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Exodus 3:7-8: The Apple of God's Eye, and the Devoted Nations

Verse 7:[1] And the LORD said, (Neh. 9:9; Ps. 106:44; Acts 7:34) I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and (Ex. 2:23, 24) have heard their cry (Ex. 1:11) by reason of their taskmasters; for (Gen. 18:21; Ex. 2:25) I know their sorrows…

[I have seen] Hebrew: In seeing, I have seen.[2] The doubling signifies either vehemence, or certitude, or speed (Menochius).

I have surely seen; Hebrew, In seeing, I have seen, that is, I have seen and observed it diligently, accurately, and certainly; for so much the doubling of the verb signifies.

Verse 8:[3] And (Gen. 11:5, 7; 18:21; 50:24) I am come down to (Ex. 6:6, 8; 12:51) deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land (Deut. 1:25; 8:7-9) unto a good land and a large, unto a land (Ex. 3:17; 13:5; 33:3; Num. 13:27; Deut. 26:9, 15; Jer. 11:5; 32:22; Ezek. 20:6) flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of (Gen. 15:18) the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

[I have come down] That is, by effect (Lyra). It denotes the favor and help of God: For all help is from heaven (Vatablus).

I am come down: this word notes God’s manifestation of himself and his favour, and giving help from heaven. See Genesis 18:21.

[Spacious] It was only one hundred and sixty miles long from Dan to Beer-sheba, and forty-six wide from Joppa to Bethlehem. Nevertheless, it is called spacious with respect to, 1. the land of Goshen, where they were dwelling; 2. the nation (their own), which was at that time smaller than the land; 3. the fruitfulness of the soil (Menochius). Hecatæus[4] (who was a contemporary of Alexander the Great [Pererius]) says of the Jews that they possessed three hundred myriads ἀρουρῶν (that is, of jugera[5]) of the best land (Grotius).

It was a good land and a large, not only comparatively to Goshen, where they now dwelt, and to the number of the Israelites at that time; but absolutely, if you take the Land of Promise according to its true, and first, and ancient bounds of it, as you have them described, Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; 11:24, and not according to those narrow limits to which they were afterwards confined for their unbelief, sloth, cowardice, and impiety.

[It flows with milk and honey] That is, with the best and finest fruits (Fagius, Menochius). With little labor, it produced great fruit (Lyra). The goodness of this land is plain from many sources. 1. From the testimonies of authors: Josephus, Antiquities 5:1 and Jewish War 3:2 (where in a field of Jericho, and not elsewhere, he relates that balsam was produced; and with him agree Justinus, Of Phillipic Histories 36, and Pliny, Natural History 12:25) and Jerome (who was an eye-witness of the region) on Isaiah 5 and Ezekiel 20 (Bonfrerius); likewise Aristeas,[6] who wrote concerning the Septuagint translation of the Sacred Scripture, and who led them into Egypt. He thus writes: Their region was fertile of every sort of grain; it abounds with olive trees, vineyards, honey-making, and palm trees, etc. (Pererius on Exodus). 2. From the multitude of men which were being fed, although the proportion of land was small, neither does it attain to the half of Belgium. In Galilee alone there were three million, as Josephus testifies, Jewish War 7:17. 3. From various passages of Scripture, Deuteronomy 8:7; 32; Ezekiel 20, where it is preferred above other lands. [Such excellent things concerning this land, neither these most wise prophets, nor any sensible person, would dare to set forth, unless that celebrated fertility had been verified by the men of that age.] Objection: But that land is presently held to be barren. Response: 1. Brochard[7] and other eye-witnesses refute this belief (Bonfrerius). Brochard (I say), who lived three hundred years ago, and spent an entire decade in that region, writes thus: Credit is not to be given to certain men that report contrary things; for they have not considered it diligently. With these eyes I have seen extraordinary fertility. The fields are, as it were, gardens, etc. There silk abounds, etc. There cedars, citrus trees, meadows, etc., and the fruit of paradise, costly wine strong and sweet, the fig tree, pomegranates, melons, small citron-trees, etc. In short, in that place are all of the good things of the world, and truly that land flows with streams of milk and honey (Pererius). Indeed, only the area around Jerusalem is barren and arid, according to Strabo in Pererius and Jerome in Bonfrerius, which, nevertheless, Josephus prefers before all the rest. However, they speak of a vicinity of only a few stadia[8] (Bonfrerius). The land is barren and dry, and rocky within sixty stadia, says Strabo, Geography 16 (Pererius). 2. Would it be strange if, on account of the sins, first of the Jews, then of the Saracens, that land was made barren (Bonfrerius)? [Indeed, hence truly the faithfulness of God, and the truth of Scripture, shines forth; in that thus was fulfilled what God had foretold, that the fertile land was to be transformed into a barren land because of the sins of the inhabitants.]

