Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

Exodus 33

Verse 2

The Expulsion of the Heathen

Exodus 33:2

The awful statements made respecting the heathen, or non-Jewish peoples, have occasioned much surprise and not a little resentment. In the twenty-third chapter are words of an exciting kind upon this subject. In the twenty-eighth verse we read: "And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee." If we take such words in a narrow and literal sense, we cannot fail to be shocked. It is right that we should resent them. They represent the very spirit of oppression and murder. We cannot worship a God who thus separates himself from our conscience. But if we take the words in the right sense, we shall find that they represent what is daily and necessarily taking place in human history. They set forth the very philosophy of progressive civilisation, and would continue to be operative even if the Bible were closed for ever. This is not a Biblical matter. It neither comes nor goes with the Bible merely as a book. It is a law. Account for it as we may, make of it what we can, there it Isaiah, inevitable, irresistible, incessant. Many of the men who have turned aside from the Bible because of such expressions, are spending their time in showing that such occurrences are part of the very necessity of history. This is the glory of the Bible. When narrowly read it drives men away from it as if a fire had scorched them. When they pursue their studies upon other ground and make their way into history, progress, human development, and all the mystery of civilisation, they come back to say that all had been foretold in sharp outline in the very book which they had once despised because they once misunderstood it. Some benevolent persons might suggest that the expulsion of the heathen peoples was a hypothetical one, that the verses so cruel in their first aspect might be read as it were subjunctively, after this fashion: "If the heathen peoples,—the Canaanites, the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite,—should oppose me, and set up their will against mine, I will undertake for thee, and thou shalt have a clear course." That is not exposition which goes to the root and philosophy of things. It may cover up the mystery for a time or it may double the mystery by an aggravation which was meant to be pious; but we must find other lines and stand upon other ground, and enable ourselves by sufficient study to grasp the whole situation,—not as it is indicated in one chapter or one verse, but as it is outlined and developed on the whole field of Biblical revelation. To understand such terms we must make ourselves acquainted with the Biblical theory and method of human development. We must of all things be careful not to snatch at isolated verses and isolated expressions. The Bible must be studied and applied in its entirety.

What, then, is the Biblical theory? We find that a point of departure was established in the selection of Abram as the typical head of a new humanity. Whilst Adam represents the outer humanity, the initial and visible Prayer of Manasseh, the historical unit of the race, Abram represents the inner and spiritual humanity, the fuller thought of God in the creation of Prayer of Manasseh,—the humanity that is to be, the eternal likeness of God. Understand, we art now endeavouring to discover the Biblical conception without saying whether it is true or untrue. First of all, let us grasp the philosophy as it is stated in the Bible. To place the matter somewhat figuratively, then, it may be put thus: As Adam was made out of the dust of the ground, so Abram was made out of the dust of Adam, and as Adam had control over all the lower animals, so Abram had control over all the lower civilisations. Account for this dominion as you please; there it is. The scientific difficulty is quite as great as the theological one. That one race does put down another is the broadest fact in history. It would be imagined from some loose and incoherent talk that the Bible created the difficulties out of which we have made moral mysteries. Were the Bible closed, the difficulties would remain just where they are. The Bible comes with a conception which points toward a large and noble construction and issue. Therein the Bible is to be heard. The Bible does not create human life; it recognises, interprets, inspires, and directs it.

