Exodus 23



                        THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT (Con’t)



                        MISCELLANEOUS LAWS (Con’t) - vs. 1-19


The same want of logical arrangement appears in this chapter as in the preceding one.

The nine verses contain some twelve laws, of which not more than two that are consecutive

can be said to be on the same subject. There is perhaps in the section a predominant idea

of warning against sins and errors connected with the trial of causes before a court, but vs.

4 and 5, at any rate, lie quite outside this idea.


vs. 1-9 - “Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to

be an unrighteous witness.”  - 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. 

“Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do 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” -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.  “Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.” 

 After the many precepts in favour of the poor, this injunction produces a sort of shock.

But it is to be understood as simply forbidding any undue favoring of the poor because

they are poor, and so as equivalent to the precept in Leviticus 19:15, “Thou shalt not

respect the person of the poor.” In courts of justice, strict justice is to be rendered,

without any leaning either towards the rich, or towards the poor. To lean either way is

to pervert judgment.  If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou

shalt surely bring it back to him again.” - A private enemy is here spoken of, not a

public one, as in Deuteronomy 23:6. It is remarkable that the law should have so far

anticipated Christianity as to have laid it down that men have duties of friendliness

even towards their enemies, and are bound under certain circumstances to render them

a service. “Hate thine enemies” (Matthew 5:43) was no injunction of the Mosaic law,

but a conclusion which Rabbinical teachers unwarrantably drew from it. Christianity,

however, goes far beyond Mosaism in laying down the broad precept — “Love your

enemies” – “If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under  his burden,

and wouldest forbear to help him” - The general meaning of the passage is clear —

assistance is to be given to the fallen ass of an enemy — but the exact sense of both

the second and third clauses is doubtful. Many renderings have been suggested; but it

is not clear that any one of them is an improvement on the Authorised Version. “thou

shalt surely help with him” -  The joint participation in an act of mercy towards a

fallen beast would bring the enemies into friendly contact, and soften their feelings towards

each other.  Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause” –

As in v. 3 men were warned not to favor the poor unduly in courts of justice out of

compassion for them, so here there is a warning against the opposite, and far more

usual error, of leaning against the poor man in our evidence or in our decisions The

scales of justice are to be held even; strict right is to be done; our feelings are not be

allowed to influence us, much less our class prejudices.  Keep thee far from a false

matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the

wicked.” - Hold aloof, i.e., from anything like a false accusation. Neither bring one,

nor countenance one, else those you may cause the death of an innocent and righteous

man, and bring down on thyself the vengeance of Him, who will not justify the

wicked.”  “And thou shalt take no gift” - The worst sin of a judge, and the

commonest in the East, is to accept a bribe from one of the parties to a suit, and give

sentence accordingly. As such a practice defeats the whole end for which the

administration of justice exists, it is, when detected, for the most part, punished

capitally. Josephus tells us that it was so among the Jews (Contr. Apion. 2:27); but

the Mosaic code, as it has come down to us, omits to fix the penalty. Whatever it was,

it was practically set at naught. Eli’s sons “turned aside after lucre, and took bribes,

and perverted judgment” (I Samuel 8:3). In David’s time, men’s hands were “full of

bribes” (Psalm 26:10). Solomon complains of wicked men “taking gifts out of their

bosoms to pervert the ways of judgment” (Proverbs 17:23). Isaiah is never weary of

bearing witness against the princes of his day, who “love gifts and follow after

rewards” (Isaiah 1:23); who “justify the wicked for reward, and take away the

 righteousness of the righteous from him” (Isaiah 5:23). Micah adds his testimony —

“Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob and princes of the house of

Israel, that abhor judgment and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood,

 and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward” (Micah 3:9-11).

“for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.” –

See Deuteronomy 16:19.  Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know

the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt”.  - This

is a repetition of ch. 22:21, with perhaps a special reference to oppression through courts

of justice. “For thou knowest the heart of a stranger” -  Literally, “the mind of a

stranger,” or, in other words, his thoughts and feelings. You should  therefore be able

to sympathize with him.





The well-being of a community depends largely on the right administration of justice within

its limits. It has been said that the entire constitution of England (I will transpose The United

States Constitution – CY - 2010) with all its artifices, complications, balances, and other

delicate arrangements, exists mainly for the purpose of putting twelve honest men into a

jury-box. Fiat justitia, ruat coelum. Anything is preferable to the triumphant rule of

injustice. The present passage clearly shows that God recognizes very decidedly the

importance of judicial proceedings. By direct communication with Moses, He lays

down rules which affect:  The accuser; the witnesses; and the judge.


  • WITH RESPECT TO THE ACCUSER. False accusation is to be avoided,

      and especially capital charges against the innocent (v. 7).


