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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 23

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



False witness and report forbidden, Exodus 23:1.

Right must not be wrested, Exodus 23:2.

He commands man to do good to his enemies, Exodus 23:3-5.

Bribes are forbidden, Exodus 23:8.

The years of sowing appointed, and gathering, Exodus 23:10.

Of the seventh year, which is the year of rest; God’s command concerning it, Exodus 23:11.

Of the sabbath day, Exodus 23:12.

Other gods shall not be mentioned, Exodus 23:13.

Of the three.feasts in a year, Exodus 23:14.

The manner of keeping the feasts, Exodus 23:15,Exodus 23:16.

The times appointed for the males appearing before the Lord, Exodus 23:17.

No sacrifice to be offered with leavened bread, Exodus 23:18.

Command concerning the first-fruits, Exodus 23:19.

God promiseth an Angel to prepare a way, Exodus 23:20; who is commanded to be obeyed, Exodus 23:21,Exodus 23:22.

God promising them the land of the Amorites, .& c., Exodus 23:23; forbiddeth the honouring of strange gods, Exodus 23:24.

God promises to bless them that serve him, Exodus 23:25-27.

Hornets shall expel the enemies of the Israelites, Exodus 23:28-30.

The borders of the land of Israel, Exodus 23:31.

A covenant with the heathen is forbidden, Exodus 23:32; or to let them inhabit among them, Exodus 23:33.

Verse 1

Thou shalt not raise, Heb. not take up, to wit, into thy mouth, as Exodus 20:7, either by the first raising, or further spreading of it; or not bear, or endure, as that word oft signifies; not hear it patiently, delightfully, readily, approvingly, as persons are very apt to do; but rather shalt discourage and reprove the spreader of it, according to Proverbs 25:23. Possibly the Holy Ghost might choose a word of such general signification to show that all these things were forbidden. Put not thine hand, i.e. not conspire or agree with them, which is signified by joining hands, Proverbs 11:21, not give them a helping hand in it, not encourage them to it by gifts or promises, not assist them by counsel or interest. Others, not swear with them; but swearing is not noted by putting the hand, but by lifting it up.

Verse 2

Thou shalt not follow a multitude, either their counsel or example. But the Hebrew rabbin both here and in the following clause is by some rendered great men, men in power and authority, whom we are commanded not to follow. And as the word is thus used Job 32:9; Jeremiah 41:1, so this sense may seem most probable,

1. Because in the last clause he speaks of causes or controversies, as the Hebrew rib signifies; and matters of judgment, which were not determined by the multitude, but by great men.

2. Because these are opposed to the poor in the next verse.

3. Because the examples of such men are most prevalent.

To do evil, either in general or particular, to work mischief, to oppress or crush another.

Neither shalt thou speak, Heb. answer, when thou art summoned as a witness in any cause.

To wrest judgment, or to turn aside right, or to pervert

thyself the verb being taken reciprocally, as hiphil is oft put for hithpahel; or, which is all one, to do perverserly, i.e. unrighteously.

Verse 3

Heb. honour, i.e. respect, or prefer his cause when the richer man’s cause is more just: the meaning of this and the former verse is, there shall be no respect of persons, whether rich or poor, but an impartial consideration of the cause. See Leviticus 19:15; Psalms 72:1,Psalms 72:2.

Verse 4

So far shalt thou be from revenging his injuries, that thou shalt render good to him for them, whereby if thou dost not reconcile him, thou wilt procure peace to thyself, and honour to religion.

Verse 5

This translation depends upon this supposition, that the Hebrew verb azab, which is thrice used in this verse, signifies not only to leave, but also to help, or erect, or lift up, or strengthen, or restore; which signification of the verb may be proved,

1. From that use of it, Nehemiah 3:8 Nehemiah 3:4:2.

2. From the parallel place, Deuteronomy 22:4, where instead of this verb azab is hakim, which is properly to erect or lift up. But if the verb did signify only to leave, it may be thus rendered according to the Hebrew words, then, or therefore, or surely (for all these ways the Hebrew particle vau is used) thou shalt forbear to leave it, to wit, the ass groaning under his burden, or the lifting up of the ass and burden, to him alone; but if thou wilt be leaving, I will appoint thee a better object for it, thou shalt surely leave or lay aside what thou hast against him, i.e. whatsoever controversy thou hast with him, that shall not hinder thee from succouring him or his in any distress.

