I. Exodus 23: 1-9 Equal Justice
The Israelites (and us) have a charge from God to walk in godly integrity and to have “equal consideration of fair justice for all men regardless of their “economic state or social stature”. They had (and we have) a moral obligation to uphold justice and operate justice from the basis of truth, not falsehoods or innuendoes (speculation) nor partiality or plea bargaining.
1. You will not raise a false report: put not your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness (vs. 1) (Violates THE 9TH COMMANDMENT)
(a)Spreading false rumors slanders a person’s character. Don’t spread them or entertain it. I heard that they said! God sees both parties guilty. No rumor + no rumor spreader + no rumor entertainer If this cammand is follwed by everyone in the fellowship, we would be well on our way to having a PEACEFUL SOCIETY AND A PEACEFUL CHURCH
(b) Never agree with a known lie or liar. An “unrighteous witness” literally means a “violent witness” LIES ULTIMATELY WILL LEAD TO VIOLENCE!
2. You will not follow a multitude to do evil; neither will you speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment: (vs. 2)
(“Don’t follow the thundering herd!!!” promotes “Peer Pressure” and bad decisions This cautions us against being misled into evil by the bad influence of a crowd or even influential leaders. Second, you are not to be a “speaking witness” in any matter if you are helping to promote a lie. If the crowd or peers are not assembled for the right reasons, you are better off by yourself!
3. Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause. (vs. 3)
Whether a man is rich or poor in a money dispute, favor cannot be slanted toward a poor man if he is the guilty party. Equal justice must prevail regardless of the economic stature of the guilty.
(4- 5). If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it. (vs. 4-5)
This commandment guards against anyone talking revenge against their enemy. God wants us to love our enemies to the point that if they are in distress, and we are able to render help to them. We are to help them in sincerity and the best way we can.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-46
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same"?
Exodus 23:6-9 You will not wrest the judgment of your poor in his cause.
Four precepts evidently addressed to those in authority as judges:
(a) To do justice to the poor. Comparing Exodus 23:6 with Exodus 23:3, it was the part of the judge to defend the poor against the oppression of the rich, and the part of the witness to take care lest his feelings of natural pity should tempt him to falsify evidence.
(b) To be cautious of inflicting capital punishment on a person whose guilt was not clearly proven. A doubtful case was to be left to God Himself, who would "not justify the wicked," nor suffer him to go unpunished though he might be acquitted by an earthly tribunal. Exodus 23:7. Reasonable doubt: when in doubt pray!!
(c) To take no bribe or present which might in any way pervert judgment (Exodus 23:8); compare Numbers 16:15; 1 Samuel 12:3; Acts 26:26.
(d) To vindicate the rights of the stranger (Exodus 23:9) - rather, the foreigner. (Exodus 20:10 note.) This verse is a repetition of Exodus 22:21, but the precept is there addressed to the people at large, while it is here addressed to the judges in reference to their official duties. The caution was perpetually necessary. Compare Ezekiel 22:7; Malachi 3:5.
II. Exodus 23:10- 13 The Law of the Sabbaths
Commentary from Barnes Commentrary Notes:
This is the first mention of the Sabbatical year. The law for the Sabbatical year is given at length in Leviticus 25:2. Both the Sabbatical year and the weekly Sabbath are here spoken of exclusively in their relation to the poor, as bearing testimony to the equality of the people in their covenant with Yahweh. In the first of these institutions, the proprietor of the soil gave up his rights for the year to the whole community of living creatures, not excepting the beasts: in the latter, the master gave up his claim for the day to the services of his servants and cattle.
A. Pertaining to farming land (vs. 10-11)
Plant and harvest crops, Olive groves and vineyards for 6 years straight, let the land rest the 7th year
(a) So the poor could eat what your land reproduced.
(b) So the beast of the field could eat what the poor left.