  • WITH RESPECT TO WITNESSES. Men are to beware of either

            inventing an untrue tale or giving any support to it when it has been

            invented by others (v. 11).




ü      They are not to act like Pilate and “follow a multitude to do evil”

                        (v. 2).

ü      They are not either unduly to favour the poor (v. 3); or

ü      To wrest justice against them (v. 6).

ü      They are not to oppress strangers (v. 9). And

ü      They are, above all things, not to take a bribe.


            Accusers, beware! Be sure that your charge is true, or do not make it. A

            false charge, even though proved false, may injure a man for life — he may

            never be able to recover from it. Particularly, be careful, if your charge is a

            serious one, involving risk to life. You may, if successful, “slay the

            innocent and the righteous” (v. 7). Nay, you may slay a man by a false

            charge which does not directly affect his life — you may so harass and

            annoy him as to drive him to suicide, or “break his heart,” and so shorten

            his days. Even if you have a true charge to bring, it is not always wise or

            Christian to bring it. Paul would have us in some cases “take wrong”

            and “suffer ourselves to be defrauded” (I Corinthians 6:7).


            Witnesses, beware! Do not give untrue evidence, either in the way of

            raising false reports yourselves, or of supporting by your evidence the false

            reports of others. The witnesses who cause an innocent person to be

            condemned are as much to blame as the false accuser. Be very careful in

            giving evidence to speak “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the

            truth.” Depose to nothing of which you are not sure. If you are uncertain,

            say that you are uncertain, however much the adverse counsel may

            browbeat you. In cases of personal identity, be specially careful. It is

            exceedingly easy to be mistaken about a man whom you have seen only

            once or twice.


            Judges, beware! On you the final issue depends. Be not swayed by

            popularity. Yield not to the outcries either of an excited mob, or a partisan

            press, when they shout, “away with him!” Hold the scales of justice even

            between the rich man and the poor, neither suffering your prejudice of class

            to incline you in favor of the former, nor a weak sentimentality to make

            you lean unduly towards the latter. Be sure not to oppress foreigners, who

            must plead to disadvantage in a country, and amid proceedings, that are

            strange to them. Above all, do not condescend to take a bribe from either

            side. A gift is a weight in the scales of justice; and “a false balance is an

            abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 11:1).





These duties may be considered as they were revealed to men under the Law and

under the gospel.


  • UNDER THE LAW. Men were required to protect the interests of their

            enemies, when they could do so without loss to themselves. For instance:


ü      They were not to cut down fruit trees in an enemy’s country

                        (Deuteronomy 20:19-20).


ü      They were not to remove a neighbor’s landmark, even though he

      might be an enemy.


ü      They were to hasten after an enemy’s ox or ass if they saw it going

                        astray, to catch it, and bring it back to him.


ü      They were to approach him, if they saw his ass fallen under the weight

                        of its load, and to help him to raise it up.


ü      If he were suffering from hunger or thirst, they were to give him bread

                        to eat and water to drink (Proverbs 25:21).


ü      They were to refrain from rejoicing over his misadventures (Ibid. 24:17)


  • UNDER THE GOSPEL. Men are required under the Gospel to do all

            this, and much more.


ü      They are to “love their enemies” (Matthew 5:44).


ü      To do good to them in every way — feed them (Romans 12:20),

                        bless them (Matthew 5:44) , pray for them (ib,), be patient towards them

                        (I Thessalonians 5:14), seek to convert them from the error of their

                        ways (James 5:20), save them (ib,). Christ set the example of praying

                        for His enemies upon the cross — God set the example of loving His

                        enemies when He gave His Son to suffer death for them — the Holy                              

                        Spirit sets the example of patience towards His enemies, when He                                  

                        strives with them!  We have to forgive our enemies day by day their                           

                        trespasses against us — to pray and work for their conversion — to seek

                        to overcome their evil with our good. In temporal matters, it is our                                            

                        business to be most careful that we do them no injury, by                                                          

                        misrepresentation, by disparagement, by unfair criticism, by lies, even

                        by “faint praise.” We are to “love” them; or, if poor human nature finds                                   

                        this too hard, we are to act as if we loved them, and then ultimately love                                    

                        will come.