The Hebrew preposition in, doth oft signify against, as Genesis 26:20; Psalms 85:4; Psalms 94:16; Hosea 9:8. And it is a concise or short way of speaking, which is very common in the Hebrew language, against him, for what thou hast against him. Or thus, and wouldest forbear to leave, to wit, thy business which thou art going about, for him, i.e. for the sake of him who is thy enemy, as the Hebrew preposition tamed is oft used, as Exodus 14:25; Numbers 25:13; Joshua 10:14, &c.; thou shalt repress those malicious desires, and thou shalt surely leave it to be, or to tarry, or to help with him to lift up the ass. So there is only an ellipsis of the verb, which is most common in the Hebrew tongue.

Verse 6

i.e. Of the poor which is among thee, not of the poor Jews only, as some peradventure may conceive; for common right must be done even to the Gentiles. Compare Deuteronomy 27:19.

Verse 7

Keep thee far, i.e. abstain from all occasions, degrees, or appearances of it. Compare Job 22:23; Proverbs 4:14,Proverbs 4:15.

A false matter, i.e. an unrighteous judgment; for he is speaking to the judges, as appears both by the foregoing and following verses.

Slay thou not; condemn not to death, nor to any other unjust penalty, for the same reason.

I will not justify the wicked, and therefore not condemn the innocent; one contrary being here understood from the other, as is frequent in the book of the Proverbs; and what I do not, thou who actest in my name and stead shouldst not do. Or rather thus, Know, O judge, (for to such he speaks,) if thou dost pronounce such a wicked sentence, I will not justify thee, or hold thee guiltless, i.e. I will severely punish thee, as Exodus 20:7.

Verse 8

Thou shalt take no gift, namely, from such whose causes are depending before thee; because if thou dost not sell justice for it, yet thou wilt both seem to do so, and be tempted to do so. Compare Deuteronomy 16:19; 1 Samuel 8:3; Proverbs 17:8,Proverbs 17:23; Proverbs 19:6.

The wise, or, the open-eyed, and quick-sighted, who in this case cannot see, partly because they will not see, and partly because interest and affection do exceedingly corrupt the judgment, and render it very partial.

The words of the righteous, i.e. the judgment of the righteous judges, i.e. of them who before were such, and are inclined to be so, and probably would be so, were they not tempted with bribes; or of them who by their place should be righteous. So they are called righteous, to admonish them of their duty to be so, and to aggravate their sin when they are unrighteous, and consequently to aggravate the mischief of gifts, which make those unrighteous whose office obligeth them to be righteous. Or thus,

the matters or causes of the righteous, which may be understood not of the judges, but of the parties pleading, whose righteous cause is by this means perverted by the judge, and a wrong sentence given.

Verse 9

The heart of a stranger, i.e. the disposition, dejection, and distress of his heart, which makes him an object of pity, not of malice or mischief.

Verse 11

Thou shalt let it rest, and lie still, i.e. from manuring, ploughing, tilling, and sowing, and reaping also, by comparing Leviticus 25:3-5. And this God ordained not only for the reason here mentioned, the more comfortable provision of the poor, and for the cattle, but for other weighty reasons; as,

1. That the heart and strength of the land might not be eaten out by continual tillage.

2. That he might both try and exercise, and also secure the obedience of the Israelites.

3. That he might keep them in dependence upon himself, and give to them and all their neighbours a manifest proof of his singular and gracious providence over his people.

4. That by this kind of quit-rent they might be admonished that God alone was the Lord and Proprietary of the land, and they were only tenants at his will.

5. That being freed from their great labours about the land, they might have the more leisure to meditate upon God’s works, and to attend upon the law, which was to be solemnly read at this time, Deuteronomy 31:10, &c.

