Exodus 23: Laws About Social Justice

1 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, 3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

-This is a partial repeat of the ninth commandment but keep in mind that when God repeats something, He really wants to make sure you notice it. It’s not hard to understand that murder is wrong, but lying sometimes can be. I mentioned before in chapter 20 that we so often tell white lies and don’t even see them as wrong as if a sin can be small enough that God does not mind. There is no such thing as a small sin. In fact, the small sins seem to anger God the most because we don’t even understand how bad they really are. Verse 2 is talking about lying out of peer pressure. How often do we let numbers scare us into doing the wrong thing because we want to be accepted? If our need for love an acceptance is not satisfied through God or our friends and families, we are more susceptible to this temptation. Everyone needs to feel that love and acceptance and it is so strong that we sometimes will lie to at least give ourselves the impression we are getting it. Verse 3 warns against playing favorites or making decisions out of sympathy, rather than what is right. Poor people often do great evils, sometimes its the very reason why they are poor. Homeless people in the streets in the United States are often there because they have made poor choices and continue to make poor choices and are not “good” people. The important thing is to side with justice and the right side, not try to balance out income. Justice is more important than income. We should never pervert true justice and fairness because we want to shape the world to our own making. We have this problem in world politics today and seem to see income inequality as a greater evil than anything else. But to a true follow of God, income does not matter at all. Whether you are rich or poor, give everything you have to God.

4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

-This is not a law but rather a guideline for godly behavior. How in the world would a government enforce this? The law isn’t just about establishing a government and a country but establishing a people a certain way. Every single law is telling us who God is because He wants the people to be like Him. This is what God does for us. He will help guide us even if we are an enemy to Him. We must do the same.

6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked.

-Now these are saying the opposite as before. Do not take advantage of the poor just because you can win a lawsuit. Be fair and justice and search for the truth without playing favorites one way or the other.

8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

-A bribe is anytime we seek compensation rather than do what’s right. It doesn’t just apply to legal matters but can be anything. When we take money, we are declaring before God that money is more important than doing what’s right. And it does not matter how much we may need the money because to take it out of desperation means we are trusting our own ability to take care of ourselves over God’s.

9 “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

-This is something else that is repeated. Sadly, foreigners are oppressed often in the United States. Rather than showing love, Muslims are looked down on with scorned because of what only the most extreme sects of their religion do. All Mexicans who preserve their language and culture are at risk of being labeled an “illegal” whether they have legal status or not. We forget that unless one is a Native American Indian, we were all immigrants into this land at one point. And even then, Native Americans migrates there thousands of years ago from Asia so everyone is an immigrant. In fact, we are all tenants on God’s soil, none of us own soil. We did not create it and have no right to it. Who are we to tell God that He cannot guide a foreigner to this land? We should rejoice and welcome all those who come as God welcomes all those who come into our family. How perverted our US politics have become that we think we cannot allow foreigners because it might have a negative economic impact! That isn’t even true anyway but even if it was, to make a decision based on money and not what is right is akin to taking a bribe!

Laws About the Sabbath and Festivals

10 “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

-Doing research on these two verses I discovered the common farming practice of “crop rotation”. God is not just telling people not to sow every seven years “just because”. It is actually incredibly healthy for the soil and will give farmers better yield in the years they sow that would be much much better than if they sowed every year. Like man and animals, the soil needs rest also to restore nutrients. Every crop, depending on the crop, takes certain nutrients from the soil and if they same crops are grown year after year, it sucks all the nutrients out that the plants need. By letting a land fallow, animals will come on it and fertilizer which will replace the nutrients needed for crops to grow. The practice of “crop rotation” is always leaving a portion of the field alone and not growing crops each year so that a portion of the land has rest so it can be more productive later. A few milenia before we had the science to prove it, God was giving the people what would be the best natural way to make their fields most productive. Imagine what we still don’t know! If only we listen to God in everything we would be doing the best and most efficient thing we can for ourselves and for those around us. Trust in the Lord, and you will prosper. For more information visit this site: http://www.setapartpeople.com/the-sabbatical-year-why-the-land-must-lie-fallow .

12 “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.

-Everyone and everything needs rest. We are designed this way. Just because someone is a slave or there is an animal does not mean that you should work them to death. It’s unwise anyway, what good is a dead animal or a dead slave? That’s not very economical anyway.

13 “Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.

