Exodus 23


Remember that the Lord is continuing to dictate to Moses throughout this chapter.

לֹא תִשָּׂא שֵׁמַע שָׁוְא אַל־תָּשֶׁת יָדְךָ עִם־רָשָׁע לִהְיֹת עֵד חָמָס   23:1

Exod. 23:1  “You shall not carry a false report.  You shall not put your hand with the wicked to be an unjust witness.”

This broadens the ninth commandment (Exod. 20:13).  It applies to all people against whom we may potentially not bear false witness, not only our neighbors.

לֹא־תִהְיֶה אַחֲרֵי־רַבִּים לְרָעֹת וְלֹא־תַעֲנֶה עַל־רִב לִנְטֹת אַחֲרֵי רַבִּים לְהַטֹּת   23:2

Exod. 23:2  “You shall not be after a crowd doing evil.  Nor shall you testify on behalf of a cause, turning after multitudes to influence.”

In other words, we are not to follow the cause of a crowd nor testify for it unless it is just.  I’m inclined to believe that this verse and the next are intended for the Lord’s judges, although they should apply to anyone acting in a capacity that involved judging.

וְדָל לֹא תֶהְדַּר בְּרִיבֹו   23:3

Exod. 23:3  “And you shall not favor a poor one in his cause.”

This command adds to the previous one in an interesting way.  Neither shall we be influenced by an unjust cause even if it is espoused by someone poor.

כִּי תִפְגַּע שֹׁור אֹיִבְךָ אֹו חֲמֹרֹו תֹּעֶה הָשֵׁב תְּשִׁיבֶנּוּ לֹו   23:4

Exod. 23:4  “When you might see an ox of your enemy or his ass going astray, you shall surely return it to him.”

כִּי־תִרְאֶה חֲמֹור שֹׂנַאֲךָ רֹבֵץ תַּחַת מַשָּׂאֹו וְחָדַלְתָּ מֵעֲזֹב לֹו עָזֹב תַּעֲזֹב עִמֹּו  23:5

Exod. 23:5  “When you might see an ass of one hating you crouched under its burden, then you shall refrain from giving leave to it.  You shall surely help with it.”

לֹא תַטֶּה מִשְׁפַּט אֶבְיֹנְךָ בְּרִיבֹו   23:6

Exod. 23:6  “You shall not pervert justice of one of your poor in his plea.”

This verse turns the command in v. 23:3 around to its alternate side.  There it says we shall not show favor because someone is poor; here it says we shall neither show disfavor.  The combination of the two is that we must not judge solely or primarily on the basis of someone’s poverty.  Here we have the first examples of equal justice being commanded (without paying attention to one’s station in life; that is, free or servant) that I remarked about with regard to Exod. 21:32.                                [Return to Levi. 19:15]         [Return to Deut. 10:18]

After what might be thought to be a brief diversion (vss. 23:4 and 5), this verse and the next three seem to return to the judges as their target.

מִדְּבַר־שֶׁקֶר תִּרְחָק וְנָקִי וְצַדִּיק אַל־תַּהֲרֹג כִּי לֹא־אַצְדִּיק רָשָׁע   23:7

Exod. 23:7  “You shall stay distant from a fraudulent matter; nor shall you slay an innocent or righteous, for I shall not justify wickedness.”

וְשֹׁחַד לֹא תִקָּח כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר פִּקְחִים וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִים   23:8

Exod. 23:8  “And you shall not take a gift, because the gift could blind the seeing and it has twisted the words of the righteous.”

וְגֵר לֹא תִלְחָץ וְאַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם אֶת־נֶפֶשׁ הַגֵּר כִּי־גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם   23:9

Exod. 23:9  “And you shall not oppress a stranger, as you know the soul of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

This is a near repeat of Exod. 22:20.  I believe it appears here again in order to emphasize that vss. 23:1 through 23:8 also apply to a stranger, not only to fellow Jews, and, as I’ve said above, they may be intended largely for the judges.

וְשֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים תִּזְרַע אֶת־אַרְצֶךָ וְאָסַפְתָּ אֶת־תְּבוּאָתָהּ   23:10

Exod. 23:10   “And six years you shall sow your land and harvest its produce,

וְהַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּשְׁמְטֶנָּה וּנְטַשְׁתָּהּ וְאָכְלוּ אֶבְיֹנֵי עַמֶּךָ וְיִתְרָם תֹּאכַל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה כֵּן־תַּעֲשֶׂה לְכַרְמְךָ   23:11


Exod. 23:11   but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so the poor of your people may eat.  And the beast of the field shall eat what is left.  You shall do the same for your vineyard, for your olive yard.”

שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תַּעֲשֶׂה מַעֲשֶׂיךָ וּבַיֹּום הַשְּׁבִיעִי תִּשְׁבֹּת לְמַעַן יָנוּחַ שֹׁורְךָ וַחֲמֹרֶךָ וְיִנָּפֵשׁ בֶּן־אֲמָתְךָ   23:12


Exod. 23:12   “Six days you may attend to your occupation, but on the seventh day you shall desist, so that your ox and your ass may have rest, and the son of your handmaid may be refreshed, even the stranger.”

This verse is an echo of the fourth of the ten commandments (see Exod. 20:8, 9, 10 and 11).

וּבְכֹל אֲשֶׁר־אָמַרְתִּי אֲלֵיכֶם תִּשָּׁמֵרוּ וְשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים לֹא תַזְכִּירוּ לֹא יִשָּׁמַע עַל־פִּיךָ   23:13

Exod. 23:13   “And you shall give heed to everything that I say to you.  And you shall not cause the name of other gods to be remembered; let it not be heard on your mouth.”

שָׁלֹשׁ רְגָלִים תָּחֹג לִי בַּשָּׁנָה   23:14

Exod. 23:14   “Three times each year you shall hold a festival to Me.”

אֶת־חַג הַמַּצֹּות תִּשְׁמֹר שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל מַצֹּות כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ לְמֹועֵד חֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב כִּי־בֹוָ   23:15

יָצָאתָ מִמִּצְרָיִם וְלֹא־יֵרָאוּ פָנַי רֵיקָם

Exod. 23:15   “You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread:  Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I have commanded you, at the appointed time of the month of Aviv, for in it you came out of Egypt  (‘and they shall not appear empty before Me’),

The Lord specifies Passover as the first of the festivals to be held to Him.  Also, the inside quotation in the verse (in the parentheses) is apparently spoken to Moses, reminding him that it is his responsibility to make sure everyone knows it (see v. 23:17 below).  Lastly, the month of Aviv is the modern month of Nissan, the first month of the year.

וְחַג הַקָּצִיר בִּכּוּרֵי מַעֲשֶׂיךָ אֲשֶׁר תִּזְרַע בַּשָּׂדֶה וְחַג הָאָסִף בְּצֵאת הַשָּׁנָה בְּאָסְפְּךָ אֶת־מַעֲשֶׂיךָ מִן   23:16


Exod. 23:16   and the festival of the harvest, of the first fruits of your labor that you will sow in the field, and the festival of your ingathering at the end of the year on your gathering up your labors from the field.”

The first of these two festivals is Succoth, known in English as Booths or Tabernacles, and the second is Shavuoth, known in English as Weeks or Pentecost.  Because the winters in ancient Israel were relatively wet and mild while the summers were hot and dry, the primary planting season was in the fall and harvest time was in the spring.  Notice, therefore, that this verse reiterates that the end of the year coincides with the spring.

By the way, an interesting fact:  As far as Shavouth is concerned, its duration is not specified anywhere in the bible, although the name Shavuoth means literally weeks.  Passover and Succoth are to be celebrated for seven days, but Shavuoth should apparently be observed for only one day.  However, one day could have been impractical, because attendance at the Tabernacle/Temple was required on that festival, as for the other two festivals.  However, we may presume that travel to and from the place that God had chosen could be undertaken before and after the festival.  So it could have been one day, or two or more days.  We may therefore assume more or less arbitrarily that the duration of Shavuoth was either only one day or the duration was inadvertently and mistakenly left out of the Torah.  Today it is celebrated for two days in the Diaspora.

שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים בַּשָּׁנָה יֵרָאֶה כָּל־זְכוּרְךָ אֶל־פְּנֵי הָאָדֹן יְהוָה   23:17

Exod. 23:17   “Three times each year every one of your males shall appear before the Master, the Lord.”

לֹא־תִזְבַּח עַל־חָמֵץ דַּם־זִבְחִי וְלֹא־יָלִין חֵלֶב־חַגִּי עַד־בֹּקֶר   23:18

Exod. 23:18   “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread.  And the fat of My feast shall not lay all night until the morning.”