That the poor of thy people may eat.

Quest. What had the poor to eat?

Answ. Not only the fruits of the vines, and olives, and other fruit trees, but also all that grew of its own accord, Leviticus 25:5, from those seeds which in the last reaping-time were scattered here and there, which were much more numerous now than in other years, because God gave a special blessing to the sixth year, whereby it did bring forth the fruit of three years, Leviticus 25:21, and in years of so great plenty men are generally more negligent in their reaping, and therefore the relics are more.

In like manner thou shalt deal, i.e. thou shalt not prune nor dress them, nor gather and appropriate to thy own use what they shall produce, but shalt leave them to the poor.

Verse 12

This command is here repeated, lest any should think the weekly rest might cease when the whole year was consecrated to rest. There were three sorts of sabbaths to the Jews:

1. Of days.

2. Of years, to wit; the seventh year.

3. Of weeks of years, to wit, the jubilee; and all these are types of the eternal rest in heaven.

Verse 13

Make no mention, to wit, with honour or delight, or without detestation; as fornication is not to be named among saints, Ephesians 5:3. Or, not mention them in your worship, or in oaths, or in common discourse, and without special occasion, lest the frequent mention of them might keep up their memory, or introduce their worship. Hence the names of idols and idolatrous places were ofttimes changed by the Israelites. See Numbers 32:38; Joshua 23:7 Compare Psalms 16:4; Hosea 2:17; Zechariah 13:2.

Verse 15

This may be either,

1. A precept, as it is generally understood, that none should ever come at those times without some offering or other, for the support of the Levites, and of the worship of God; but the determination of this, or what they would give, was left to their choice. Or,

2. A promise to encourage them to come so oft from their remotest habitations to Jerusalem, because

they should never appear before God in vain, i.e. to no purpose, or without some benefit, for so the word rekam oft signifies. So it may be parallel to Isaiah 45:19, I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain. But the former sense is more probable, by comparing this with its parallel place, Deuteronomy 16:16,Deuteronomy 16:17.

Verse 16

The feast of harvest, i.e. of wheat harvest, for barley harvest was before this time. This feast was otherwise called pentecost.

Quest. How were these the first-fruits, when a sheaf was offered to God in the feast of the passover?

Answ. That sheaf was generally of barley, which was less considerable than their wheat; but this was the first-fruits of their wheat, which was their principal grain, and they had no bread before this time from the growth of that year.

The feast of ingathering, to wit, of all the rest of the fruits of the earth, as of the vines and olives. This was also called the feast of booths, and of tabernacles. See Leviticus 13:43; Numbers 29:12; Deuteronomy 16:13. All their three feasts had a respect to the harvest, which began in the passover, was carried on at pentecost, and was fully completed and ended in this feast.

In the end of the year; of the common or civil year, which began in September, as the sacred year began in March.

Verse 17

To wit, such as are of competent years, and health, and strength, and such as were at their own dispose; for that servants were not bound to this may seem probable, because none of these concerned were to appear before the Lord empty, or without an offering, but the generality of servants had not any thing to offer. And the care and management of their domestic affairs did require the presence and care of many of their males.

Before the Lord God, i.e. in that place where God shall record his name, Exodus 20:24, as the tabernacle or temple.

Verse 18

These clauses most understand of the passover, by comparing this place with its parallel, Exodus 34:25, where the passover is mentioned. But the words being here universal, by the laws of interpretation they ought to be universally understood, if they can bear that sense; which here they may, for both these clauses agree to other sacrifices. For as every sacrifice had a minchah, or a meat-offering of flour, attending upon it, and offered with it; so it was expressly cautioned, that no leaven should be in that minchah, Leviticus 2:11. And the fat of every sacrifice was consecrated to God, Leviticus 3:16; 2 Chronicles 35:14, &c., and was presently to be burnt upon the altar, Leviticus 7:2,Leviticus 7:3. And for Exodus 34:25, what hinders but what is here more generally prescribed, may be there particularly applied to the passover? and that seems more reasonable, than to make him an idle repetition of the same tiring. And

my sacrifice may be here put for my sacrifices, by the common enallage. Moreover, the two principal things which were offered to God in every sacrifice were blood and fat, Leviticus 17:6,Leviticus 17:11, &c.

Neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning: this, if understood of the passover, may seem superfluous, because nothing of it, neither fat nor lean, was to remain until the morning, Exodus 12:10, but all of it was to be eaten, even the purtenance thereof, Exodus 23:9, and that, for aught I see, without any exception of the fat, as there was in other sacrifices, Leviticus 16:0. And therefore in that parallel place, Exodus 34:25, where the passover is mentioned, there is not a word of the fat, but only it is said in the general, neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left until the morning. And in that 2 Chronicles 35:14, where there is mention of the fat, it is manifestly restrained to the burnt-offerings, which are there distinguished from the passover, Exodus 23:11,Exodus 23:12.

Verse 19

This seems to be a general rule, extending to all the fruits which the earth first produced; in every kind of which the very first are here enjoined to be offered unto God, before they should presume to eat any of them. It may seem to be repeated here, where the year of rest is mentioned to leach them the first-fruits were to be given to God of all that the earth produced, not only by their labour and seed, as might be thought from Exodus 23:16, but also of its own accord, as is here implied.

He names one kind, under which he understands a lamb, or a calf, &c., according to the use of Scripture style. This law many understand literally, and that it is forbidden to them, because the idolaters had such a custom, whereof yet there seems to be no sufficient proof; nor, if there were, doth it seem to be a rite of that importance or probability to entice the Israelites to imitate it, that there needed a particular law against this, more than against a hundred such ridiculous usages which were among the heathen, and are not taken notice of in the book of God’s laws. The words may be rendered thus,

Thou shalt not seethe, or roast, (for the word bashal signifies to roast as well as to boil, as it is evident from Deuteronomy 16:7)

a kid, being, or whilst it is (which is to be understood, there being nothing more common than an ellipsis of the verb substantive)

in his mother’s milk; which it may be said to be, either,

1. Whilst it sucks its mother’s milk; and so it may admit of a twofold interpretation:

(1.) That this is to be understood of the passover, of which most conceive he had now spoken, Exodus 23:18, in which they used either a lamb or a kid, Exodus 12:5, and then the word bashal must be rendered roast.

(2.) That this speaks not of sacrifice to God, wherein sucking creatures were allowed, Exodus 22:30; Leviticus 22:27; 1 Samuel 7:9, but of man’s use; and so God ordained this, partly because this was unwholesome food, and principally to restrain cruelty, even towards brute creatures, and luxury in the use of them. Or rather,

2. Whilst it is very tender and young, rather of a milky than of a fleshy substance, like that young kid of which Juvenal thus speaks, Qui plus lactis habet quam sanguinis, i.e. which hath more milk than blood in it. And it may he said to be in its mother’s milk, by a usual hypallage, when its mother’s milk is in it, i.e. whilst the milk it sucks as it were, remains in it undigested and unconverted into flesh, even as a man is oft said to be in the Spirit, when indeed the Spirit is in him. And what is here indefinitely prohibited, is elsewhere particularly explained, and the time defined, to wit, that it be not offered to God before it was eight days old. And this interpretation may receive light and strength from hence, that the law of the firstfruits, which both here and Exodus 34:26 goes immediately before this law, doth in Exodus 22:30 immediately go before that law of not offering them before the eighth day, which implies, that both of them speak concerning the same thing, to wit, the first-fruits or first-born of the cattle, which were not to be offered to God while they were in their mother’s milk, saith this place, or till they were eight days old, saith that place. And consequently, if they might not be offered to God, they might not be used by men for food.

Verse 20

To wit, Christ, the Angel of the covenant, as may be gathered both from the following words, because pardon of sin, which is God’s prerogative, Mark 2:7, is here ascribed to him, and God’s name is in him, and by comparing other scriptures, as Exodus 32:34; Acts 7:38,Acts 7:39; 1 Corinthians 10:9. See Exodus 13:21; Exodus 14:19.

