Exodus 23


‘Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness. “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favouritism to a poor person in a lawsuit. “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it. “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent. “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.’ Exodus 23:1-9

Laws Of Justice And Mercy

The laws we find here were given to the Hebrews in connection to their neighbours. These were minor civil ordinances that would direct their behaviour toward their neighbour after the manner of loving one’s neighbour as himself.

The spreading of a false report was a major way of following the crowd, 1 Corinthians 15:33. The only way to stop the spreading of a false report is to stop it in its tracks by asking the proper questions and acquiring proof, Deuteronomy 19:15.

Bribing a judge with a gift is one of the most popular ways to swing a judge in your favour, 1 Samuel 8:3 / Isaiah 1:23 / Isaiah 5:23. Justice is never really served when corruption by bribery is involved. It appears that the Israelites totally ignored this command, 1 Samuel 7:3 / Psalms 26:10 / Proverbs 17:23 / Isaiah 1:23 / Isaiah 5:23 / Micah 3:9-11 / Zephaniah 3:3.

In Judaism kindness and thoughtfulness for animals were required by God, Exodus 20:10 / Leviticus 22:27 / Deuteronomy 22:6-7 / Deuteronomy 25:4. In these verses we also see helping our enemies is also required, Matthew 5:43 / Luke 10:30-37 / Luke 10:27.

Sabbath Laws

‘For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unploughed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed. “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.’ Exodus 23:10-13

If the Israelites wanted the best out of the land and if they were to help the poor in their society, then they were to leave the land alone for a year every seven years.

Common sense tells us that any good farmer would have stored up enough of his crops throughout the six years, in order to have enough to last through the seventh year when the land was to be rested.

We must note that the farmer would also stagger his ‘seventh-year’ planting with different fields. In other words, when one field is resting during the seventh year, other fields would be producing crops. It was during the seventh year when a field was resting, the poor were allowed to use the land.

As we know, as time went on, the Israelites failed to obey this command of giving the land rest every seven years and as a result, they were taken into Babylonian exile, Leviticus 26:32-35 / 2 Chronicles 36:21.

Notice that God commands them not to invoke the name of other gods.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The commandment not to mention pagan gods was generally observed, and this probably accounts for the changes made by the Jews in certain names containing the name of Baal. ‘Instead of Baal, the word, ‘bosheth’, meaning shame was introduced.’

A few examples of this are seen in Judges 6:32, where the name Jerubbaal became Jerubbosheth, 2 Samuel 11:21. In 1 Chronicles 8:33, the name Eshbaal became Ishbosheth, 2 Samuel 2:8. In 1 Chronicles 8:34, the name Meribaal became Mephibosheth, 2 Samuel 4:4.

The Three Annual Festivals

‘Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me. “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt. “No one is to appear before me empty-handed. “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. “Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field. “Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD. “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast. “The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning. “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God. “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.’ Exodus 23:14-19

The Israelite males were to appear before the Lord at three special feasts.

1. The feast of the unleavened bread, which was associated with the Passover, Exodus 12:14 / Leviticus 23:5.

This was kept at the beginning of the harvest and commemorated the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage.

2. The feast of harvest, or Pentecost, Leviticus 23:15-22 / Numbers 28:26-31 / Deuteronomy 16:9-12.

This was kept at the conclusion of the harvest and commemorated Israel’s passage through the Red Sea.

3. The feast of the ingathering, which was also called the feast of tabernacles, Leviticus 23:34-43 / Numbers 29:12-40 / Deuteronomy 16:13-14.

This was observed in the autumn when all crops had been gathered for storage. This feast was in thanksgiving for God’s mercy in their wandering through the wilderness.

When Israel finally arrived in the promised land, they had the responsibility of making a firstfruit offering to God, along with their regular firstfruit offering, Exodus 23:16.

The command, ‘do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk’, is actually a command to not imitate a common pagan fertility ritual.

God’s Angel To Prepare The Way

‘See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you.’ Exodus 23:20-22

The angel mentioned here is the same angel, which at this time was manifested in the pillar of the cloud and fire. The angel whose name, the name of God was in was to be obeyed for his presence in Israel was the authority of God among His people.

The angel would bring them into Canaan because Moses wouldn’t and he had the power to withhold forgiveness of sins, which Moses couldn’t do either. He is that same glorious Being who came to Joshua as the Captain of the hosts of the Lord, and the one who was among the myrtle trees of Zechariah 1:8.

‘My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span. “I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. “I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.” Exodus 23:23-33

The Canaanites were deeply involved in idolatry, they were gods, that had been created by their own imagination. Israel was to stay about from them in order to protect their own minds.

God tells the Israelites four things concerning these gods.

1. Don’t bow down to them, Exodus 23:24.

2. Destroy them, Exodus 23:24.

3. Drive them out, Exodus 23:31.

4. Make no covenant with them, Exodus 23:32.

God says He will send His terror ahead of them, everyone in Canaan would know what God has done and will do, which brought about great fear among the Canaanites. This is seen happening with Balak and the Moabites, Numbers 22:3, and this is seen with Rahab, Joshua 2:9 / Joshua 2:11.

Notice how the promised land of Canaan was going to be taken over by the Lord’s people, ‘little by little’. This wasn’t going to happen overnight, it was going to take time because the Israelites needed the time to grow into a vigorous and powerful nation, which was strong enough and experienced enough to handle the problems involved in dispossessing the large groups of Canaanites.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following concerning the borders.

‘God’s plans for Israel reached into the far future, for the boundaries of Israel as outlined here were not actually reached until four hundred years later in the reigns of David and Solomon, 1 Kings 4:21-24 / 2 Chronicles 9:26. The ‘river’ spoken of here is the Euphrates, the Sea of the Philistines is the Mediterranean. The Red Sea is the Gulf of Aqaba. Ezion-Geber was at the head of that gulf where Solomon launched his great navy.’

Go To Exodus 24