Exodus 23
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
1–3. Veracity and impartiality to be observed, especially in giving evidence in a court of law. Cf. (in H) Leviticus 19:15-18.

1a. A groundless report not to be given currency—as might readily happen, for instance, from thoughtlessness or malice. Cf. Leviticus 19:16.

take up] on the lips, i.e. utter. Cf. on Exodus 20:7.

a groundless report] On shâw’, ‘groundless,’ see on Exodus 20:7.

1b. Not to assist the evildoer by giving dishonest witness.

put not thy hand with] make not common cause with: cf. for the idiom 2 Kings 15:19, Jeremiah 26:24.

the wicked] or, as in Exodus 2:13, him that is in the wrong.

an unrighteous witness] better, a malicious witness: lit. a witness of violence (so Deuteronomy 19:16, Psalm 35:11†), i.e. a witness who seeks to subvert the innocent, either (ll.cc.) directly, or, as here, by assisting to clear the guilty.

Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:
2. Not to follow a majority blindly for evil purposes, or, in particular to pervert justice.

to do evil] lit. into evil things.

speak] answer (in a court of law), i.e. bear witness (RVm.), as Exodus 20:16. The Heb. ‘ânâh never means simply to ‘speak.’

to turn aside after] Jdg 9:3 Heb., 1 Samuel 8:3, 1 Kings 2:28 Heb.

to wrest] or, as the same word is rendered in v. 6 and elsewhere, to pervert (lit. to turn aside): see Deuteronomy 16:19; Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 27:19, 1 Samuel 8:3, Lamentations 3:35. (To ‘turn aside’ a man from his right is also said (sometimes with ‘from his right’ omitted): Isaiah 10:2; Isaiah 29:21, Amos 5:12, Proverbs 18:5, Malachi 3:5). The text of this verse is in parts suspicious: but no doubt the same general sense was always expressed by it.

Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.
3. Judgement to be given with strict impartiality.

favour] lit. adorn, i.e. honour (Leviticus 19:15; Leviticus 19:32, Lamentations 5:12)—in a bad sense, honour unduly = favour, viz. out of false sympathy, or antipathy to the rich and powerful. ‘The sense is good, and supported by Leviticus 19:15 : one would expect, however, a warning against the far more common fault of favouring a great man, if not in place of the present warning, at least (as in Leviticus 19:15) by the side of it’ (Di.). Kn., Bä. and others, by a very slight change (גדל for ודל), would read, ‘Thou shalt not honour a great man in his cause.’

If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.
4. thine enemy’s ox] that such a service would be rendered to a friend, is taken for granted. In Dt. the comprehensive term ‘brother,’ i.e. fellow-countryman, is employed, in accordance with the prevalent usage of that book (cf. Deuteronomy 15:2-3; Deuteronomy 15:7; Deuteronomy 15:9; Deuteronomy 15:11-12; Deuteronomy 17:15 al.).

4, 5. An enemy’s beast to be preserved from harm. These two injunctions breathe a spirit unusual in the OT. (cf., however, Leviticus 19:17-18), and reminding one of Matthew 5:44. They are repeated in Deuteronomy 22:1-4, in an expanded form, accommodating them to the spirit and point of view of Deuteronomy. They can hardly be here in their original place; for they evidently interrupt the connexion between vv. 1–3 and vv. 6–9: they would follow better after Exodus 22:24 or 27.

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.
5. and wouldest forbear, &c.] This rend. (= AV.) of the existing text is quite impossible: ‘âzab means to leave, forsake, &c., but never to ‘help.’ That of the marg. is much preferable: for the uncommon sense let loose or release, cf. Deuteronomy 32:36, Job 10:1. Ges., Di., Keil under, thou shalt forbear to leave (it) to him (alone); thou shalt surely release (it) with him; the objection to this is that ‘âzab is taken in a efferent sense in the two parts of the verse; Ges., however, supposed e play to be intentional. The difficulty could be removed by reading in the last clause, with Bochart, Bä., thou shalt surely help with him (עזר תעזר for עזב תעזב). The rend. thou shalt forbear is perfectly grammatical: but it is in favour of RVm. that nearly everywhere else in these laws (e.g. v. 4) the apodosis after ki is introduced by a bare impf. Deuteronomy 22:4 has, ‘thou shalt surely lift (them) up with him.’

Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause.
6. Cf. Deuteronomy 1:17; and, more generally, Leviticus 19:15 (H), Deuteronomy 16:19. As is well known, the maladministration of justice is, and always has been, a crying evil among Oriental nations; and the poor, especially, are rarely able to get their rights. Comp. allusions in the OT., Amos 5:12, Isaiah 10:2, Jeremiah 5:28, Psalm 10:17; Psalm 82:4, Proverbs 31:9; also Jeremiah 22:16 (where Josiah is praised for having ‘judged the cause of the poor and the needy’), Psalm 72:12-14.

6–9. Justice to be administered impartially: bribes not to be taken; the poor and the gêr not to be oppressed. The verses form the continuation of vv. 1–3, vv. 1–3 dealing with fairness in bearing witness, and these verses with fairness in administering justice.

Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.
7. a false matter] i.e., as the context shews, a case that can only be carried through with the help of false statements, and false witnesses.

slay thou not] by false accusations, false witness, or an unjust sentence. The words are addressed indifferently to accuser, witness, and judge. Cf. Deuteronomy 27:25, Psalm 94:6; Psalm 94:21.

for I do not justify the wicked] I do not justify the man who is in the wrong (v. 1b), and who accuses the innocent unjustly; and therefore the judges should act similarly. LXX. however read, and thou shalt not justify the wicked, which may be the original reading (Bä.); cf. Deuteronomy 25:1.