Commentaries on this verse generally assume the first part of it refers only to the paschal sacrifice.  I believe it applies to all three festivals and their related sacrifices.  We are repeatedly reminded that unleavened bread is to be used in Tabernacle offerings, as in Exod. 29:2 and Exod. 29:23, in Levi. 8:2 and 8:26, Numb 6:15 and 6:17, etc, throughout the year.  As for the second part of the verse, I believe it means that the part of the sacrifices that is to burned on the altar must be offered up before daybreak.  It would seem that the priests and Levites must have been constantly busy throughout at least the first night of each festival in order to faithfully follow this command.

רֵאשִׁית בִּכּוּרֵי אַדְמָתְךָ תָּבִיא בֵּית יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא־תְבַשֵּׁל גְּדִי בַּחֲלֵב אִמֹּו   23:19

Exod. 23:19   “The choicest of the first fruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord, your God.  You shall not cook a kid with the milk of its mother.”

The last part of this verse is normally translated as  “You shall not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.”  As a result, this verse (and the other two that say this later) became the basis for many of the kosher laws.    More >>

הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָךְ לְפָנֶיךָ לִשְׁמָרְךָ בַּדָּרֶךְ וְלַהֲבִיאֲךָ אֶל־הַמָּקֹום אֲשֶׁר הֲכִנֹתִי    23:20

Exod. 23:20   “Behold, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have provided.”

הִשָּׁמֶר מִפָּנָיו וּשְׁמַע בְּקֹלֹו אַל־תַּמֵּר בֹּו כִּי לֹא יִשָּׂא לְפִשְׁעֲכֶם כִּי שְׁמִי בְּקִרְבֹּו   23:21

Exod. 23:21   “Take heed before him and listen to his voice; you shall not deal bitterly with him, for he will not yield to your rebellion, seeing as My name is within him.”

כִּי אִם־שָׁמֹעַ תִּשְׁמַע בְּקֹלֹו וְעָשִׂיתָ כֹּל אֲשֶׁר אֲדַבֵּר וְאָיַבְתִּי אֶת־אֹיְבֶיךָ וְצַרְתִּי אֶת־צֹרְרֶיךָ   23:22

Exod. 23:22   “If you will diligently hearken to his voice and do all that I shall speak, then I will hate your enemies and I will distress those causing you distress.”

This verse is an early hint at the prophesies contained in Deut. Chapter 28.  See also vss. 23:25 and 26 below.

כִּי־יֵלֵךְ מַלְאָכִי לְפָנֶיךָ וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ אֶל־הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַחִתִּי וְהַפְּרִזִּי וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי הַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי וְהִכְחַדְתִּיו   23:23

Exod. 23:23   “For My angel will go before you and he will bring you to the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Canaanite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, and I will make each desolate.”

The word translated as angel in v. 23:20 and in this verse is also the word for messenger.  I suspect that the messenger (or angel) being referred to in these last four verses, vss. 23:20 to 23, may be Joshua.  He is the one who will bring the Israelites into the promised land.  But references to an angel appear later in Exod. 32:34 and 33:2, and no mention is made there of the children of Israel listening to his voice.  Thus I am inclined to presume -- but with pitifully little confidence -- that it is Joshua of whom the Lord is speaking.             [Return to Exod. 32:34]

לֹא־תִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לֵאלֹהֵיהֶם וְלֹא תָעָבְדֵם וְלֹא תַעֲשֶׂה כְּמַעֲשֵׂיהֶם כִּי הָרֵס תְּהָרְסֵם וְשַׁבֵּר תְּשַׁבֵּר    23:24


Exod. 23:24   “You shall not bow down to their gods and you shall not serve them; nor shall you do according to their works.  But you shall utterly destroy them and completely shatter their pillars.”

וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וּבֵרַךְ אֶת־לַחְמְךָ וְאֶת־מֵימֶיךָ וַהֲסִרֹתִי מַחֲלָה מִקִּרְבֶּךָ   23:25

Exod. 23:25   “And you shall serve the Lord, your God, and He will bless your bread and your water, and I will remove infirmity from your midst.”

לֹא תִהְיֶה מְשַׁכֵּלָה וַעֲקָרָה בְּאַרְצֶךָ אֶת־מִסְפַּר יָמֶיךָ אֲמַלֵּא   23:26

Exod. 23:26   “There shall be neither miscarriage nor sterility in your land.  I shall fulfill the number of your days.”

אֶת־אֵימָתִי אֲשַׁלַּח לְפָנֶיךָ וְהַמֹּתִי אֶת־כָּל־הָעָם אֲשֶׁר תָּבֹא בָּהֶם וְנָתַתִּי אֶת־כָּל־אֹיְבֶיךָ אֵלֶיךָ עֹרֶף   23:27

Exod. 23:27   “I will send My terror ahead of you and discomfit all the people upon whom you shall come, and I will extend to you the back of all your enemies.”