                                    CEREMONIAL LAWS (vs. 10-19)



From vs. 10-19 the laws are connected with ceremonial observance and include


Ø      The law of the Sabbatical year - (vs. 10-11)

Ø      Law of the Sabbath – (v. 12

Ø      Law of the Great Festivals – (vs. 14-17)

Ø      Law of the Paschal sacrifice, (v. 18) and

Ø      Law of first-fruits – (v. 19)



                                    LAW OF THE SABBATICAL YEAR


vs. 10-11 – “And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits

thereof:  But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still” - Days of rest, at

regular or irregular intervals, were well known to the ancients and some regulations

of the kind existed in most countries But entire years of rest were wholly unknown to

any nation except the Israelites.  In a primitive condition of agriculture, when rotation

of crops was unknown, artificial manure unemployed, and the need of letting even the

best land sometimes lie fallow unrecognized, it may not have been an uneconomical

arrangement to require an entire suspension of cultivation once in seven years. But

great difficulty was probably experienced in enforcing the law. Just as there were

persons who wished to gather manna on the seventh day (ch. 16:27), [compare

modern times when six days to do labor and make money is not enough and

some men think they need to work seven days a week to get ahead – CY – 2010]

so there would be many anxious to obtain in the seventh year something more from

their fields than Nature would give them if left to herself. If the “seventy years” of

the captivity were intended exactly to make up for omissions of the due observance

of the sabbatical year, we must suppose that between the time of the exodus and the

destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the ordinance had been as often neglected

as observed.  (See II Chronicles 36:21.) The primary object of the requirement was,

as stated here “that the poor of thy people may eat’ - what the land brought forth of

its own accord in the Sabbatical year being shared by them (Leviticus 25:6.). But no

doubt it was also intended that the Sabbatical year should be one of increased religious

observance, whereof the solemn reading of the law in the ears of the people at the

Feast of Tabernacles “in the year of release” (Deuteronomy 31:10-13) was an

indication and a part.  That reading was properly preceded by a time of religious

preparation (Nehemiah 8:1-15), and would naturally lead on to further acts of a religious

character, which might occupy a considerable period (ibid. chs. 9 and 10). Altogether,

the year was a most solemn period, calling men to religious self-examination, to repentance,

to the formation of holy habits, and tending to a general elevation among the people of the

standard of holiness –  “and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like

manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard”.  THE WHOLE



                                                LAW OF THE SABBATH


vs. 12-13 – “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.” – The Law of the Sabbath is repeated. Nothing is here

added to the teaching of the Fourth Commandment; but its merciful character is

especially brought out. Men are called on to observe it, in order that their cattle may

obtain rest, and their servants, together with the stranger that is within their gates, may find

refreshment. It is to be borne in mind that the foreign population of Palestine was mostly

held to hard service. (See II Chronicles 2:17-18.)  It is a day to be “kept holy”

 a day which God has “blessed and hallowed.” Here, on the contrary, our attention is

called to its secondary object — it is for “rest” and “refreshment.” Perhaps men of the

classes who are in easy circumstances do not sufficiently realize the intense

relief that is furnished by the Sunday rest to the classes below them, to the

over-taxed artisan, the household drudge, the wearied and stupefied farm-laborer

— nay, even to the clerk, the accountant, the shopkeeper, the salesman. Continuous

mechanical work of one and the same kind is required of most of those who labor,

from morning till night, and from one end of the week to the other. The monotony of their

occupations is terrible — is deadening — is sometimes maddening. For them, the treat that

the Sunday affords is the single gleam of light in their uniformly murky sky, the single ray of

hope that gilds their else miserable existence, the single link that connects them with the

living world of thought, and sentiment, and feeling, for which they were born, and in which

their spirits long to expatiate. Rest! To the tired brute, forced to slave for his owner up to

the full measure of his powers, and beyond them — ready to sink to the earth the moment

he is not artificially sustained — who goes through his daily round in a state that is half-sleep,

half-waking — what a blessed change is the quietude of the Sunday, when for four-and-twenty

hours at least he enjoys absolute and entire repose, recruits his strength, rests all his muscles,

is called on to make no exertion! Refreshment! How thrice blessed to the overwrought man,

and still more to the overwrought woman, is the relaxation of the dreadful tension of their lives

which Sunday brings! “No rest, no pause, no peace,” for six long days — days beginning

early and ending late — days without change or variety — without relaxation or amusement —

wretched, miserable days, during which they wish a hundred times that they had never

been born. On such the Sunday rest falls as a refreshing dew. Their drooping spirits rise to it.

They inhale at every pore its beneficent influences. They feel it to be “a refuge from the

storms of life, a borne of peace after six days of care and toil, a goal to which they may look

with glad hearts, and towards which they may work with hopeful spirits amid the intense

struggles, and fervid contests, and fierce strifes of existence.”  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.”  - v.13 contains two injunctions — one general,

one special:


Ø      “Be circumspect” (or cautious, careful) “in respect of all that I

                        command you.”


