Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
These four commands, addressed to the conscience, are illustrations of the ninth commandment, mainly in reference to the giving of evidence in legal causes. Compare 1 Kings 21:10; Acts 6:11.
Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:
This verse might be more strictly rendered, "Thou shalt not follow the many to evil; neither shalt thou bear witness in a cause so as to incline after the many to pervert justice."
Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.
Countenance - Rather, show partiality to a man's cause because he is poor (compare Leviticus 19:15).
If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.
So far was the spirit of the law from encouraging personal revenge that it would not allow a man to neglect an opportunity of saving his enemy from loss.
If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
The sense appears to be: "If thou see the ass of thine enemy lying down under his burden, thou shalt forbear to pass by him; thou shalt help him in loosening the girths of the ass."
Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy 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 one whose guilt was not clearly proved. A doubtful case was rather 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.
(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. The word rendered "heart" is more strictly "soul," and would be better represented here by feelings.
Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.
And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.
Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof:
This is the first mention of the Sabbatical year; the law for it 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.
But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard.
Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.
May be refreshed - Literally, "may take breath."
And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.
Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year.
This is the first mention of the three great Yearly Festivals. The feast of Unleavened bread, in its connection with the Paschal Lamb, is spoken of in Exodus 12; Exodus 13:but the two others are here first named. The whole three are spoken of as if they were familiarly known to the people. The points that are especially enjoined are that every male Israelite should attend them at the sanctuary (compare Exodus 34:23), and that he should take with him an offering for Yahweh, presenting himself before his King with his tribute in his hand. That this condition belonged to all the feasts, though it is here stated only in regard to the Passover, cannot be doubted. See Deuteronomy 16:16.
Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:)
On the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or the Passover, see Exodus 12:1-20, Exodus 12:43-50; Exodus 13:3-16; Exodus 34:18-20; Leviticus 23:4-14. On the Feast of the Firstfruits of Harvest, called also the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Pentecost, see Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-21. On the Feast of Ingathering, called also the Feast of Tabernacles, see Leviticus 23:34-36, Leviticus 23:39-43.
And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.
In the end of the year - Compare Exodus 34:22. The year here spoken of must have been the civil or agrarian year, which began after harvest, when the ground was prepared for sowing. Compare Leviticus 23:39; Deuteronomy 16:13-15. The sacred year began in spring, with the month Abib, or Nisan. See Exodus 12:2 note, and Leviticus 25:9.
When thou hast gathered - Rather, when thou gatherest in.
Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD.
Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.
The blood of my sacrifice - It is generally considered that this must refer to the Paschal Lamb. See Exodus 12:7, Exodus 12:11, Exodus 12:13, Exodus 12:22-23, Exodus 12:27.
The fat of my sacrifice - Strictly, the fat of my feast; the "best part" of the feast, that is, the Paschal lamb itself. Compare Exodus 34:25.
The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.
The first of the firstfruits of thy land - The "best," or "chief" of the firstfruits, that is, the two wave loaves described Leviticus 23:17. As the preceding precept appears to refer to the Passover, so it is likely that this refers to Pentecost. They are called in Leviticus, "the firstfruits unto the Load;" and it is reasonable that they should here be designated the "chief" of the firstfruits. If, with some, we suppose the precept to relate to the offerings of firstfruits in general, the command is a repetition of Exodus 22:29.
Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk - This precept is repeated. See the marginal references. If we connect the first of the two preceding precepts with the Passover, and the second with Pentecost, it seems reasonable to connect this with the Feast of Tabernacles. The only explanation which accords with this connection is one which refers to a superstitious custom connected with the harvest; in which a kid was seethed in its mother's milk to propitiate in some way the deities, and the milk was sprinkled on the fruit trees, fields and gardens, as a charm to improve the crops of the coming year. Others take it to be a prohibition of a custom of great antiquity among the Arabs, of preparing a gross sort of food by stewing a kid in milk, with the addition of certain ingredients of a stimulating nature: and others take it in connection with the prohibitions to slaughter a cow and a calf, or a ewe and her lamb, on the same day Leviticus 22:28, or to take a bird along with her young in the nest Deuteronomy 22:6. It is thus understood as a protest against cruelty and outraging the order of nature.
Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.
But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.
The rendering in the margin is better. Cf. Deuteronomy 20:4.
For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.
I will cut them off - The national existence of the Canaanites was indeed to be "utterly" destroyed, every trace of their idolatries was to be blotted out, no social contact was to be held with them while they served other gods, nor were alliances of any kind to be formed with them. (See Deuteronomy 7; Deuteronomy 12:1-4, Deuteronomy 12:29-31.) But it is alike contrary to the spirit of the divine law, and to the facts bearing on the subject scattered in the history, to suppose that any obstacle was put in the way of well disposed individuals of the denounced nations who left their sins and were willing to join the service of Yahweh. The spiritual blessings of the covenant were always open to those who sincerely and earnestly desired to possess them. See Exodus 20:10; Leviticus 19:34; Leviticus 24:22.
Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.
And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.
There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil.
I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee.
Destroy - Rather, overthrow. See Exodus 23:23.
And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
Hornets - Compare the marginal references. The word is used figuratively for a cause of terror and discouragement. Bees are spoken of in the like sense, Deuteronomy 1:44; Psalm 118:12.
I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.
Beast of the field - i. e. destructive animals.
By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.
And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.
In Exodus 23:23, the limits of the Land of Canaan, strictly so called, are indicated; to this, when the Israelites were about to take possession of it, were added the regions of Gilead and Bashan on the left side of the Jordan Numbers 32:33-42; Joshua 13:29-32. These two portions made up the holy land, of which the limits were recognized, with inconsiderable variations, until the final overthrow of the Jewish polity. But in this verse the utmost extent of Hebrew dominion, as it existed in the time of David and Solomon, is set forth. The kingdom then reached to Eloth and Ezion-geber on the AElanitic Gulf of the Red Sea 1 Kings 9:26, and to Tiphsah on the "River," that is, the River Euphrates 1 Kings 4:24, having for its western boundary "the Sea of the Philistines," that is, the Mediterranean, and for its southern boundary "the desert," that is, the wildernesses of Shur and Paran (compare Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 1:7; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4).
Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.
They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.