B. Pertaining to manual labor (vs. 12)
You were allowed to work for the first 6 days, the 7th day, you were not to labor:
(a) So your oxen and donkeys could rest. (beast of labor burdens)
(b) So the sons of your female servants and the strangers can be refreshed. (take a break)
Explanation of the Sabbatical year and why God instructed the Israelites to keep it
As every seventh day was a Sabbath day so every seventh year was to be a Sabbath year. The reasons for this ordinance was:
"1. To maintain as far as possible equality of condition among the people, in setting the slaves at liberty and in permitting all, as children of one family, to have the free and indiscriminate use of whatever the earth produced.
2. To inspire the people with sentiments of humanity, by making it their duty to give rest and proper and sufficient nourishment, to the poor, the slave, and the stranger, and even to the cattle.
3. To accustom the people to submit to and depend on the divine providence, and expect their support from that in the seventh year by an extraordinary provision on the sixth.
4. To detach their affections from earthly and perishable things, and to make them disinterested and heavenly-minded.
5. To show them God's dominion over the country, and that HE, not they, was Lord of the soil and that they held it merely from His bounty." See this ordinance at length in Leviticus 25.
That God intended to teach them the “Doctrine of Providence” by this ordinance, there can be no doubt, and this is marked very distinctly Lev 25:20-21: "And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase:
God said: “then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years." That is, There shall be, not three crops in one year, but one crop equal in its abundance to three, because it must supply the wants of three years:
1. For the sixth year, supplying fruit for its own consumption,
2. For the seventh year, in which they were neither to sow nor reap; and
3. For the eighth year, for though they plowed, sowed, etc., that year, yet a whole course of its seasons was requisite to bring all these fruits to perfection, so that they could not have the fruits of the eighth year till the ninth, (see Exodus 23:22,) until which time God promised that they should eat of the old store. What an astonishing proof did this give of the being, power, providence, mercy, and goodness of God! Could there be an infidel in such a land, or a sinner against God and his own soul with such proofs before his eyes of God and his attributes as one sabbatical year afforded? It is very remarkable that the observance of this ordinance is nowhere expressly mentioned in the sacred writings, though some suppose but without sufficient reason, that there is a reference to it in Jeremiah 34:8-9. Perhaps the major part of the people could not trust God, and therefore continued to sow and reap on the seventh year, as on the preceding. This greatly displeased the Lord, and therefore he sent them into captivity; so that the land enjoyed those Sabbaths, through lack of inhabitants, of which their ungodliness had deprived it. See Leviticus 18:24-25,28; 26:34-35,43; 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.
III. Exodus 23: 14-17 Three Annual Feasts (Pilgrimage Feast)
( Cross reference with Exodus 34:18-26 and Deuteronomy 16:1-17)
Exodus 23:14 "[Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year".]
The three feasts here referred to were: (vs. 14)
A. The feast of the PASSOVER or “Unleavened Bread” was celebrated to keep in remembrance the wonderful deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt. None shall appear before me empty. Gifts were to be brought as evidence of thanks for God's blessings and as tribute to Jehovah their King (Deuteronomy 16:16-17). (vs.15)
B. The feast of PENTECOST, called also the “Feast of Harvest” and the “Feast of Weeks”, Exodus 34:22, was celebrated fifty days after the Passover to commemorate the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, which took place fifty days after, and hence, called by the Greeks Pentecost. (vs 16)
C. The feast of TABERNACLES, called also the “Feast of the Ingathering”, was celebrated about the 15th of the month Tisri (September) to commemorate the Israelites' dwelling in tents for forty years, during their stay in the wilderness. See the note at Leviticus 23:
God, out of his great wisdom appointed several festivals among the Jews for many reasons:
1. To perpetuate the memory of those great events, and the wonders he had performed for the people, for example, the Sabbath brought to remembrance the creation of the world; the Passover helped them to remember their departure out of Egypt; the Pentecost reminded them the giving of the Law; the feast of Tabernacles helped them to recall the sojourning of their forefathers in the wilderness, etc.
2. To keep them faithful to their religion by appropriate ceremonies, and the splendor of divine service.
3. To obtain for them lawful pleasures, and necessary rest.
4. To give them instruction, because in their religious assemblies the Law of God was always read and explained.
5. To consolidate their social union, by renewing the acquaintance of their tribes and families; because on these occasions, they come together from different parts of the land to the holy city."