And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.
8. gift (twice)] bribe, as the same word is rendered in EVV. of 1 Samuel 8:3, Isaiah 33:15, and in RV. of Ezekiel 22:12. It is true, ‘gift’ had this sense in Old English; but the Heb. word means distinctively a ‘bribe,’ and there are places in which the sense of ‘gift’ is not clear. The same word (shôḥad) is also sometimes rendered ‘reward.’ See for allusions to the practice of taking bribes, Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 5:23, Micah 3:11, Ezekiel 22:12, Psalm 26:10, Proverbs 17:8; Proverbs 17:23; it is what the righteous man never does, Psalm 15:5, Isaiah 33:15, nor Jehovah, Deuteronomy 10:17; it is forbidden, as here, in Deuteronomy 16:19, and cursed, if its object be to ‘slay an innocent person,’ in Deuteronomy 27:25. The prevalence of bribery in the East is notorious; see a singular case, in which the chief Ḳaḍi of Cairo was implicated, in Lane, Mod. Egyptians, i. 145 ff.

for a bribe blindeth the open-eyed, and subverteth the cause (RVm.) of the righteous] The whole verse is repeated verbatim in Deuteronomy 16:19, except that ‘eyes of the wise’ is substituted for ‘open-eyed.’ For ‘words,’ i.e. statements, arguments, pleas, which in a forensic connexion are tantamount in the aggregate to a ‘case’ or ‘cause,’ see Exodus 24:14, with the note, Joshua 20:4 (lit. ‘his words’), 2 Samuel 15:3 (lit. ‘thy words’). For ‘subverteth,’ cf. Proverbs 19:3; Proverbs 22:12 (‘overthroweth’).

Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
9. The gêr, or foreigner ‘sojourning’ in Israel, not to be ‘crushed.’ Identical, in great measure verbally, with Exodus 22:21 : here, no doubt, directed specially against unfair judgement (cf. Deuteronomy 24:17 ‘Thou shalt not wrest the judgement of the sojourner,’ Exodus 27:19, Malachi 3:5).

stranger (each time)] sojourner: see on Exodus 22:11.

for ye (emph.) know …, seeing ye were sojourners, &c.] see on Exodus 22:21.

the heart] lit. the soul, i.e. the feelings.

And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof:
10, 11. The fallow year. In every seventh year the fields, vineyards, and olive-gardens are to remain uncultivated, such produce as they bear naturally being not gathered by the owners, but left to the poor. The terms in which the law is expressed leave it uncertain whether (as is generally supposed) a year common to the whole land is intended, or (Riehm, HWB. s.v. Sabbathjahr; Wellh. Hist. p. 117 f.; Nowack, Archäol. ii. 162; W. R. Smith in EB. iv. 4180; Bä.) one varying with he different properties, and reckoned in each from the year in which it first began to be cultivated: the analogy of v. 12 would favour the former interpretation; practical considerations, and the analogy of Leviticus 19:23-25, would support the latter. In Leviticus 25:1-7 (H) it is represented as a fixed year to be observed throughout the country simultaneously; but this does not determine the question whether it had that character from the beginning. A common septennial fallow year, must, in practice, have had its inconveniences: 2 Chronicles 36:21 (cf. Leviticus 26:34-35) seems to imply that it was not observed, at least regularly, before the exile: but there are several notices of its observance in the Greek period (e.g. 1Ma 6:49; 1Ma 6:53 : DB. iv. 325b).

10–12. The seventh year to be a fallow year, and the seventh day to be a day of rest. The motive, it may be noticed, is in each case a philanthropic one.

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.
11. thou shalt let it drop and abandon it] viz. the land, less probably the increase: RV. (substantially = AV.) is a paraphrase. The word rendered let drop means properly to fling or throw down (2 Kings 9:33, of Jezebel). In Deuteronomy 15:2-3 it is differently applied; and is used of letting a debt drop every seventh year, in the ‘year of dropping’ or of ‘release’ (Deuteronomy 15:1-2; Deuteronomy 15:9); and the rend. release in RVm. here brings out this connexion—though, it is true, it is not more than a verbal one—with the law of Deuteronomy 15:1-6.

abandon] or leave, let go; rendered ‘forgo’ in Nehemiah 10:31.

that the poor, &c.] contrast Leviticus 25:6-7.

In Lev Exo 25:1-7; Leviticus 25:20-22 (H), the fallow year, whatever may be the case in Ex., becomes, as has just been remarked, a fixed year for the whole country; and the motive is no longer exclusively a philanthropic one, but a religious one, viz. that the land may ‘keep a sabbath to Jehovah’ (whence the term ‘sabbatical year’): in Deuteronomy 15:1-6 it receives an entirely different application, and becomes a fixed septennial ‘year of release,’ applied for the relief of the poor debtor, by the exaction of debts being prohibited in it. Whether however even the present passage gives the original motive of the institution may be doubted. Analogous usages in other countries (see Maine, Village Communities in the East and West, pp. 77–79, 107–113, &c.; Fenton, Early Hebrew Life, 1880, pp. 24–26, 29–32, 64–70) suggest that it may be a relic of communistic agriculture, i.e. of a stage of society in which the fields belonging to a village are the property of the villagers collectively, individuals only acquiring the use of particular portions for a limited period, and the produce, at stated intervals, reverting to the use of the community generally. The fallow year of Ex. and Lev. is similarly an institution limiting the rights of individual ownership in the interests of the community generally: in Ex. the institution is applied so as to minister to the needs of the poorer classes; in Leviticus 25:1-7 the prominent idea is the benefit which the land would derive from remaining periodically uncultivated.

