Exodus 23:2
You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shall you speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:
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(2) Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil . . . —It is perhaps true that the offence especially condemned is joining with a majority in an unrighteous judgment; but the words of the precept extend much further than this, and forbid our being carried away by numbers or popularity in any case. Vox populi vox Dei is a favourite maxim with many, but Scripture nowhere sanctions it. Job boasts that he did not fear a great multitude (Job 31:34). David says that the “ten thousands of the people set themselves against him round about” (Psalm 3:6). The prophets had always the multitude against them. “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,” said our blessed Lord, “which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” But ‘wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereatMatthew 7:13-14). We must be prepared to face unpopularity if we would walk in accordance with the Law of God.

Exodus 23:2. Thou shalt not follow a multitude — Either their counsel or their example; to do evil — General usage will never excuse us in any ill practice; nor is the broad way ever the safer for its being crowded. We must inquire what we ought to do, not what the most do; because we must be judged by our Master, not our fellow-servants; and it is too great a compliment to be willing to go to hell for company. Neither shalt thou speak in a cause — Either to extenuate or excuse a great fault, aggravate a small one, vindicate an offender, charge guilt on an innocent person, put false glosses, or sinister interpretations upon things, or do any thing tending to procure an unjust sentence; to decline after many — Either the friends of the party, the judges, the witnesses, or the opinions of the vulgar. The word רבים, rabbim, in this verse rendered multitude and many, signifying also great men, some prefer the following translation of the verse, Thou shalt not follow great men to do evil — neither shalt thou speak (Hebrew, answer) in a cause to decline after great men. This is a very important sense of the words: because the example of great men, of men of power, wealth, and authority, has great influence.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.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."2. decline—depart, deviate from the straight path of rectitude. Thou shalt not follow a multitude, either their counsel or example. But the Hebrew rabbin both here and in the following clause is by some rendered great men, men in power and authority, whom we are commanded not to follow. And as the word is thus used Job 32:9 Jeremiah 41:1, so this sense may seem most probable,

1. Because in the last clause he speaks of causes or controversies, as the Hebrew rib signifies; and matters of judgment, which were not determined by the multitude, but by great men.

2. Because these are opposed to the poor in the next verse.

3. Because the examples of such men are most prevalent.

To do evil, either in general or particular, to work mischief, to oppress or crush another.

Neither shalt thou speak, Heb. answer, when thou art summoned as a witness in any cause.

To wrest judgment, or to turn aside right, or to pervert

thyself the verb being taken reciprocally, as hiphil is oft put for hithpahel; or, which is all one, to do perverserly, i.e. unrighteously. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil,.... The Targums of Jerusalem and Jonathan add, but to do good. As in private life, the examples of the many, who are generally the most wicked, are not to be followed, though they too often are; examples, and especially of the multitude, having great influence, and therefore to be guarded against; so in public courts of judicature, where there are many judges upon the bench, if one of them is sensible that the greater part go wrong in their judgment of a case, he ought not to follow them, or be influenced by them, but go according to the dictates of his own conscience, and the evidence of things as they appear to him, and neither agree to justify the wicked, nor condemn the righteous:

neither shall thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment; or "thou shalt not answer" (r); either in pleading in a cause, and taking the side of it the majority is on, and for that reason, though it is a manifest perversion of justice; or by giving a vote on that side, and on that account, whereby a wrong judgment passes; and this vote given either according to the number of witnesses, which ought not always to be the rule of judgment; for it is not the number of witnesses, but the nature, evidence, and circumstances of their testimony, that are to be regarded: Jarchi says, in judgments of life and death, they go after the mouth of one witness to absolve, and after the mouth of two to condemn: or according to the number of judges on the bench, and their superiority in years and knowledge; and so some render the word, "after the great ones" (s); for a judge is not to be influenced by names or numbers in giving his vote, but to judge according to the truth of things, as they appear to him: hence the Jews say, that the younger or puisne judges used to be asked their judgment first, that they might not be influenced by others superior to them; and a like method is taken with us in the trial of a peer, the younger lords always giving their opinion first: as to the number of votes by which a cause was carried in court, it is said (t), not as the decline to good, is the decline to evil; the decline to good, i.e. to absolution, is by the sentence of one (a majority of one); the decline to evil, i.e. to condemnation, is by the mouth or sentence of two, a majority of two.

(r) "neque respondeas", Tigurine version; "non respondebis", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius. (s) "post potentiores", Junius & Tremellius; "post magnos", Lyra, Cartwright. (t) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 6.

Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause {a} to decline after many to wrest judgment:

(a) Do that which is godly, though few favour it.

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.Verse 2. - Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil. Rather, "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to evil." A law alike for deed, for word, and for thought. The example of the many is to be shunned. "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." But "strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13, 14). It is extraordinary that so many, even of professing Christians, are content to go with the many, notwithstanding the warnings against so doing, both of the law and of the Gospel. Neither shalt thou speak, etc. Rather, "Neither shalt thou bear witness in a cause to go aside after a multitude to put aside justice." The general precept is followed by a particular application of it. In judging a cause, if thou art one of the judges, thou shalt not simply go with the majority, if it he bent on injustice, but form thine own opinion and adhere 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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