The month “Abib” is March…The month Tisri is September
NOTE ON VERSE 17: These three were the great festivals during which all the men of Israel were required to present themselves before the Lord. In all of the feast, there was a remembrance not only of their redemption, but of God's continual blessing and provision. It has been pointed out that these are not only duties, but rights, "for keeping a feast to the Lord and appearing before Him were both privileges bestowed by Jehovah upon His covenant people".
D. Restrictions (vs.18)
(a) They could not offer blood of God’s sacrifice with Unleavened Bread.
Leaven being regarded as an emblem of impurity or corruption, was, in preparing for this national feast of communion with Yahweh, to be carefully removed; unleavened bread only was to be eaten during the continuance of the feast; and this typified the necessity of sanctification to the people of God in the prospect of sacred communion with Him in the feast of the Christian Passover.
(b)The fat of the offering could not remain. (vs. 19)
Not the smallest portion of the lamb was to be left, or allowed to putrefy, which, in a hot climate, would speedily have ensued; and which was not becoming in what was offered to God The fat of every sacrifice was consecrated to God by being wholly consumed on the altar.
IV. Exodus 23: 20- 32 Angelic Protection and Additional Promises
A. God sends his Angel (Jesus Christ) ahead of them (vs. 20)
B. God warns them concerning this Angel (vs.21)
(a) Beware of HIM (Divine and Holy and Majestic)
(b) Obey his Voice (Directly or through his designated spokesperson)
(c) Do not provoke HIM (transgress or rebel against HIM)
(d) He won’t pardon your rebellion (your rebellion is against his honor and sovereignty)
(e) MY NAME (God) is in HIM (Jesus) and those who God Call to active ministry
C. Conditional Promises (based on obedience) (vs.22)
(a) I’ll (God) will be an enemy to your enemies (adversary to them)
(b) I’ll cut them off (vs. 23)
D. Conditional Promises (based on Worship) (vs. 24- 32)
(a) You will overthrow them and break down their sacred pillars
(b) You will not bow down to their gods, serve them nor do according to their works.
(c) You will serve the Lord Your God (Jehovah)
(d) God will bless your bread and water.
(e) God will take away all sickness.
(f) None of the women will suffer miscarriages or be barren.
(g) God will fulfill the number of your days.
(h) God will send his FEAR ahead of you.
(i) God will cause confusion among all the people you will encounter and cause all of your enemies to turn their backs on you.
(j) Little by little, God will drive them out of the land you inherited.
(k) God set their land boundary from the Red Sea, Phillistia, the desert to the River.
(l) God will deliver the inhabitants into you hands; you will drive them out.
E. God’s Final warning (vs. 33)
Make no covenant with them or with their gods. If you serve their gods, it will be a snare to you!!!
List of other feast the Hebrews Celebrated"
1. The feast of the SABBATH, which was a weekly feast.
2. The feast of the SABBATICAL YEAR, which was a septennial feast.
3. The feast of TRUMPETS, which was celebrated on the first day of what was called their civil year, which was ushered in by the blowing of a trumpet; Leviticus 23:23, etc.
4. The feast of the NEW MOON, which was celebrated on the first day that the moon appeared after her change.
5. The feast of EXPIATION, which was celebrated annually on the tenth day of Tisri or September, on which a general atonement was made for all the sins, negligences, and ignorances, throughout the year.
6. The feast of LOTS or PURIM, to commemorate the preservation of the Jews from the general massacre projected by Haman. See the book of Esther.
7. The feast of the DEDICATION, or rather the restoration of the temple, which had been profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes IV. This was also called the feast of LIGHTS.
Besides these, the Jews have had several other feasts, such as the feast of BRANCHES, to commemorate the taking of Jericho.
The feast of COLLECTIONS, on the 10th of September, on which they make contributions for the service of the temple and synagogue.
The feast for the DEATH OF NICANOR, 1 Maccabees 7:48, etc.
The feast for the DISCOVERY OF THE SACRED FIRE 2 Maccabees 1:18, etc.
The feast of the CARRYING OF WOOD TO THE TEMPLE, called "Xylophoria", mentioned by Josephus, Wars, b. ii. c. 17 .