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.
12. The sabbath, treated here as a day of cessation from (in particular) field-labour, designed with a humanitarian end.

thy work] The word (ma‘ǎseh),—which is not the same as the one (melâ’khâh) rendered ‘work’ in Exodus 20:10,—though in itself a general one, seems rather from the context to suggest work in the field: cf. v. 16, where it is twice rendered ‘labours’; also Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 16:15; Deuteronomy 24:19; Deu Exo 28:12 (note in each case the context).

rest] desist (from work), or keep sabbath (RVm.): see on Exodus 20:8.

and thine ass may rest] as Exodus 20:11. This is the word that expresses the positive idea of rest (Job 3:13; Job 3:17). (‘Have rest’ in RV. is intended for distinction from ‘rest’ just before; but it is better to be express the distinction by giving a more exact rendering of shâbath.)

the son of thy bondwoman] i.e. a slave ‘born in the house’ (cf. on Exodus 12:44), of parents who were themselves slaves—intended, it must be supposed, to represent slaves in general (cf. Deuteronomy 5:14 end): as Di. remarks, most slaves were probably of this kind. Bertholet (Die Stellung der Isr. u. der Juden zu den Fremden, p. 55) and Bä. think ‘the son of thy concubine’ to be meant (cf. the sense of ’âmâh in Exodus 21:7 [see note]); but there seems no sufficient reason for this limitation.

the sojourner] the sojourner in thy employment (Exodus 20:10).

be refreshed] properly, get breath: so Exodus 31:17, 2 Samuel 16:14†.

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.
13. God’s commands to be honoured; and ‘other gods’ not even to be mentioned, still less invoked in worship. The verse can hardly be in place in the midst of laws relating to sacred seasons. It reads like the conclusion, perhaps added by a compiler, either to the Book of the Covenant itself, or to one of the smaller collections of laws, out of which (cf. p. 203) the Book of the Covenant seems to have been formed. Probably it has found its present place as a result of successive expansions or transpositions of the text. It is impossible to determine its original position: but it would follow suitably v. 19.

make] Heb. make ye; Sam. make thou.

other gods] See on Exodus 20:3. With the clause itself comp. Joshua 23:7 (D2[193]).

[193] Deuteronomic passages in Josh., Jud., Kings.

upon (Psalm 50:16 Heb.) thy mouth] Cf. Hosea 2:17 [Heb. 19], Zechariah 13:2, Psalm 16:4.

Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year.
14. times] Heb. regâlîm, lit. feet, i.e. foot-beats, fig. for ‘times’; so besides only Numbers 22:28; Numbers 22:32-33 (also E). In v. 17 the more ordinary Heb. word is used (pe‘âmîm).

keep a pilgrimage] The word (ḥag) means a feast accompanied by a pilgrimage (see on Exodus 10:9): there were only three of these in the Jewish year. Ḥag is to be carefully distinguished from the wider term mô‘çd (rendered variously in RV. set feast, appointed feast, solemn [i.e., like the Lat. solemnis, stated, recurring] feast, solemn assembly, solemnity: see e.g. Leviticus 23:2; Leviticus 23:4; Leviticus 23:37; Leviticus 23:44, Hosea 2:11; Hosea 9:5; Hosea 12:9, Isaiah 1:14; Isaiah 33:20, Lamentations 1:4; Lamentations 1:15; Lamentations 2:6-7, Ezekiel 36:38; Ezekiel 44:24; Ezekiel 45:17; Ezekiel 46:9; Ezekiel 46:11), which means properly a fixed time or season, and is applied to any fixed sacred season (including e.g. the Day of Atonement and New Year’s Day), whether observed by a pilgrimage or not (see esp. Leviticus 23, which, as vv. 2, 4 shew, is a Calendar of such mô‘ădim).

14–17. The three annual pilgrimages, at which every male was to appear before God at a sanctuary. These pilgrimages were festivals which marked originally stages in the agricultural operations of the year: they were the occasions of thanksgiving to Jehovah, the Owner of the land, for the gifts of the soil—the festivals of Maẓẓoth and Harvest celebrating the beginning and close of harvest, and the feast Ingathering the completion of the vintage and olive-gathering. In later times a historical significance was attached to them, and they were regarded as commemorative of events connected with the Exodus; in the case of Maẓẓoth and Ingathering this character is attached to them in the OT. itself, in the case of the feast of Harvest (or of weeks), it is first met with in the post-Bibl. literature (see on v. 16a). The present passage, with the nearly verbal parallel in Exodus 34:18; Exodus 34:22 f., contains the earliest legislation on the subject: the festivals are already recognized institutions; and the Israelite is merely commanded to observe them. The later codes prescribe the ritual with which, as time went on, they gradually came to be celebrated: see Deuteronomy 16:1-17; Leviticus 23 (H, expanded in parts from P); Numbers 28-29 (P); and (for Maẓẓoth) Exodus 12:14-20 (also P).