Light now begins to dawn upon the mystery. It now begins to be clear that this act was no mere act of butchery or destruction, but the gradual and solemn development of a purpose, whatever the origin of that purpose may have been. It is a fact in ethnology that some races do succumb to others. We cannot escape the fact that some races are dominant and some are servile, and that the great law of the survival of the fittest is written upon the very face of all life from the meanest to the highest. The Biblical reader is only careful that the expression, "the survival of the fittest," shall not be impoverished of its highest and richest meaning; he will seize the expression and make the highest use of it. Meanwhile, account for it as you may, with an open Bible or a shut Bible, the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, are going down, or have gone down, and another type of humanity is bearing aloft the banner of advancement and conquest. Suppose we close the Bible, we do not then revive the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite; suppose we say the Bible is not from heaven, we do not reinstate the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Whatever our theory may be, it is certain that those races are going or have gone; that they played their part and have given way to another and higher humanity. Some illustration of a collateral kind we may find in strictly personal development. Let a new life come into a man—a life associated with a new conception of duty, sacrifice, honour, or a life associated with some other new and broad and noble idea; and what is the consequence? Out goes his heathenism. The Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, which filled up the most of his life, are driven out by the light, and the beauty, and the purity of this new Abram,—this new conception of light. What an outgoing there is from the soul! What superstitions and prejudices are scourged out under the mighty and redeeming influence of a new idea of life! What new habits are established! What broader and keener discipline is applied! How the whole nature, which was once a wilderness, blossoms as the rose! and the whole life, which was once a barren desert, glows with passionate blossoming! Some idea of a collateral kind arises from that conception. It throws light upon what is meant by the erection of a new humanity that shall put down, control, absorb, destroy, or glorify all things less than itself. In all these interpretations we want time. A thousand years with the Lord are as one day. We read the verses in sweltering haste, and imagine that blow followed blow with cruel rapidity, and that weak and helpless peoples were oppressed and crushed out of existence without notice, or without chance of escape. That is our injustice towards the facts of history. Between the chapters a thousand years may lie, between the lines a millennium may elapse. The one thought governing all other thoughts Isaiah, that there is an unswerving purpose running through all the process of the ages; and that under the development and march of that purpose all that is not of its own nature must go down. Whatever is of its own nature will be taken up, absorbed, and glorified; but there is a stone, and one of two things happens in relation to that stone,—either fall upon it and be broken, or it will fall upon you and grind you to powder. That is the Bible of history, the Bible of prosaic, daily facts,—not a book of superstition, but pages written in the red blood of the current time.

Still pursuing the inquiry as to the Biblical theory of the unity of life and the progress of a purpose, we find that there is One spoken of in the Old Testament whose history is part of this marvel. We will not give that One a name: he shall be to us for the present a coming One, a shadow, a hint, a mysterious personality. Yet in the Bible that One is recognised above all others. Of him we read, "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter"s vessel." That is the text in another form of words, without one tone of the solemn music omitted. A greater than Abram must now be coming. "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" ( Daniel 2:44).

Mark the harmony! It is possible for harmony or consistency to mass itself into the bulk and force of a noble argument. Throughout the Old Testament there is One coming whose way is marked by conquest. "I will overturn, overturn, overturn, until he come whose right it is." That is the text paraphrased in sublimer eloquence. So then the Bible is one upon this point. Adam has gone down, the new Abraham, the new humanity, is before us. There is no man so little spoken of in the Bible as Adam. He seems to have gone all but utterly out of the purview of the Biblical writers. But Abraham is a name written all over the holy book. God uses it. When does God speak of Adam? There is a new humanity on the earth. Here is a direct continuance of the promise made to Abraham and the Israelites. It is thus something to find that we are not dealing with a local incident or a narrow purpose, but that we are on the high road of history, or in the direct sequence of a sublime development.

Is the harmony continued in the New Testament? Is there still One coming in that later book? We have left much behind,—tabernacle, and temple, and altar, and priesthood, and ephod, and flowing blood of ram, and lamb, and fowl of the air,—have we left behind the purpose of a new humanity? "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet."