Ø      “Do not so much as utter the name of any false god.” Not even to

                        mention their names, was to show them the greatest contempt possible;

                        and, if followed out universally, would soon have produced an absolute

                        oblivion of them. Moses, it may be observed, scarcely ever does

                        mention their names. Later historians and prophets had to do so, either

                        to deliver the true history of the Israelites, or to denounce idolatries to                           

                        which they were given. There are many words one would wish never to                                    

                        utter; but while wicked men do the things of which they are the names,                          

                        preachers are obliged to use the words in their sermons and other                                             




                                                LAW OF THE GREAT FESTIVALS


“The sanctification of days and times,” says Richard Hooker, “is a token of that

thankfulness and a part of that public honor which we owe to God for admirable

benefits, whereof it doth not suffice that we keep a secret calendar, taking thereby our

private occasions as we list ourselves to think how much God hath done for all men;

but the days which are chosen out to serve as public memorials of such his mercies

ought to be clothed with those outward robes of holiness whereby their difference

from other days may be made sensible” (Eccles. Pol. 5:70, § 1). All ancient religions

had solemn festival seasons, when particular mercies of God were specially

commemorated, and when men, meeting together in large numbers, mutually cheered

and excited each other to a warmer devotion and a more hearty pouring forth of thanks

than human weakness made possible at other times. In Egypt such festivals were frequent,

and held a high place in the religion (Herod. 2:58-64:).  Abraham’s family had probably

had observances of the kind in their Mesopotamian home. God’s providence saw good

now to give supernatural sanction to the natural piety which had been accustomed thus

to express itself. Three great feasts were appointed, of which the most remarkable features



  • That they were at once agricultural and historical — connected with the

            regularly recurrent course of the seasons, and connected also with great

            events in the life of the nation;


  • That they could be kept only at one spot, that namely where the

            tabernacle was at the time located;


  • That they were to be attended by the whole male population.

            The three festivals are here called:


ü      The Feast of Unleavened Bread (v.15), the early spring festival, at the

                        beginning of barley harvest in the month Abib (Nisan), commemorative

                        of the going forth from Egypt;


ü      The Feast of Harvest (elsewhere called “of weeks”) at the beginning of

                        summer, when the wheat crop had been reaped, commemorative of the

                        giving of the law; and


ü      The Feast of Ingathering (v.16) in Tisri, at the close of the vintage,

                        when all the crops of every kind had been gathered in, commemorative

                        of the sojourn in the wilderness. The first of the three, the feast of                                              

                        unleavened bread, had been already instituted (ch.13:3-10); the two

                        others are now for the first time sketched out, their details being kept

                        back to be filled in subsequently (Leviticus 23:15-21, and 34-36). Here

                        the legislator is content to lay it down that the great feasts will be three,                         

                        and that all the males are to attend them.


vs. 14-17 – “Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year.   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” - This commenced with the Passover, and continued for the seven

days following, with a “holy convocation” on the first of the seven and on the

last (Leviticus 23:5-8).  Unleavened bread was eaten in commemoration of the hasty exodus

from Egypt  (ch.12:34). A sheaf of new barley — the first-fruits of the

harvest — was offered as a wave-offering before the Lord (Leviticus 23:10-14).

Every male Israelite of full age was bound to attend, and to bring with him a free-will offering –

and none shall appear before me empty:)  This rule applies, not to the

Passover only, but to all the feasts.   “And the feast of harvest” - Fifty days were to be

numbered from the day of offering the barley sheaf, and on the fiftieth the feast of harvest,

thence called “Pentecost,” was to be celebrated. Different Jewish sects

make different calculations; but the majority celebrate Pentecost on the sixth of Sivan

(May 25).  The main ceremony was the offering to God of two leavened loaves of the

finest flour made out of the wheat just gathered in, and called the first-fruits of the harvest.

The festival lasted only a single day; but it was one of a peculiarly social and joyful character

(Deuteronomy 16:9-11). Jewish tradition connects the feast further with the giving of the law,

which must certainly have taken place about the time (see ch. 19:1-16). the first-fruits

of thy labors, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering” –

Called elsewhere, and more commonly, “the feast of tabernacles” (Leviticus 23:34;

Deuteronomy 16:13; 31:10; John 7:2), from the circumstance that the people were

commanded to make themselves booths, and dwell in them during the time of the feast.

The festival began on the 15th of Tisri, or in the early part of our October, when the

olives had been gathered in and the vintage was completed. It lasted seven, or

(according to some) eight days, and comprised two holy convocations. In one point

of view it was a festival of thanksgiving for the final getting in of the crops; in another,

a commemoration of the safe passage through the desert from Egypt to Palestine.

The feast seems to have been neglected during the captivity, but was celebrated with

much glee in the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:17)  - “which is in the end of the

year, when thou hast gathered in thy labors out of the field.  Three times in the

year all thy males shall appear before the LORD God.”  This seems to moderns

a very burdensome enactment. But we must remember that Palestine is not bigger than

Wales, and that great gatherings had great attractions for many in the ancient world,

when they were the only means by which information was spread, and almost the

only occasions on which friends and relations who lived far apart could

expect to see each other. The European Greeks had, in their Olympian and other

games, similar great gatherings, which occurred once or twice in each year,

and, though under no obligation to do so, attended them in enormous numbers.