14–19. Further ceremonial regulations (cf. Exodus 20:24-26, Exodus 22:29-31).

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:)
15a. The first pilgrimage, the seven days’ festival of Maẓẓoth or Unleavened Cakes. Cf. the parallel Exodus 34:18; and the later regulations in Deuteronomy 16:3-4; Deuteronomy 16:8; Leviticus 23:6-8 (P), 9–14 (H and P); Exodus 12:14-20 and Numbers 28:17-25 (both P). This feast celebrated the beginning of the barley-harvest (which begins in Palestine towards the end of April or the beginning of May, some weeks before the wheat-harvest): cf. Leviticus 23:10-14 H (the ‘wave-sheaf’ of the first-fruits of the harvest to be presented then to Jehovah). The reason why this spring festival was observed in particular by eating unleavened cakes must remain matter of conjecture: perhaps it was simply because, at a time when men were busy with the harvest, such cakes (cf. on Exodus 12:8) were most quickly and easily prepared (Wellh. Hist. p. 87; Nowack, Arch. ii. 146; EB. iii. 3591). Eerdmans (Expositor, Nov. 1909, p. 459 ff.) conjectures that it was to preserve, in accordance with a primitive conception, the ‘soul’ of the corn for the seed of the year to come. The feast is regarded as commemorating the day of the Exodus in Exodus 13:3-10 (JE), Deuteronomy 16:3, Exodus 12:14-20 (P): in Exodus 12:34; Exodus 12:39 (J) a historical motive for the use of unleavened cakes is suggested; the haste viz. with which the Israelites left Egypt gave them no time to leaven their dough.

seven days … empty] These words, breaking the grammatical connexion between v. 15a and v. 16, have been most probably introduced here by a later hand from Exodus 34:18 b, 20c. The words, ‘as I commanded thee,’ refer apparently to Exodus 13:6 J (cf. v. 4 ‘Abib’), and are in their proper place in J’s covenant (Exodus 34:10-26; see p. 372), but cannot well be original in E.

15b. none shall appear before me empty] So Exodus 34:20 c, Deuteronomy 16:16 c (with the explanation in v. 17 ‘every man shall give [an offering] as he is able, according to the blessing of Jehovah which he hath given thee,’ i.e. according as he can afford to give, out of the produce of the year). In Deuteronomy 16:16 c the clause actually follows the one corresponding to Exodus 23:17 = Exodus 34:23, so that it refers to all three pilgrimages; and no doubt this was its original place (viz. after Exodus 34:23 = Exodus 23:17): it would be natural to expect an offering to be prescribed for each pilgrimage.

appear before me] The standing phrase for visiting a sanctuary as a worshipper, esp. at the three great pilgrimages (Exodus 34:20; Exodus 34:23-24, Deuteronomy 31:11, 1 Samuel 1:22), but also used more generally (Isaiah 1:12, Psalm 42:2). It is however held by many,—on the basis, primarily, of grammatical considerations affecting Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:20, Isaiah 1:12, and Psalm 42:2,—that in these and similar passages (Exodus 34:23-24,) Deuteronomy 16:16 (twice), Exodus 31:11) the existing punctuation does not represent the original vocalization, and that the true sense of the phrase is (with other vowel points) see my face, see the face of Yahweh, i.e. visit Him as Sovereign (so Ges., Dillm., Kirkpatrick on Psalm 42:1, and others). The usual phrase for admission to the presence of a royal person (2 Samuel 3:13; 2 Samuel 14:28; 2 Samuel 14:32, 2 Kings 25:19; cf. Genesis 43:3) was applied to visiting the sanctuary; but as objection came to be felt to the expression ‘seeing the face of God’ (cf. Exodus 33:20), the vocalization,—and perhaps, in Exodus 23:17, 1 Samuel 1:22, even the consonantal ext,—was altered so as to express the idea of ‘appearing before God.’

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.
16a. The second pilgrimage, the Feast of Harvest, celebrating the completion of the wheat harvest (Exodus 34:22), in June, and marked by the offering of firstfruits from the ripened grain (in Exodus 34:22 ‘the firstfruits of wheat harvest’ takes the place of ‘the firstfruits of thy labours’ here). The term ‘Feast of Harvest’ is found only here: in Exodus 34:22 and in Dt. (Deuteronomy 16:10; Deuteronomy 16:16) it is called the Feast of Weeks, on account of its being kept seven weeks after the sickle was first put to the corn, Deuteronomy 16:9, or (in H) after the first sheaf of the year’s harvest had been presented to Jehovah as a wave-offering, Leviticus 23:15 (see v. 10); and in Numbers 28:26 (P) the Day of firstfruits. For the regulations in the other codes, see Deuteronomy 16:9-12; Leviticus 23:15-21 (H and P: in H loaf of fine flour, baked with leaven, is to be ‘waved’ as firstfruits to Jehovah; in a gloss (based on Num Exo 28:27-30) the required sacrifices are prescribed); Numbers 28:26-31 (P).

labours] work, as v. 12 (G.-K. § 93ss); cf. 1 Samuel 25:2 Heb. The following words explain what is meant: (even) of that which thou sowest would be clearer.

