragically unexpected. It's rather like pride; if you're proud and you don't know it, then you really are proud. And if we're materialistic and don't know it, we likewise really have a problem. The idea of riches being a snare connects with copious OT references to idols as Israel's perpetual snare (Ex. 23:33; Dt. 7:16; Jud. 2:3; 8:27; Ps. 106:36; Hos. 5:1). Paul's point is surely that the desire of wealth is the equivalent of OT idolatry.