(Compare the Sweet Sixteen Basketball Tournament in Kentucky where for four

days people from all over the state meet at one common site in a sort of reunion –

CY  - 2010)  It may be doubted if the religious Hebrews felt the obligation of

attendance to be a burden. It was assuredly a matter of great importance, as tending to

unity, and to the quickening of the national life, that they should be drawn so

continually to one center, and be so frequently united in one common worship. Most

students of antiquity regard the Greek games as having exerted a strong unifying influence

over the scattered members of the Grecian family. The Hebrew festivals, occurring so

much more frequently, and required to be attended by all, must have had a similar,

but much greater, effect of the same kind.



            is more remarkable in man than his deadness, and dulness, and apathy in

            respect to all that God has done for him. Warm gratitude, lively

            thankfulness, real heartfelt devotion, are rare, even in the best of us.

            Festivals are designed to stir and quicken our feelings, to rouse us from our

            deadness, to induce us to shake off our apathy, and both with heart and

            voice glorify God, who hath done so great things for us. Festivals bring

            before us vividly the special Divine mercy which they commemorate, and at

            the same time present to our view the beneficent side, so to speak, of the

            Divine nature, and lead us to contemplate it. God is essentially love; “He

            declares His Almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity”

            Festivals remind us of this. We lose the advantage of them wholly if we do not  

            stir ourselves, on occasion of them, to some real outpouring of love and thanks

            to Him who granted us the blessing of the time, as well as every other blessing,  

            and every “good and perfect gift” (James 1:17) of which we have the




            a man is glad, and penetrated with the sense of God’s goodness and mercy

            towards it, the heart naturally opens itself to a consideration of other men’s

            needs and necessities. Being glad itself, it would fain make others glad.

            Hence, in the old world, great occasions of joy were always occasions of

            largess. The Israelites were commanded to remember the stranger, the

            fatherless, and the widow at the time of their festivals (Deuteronomy 16:14);

            and the practice was to “send portions” to them (Nehemiah 8:10; Esther 9:22).          

            We shall do well to imitate their liberality, and to make, not Christmas only,

            but each festival season a time of “sending portions” to the poor and needy.



                                    LAW OF THE PASCHAL SACRIFICE


v. 18 – “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread;

neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.” - That the Paschal

lamb is here intended by “my sacrifice,” seems to be certain, since the two injunctions

to put away leavened bread, and to allow none of the victim’s flesh to remain till the morning

(see ch.12:10), are combined in the Paschal sacrifice only. Of all the offerings commanded

in the law the Paschal lamb was the most important, since it typified Christ.  It may

therefore well be termed, in an especial way, “God’s sacrifice.’’



                                                LAW OF FIRST-FRUITS


v. 19 – “The first of the first-fruits (may mean either “the best of the first-fruits 

[see Numbers 18:12], or “the very first of each kind that is ripe” – [ibid. v. 13] –

on the tendency to delay, and not bring the very first, see ch. 22:29) - 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.”  The outline of law put

before the Israelites in the “Book of the Covenant” terminated with this

remarkable prohibition. Its importance is shown:


Ø      By its place here; and


Ø      By its being thrice repeated in the law of Moses (see ch. 34:16;

                        and Deuteronomy 14:21). Various explanations have been given of it;

                        but none is satisfactory, except that which views it as “a protest against

                        cruelty, and outraging the order of nature,” more especially that                                          

                        peculiarly sacred portion of nature’s order, the tender relation between                         

                        parent and child, mother and suckling. No doubt the practice existed.

                        Kids were thought to be most palatable when boiled in milk; and the                             

                        mother’s milk was frequently the readiest to obtain. But in this way the                          

                        mother was made a sort of accomplice in the death of her child, which                          

                        men were induced to kill on account of the flavor that her milk gave it.                           

                        Reason has nothing to say against such a mode of preparing food, but                           

                        feeling revolts from it; and the general sense of civilized mankind                                               

                        re-echoes the precept, which is capable of a wide application —

                        “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.”



                                    THE REWARDS OF OBEDIENCE  (vs. 20-31)


God always places before men “the recompense of the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26) –

He does not require of them that they should serve him for naught. The “Book of the

Covenant” appropriately ends with a number of promises, which God undertakes to

perform, if Israel keeps the terms of the covenant. The promises are:


Ø      That He will send an angel before them to be their guide, director, and

                        helper (vs. 20 - 23).


Ø      That He will be the enemy of their enemies (v. 22), striking terror into

                        them miraculously (v. 27), and subjecting them to other scourges also

                        (v. 28).


Ø      That He will drive out their enemies “by little and little” (v. 30), not

                        ceasing until He has destroyed them (v. 23).