(even) of the firstfruits &c.] Heb. bikkurim (cognate with bekôr, ‘firstborn,’ ‘firstling’), denoting properly firstripe fruit (including cereals) in general (as Nahum 3:12 lit. ‘figtrees with bikkurim’), but used specially of those portions of the ‘firstripe fruit’ which were presented to Jehovah. Bikkurim occurs besides v. 19 (and the "" "" Exodus 34:22; Exodus 34:26), Leviticus 2:14; Leviticus 23:17; Leviticus 23:20, Numbers 13:20; Numbers 18:13; Numbers 23:26, 2 Kings 4:42 (‘bread of firstfruits’ brought to Elisha), Nehemiah 10:35; Nehemiah 13:31, Ezekiel 44:30†. Cf. p. 246.

No historical significance is in the OT. attached to this festival; but by the later Jews it was regarded as commemorating the giving of the law ‘in the third month’ of the Exodus (Exodus 19:1), which was supposed to have taken place 50 days after the 15th of the first month (Leviticus 23:6; the morning after the Passover on the 14th, Exodus 12:18).

16b. The third pilgrimage, the Feast of Ingathering, held at the end of the year, in September, when the threshing was finished, the vintage over, and the juice pressed out from the grapes and olives (Deuteronomy 16:13 ‘when thou gatherest in from thy threshing-floor and from thy wine-vat’). It is called the ‘Feast of Ingathering’ also in Exodus 34:22†: in Dt. (Deuteronomy 16:13; Deuteronomy 16:16, Deuteronomy 31:10) and P (Leviticus 23:34), as also in later writers generally (Ezra 3:4, 2 Chronicles 8:13, Zechariah 14:16; Zechariah 14:18-19†), it is called, from the custom of dwelling at the time in booths made of the branches of trees (Leviticus 23:40; Leviticus 23:42 [H]; Nehemiah 8:14-17), the Feast of Booths. This feast, according to Dt. (Deuteronomy 16:13; Deuteronomy 16:15), H and P (Leviticus 23:34; Leviticus 23:39, Numbers 29:12), lasted for 7 days (cf. Nehemiah 8:18). It was an occasion of hilarity (cf. Deuteronomy 16:15 end, Leviticus 23:40 b): in Jdg 9:27 a festival is mentioned, which seems to have been its Canaanite counterpart. Cf. also Jdg 21:19; Jdg 21:21. Comp., in the other codes, Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Leviticus 23:39-43 (mostly H); Leviticus 23:33-36, Numbers 29:12-38 (both P). In Leviticus 23:43 (H) the custom of dwelling in booths is explained as commemorating the fact that the Israelites dwelt in ‘booths’ after their departure from Egypt. ‘Booths,’ or huts, are not however the same as tents: and the actual origin of the custom is more probably to be found in the fact that those employed in gathering the fruit-harvest would sleep at the time in huts in the vineyards and olive-gardens (cf. Isaiah 1:8). Afterwards, however, the ancient practice had a commemorative meaning attached to it (cf. on vv. 14–17); and it was treated as a reminder of important events.

at the going out of the year] The old Hebrew year ended, with the agricultural operations for the year, in autumn: cf. on Exodus 12:2.

labours] lit. work—here of the product of the year’s work in agriculture.

Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD.
17. Every male to appear before (see on v. 15) Jehovah three times in the year. The substantial identity with v. 14, coupled with the different word for ‘times,’ makes it probable that the verse has been introduced here from Exodus 34:23the Lord God] i.e. the Lord, Jehovah. The title ‘Lord’ is an indication that these pilgrimages are to be observed as marks of homage and respect to Jehovah, as Sovereign of the land (Di., Bä.).

Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.
18. Two regulations respecting sacrifice, designed to guard a sacrifice against contamination by anything corrupt or tainted.

18a. Jehovah’s sacrifices not to be offered with leavened bread. Cf. the "" Exodus 34:25; Leviticus 2:11; Leviticus 6:17; and the note on ch. Exodus 12:8. ‘In the earliest times bread was entirely unleavened. Flour or barley was mixed with water and kneaded in a “kneading-bowl” (Exo Exodus 8:3), and then baked into “unleavened cakes” (see on Exodus 12:8), such as are still the usual food of the Bedawin. In a more advanced stage of society the bread was made in this way only in cases of emergency (Genesis 19:3), or for purposes of ritual. The ordinary bread of the Hebrews was made lighter by fermentation’ (Kennedy, in EB. i. 604). The reason why leavened bread was prohibited for ritual purposes was, probably, partly because unleavened bread had the sanction of antiquity (Kennedy, ib. iii. 2753), partly because leaven, being produced by fermentation, was regarded as tainted with a species of corruption (ib. p. 2754; OTJC.2[194] p. 345; Rel. Sem. p. 203 f., ed. 2, p. 220 f.). Leavened bread was permitted only when the offering was not to be placed upon the altar, but eaten by the priests, Leviticus 7:13; Leviticus 23:17; Leviticus 23:20 end.

[194] W. R. Smith, Old Testament in the Jewish Church, ed. 2, 1892.

offer] lit. kill or slay (Deuteronomy 12:15), but the word (zâbaḥ) is nearly always used of slaying for sacrifice (cf. on Exodus 20:24). It occurs only here with ‘blood’ as its object. In the "", Exodus 34:25 a, slaughter (shâḥaṭ) is used: this is often said of the slaughter of an animal for sacrifice Exodus 29:11, Leviticus 1:5, &c.), but, like zâbaḥ, is not found elsewhere with blood’ as its object. The use of both words in this law is peculiar.