This is the same principle. The Bible has never swerved; there is a common line. We are not now saying whether the line is right or wrong, we are making no special pleading on behalf of the Bible, but are endeavouring to be just to it, and from the first until the last the new humanity is to advance and all that is of its own quality is to be taken up: all that is not of its own quality is to be destroyed. The Bible argument is a massive and beneficent development We must read the part in the light of the whole; we must interpret the Pentateuch by the Apocalypse. He who makes the end gracious will, could we follow him, also make the process gracious. We leave all that we cannot explain regarding the servile or antagonistic races to him who for a purpose created them. But there is the ethnological fact: that one type of humanity rises and cannot be put down, and another flutters in its weakness and expires in its helplessness. All this is part of a massive and large education. It is the history of every time. There is an aspect of it which affects us with sadness, but we are not to interpret things narrowly or momentarily, but broadly and in eternal lights. There are men amongst us who must go down; there are men who cannot be put down. Were all Bibles, Churches, from this moment disregarded, the sublime and terrible fact remains of dominance and servility, the right kind and the wrong kind, and it is one of two things,—either the wrong must repent and be saved, or it must be ground to powder. For right cannot stand still. The light will slay the darkness with its million spears of glory, and a kingdom shall be established that shall explain the mystery of the conflict and the mystery of delay. We must await the incoming of that kingdom, saying, "Thy kingdom come." We need not be destroyed. I am not now speaking of the destruction of the soul in hell-fire,—all that is another mystery which must be discussed and determined upon other ground. We have to face the one fact in this connection: that the new humanity is to advance, and that every soul that sets itself against it must go down. Why set ourselves against it? "Kiss the Song of Solomon, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little." The whole conception amounts to this: that One called the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, the Son of God, shall have the heathen for an inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession. His garment is dyed with blood, but it is with the blood of a victor. Truly the process Isaiah, in many respects, distressing and inexplicable, but we have nothing to do with processes. The meaning of the sharp ploughing will be seen in the harvest of grain. The deep and dark foundations so long dug for and so long in being laid will be explained by the lofty edifice and the pinnacles that pierce the sun. "We know in part, and we prophesy in part But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." God"s great purpose in all this advancement and overturning is to make man in his image and likeness. From that purpose he has never swerved. We await the issue. All the parables and analogies of nature which come within our cognisance establish the purpose, and already, here and there, by help of analogue, we begin to see how possible it is that though weeping may endure for a night, yet joy comes in the morning. As for the mystery, I leave it with him whose grace I magnify. We cannot resist the supreme purpose except to our own destruction. Everything points to a grand future. Were this all, we might laugh with rational merriment at him who calls himself Creator. But we must not arrest the process or interfere with the punctuation of history, or the method of the universe: we must calmly recognise the fact that from the beginning to the end there is one purpose never halting, never swerving, mighty to destroy, mighty to save,—meant to save, intended for good, and that will never be satisfied itself until the wilderness is blotted out by the garden and the desert is forgotten in the golden harvest. In this doctrine we stand, feeling it to be strong in philosophy, actual in history, and beneficent in design.

Death By Hornets

In a letter by an Indian gentleman living near Jubbulpore, written to the Times some years since, we read:—"A most melancholy accident occurred here on the10th inst. Two European gentlemen belonging to the Indian Railway Company, viz, Messrs. Armstrong and Boddington, were surveying a place called Bunder Coode, for the purpose of throwing a bridge across the Nerbudda, the channel of which, being in this place from ten to fifty yards wide, is fathomless, having white marble rocks rising perpendicularly on either side from100 to150 feet high, and beetling fearfully in some parts. Suspended in the recesses of these marble rocks are numerous large hornets" nests, the inmates of which are ready to descend upon any unlucky wight who may venture to disturb their repose. Now as the boats of these European surveyors were passing up the river, a cloud of these insects overwhelmed them; the boatmen, as well as the two gentlemen, jumped overboard; but alas! Mr. Boddington, who swam and had succeeded in clinging to a marble block, was again attacked, and being unable any longer to resist the assaults of the countless hordes of his infuriated winged foes, threw himself into the depths of the water never to rise again. On the fourth day his corpse was discovered floating on the water, and was interred with every mark of respect. The other gentleman, Mr. Armstrong, and his boatmen, although very severely stung, are out of danger."

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Bibliographical Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 33". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.