Verse 21

He will not pardon your transgressions, i.e. he will severely punish you for them, by a common meiosis, as Exodus 20:7. Understand, if you continue obstinate in your sins.

My name is in him, Heb. is in his inward parts, i.e. is intimately united to him, according to John 14:11,

I am in the Father, and the Father in me. It not only signifies that he acts in his name, and by his power and authority, which even the apostles did, and other ministers of the gospel do, and therefore it is unreasonable to think no more is ascribed to this Angel; but that his Divine nature or essence is in him, whence he is called the Lord our Righteousness, Jeremiah 23:6; and God, who will not give his glory to another, Isaiah 42:8, hath given it to Christ, that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father, John 5:23, which never was nor can be said of any angel without blasphemy. Add to this, that the word name is oft put for the thing or being, whether it be human or Divine, as is manifest from Deuteronomy 28:58; Psalms 20:1; Psalms 115:1; Isaiah 30:27; Acts 1:15; Revelation 3:4; Revelation 11:13. And so it must be here, because this name is not said to be given to him, as it would be, if it were properly taken; but to be in him; or in his inwards, which agrees well to the Divine nature or essence, but not to the mere name.

Verse 22

All that I speak; all that I have already commanded, and shall further prescribe by him unto Moses.

Verse 24

Thou shalt not bow down nor serve them, i.e. give them neither outward worship with thy body, nor inward with thy mind, nor follow their example in the worship of idols. Them shalt overthrow them, i.e. the people, lest thou be insnared by their counsel or example, and quite break down their images, or statues, or pillars, or any thing else erected in honour to their false gods. See Genesis 28:18; Genesis 35:20.

Verse 25

Thy bread and thy water, i.e. thy meat and thy drink, that they shall be able to nourish thee, and give thee comfort, which without my blessing they will never be able to do.

Verse 26

Here was a double mercy. God gave them strength both to conceive, and to retain the conception till the natural and proper time of bringing forth came.

The number of thy days I will fulfil; I will preserve thee so as thou shalt live as long as the course of nature and temper of thy body will permit, when evil men shall not live out half their days, Psalms 55:23.

Verse 27

My fear, i.e. a great terror, or a terror wrought by me. See Exodus 33:2; Joshua 24:12

Verse 28

Hornets, properly so called, as may be gathered from Joshua 24:12; Deuteronomy 7:20. Hornets are of themselves very troublesome and mischievous; but these it is very probable were like those Egyptian flies, Exodus 8:21, of an extraordinary bigness and perniciousness. Nor is it strange that such creatures did drive many of these people from their habitations; for many heathen writers give us instances of some people driven from their seats by frogs, others by mice, others by bees and wasps; of which see Herodotus, Diodorus, Pliny, Elian, Justin, &c. He names these three people, either for all the rest, because they were the most potent about the time of Israel’s first entrance into Canaan, and gave them most trouble; or because these three were more infested with hornets than the other nations, as being more numerous and dangerous.

Verse 29

Desolate, void of inhabitants in a great measure, because thy present number is not sufficient to occupy and manage their whole land.

Verse 31

Compare this place with Genesis 15:18; Numbers 34:3. The sea of the Philistines, i.e. the Mediterranean or midland sea, upon whose coast the land of the Philistines lay. The desert, of Egypt or Arabia; whereof see Genesis 16:7; Exodus 15:22. The river, to wit, Euphrates, as it is expressed Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24, which is oft called the river by way of eminency. All within these bounds were given them by God, but upon conditions, which they manifestly broke, and therefore were for the most part confined to a much narrower compass.

Verse 32

To worship them, as they made a covenant with Jehovah to worship him. The sense is, Thou shalt not engage thyself, either to the people or to their gods, but shalt root out both.

Verse 33

For if thou serve; or, for thou wilt serve; this will be the fruit of thy cohabitation with them, thou wilt thereby be drawn to idolatry.

It will surely, or, and assuredly this will be a snare; an occasion of further sin and utter ruin.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Exodus 23". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/exodus-23.html. 1685.
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