There is probably an ancient idiom in this verse.  The Hebrew וְנָתַתִּי אֶת־כָּל־אֹיְבֶיךָ אֵלֶיךָ עֹרֶף at the end of the verse translates literally as “… and I will give all your enemies to you a back.”

וְשָׁלַחְתִּי אֶת־הַצִּרְעָה לְפָנֶיךָ וְגֵרְשָׁה אֶת־הַחִוִּי אֶת־הַכְּנַעֲנִי וְאֶת־הַחִתִּי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ   23:28

Exod. 23:28   “And I shall send the hornet ahead of you and it will drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you.”

לֹא אֲגָרְשֶׁנּוּ מִפָּנֶיךָ בְּשָׁנָה אֶחָת פֶּן־תִּהְיֶה הָאָרֶץ שְׁמָמָה וְרַבָּה עָלֶיךָ חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה   23:29

Exod. 23:29   ”I will not drive them away from your face in one year, lest the land would become desolate and the beast of the field would multiply against you.”

מְעַט מְעַט אֲגָרְשֶׁנּוּ מִפָּנֶיךָ עַד אֲשֶׁר תִּפְרֶה וְנָחַלְתָּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ   23:30

Exod. 23:30   “Little by little I will drive them away from your face even to the time you will have increased and can inherit the land.”

וְשַׁתִּי אֶת־גְּבֻלְךָ מִיַּם־סוּף וְעַד־יָם פְּלִשְׁתִּים וּמִמִּדְבָּר עַד־הַנָּהָר כִּי אֶתֵּן בְּיֶדְכֶם אֵת יֹשְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ   23:31

וְגֵרַשְׁתָּמֹו מִפָּנֶיךָ

Exod. 23:31   “And I shall set your boundary from the Reed Sea even until the sea of the Philistines and from the wilderness up to the river, for I will deliver into your hand the inhabitants of the land and you shall drive them away from your face.”

לֹא־תִכְרֹת לָהֶם וְלֵאלֹהֵיהֶם בְּרִית   23:32

Exod. 23:32   “You shall make no covenant according to them or according to their gods.”

לֹא יֵשְׁבוּ בְּאַרְצְךָ פֶּן־יַחֲטִיאוּ אֹתְךָ לִי כִּי תַעֲבֹד אֶת־אֱלֹהֵיהֶם כִּי־יִהְיֶה לְךָ לְמֹוקֵש   23:33

Exod. 23:33   “Let them not dwell in your land lest they will cause you to sin toward Me in that you would serve their gods, for it will be as a snare for you.”

Torah Commandments in this Chapter

76. You shall not carry a false report.   V. 23:1

77. You shall not be a false witness regarding anyone.   V. 23:1

78. Do not go after an unjust crowd.   V. 23:2

79. Do not testify on behalf of an unjust crowd.   V. 23:2

80. Do not favor a cause of a poor person.   V. 23:3

81. You shall return your enemy's stray ox or ass to him.   V. 23:4

82. You shall help with a burdened ox or ass of one who hates you.   V. 23:5

83. You shall not pervert justice of your poor in their cause (especially as a judge).   V. 23:6

84. You shall avoid a fraudulent matter (especially as a judge).   V. 23:7

85. You shall not slay an innocent or righteous one (especially as a judge).   V. 23:7

86. You shall not accept a gift (as a judge).   V. 23:8

87. After six years of working your field, vineyard, and olive yard, you shall let them lie

      fallow during the seventh year.   V. 23:10,11

88. You shall allow the poor and the animals to eat what is left over.   V. 23:10

89. You shall not mention the name of other gods.    V. 23:13

90. Each year you shall hold the festivalls of (Passover,) Shavuoth, and Succoth.   V. 23:14,16

91. All of you shall appear before the Lord at these festivals.   23:14-17

92. You shall not offer the blood of a sacrifice with leavened bread.   V. 23:18

93. The fat shall not lay all night until the morning.   V. 23:18

94. You shall bring the choicest of the first fruits of your land to the tent of

        meeting/Temple.   V. 23:19

95. You shall not cook a kid with the milk of its mother.   V. 23:19

96. You shall make no covenant regarding the inhabitants of the promised land or

         their gods.   V. 23:32

97. Let them not dwell in your land.   V. 23:33


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