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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 23

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verse 1


Verses 1:

This is an expansion of the Ninth Commandment. It forbids starting an evil report, and prohibits joining with others in spreading one. It deals with testimony in a court of law, but is not confined to such testimony. It covers the sin of gossip, tale bearing, etc.

Verses 2-3

Verses 2, 3:

This law forbids following the majority, to do evil. "The majority is always right," is a false proverb. The "majority" demanded Jesus’ death. The "majority" is hell-bound, Mt 7:13, 14.

The second clause in v. 2 applies to judges. A judge is not to hand down a ruling in a case based upon "accepted community standards," or upon what the majority does.

Verse 3 forbids any undue favoring of the poor, merely because they are poor, see Le 19:15. Justice is to be dispensed without favoring either the rich or the poor.

Verses 4-7

Verses 4-7:

This text forbids any discrimination in dispensing justice and mercy, even toward one’s enemy. Favorable treatment of an enemy may result in winning his friendship, see Ro 12:17-21.

This law forbids either bringing or countenancing a false accusation against anyone, whether friend or foe.

Verse 8

Verse 8:

"Gift" is literally "bribe." This law prohibits the acceptance of a bribe, and rendering judgment accordingly. This practice defeats the purpose of justice. Among many ancient societies, it was a capital crime. It was one of the charges against the wicked sons of Eli, 1Sa 8:3.

Verse 9

Verse 9:

This is a repetition of Ex 22:21, with special emphasis upon giving justice in a court of law.

Verses 10-13

Verses 10-13:

Verses 10 and 11 give the Law of the Sabbatical Year. Every seventh year, the fields, vineyards, and olive yards were to lie fallow. This was a law unique to Israel. It was designed in part to allow the land to replenish itself in the year of rest. It served as well to foster Israel’s faith in God, that He would provide their needs during the year of rest and the year following, if they would honor His ownership. The crops which grew "volunteer" were to be left for the poor of the land.

Verse 12 is a repetition of the Law of the Sabbath Day, Ex 20:8-11.

Verse 13 contains two injunctions: (1) "be circumspect" shamar, "be watchful" to do all Jehovah had commanded, omitting nothing; and (2) do not even so much as utter the name of a false god. This second provision illustrates a principle applicable today, see Eph 5:3, 12. There are some things which no child of God may honorably discuss.

Verses 14-19

Verses 14-19:

Private devotions are commendable for God’s child in any age. But God also wants public worship, Heb 10:24, 25. He appointed three major public gatherings for Israel:

1. The Feast of Unleavened Bread. This festival began with the Passover, and continued for seven days following. There was a "holy convocation" on the first and the last days of this week, Le 23:5-8. It was in the month Abib, April at the beginning of the barley harvest.

2. The Feast of Harvest, also called the "Feast of Weeks." Fifty days were numbered from the day the barley sheaf was offered. From this the name "Pentecost" arose. Most agree this was celebrated on the sixth day of Sivan, corresponding to the latter part of May. The main ceremony consisted of the offering of two leavened loaves of bread, made from the finest flour from the wheat just gathered. It lasted only one day, but it was a particularly joyous celebration.

3. The Feast of Ingathering, also named the "Feast of Tabernacles" Le 23:34; De 16:13; 31:10. The people lived in "booths" or "brush arbors" during the time of this festival. It began on the fifteenth day of Tisri, corresponding to the first part of October, and lasted seven or eight days. It came when the olive harvest was completed, and signified the completion of all Israel’s harvests.

The people were to assemble at the place God would later appoint, on these three occasions each year. This would be a unifying force within the nation, and a reminder of their relationship to Jehovah.

Custom held that the flesh of a kid (young goat) was more palatable if boiled in milk; and the mother’s milk would be the more readily available. The prohibition against seething (boiling) a kid in its mother’s milk has both a symbolic and practical application (1) It was in recognition of the tender relationship God has ordained between parent and child; and (2) medical science has learned that

meat and milk digest at a different pace; thus it is unhealthy to cook and eat the two together.

Verses 20-25

Verses 20-25:

The Angel malak, "messenger, agent," refers here not to a created, spirit-being, but to the "Angel (Messenger) of the Covenant," the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, see Ge 16:7; 21:17; 48:16; Ex 3:2; 14:19, et. al. His promises:

1. To be Israel’s guide and helper;

2. To be the Enemy of their enemies;

3. To drive out their enemies from before them;

4. To give them the entire territory He had promised in the Land Grant originally made to Abraham, in their lifetime, see Ge 15.

5. To bless their substance, grant them health, multiply them, and prolong their days in the Land.

These promises were conditional, dependent upon their obedience to Jehovah’s laws. He would not "pardon (their) transgressions" or violations, in relationship to the conditional covenant and its provisions.

Verses 26-33

Verses 26-33:

Jehovah had given the Land to Israel, but they must possess it for their own heritage. He graciously promised to fight for them, both by natural and supernatural means. "Hornets" tsirah, "wasps," may be taken either literally, as the insect which can literally drive men from any given area by their vicious stings, even causing death; or figuratively, to denote plagues or troubles of various kinds.

Three of Canaan’s nations are mentioned in this text, as a common figure of speech in which the part is put for the whole. These three were the strongest of Canaan’s tribes.

The dispossession of the Canaanites was to be gradual. This would insure that the land would not be overrun by wild beasts, but that it would continue to be cultivated until Jehovah was ready to give it to Israel.

Jehovah’s command was two-fold: some of the Canaanites were to be slain; some were to be "driven out" of the land. History reveals this was literally true. The Hittites retired northward and strengthened the great Hittite Kingdom which contended with both Assyria and Egypt.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 23". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-23.html. 1985.
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