Exodus 23:1
You shall not raise a false report: put not your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
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(1-19) The “miscellaneous laws” are here continued. From Exodus 23:1 to Exodus 23:9 no kind of sequence in the laws can be traced; from Exodus 23:10 to the first clause of Exodus 23:19 there is, on the contrary, a certain connection, since the laws enunciated are concerned with ceremonial observance. The closing law, however, is not ceremonial, but the prohibition of a practice considered to be cruel. On the whole, it may be said that The Book of the Covenant maintains its unsystematic character to the close. (See Note on Exodus 20:22-26.)

(1) Thou shalt not raise a false report.—The LXX. and Vulg. Translate, “Thou shalt not receive a false report”—i.e., give it credit, accept it as true, and act upon it. This meaning accords well with the succeeding clause, which forbids our giving support to the false testimony of others. In both clauses the principle of the ninth commandment is extended from principals to accessories.

Exodus 23:1. Thou shalt not raise — Or, receive, as the margin reads it, and as the Hebrew תשׂא, tissa, also signifies, or, give credit to a false report. Sometimes the receiver, in this case, is as bad as the thief: and a backbiting tongue would not do so much mischief if it were not countenanced. Sometimes we cannot avoid hearing a false report, but we must not receive it, we must not hear it with pleasure, nor easily give credit to it.23:1-9 In the law of Moses are very plain marks of sound moral feeling, and of true political wisdom. Every thing in it is suited to the desired and avowed object, the worship of one only God, and the separation of Israel from the pagan world. Neither parties, friends, witnesses, nor common opinions, must move us to lessen great faults, to aggravate small ones, excuse offenders, accuse the innocent, or misrepresent any thing.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.CHAPTER 23

Ex 23:1-33. Laws concerning Slander, &c.

1. put not thine hand—join not hands.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 23:15,16. 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 23:21,22. 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.

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.

Thou shalt not raise a false report,.... Of a neighbour, or of any man whatever, either secretly by private slanders, whispers, backbiting and tale bearing, by innuendos, detracting from his good name and credit, suggesting things false and wicked concerning him; or publicly in a court of judicature, bringing a false accusation, laying a false charge, and bearing a false testimony against him: or "thou shall not receive a false report" (p); if there were not so many, that say, Report, and we will report it, that are ready to receive every ill thing of their neighbours, there would not be so many that would raise such ill things of them; everything of this kind should be discountenanced, and especially by judges in courts of judicature, who are chiefly spoken to and of in the context; these should not easily admit every charge and accusation brought; nor bear, or endure a false report, as the word also signifies, but discourage, and even punish it:

put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness; which is not a gesture used in swearing, such as with us, of putting the hand upon a book, which did not obtain so early; nor is there any instance of this kind in Scripture; the gesture used in swearing was either putting the hand under the thigh, which yet is questionable, or lifting of it up to heaven; but here it is expressive of confederacy, of joining hand in hand to carry on a prosecution in an unrighteous way, by bearing false testimony against another; and such were to be guarded against, and not admitted to give evidence in a cause, even a man that is known to be a wicked man, or to have been an unrighteous witness before; on the one hand, a man should be careful of joining with him in a testimony that is unrighteous; and, on the other hand, judges should take care not to suffer such to be witnesses. The Jews say (q), that everyone that is condemned to be scourged, or has been scourged for some crime committed, is reckoned a wicked man, and he is not to be admitted a witness, nor his testimony taken.

(p) "non suscipies", V. L. Pegninus, Vatablus, Drusius, Fagius. (q) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 3. sect. 3.

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.Verse 1. - The ninth commandment is here expanded and developed. Thou shalt not raise a false report, forbids the origination of a calumny; the other clause prohibits the joining with others in spreading one. Both clauses have a special reference to bearing witness in a court, but neither would seem to be confined to it. If a man should lend to one of the poor of his own people, he was not to oppress him by demanding interest; and if he gave his upper garment as a pledge, he was to give it him back towards sunset, because it was his only covering; as the poorer classes in the East use the upper garment, consisting of a large square piece of cloth, to sleep in. "It is his clothing for his skin:" i.e., it serves for a covering to his body. "Wherein shall he lie?" i.e., in what shall be wrap himself to sleep? (cf. Deuteronomy 24:6, Deuteronomy 24:10-13). - With Exodus 22:28. God directs Himself at once to the hearts of the Israelites, and attacks the sins of selfishness and covetousness, against which the precepts in Exodus 22:21-27 were directed in their deepest root, for the purpose of opposing all inward resistance to the promotion of His commands.
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