Ø      That He will give them the entire country between the Red Sea and the

                        Mediterranean on the one hand, the Desert and the Euphrates on the

                        other (v. 31). And


Ø      That He will bless their sustenance, avert sickness from them, cause

      them to multiply, and prolong their days upon earth (vs. 25-26). At

      the same time, all these promises — except the first — are made          

      conditional. If they will “beware” of the angel and “obey his voice,”

      then He will drive their enemies out (vs. 22-23): if they will serve           

      Jehovah, and destroy the idols of the nations, then He will multiply

      them, and give them health and long life (vs. 24-26), and “set their

       bounds from the Red Sea even unto the Sea of the Philistines, and

      from the desert unto the river” (v. 31). So far as they fall short of

      their duties, is He entitled to fall short of His promises. A reciprocity

      is established. Unless they keep their engagements, He is not

                        bound to keep His. Though the negative side is not entered upon, this

                        is sufficiently clear. None of the promises, except the promise to send

                        the angel, is absolute. Their realization depends on a strict and hearty



vs. 20-31 – “Behold, I send an Angel before thee” – Jewish commentators regard

the messenger as Moses, who, no doubt, was a specially commissioned ambassador for

God, and who might, therefore, well be termed God’s messenger. But the expressions —

“He will not pardon your transgressions,” and “My name is in him,” are too high for

Moses. An angel must be intended — probably “the Angel of the Covenant,”

whom the best expositors identify with the Second Person of the Trinity, the Ever-

Blessed Son of God – “to keep thee in the way” - not simply “to guide thee through

 the wilderness, and prevent thee from geographical error,” but to keep thee altogether

in the right paths, to guard thy going out and thy coming m, to prevent thee from falling

into any kind of wrong conduct – “and to bring thee into the place which I have

prepared.” – not merely Palestine, but that place of which Palestine is the type —

Heaven. Compare John 14:2: — “I go to prepare a place for you.”  “Beware of Him,

and obey His voice, provoke Him not” - On the disobedience of the Israelites to this

precept, see Numbers 14:11; Psalm 78:17, 40, 56) -   “for He will not pardon your

transgressions: for my name is in Him.” - God’s honor He will not give to another.

He does not set His Name in a man. The angel, in whom was God’s Name, must have

been co-equal with God — one of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity.  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.  For mine Angel

shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the

Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off. 

Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works” –

It is always to be borne in mind that with the idolatries of the heathen were connected

“works of darkness,” which it is shameful even to speak of. The rites of

Baal and Ashtoreth, of Chemosh, Molech, Rimmon, and the other Canaanite and

Syrian deities were at once defiled by the abomination of human sacrifices, (abortion

if you please and may I reiterate that sex is associated with modern habits as in the

pollutions of old – CY – 2010) and  polluted with the still more debasing evil of

religious impurity. “The sacrifice offered to Ashtoreth,” says Dr. Dollinger, “consisted

in the prostitution of women: the women submitted themselves to the visitors of the

feast, in the temple of the goddess or the adjoining precinct. A legend told of Astarte

(Ashtoreth) having prostituted herself in Tyre for ten years: and in many places

matrons, as well as maidens, consecrated themselves for a length of time, or on the

festivals of the goddess, with a view of propitiating her, or earning her favor as

hieroduli of unchastity… In this way they went so far at last as to contemplate the

abominations of unnatural lust as a homage rendered to the deity, and to exalt it into

a regular cultus. The worship of the goddess at Aphaca in Lebanon was specially

notorious in this respect. The temple in a solitary situation was, as Eusebius tells us,

a place of evil doing for such as chose to ruin their bodies in scandalous ways…

Criminal intercourse with women, impurity, shameful and degrading deeds, were

practiced in the temple, where there was no custom and no law, and no honorable or

decent human being could be found.” (Jew and Gentile, vol. 1. pp. 428, 429; Darnell’s

translation.) – “but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their

images.” - The heathen gods are identified with their images. These were to be

torn from their bases, overthrown, and rolled in the dust for greater contempt and ignominy.

They were then to be broken up and burnt, till the gold and the silver with which they were

overlaid was calcined and could be stamped to powder. Nothing was to be spared that had

been degraded by idolatry, either for its beauty or its elaborate workmanship, or its value. 