18b. The fat of a festal sacrifice,—which, like the fat of other sacrifices, as the most esteemed part of the animal, was regularly consumed in sweet smoke (see on Exodus 29:13) upon the altar (Leviticus 1:8; Leviticus 3:3 f. &c.), as an offering to the Deity,—is not to remain unburnt till the next morning (when it would in any case be stale, and in a hot climate might even be tainted). The fat meant is not all fat found in an animal, but specifically that about the kidneys and other intestines (Leviticus 3:3 f.: Rel. Sem.2[195] 379 f.; EB. ii. 1545; Driver and White, Leviticus in Haupt’s Sacred Books of the OT., illustr. opp. to p. 4).

[195] W. R. Smith, The Religion of the Semites, ed. 2, 1894.

the fat of my feast] Lit. of my pilgrimage (Heb. ḥag), i.e. of the animals sacrificed at my pilgrimages (cf. Malachi 2:3, Psalm 118:27 Heb.).

The "", Exodus 34:25 b, has ‘the sacrifice of the pilgrimage of the passover’; hence it is commonly thought that the reference (in both clauses) is to the passover (so already Onk., expressly in cl.a, and by implication cl.b). No doubt these two regulations might have been formulated at a time when the Passover was the principal Heb. sacrifice: on the other hand, this is nowhere else (except in Exodus 34:25) called a ḥag; and (Di.) the terms being perfectly general, the limitation seems hardly legitimate: the fat pieces of a sacrifice offered at any pilgrimage are to be burnt upon the altar the same day. Why the regulation is limited to these sacrifices does not appear: was it because greater strictness and formality were expected on these occasions than when the sacrifice was an ordinary private one? There are similar regulations in P for the flesh, not only of the Passover (ch. Exodus 12:10), but also of the ram of installation (Exodus 29:34), and of the thanksgiving-offering (Leviticus 7:15; Leviticus 22:30). The fat of the Passover is not elsewhere specified.

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.
19a. Firstfruits to be brought to Jehovah’s house.

the first of the firstripe fruits] ‘Firstripe fruits’ (bikkurim) seems to be used here in the wider sense noticed on v. 16; and it is said either (Ges.) that the earliest, or (Kn., Ke.) that the first (i.e. the choicest, best: rçshîth as Amos 6:1; Amos 6:6), of these are to be presented to Jehovah: comp. esp. Ezekiel 44:30. The rend. the best, (even) the firstripe fruits, of thy ground (Di., Benzinger, EB. iv. 4910, Nowack, Arch. ii. 256, Bä.) is less natural. As regards the relation of this law to that in v. 16, v. 16 alludes only to the bikkurim to be presented at the Feast of Weeks; the present law is wider, and would include for instance the firstfruits of the grape and olive harvest, which fell later in the year (according to the Mishna, bikkurim were offered on ‘seven kinds,’ viz. wheat, barley, vines, figtrees, pomegranates, oil, and honey: see Gray, Numbers., p. 228). It seems to be a parallel to the law in Exodus 22:29; the two laws probably belonged originally to two distinct collections, and both were preserved on account of the difference in their form.

The amount of firstfruits to be offered is not prescribed; and is evidently left to the free will of the individual offerer (cf. v. 15b; Deuteronomy 16:17).

the house of Jehovah] The expression might denote the hêkal, or temple, at Shiloh (Jdg 18:31, 1 Samuel 1:7; 1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 3:15), or the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 8:10, and often): it might also, presumably, denote the local sanctuary nearest to the offerer’s own home; for these, or at least the principal ones, had almost certainly ‘houses’ or shrines (cf. 1 Kings 12:31, 2 Kings 17:32, Amos 7:13; Amos 9:1). The Tent of meeting might also perhaps be spoken of generally as the ‘house,’ or abode, of Jehovah; but the term is not a very natural one to apply to it; and where it does apparently denote the Tent of meeting (Joshua 6:2 [but ‘the house of’ omitted in LXX., as in v. 19 in the Heb.], Exodus 9:23 end), or the tent erected for the ark by David (2 Samuel 12:20; cf. 2 Samuel 6:17), is open to the suspicion of having been used by the writers on account of their familiarity with the Temple of Solomon (in 2 Samuel 7:6 a ‘tent’ denied to be a ‘house’). The present law must have been formulated it seems natural to think, without any reference to the Tent of meeting.

19b. A kid not to be boiled in its mother’s milk. Repeated verbatim, in the "" Exodus 34:26 b, and Deuteronomy 14:21 b. The law, to judge from its position beside ritual injunctions, will have had not, as might have been supposed, a humanitarian, but a religious motive. Di. and most suppose then it is aimed against some superstitious custom—perhaps (Maimonides; Spencer, Legg. Hebr. (1686), II. viii.; al.) that of using milk thus prepared as a charm for rendering fields and orchards more productive. Frazer (‘Folk-lore in the OT.,’ in Anthropological Essays presented to E. B. Tylor, Oxford, 1907, p. 151 ff.) quotes examples shewing that among many pastoral tribes in Africa there is a strong aversion to boiling milk, lest (on the principle of ‘sympathetic magic’) it should injure or even kill the cow which yielded it: but this case is not quite the same as the one here. Ibn Ezra (11 cent.) ad loc., and Burckhardt (Bedouins, i. 63), both mention boiling a lamb or kid in milk as an Arab custom.

Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
20. an angel] such as guided and protected the patriarchs (Genesis 24:7; Genesis 31:11; Genesis 48:16); cf. Exodus 14:19 (on Exodus 32:34, Exodus 33:2, see the notes), Numbers 20:16. It is true, the expression here used is ‘an angel’ (so Numbers 20:16 : contrast ch. Exodus 3:2); but he appears in v. 21 as Jehovah’s full representative (see on Exodus 3:2). Elsewhere in JE the pillar of cloud (see on Exodus 13:21), Hobab (Numbers 10:31), and the ark (Numbers 10:33), are severally described as guiding Israel in the wilderness.

20, 21. An angel is to guide Israel on its journey to Canaan: his instructions must be received with the same respect and fear as those of Jehovah Himself; for Jehovah will Himself be speaking in him.

20–33. Hortatory epilogue. The laws which Israel is to observe have been defined: and now Jehovah declares what He will do for His people if it is obedient to His voice (v. 22): He will give it prosperity, freedom from sickness and long life, success in its contests with the nations of Canaan, and extension of territory afterwards. Comp. the similar, but longer and more elaborated, hortatory discourses (including curses on disobedience), concluding the codes of H (Leviticus 26:3-45) and Dt. (Deuteronomy 28). It is remarkable that the commands which Israel is to obey are not those embodied in ch. Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:19, but (v. 22) those to be given it in the future by the angel on the way to Canaan. Perhaps (Bä.) the passage was written originally for a different context: but even if that were the case, it must be intended, where it now stands, to suggest motives for the observance of the preceding laws.

Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.
21. A warning against disobedience.

hearken unto his voice] Cf. Exodus 15:26, Exodus 19:5.

be not rebellious (or defiant) against him] Numbers 20:24, Psalm 78:40 al.

my name
] The manifestation of My being. The ‘name’ is almost objective reality; it is almost a personal manifestation of Jehovah (DB. v. 641a): cf. Psalm 20:1; Psalm 54:3, Deuteronomy 12:5, &c.; and esp. Isaiah 30:27. The ‘angel’ is Jehovah Himself ‘in a temporary descent to visibility for a special purpose’ (McNeile). Cf. on Exodus 3:2 : also Exodus 33:2; DB. v. 638 f.; and G. A. Smith, The Twelve Prophets, ii. 310–319.

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.
22. Obedience to God’s commands will be, as ever, the guarantee of His effectual help.

all that I speak] viz. through the angel. His speech is identical with Jehovah’s.

23–25a. Generally regarded as an expansion of the original text: as Di. points out, the warning against idolatry in Canaan is not only out of place in a series of promises (vv. 22b, 25b, 26, &c.), but it anticipates the conquest promised in v. 27 f. With both these verses and vv. 31b–33, comp. Exodus 34:12-16.

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.
23. the Amorite, &c.] see on Exodus 3:8.

cut them off] Exodus 9:15, 1 Kings 13:34 (D2[196]). A rare word.

[196] Deuteronomic passages in Josh., Jud., Kings.

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.
24. Thou shalt not bow down to …, nor serve them] as Exodus 20:5.

nor do after their works] Cf. Leviticus 18:3.

overthrow] properly, tear down (viz. their images).

pillars] so RV. always, AV. sometimes wrongly images; RVm. obelisks; best, perhaps, standing-stones: Heb. maẓẓçbôth. The maẓẓçbâh (lit. something set up) was a large oblong block of stone—originally, no doubt (cf. on Exodus 20:24, and the writer’s note on Genesis 28:18, p. 267), conceived as the abode of a numen or deity—set up in or near a temple or high place, or beside an altar. Several such maẓẓçbâhs, or ‘standing stones,’ have been excavated recently at Gezer, Taanach, and Megiddo: at Gezer, for instance, there is a striking row of ten, and at Taanach a double row, each consisting of five (see the writer’s Modern Research as illustrating the Bible, 1908, pp. 62–5, 84). maẓẓçbâhs were the regular accompaniment of a Canaanite temple or other sacred place (cf. 2 Kings 10:26 f., in the temple of Baal in Samaria); and during the earlier period of Israel’s history they seem to have been used freely in the worship of Jehovah as well: Moses erects twelve (ch. Exodus 24:4); Hosea 3:4; Hosea 10:1 f. alludes to them as religious symbols of which Israel will be deprived on account of its sins; in Isaiah 19:19 a maẓẓçbâh is a symbol of Egypt’s conversion to Jehovah. Later, however, they were proscribed on account of their heathen associations: Moses is represented as having commanded the demolition of the Canaanite ‘standing-stones’ (here, Exodus 34:13, Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 12:3 : cf. Micah 5:13); and their erection beside Jehovah’s altar is prohibited (Deuteronomy 16:22; Leviticus 26:1 H): the same view of them is also reflected in the notices by the Deuteronomic compiler in 1 Kings 14:23, 2 Kings 17:10. See further DB. iii. s.v. Pillar, and EB. iii. s.v. Massebah.

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.
25a. The positive complement of v. 24: Jehovah is to be the object of Israel’s worship.

25b, 26. The blessings which will follow upon Israel’s obedience: abundance of food, freedom from sickness, fertility of flocks and herds, and long life.

25b. and he shall bless] read with LXX., Vulg., Di., &c., and I will bless (cf. the following, ‘and I will take’); originally (if vv. 23–25a be a later insertion) the continuation of v. 22 end.

take sickness away, &c.] Cf. Exodus 15:26; and the reminiscence of the present passage in Deuteronomy 7:15 (as of v. 26a in Deuteronomy 7:14 b).