-This is something else we can prove today through scientific research and testing. Whatever our minds are exposed to, we become. The more television we watch, the more “TV” we will have in our personality and will influence our decisions. Who we spend time with defines who we are. This is also why a married couple, if they spend quality time together and communicate, will grow closer and closer over time and will grow apart if they don’t. This is why we must spend more and more time in the word and with other Christians so that we can become more like God. The more time you spend, the closer you will become. God has designed us in this way and every word in scripture is the truth. If only we listen! This is why God tells the Israelites not even to mention other gods because just the very mention may steer others away from Him.

14 “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. 16 You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God.

-The first feast is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread or Passover and we previously covered this in our Exodus 12 study. This occurs on the 14th of the first month Nissan or Abib. The second feast is called The Feast of Harvest or The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. This second feast has no specific start date but occurs 50 days after the first crops appear (hence the Greek name “Pentecost”) and so it varies from year to year when it occurs. The third feast is called The Feast of Ingathering or The Feast of Booths or The Feast of Tabernacles. This feast has steps that begin on the first day of the seventh month (Tishri) which is the Feast of Trumpets. The tenth day of the seventh month was the Day of Atonement and the fifteenth day which was a full moon would begin the seven days of Succoth. For more information, here is a simple link: http://www.cswnet.com/~duxrow/webdoc22.htm

-We talked about before how Passover relates to Jesus because He is our passover lamb. He died on passover and was buried on they day of The Feast of Unleavened Bread. He was resurrected on The Feast of Firstfruits and after appearing for 40 days, He ascended into heaven and 10 days later on the 50th day, Pentecost, The Holy Spirit descended onto the disciples. The timing of these holidays all have meaning and give us more truth of God and His divine plan. We have accounted for the first two feasts but we have not accounted for the third feast. If these feasts are timed in major events, then it stands to reason that the process of the The Feast of Ingathering will relate to end times events.

18 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning. 19 “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

-God is interested in Holiness and purity. Leaven modifies the bread from its original form and a young goat’s mother’s milk is not from the young goat. To combine elements is to taint the purity of it. God does not wish us to combine worldly aspects into our lives that turn us away from who we are. There’s also been suggestion that the practice of boiling a goat in it’s mother’s milk was a pagan practice but this has not been verified. The fat from the feast was burnt on the altar as a sacrifice so to let it sit until morning meant that there was not a sacrifice made to God. And again, we are told the firstfruits belong to God.

Conquest of Canaan Promised

20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. 22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces.

-Here we have an “angel” which remember in Hebrew means “messenger” and nothing more. But again this is one with authority. The Israelites are told to “pay careful attention to Him and obey His voice” and that “my name is in Him”. If God is in this angel, literally, then that would mean this angel is actually Jesus. This is similar to Matthew 3:17 when the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended onto Jesus and said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This angel is not named like Gabriel or Michael. The fact that God promised that He would personally lead the Israelites yet some angel appears to be doing it now suggests He still is leading the Israelites. All this evidence points to this being another appearance of Jesus and the fact that He is not explicitly named but rather the identity is hidden fits with Jesus’ role in the old testament as being “hidden in plain site”.

25 You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. 26 None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. 27 I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you.

-God is not given to exaggeration and so this is literally true. Literally, you will be blessed if you serve God. Literally, your enemies will be driven before you. He is talking to the Israelite people here but as gentiles adopted to His family, there is no reason to assume the same does not apply today. God does not change and if He is the type of God who does this now, there is no reason to assume who would not do this now.

29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.

-God is wise and patient; He has considered everything. This shows that He is not just a blindly generous God but perfectly intelligent as well so much so that it is humbling. Perhaps if I had the power of God, I would simply clear the land and let the people in, not realizing the consequences. God is more than just the power, but the intelligence and love as well. God is all things.

31 And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you.

-This is similar to the borders defined previously in Genesis 15:18-21. It is strange God defines the borders that He “will set” as this much larger area then what they end up with once they conquer the land. Never in Israel’s history do the borders stretch out this large. This can only mean that there is still a day in the future, perhaps in the new Earth, that Israel will finally reach the length of these borders. Here’s a picture of the land being described: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/Greater_Israel_map.jpg

32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

-This is the first of many times Israel is warned not to make any agreements with the people they will conquer. This includes treaties, taking as slaves, as well as giving and taking in marriage. But Israel does do these things and they suffer the consequences with each people group they leave alive and compromise with as we will see when we get to the Books of Joshua and Judges.

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