All was hateful to God, and was to be destroyed!   “And ye shall serve the LORD

your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water” - If the Israelites were exact

in their obedience, and destroyed the idols, and served God only, then He promised to bless

“their bread and their water” — the food, i.e., whether meat or drink, on which they

subsisted, and to give them vigorous health, pledging and I will take sickness away

from the midst of thee.”  - (He is the Great Physician!)  “There shall nothing

cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land” - This blessing could not have followed

upon godly living in the way of natural sequence, but only by Divine favor and

 providential care. It would have rendered them rich in flocks and herds beyond any

other nation – “the number of thy days I will fulfill” - There shall be no premature

deaths. All, both men and women, shall reach the term allotted to man, and die in a good

old age, having fulfilled their time. Godly living, persisted in for several generations

would produce this result.  “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.” - For the fulfillment of this promise see Numbers 21:3, 24, 35;

31:7; Joshua 8:20- 24; 10:10.   Had their obedience been more complete, the power

of the Canaanitish nations would have been more thoroughly broken, and the


WOULD NOT HAVE HAD TO BE ENDURED!  “And I will send hornets

before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite,

from before thee.  I will not drive them out from before thee in one year” –

men are impatient – God is strangely, wonderfully, patient! -  “lest the land

become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.” - A third

reason why the nations were not subdued all at once, not mentioned here, is touched

in Judges 2:21-23 “The Lord left those nations, without driving them out hastily,

that through them he might prove Israel, whether they would keep the way of

the Lord to walk therein, or not.” -  “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” - That Moses here

lays down those wide limits which were only reached 400 years later, in the time of David

and Solomon, and were then speedily lost, can surprise no one who believes in the prophetic

gift, and regards Moses as one of the greatest of the Prophets. The tract

marked out by these limits had been already promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18).

Its possession by Solomon is distinctly recorded in I Kings 4:21, 24, II Chronicles

9:26. As Solomon was “a man of peace,” we must ascribe the acquisition of this wide

empire to David. (Compare II Samuel 8:3-14; 10:6-19.) – “and from the desert unto

the river (Euphrates)  for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand;

and thou shalt drive them out before thee.”  The mass of the Canaanites were no

doubt “driven out” rather than exterminated. They retired northwards, and gave

strength to the great Hittite kingdom which was for many centuries a formidable

antagonist of the Egyptian and Assyrian empties.  And the LORD gave unto Israel

all the land which He swear to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it,

and dwelt therein.  And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all

that He swear unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies

before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. THERE FAILED








“Behold, I send an angel before thee.” Here was a positive promise. An angel, a guide,

a protector, would go before them throughout their wanderings in the wilderness, and lead

them into the promised land — lead, at any rate, some remnant of them, out of

which God would make a great nation. Thus much was certain. God’s word to give

his descendants the land of Canaan was pledged to Abraham, and He would not go

back from it. They should reach Canaan, and an angel should lead them; but the

rest was all more or less uncertain. If they indeed obeyed God, and did as He

commanded, then He would be an enemy to their enemies, and give them full

possession of the land of promise. If they truly served Jehovah, and not idols, then

He would grant them health and long life, and other temporal blessings. And so it is

with Christians. God gives absolutely certain blessings to all whom he accepts into

covenant with him; but the greater part of the blessings which He has promised are

contingent on their behavior.




ü      A Divine guide is promised to all. The Holy Spirit, speaking in men’s

                        hearts, directing and enlightening their conscience, tells them

                        continually how they ought to walk, points cut the way, offers his                                              

                        guidance, nay, presses it on them, and seeks to lead them to heaven.

                        The guide is more than an angel — God’s holy name is in Him. Nor

                        does He guide only. He supports the footsteps, strengthens,

                        sustains, comforts men.


ü      Membership in Christ is promised. “I am the vine; ye are the

      branches.” “Abide in me.” We are as branches cut out of a wild

      olive, which have been grafted, contrary to nature, into a good olive-

      tree, to partake of its root and fatness (Romans 11:17-24). We are

      “made members of Christ,” for the most part, in our infancy, without

      effort or merit of our own, by God’s great mercy.




ü      The answer of a good conscience towards God — a great blessing can

                        only, by the very nature of the case, belong to those who have striven

                        always to be obedient, and have served the Lord from their youth.


ü      Growth in grace is granted only to such as cherish and follow the grace

                        already vouchsafed them.


ü      Spiritual wisdom and understanding are attained by none but those who,

                        having “done the will of God, know of the doctrine” (John 7:17).


ü      Assistance against spiritual enemies is contingent on our doing our best

                        to resist them.


ü      Length of days is attached as a special blessing to obedience to parents

                        (Ephesians 6:2-3). Finally, and above all:


ü      The eternal bliss which is promised us in another world is conditional

                        upon our “patient continuance in well-doing” (Romans 2:7) in this.

                        We must “so run that we may obtain.”  (I Corinthians 9:24) - Most of                                  

                        those to whom the promises of this chapter were addressed, forfeited

                        them by their misconduct, and did not enter Canaan.  They “lusted,”

                        they became “idolaters,” they “tempted God,” they “committed                                         

                        fornication,” they “murmured”and the result was that they

                        were overthrown in the wilderness.” (See Psalms 78 and106)  And

                        “all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are                                   

                        written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are                          

                        come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest

                        he fall” (I Corinthians 10:11-12).





