EXODUS 23:20-33: ANGEL OF PROTECTION
READING EXODUS 23:20-33
An angel of protection was promised to Israel. Remember, they were traveling and attempting to get to "the promised land," a place where their ancestors had lived before (Abraham had made a sojourn there from his homeland of Ur in modern day Southern Iraq).
In today's world we have come to see the "elimination" of people from land is wrong, sinful, and call it "genocide." Many of us have come to believe that forcing Native Americans from their lands was wrong-headed and wrong-hearted. But in the voice of God in this text, we see Israel given an angel to go before them to destroy other peoples. In different ways (Exodus 23:27; Numbers 22:3; Joshua 2:9,11) you say you will send a terror, a wasp, an angel ahead of Israel to throw people into confusion, cause them to run away.
Yahweh did not give a command in these texts to eliminate or for genocide but promised to drive people out of the promised land gradually, and commanded Israel not to make treaties or inter-marry in order to prevent them from adopting their pagan gods.
Were you driving people out of the land because they were idolaters? You even punished Israel when at the foot of the holy mountain Sinai Israel worshiped idols. Thousands died that day. If the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites were idolaters, is this the reason they were driven out?
It seems a bad option to never mention that Yahweh and the angel sent ahead of Israel is portrayed as terrorizing the people and driving them out, and we see in future texts that Israel warred against the people in the land. We need to discuss this in the open and not hide it. Do we have a duty to not follow Jesus in the way we see Israel following Yahweh because of what Jesus taught? It doesn't seem appropriate either to place Jesus on a scale as some sort of "leveling" weight to "balance" God from Old Testament to New Testament actions.
Israel is promised if they obey God they will be given prosperity in the land, no miscarriages or sterility. The picture here is of a gradual leaving of people who had been in the land so wild animals don't overcome them, a "wasp" driving them out little by little, till Israel is strong enough to possess the land. Later the borders would be established and treaties would be forbidden.
The big point of idolators, Canaanites--descendants of Ham--not inhabiting the land is that they will "cause you to sin against me," says the Lord. "If you worship their gods, it will certainly be a trap for you."
Direct our thoughts, Risen Christ, when we are disturbed with the Bible itself and the conditions of entering the promised land. Why was there destruction of people, crops, animals in order to enter?
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.