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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 23

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-19

Miscellaneous matters (22:18-23:19)

Israelite law prohibited pagan customs and religious practices that threatened the nation’s spiritual life. The penalty for such offences was usually death (18-20). The Israelite people were to remember their own bitter experiences in Egypt and show mercy to the disadvantaged. The law against charging interest on a loan was designed to encourage the rich to help the poor instead of exploiting them (21-27). (For the contrast between lending that is greedy exploitation and lending that is a legitimate investment see Luke 6:34; Luke 19:23.) Being part of a nation dedicated to God, the people were to be respectful and generous towards him, and keep themselves pure from all uncleanness (28-31).

Officials had to administer strict justice at all times. They were not to favour either the rich or the poor, nor were they to allow popular opinion to influence justice. Yet to follow strictly the letter of the law was not enough. People were to be kind to others, even to enemies and foreigners. They were also to be kind to animals (23:1-9).

Every seventh year the people had to rest the land from farming. Any produce that grew of itself during that year was to be left for the poor. God would give extra produce in the sixth year so that there would be no shortage the following year. Every seventh day was to be a rest day for all, masters, workers and animals (10-13; see Leviticus 25:18-22).

There were three main festivals each year that at least all male adults were to attend. The first of these was Passover-Unleavened Bread, which commemorated the deliverance from Egypt. The second was Pentecost-Harvest Firstfruits, which was celebrated fifty days later and marked the end of the wheat harvest. The third was Tabernacles-Ingathering (GNB: Festival of Shelters), which came at the end of the agricultural year (14-17; for details see Leviticus 23:1-44).

One superstitious heathen practice that Israel’s law prohibited was the keeping of part of a sacrifice as a good luck charm. Another was the boiling of a young goat in its mother’s milk, in the hope that this would give increase in the flocks (18-19).

Verses 20-33

Promises and instructions (23:20-33)

The covenant document, which began in Chapter 20 and which has laid down God’s requirements for his people, concludes with a number of promises and warnings. This again follows the well known form of ancient covenant documents. The specific promises for God’s people were protection on their journey to the promised land, victory over enemies, health and prosperity in Canaan, and national expansion till they filled their allotted territory. These blessings, however, were conditional upon their obedience and complete loyalty to God (20-33).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Exodus 23". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/exodus-23.html. 2005.
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