The “BOOK OF THE COVENANT” ends as it began, with a SOLEMN

WARNING AGAINST IDOLATRY.  Ye shall not make with me gods

of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.” – ch. 20:23) - “Thou

shalt make no covenant with them  nor with their gods.” Thou shalt not even

suffer them to dwell side by side with thee in the land, on peaceable terms, with

their own laws and religion, lest thou be ensnared thereby, and led to worship their

idols and join in their unhallowed rites (v. 33). The after history of the people of

Israel shows the need of the warning. From the exodus to the captivity, every

idolatry with which they came into close contact proved a sore temptation to them.

As the author of Kings observes of the Ten Tribes’’ — “The children of

Israel did secretly those things which were not right against the Lord their

God, and they built them high places in all their cities… And they set them

up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree; and

there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the

Lord carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the

Lord to anger; for they served idols, whereof the Lord had said unto them,

“Ye shall not do this thing” (2 Kings 17:9-12).


vs. 32-33 – “Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.”

(see ch. 34:12-15)  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.”

This law did not, of course, affect proselytes; nor was it considered to preclude the

continuance in the land of the enslaved Gibeonites. It forbade any Canaanite

communities being suffered to remain within the limits of Palestine on friendly

terms with the Hebrews. The precaution was undoubtedly a wise one.




                                    THE PERIL OF IDOLATRY


Idolatry is the interposition of any object between man and God, in such

sort that the object takes the place of God in the heart and the affections,

occupying them to His exclusion, or to His disparagement. Idolatry proper,

the interposition between God and the soul of idols or images, seems to

have possessed a peculiar fascination for the Israelites, either because their

materialistic tendencies made them shrink from approaching in thought a

mere pure Spirit, or perhaps from their addiction to the sensual pleasures

which accompanied idolatry, as practiced by the greater part of the heathen.

In modern times, and in countries where Protestantism is professed by the

generality, there is little or no danger of this gross form of the sin. But there is

great danger of other forms of it. In order to make any practical use of those large

portions of the Old Testament which warn against idolatry, we have to remember:


  • THAT COVETOUSNESS IS IDOLATRY. Wealth is made an idol by

            thousands in these latter days. All hasten to be rich. Nothing is greatly

            accounted of which does not lead to opulence. God is shut out from the

            heart by desires, and plans, and calculations which have money for their

            object and which so occupy it that there is no room for anything else. The

            danger has existed at all times, but it has to be specially guarded against at

            the present day, when Mammon has become the most potent of all the

            spirits of evil, and men bow down before, not an image of gold, but

            gold itself, whatever shape it may take.


  • THAT SELFISHNESS IS IDOLATRY. Men make idols of themselves

            — of their own happiness, quiet, comfort — allowing nothing to interfere

            with these, and infinitely preferring them to any intrusive thoughts of God,

            His glory, or His claims upon them. Persons thus wrapped up in themselves

            are idolaters of a very gross type, since the object of their worship is

            wholly bad and contemptible.


  • THAT PROFLIGACY IS IDOLATRY. Men idolize a wretched

            creature, — a girl, or woman, possessed of some transient beauty and

            personal attractions, but entirely devoid of a single estimable quality. For

            such a creature they peril all their prospects, both in this life and the next.

            They make her the queen of their souls, the object of their adoration, the

            star by which they direct their course. The ordinary consequence is

            shipwreck, both here and hereafter. When so poor an idol as a weak

            wanton has stepped in between the soul and God, there is little chance

            of a real repentance and return of the soul to its Maker.


  • THAT AMUSEMENT MAY BE IDOLATRY. It is quite possible so

            to devote oneself to amusement as to make it shut out God from us. Those

            who live in a whirl of gaiety, with no time set apart for serious duties, for

            instructing the ignorant, consoling the afflicted, visiting the poor and needy

            — nay, with scant time for private or family prayer — are idolaters, and

            will have to give account to a “jealous God,” who wills that His creatures

            should worship Him and not make it their highest end to amuse themselves.



            persons who find no amusement in the pursuit, think it necessary to do

            whatever it is the fashion to do. Their life is a perpetual round of

            employments in which they have no pleasure, and which they have not

            chosen for themselves, but which the voice of fashion forces upon them.

            They drag themselves through exhibitions which do not interest them;

            lounge at clubs of which they are utterly weary; dine out when they would

            much rather be at home; and pass the evening and half the night in showing

            themselves at balls and assemblies which fatigue and disgust them. And all

            because Fashion says it is the correct thing. The idol, Fashion, has as many

            votaries in modern Europe as ever the Dea Syra had in Western Asia, or

            Isis in Egypt; and her votaries pass through life as real idolaters as the

            worshippers of the ancient goddesses, albeit unconscious ones.



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