Exodus 34 Drive ‘n’ Reign

Questions: Why does God drive out the heathen tribes? Is that just? Is it fair? What is His ultimate purpose? “Read More” to pursue answers.

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.
This is a tricky passage — and not just because of the implied genocide! There’s two different narratives going on here (hence the overlap). The context is God’s interaction with Moses, which begins here:

And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon [these] tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount.

and ends here:

And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

The content, though, is the Israelite’s dealing with their neighbors — and with God! The thesis for this section is arguably:

For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name [is] Jealous, [is] a jealous God:

This is manifested first in how they are (not) to relate to their neighbors:

* I will drive them out

* You must not covenant with them
* You must not intermarry
* You must not make idols
and secondly how they are to relate to God:

* You must keep the feast of unleavened bread

* You must sacrifice or redeem every firstborn
* You must keep the Sabbath
* You must keep the feasts of weeks, harvest, and ingathering
* You must appear before me
* I will drive out your neighbors
Interesting symmetry. God appears to be driving out the neighboring tribes both to protect the Israelites from ‘hard threats’ (physical security) as well as ‘soft threats’ (idolatry/seduction). But, no matter how you slice it, this seems a pretty raw deal for the neighbors. What does this say about God?
As mentioned before, I interpret God’s righteousness to mean His actions, especially in the Old Testament, are ‘contextually optimal’ — He does the best He can given what He has to work with. In this case, such drastic measures seem the only way — consistent with his character — to fulfill Moses’ request:

And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it [is] a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.

This may well be how the two narratives are linked. God’s severe rules for the Israelites are the outcome of Moses’ intercession with God. This, in a sense, is why God’s judgement is “fair” — the Israelites are being judged by an even higher standard than their neighbors, and (as we shall see waaay down the road) will in turn be driven out if they fail.
There may be an even more intriguing subtext here: What if these tribes had previously had a chance to turn to God, but either no intercessor stepped forward, or they refused to submit? Of course that’s mere speculation, but not entirely without precedent. At the very least, it highlights how crucial a role Moses played in treating with God on behalf of the Israelites:

And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai.

God, I confess that I do not understand all your ways, or your justice. Yet, I concede that I too have treated with the foreign tribes of fear, lust, sloth, and anger rather than submitting wholeheartedly to your ways. By the blood of your son Jesus Christ, forgive me. I submit to His intercession, and Your covenant, that I may take possession of all the territory you’ve entrusted to me. In His name I pray, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title is play on the phrase “driving rain.”