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Exodus: Chapter 23

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1You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. 2You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; 3nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit.

4When you come upon your enemy's ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back.

5When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free. a Or hornets: Meaning of Heb uncertain

6You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. 7Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

9You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

10For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; 11but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

12Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed. 13Be attentive to all that I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.

14Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me. 15You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread; as I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt.

No one shall appear before me empty‐handed.

16You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD.

18You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my festival remain until the morning.

19The choicest of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God.

You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk.

20I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21Be attentive to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him.

22But if you listen attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes.

23When my angel goes in front of you, and brings you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24you shall not bow down to their gods, or worship them, or follow their practices, but you shall utterly demolish them and break their pillars in pieces. 25You shall worship the LORD your God, and I a Or Sea of Reeds will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from among you. 26No one shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. 27I will send my terror in front of you, and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28And I will send the pestilence b Heb He in front of you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. 29I will not drive them out from before you in one year, or the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply against you. 30Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31I will set your borders from the Red Sea c Meaning of Heb uncertain to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates; for I will hand over to you the inhabitants of the land, and you shall drive them out before you. 32You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33They shall not live in your land, or they will make you sin against me; for if you worship their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.

Notes:

b Or hornets: Meaning of Heb uncertain

c Or Sea of Reeds

a Heb He

a Meaning of Heb uncertain

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

20.22–23.19 : The Covenant Collection, or Book of the Covenant

(see 24.7 ). This legislation begins and ends with commands regarding ritual ( 20.22–26; 23.10–19 ), so that worship surrounds social legislation. The laws presuppose a settled agricultural society ( 22.5–6 ). They reflect Israelite life in Canaan, when laws of the surrounding culture were borrowed and adapted to the covenant tradition. Most scholars see this as the earliest of the biblical law collections.

22.18–23.9 : Social and religious commands,

mostly in unconditional second‐person style, continuing 20.22–26 .

22.18–20 :

Capital offenses ( 21.12–17 ).

20 :

20.3; Deut 13.12–18 .

21–27 :

In a society based on land ownership, patrilineality, and patriarchy, God is the protector of the legally and economically defenseless: resident aliens, widows, fatherless (orphan), and poor.

21 :

Memory of the experience in Egypt creates empathy for aliens within Israel ( 23.9 ).

25 :

Cf. Lev 25.35–38 .

26–27 :

A lender can keep a garment as security only for the day, since a poor borrower needs it at night (Deut 24.12–13; Am 2.8 ).

28 :

Lev 24.15–16; 2 Sam 16.9; 1 Kings 2.8–9; 21.10 .

29–30 :

2.22–23n.; 13.1–2,11–16 , and notes. However, it is uncertain if the redemption of the firstborn is recognized here.

31 :

Flesh torn by beasts is regarded as unclean because it is not properly drained of blood (Lev 7.24; 17.15 ).

23.1–9 :

Equal justice for all.

1–3 :

20.16.

4–5 :

Justice extends even to helping your enemy (contrast Deut 22.1–4 ).

9 :

22.21 .

23.10–19 : A ritual calendar

( 34.18–24; Lev 23; Deut 16.1–17 ) concludes the Covenant Collection, so that social laws are framed by worship ( 20.22–26 ).

10–11 :

Fallow land (Lev 25.2–7 ). The land, the poor, and wild animals are all objects of concern.

12 :

Here the observance of the seventh day, not here called the sabbath, is based upon concern for the needs of exploitable humans and animals (cf. 20.11; 16.22–30n.; Deut 5.14–15 ).

13 :

20.3 .

14–17 :

Three annual pilgrimage festivals to a major sanctuary (1 Sam 1.3,21 ).

15 :

Unleavened bread, 12.14–20n.; 13.3–10 . Abib, 13.4n. Empty‐handed, without a sacrificial offering.

16 :

The festival of harvest, later called Shavuot, the festival of weeks, or Pentecost, celebrated in May–June at the time of the wheat harvest ( 19.1n.; Lev 23.15–21; Deut 16.9–12 ). The third festival, the festival of ingathering, later called Sukkot, the festival of booths (Lev 23.33–43; Deut 16.13–15 ), celebrated at the end of the year (autumn), according to the old agricultural calendar ( 12.2n. ), when fruit, grapes, and olives are harvested.

17 :

Women and young children are not obligated to make the pilgrimage. They do make the pilgrimage, however, in 1 Sam 1; 2.19; cf. Ex 10.9 .

18–19 :

34.25–26 . Fat, see Lev 3.3–4 . The ancient meaning of the prohibition against boiling a kid in its mother's milk (Deut 14.21 ) is disputed.

23.20–33 : The divine warrior will conquer the promised land

for Israel, and in return Israel is to keep separate from other peoples and their gods (Deut 7 ).

20–21 :

The angel represents God's own presence ( 14.19 ).

23,28 :

3.8n.

25–26 :

15.26 .

27–28 :

Terror (Gen 35.5; Josh 10.10 ) and pestilence (Deut 7.20 ) are frequent weapons of “holy war.”

31 :

Red Sea, the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba, the eastern arm of the Red Sea; sea of the Philistines, the Mediterranean; the wilderness, the desert south of Israel. For these boundaries, cf. Gen 15.18; Deut 11.24 .

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