Flowing with milk and honey, that is, abounding with the choicest fruits, both for necessity and for delight. The excellency and singular fruitfulness of this land, howsoever denied or disputed by some ill-minded persons, is sufficiently evident, 1. From express testimony, not only of Moses, Deuteronomy 8:7-9, but also of the spies who were sent to view it, and, though prejudiced against it, yet acknowledged it, Numbers 13:27; and of the holy prophets that lived long in it, as David, Psalm 106:24; Joel 2:3; and Ezekiel, who calls it the glory of all lands, Ezekiel 20:15. Which if it had not been true, it is ridiculous to think that they durst have said and writ so, when the people with whom they contested, and thousands of other persons there and then living, were able to confute them. After them Josephus, and St. Hierom, and others since, who lived long in that land, have highly commended it. And whereas Strabo speaks of the barrenness of the soil about Jerusalem, that is true, but by himself it is limited to the compass of sixty furlongs from Jerusalem. And if at this day the land be now grown barren in a great measure, it is not strange, considering both the great neglect and sloth of the people as to the improvement of it, and the great wickedness of its inhabitants, for which God hath threatened to turn a fruitful land into barrenness, Psalm 107:34.

[The Canaanites, etc.] The Girgashites are omitted,[9] either, because they were smaller than the other nations (thus Munster), or, because they withdrew from the land before the entrance of Israel (Hebrews in Lyra). The Perizzites are thought to be Sidonians. All these are called Canaanites, because they were propagated from Canaan (Munster).

The Canaanites, etc.: These people are diversely numbered, there are ten sorts reckoned, Genesis 15:19-21, and seven, Deuteronomy 7:1, and here but six, because some of them were either destroyed or driven out of their land by others; or did by choice and design remove to some other place, as many in those times did, though it be not mentioned in Scripture; or by cohabitation and marriage with some of the other people, did make a coalition, and were incorporated with them, and so their name was swallowed up in the other; or because the names of some of these people, as particularly the Canaanites and the Amorites, were used sometimes more strictly, and sometimes more largely, so as to comprehend under them the other people, as the Girgashites, etc., whence it comes to pass that all the rest go under the names of the Canaanites, Genesis 13:7, and of the Amorites in some places of Scripture,[10] as hath been showed.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָ֔ה רָאֹ֥ה רָאִ֛יתִי אֶת־עֳנִ֥י עַמִּ֖י אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וְאֶת־צַעֲקָתָ֤ם שָׁמַ֙עְתִּי֙ מִפְּנֵ֣י נֹֽגְשָׂ֔יו כִּ֥י יָדַ֖עְתִּי אֶת־מַכְאֹבָֽיו׃

[2] Hebrew: רָאֹ֥ה רָאִ֛יתִי.

[3] Hebrew: וָאֵרֵ֞ד לְהַצִּיל֣וֹ׀ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֗יִם וּֽלְהַעֲלֹתוֹ֮ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַהִוא֒ אֶל־אֶ֤רֶץ טוֹבָה֙ וּרְחָבָ֔ה אֶל־אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָ֑שׁ אֶל־מְק֤וֹם הַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ וְהַ֣חִתִּ֔י וְהָֽאֱמֹרִי֙ וְהַפְּרִזִּ֔י וְהַחִוִּ֖י וְהַיְבוּסִֽי׃

[4] Hecatæus of Aberda (fourth century BC) was a Greek historian and philosopher.

[5] A jugerum was a piece of land, two hundred and forty feet by one hundred and twenty feet.

[6] The Letter of Aristeas relates that the Septuagint was produced at the request of Ptolemy Philadelphus (third century BC), king of Egypt, for his library in Alexandria.

[7] Brochardus was a thirteenth century Dominican friar. He lived in the monastery on Mount Sion for ten years. He wrote a valuable description of those regions (Descriptio Terræ Sanctæ).

[8] A stadium is roughly an eighth of a mile.

[9] See Genesis 15:21.

[10] See, for example, Genesis 15:16.

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