26a. Cf. Deuteronomy 7:14 b; also (expressed positively) the blessings promised in Deuteronomy 28:11; Deuteronomy 30:9, and Leviticus 26:9 (H).

26b. I will fulfil] Life will not come to an end prematurely, either for the individual, or for the nation (cf. Exodus 20:12).

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.
27. my terror] a terror greater than ordinary causes would seem capable of producing, and so attributed directly to God: what we should call a panic. Cf. the ‘terror’ (not the Heb. word used here), and ‘trembling,’ ‘of God,’ in the same sense, in Genesis 35:5, 1 Samuel 14:15 (RVm.); and Zechariah 14:13.

discomfit] i.e. throw into confusion: cf. Exodus 14:24.

27–30. Jehovah will further help Israel effectually to drive out the nations of Canaan.

And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
28. the hornet] so Deuteronomy 7:20; Joshua 24:12 (E). The writer imagines swarms of this terrible insect employed to clear the Canaanites away before Israel, and expel them even from their hiding-places (see Dt. l.c.).

the Hivite, &c.] see on Exodus 3:8.

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.
29, 30. The expulsion of the Canaanites will however be gradual: it will not be completed till the Israelites are numerous enough to fill effectually the territory vacated by them. Hence, with verbal variations, Deuteronomy 7:22. The representation is in striking contrast to the idealized pictures of rapid conquests drawn in the Deuteronomic sections of the book of Joshua, from which the popular conception of the ‘extermination of the Canaanites’ is derived (e.g. Joshua 10:28-43; Joshua 11:16-23; Joshua 21:43-45); but it agrees with the accounts given in the older strata of Joshua and Judges, according to which there were many districts from which the Israelites were unable to expel the Canaanites, and the country as a whole was only occupied by them gradually (Joshua 13:13; Joshua 15:63; Joshua 16:10; Joshua 17:11-18, Jdg 1:19; Jdg 1:21; Jdg 1:27-35; Jdg 1:9). The historical reason why the Canaanites thus remained so long in many parts of the land was because the Israelites had not the military resources enabling them to cope with them (cf. Jdg 1:19); but the fact nevertheless remained one which many religiously-minded Israelites found it difficult to reconcile with their sense of Jehovah’s sovereignty; and different moral, or religious, theories were framed to account for it. Here it is explained as due to Jehovah’s care that unoccupied spots should not be left in the land, on which wild beasts might multiply and become a danger to the Israelites (2 Kings 17:25 f.; cf. Leviticus 26:22, Ezekiel 14:15; Ezekiel 14:21): for other theories, see Jdg 2:20 to Jdg 3:4 (comp. LOT.8 p. 165 f.).

31a. Israel’s territory will reach, beyond Canaan itself, from the Red Sea to the ‘sea of the Philistines’ (i.e. the SE. coast of the Medit. Sea including the Philistine territory itself), and from ‘the wilderness (i.e. the wilderness on the S. of Palestine) to the Euphrates. An ideal description of the extent of Isr. territory, once, at least according to tradition, realised in history, under Solomon (1 Kings 4:21). For similar promises, see Genesis 15:18, Deuteronomy 11:24 (whence Joshua 1:4); and cf. (in the picture of the restored Israel of the future) Isaiah 27:12.

the River] i.e. the River, κατʼ ἐξοχήν, to the Hebrews, the Euphrates. The word, when the Euphrates is intended, is always in RV. printed with a capital R: see e.g. Isaiah 7:20; Isaiah 27:12, Psalm 72:8; Psalm 80:11.

31b–33. Regarded by We., Di., Bä. and most critics as another expansion of the original text, similar to vv. 23–25a, partly because reverts to the subject of Israel’s attitude towards the gods of Canaan, already dealt with in v. 24, but chiefly because, whereas in vv. 27—Jehovah promises that He will Himself drive out the Canaanites before Israel, here their expulsion is laid as a duty upon Israel.

32, 33. No treaty of friendship or alliance to be entered into with the Canaanites, lest Israel be seduced by them into idolatry. The same warning (with the consequences of such alliance more fully developed), Exodus 34:12-16, Deuteronomy 7:2-5; cf. Joshua 23:12-13 (D2[197]), Jdg 2:2-3 (compiler).

[197] Deuteronomic passages in Josh., Jud., Kings.

33. for thou wilt serve their gods, for it will become a snare unto thee. So the Heb. literally. There must be some fault in the text; but the general sense of the passage is no doubt correctly given. ‘And thou shalt not serve,’ &c. (LXX., Pesh.; cf. Deuteronomy 7:16 b) would be the simplest change; but it is not easy palaeographically (ולא for כי).

a snare] i.e.—not, an enticement to sin, but—a lure to destruction. Cf. on Exodus 10:7; and see esp. 1 Samuel 18:21. Of the gods of Canaan, as here, Exodus 34:12, and in the reminiscences, Deuteronomy 7:16, Jdg 2:3; and of the Canaanites themselves, Joshua 23:13 (D2[198]). Warnings against holding intercourse with the Canaanites, and commands to overthrow their altars, &c. (vv. 23–25a, and 31b–33), are also characteristic of Deuteronomy: see e.g. Deuteronomy 7:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:2-3; Deuteronomy 12:29-31.

[198] Deuteronomic passages in Josh., Jud., Kings.

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.
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.
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