Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Exodus 23

Verses 1-33

The Book of the Covenant (concluded)

1-19. Miscellaneous Laws.

1. Raise] RV 'take up,' i.e. give ear to. This is an extension of the ninth commandment: cp. the Arabic proverb, 'In wickedness the listener is the ally of the speaker.'

2. To decline after] RV 'to turn aside after.'

3. Countenance] Give undue favour to. As judgment is to be without fear (Exodus 23:2), so is it to be without favour, whether of rich or poor: cp. Exodus 23:6.

4, 5. Thine enemy's ox] The Mosaic Law inculcates the duty of kindness to animals: see e.g. Exodus 20:10; Leviticus 22:27-28; Deuteronomy 22:6-7; Deuteronomy 25:4. In Deuteronomy 22:1-4 it is a friend's beast that is to be relieved. Here it is the beast of an enemy: cp. Matthew 5:43, Matthew 5:44.

8. Gift] A bribe in any form: see on Exodus 18:21.

10, 11. On the law of the Sabbatical Year, see on Leviticus 25:1-7.

12. On the reason annexed to the fourth commandment, see on Exodus 20:10, Exodus 20:11.

14-17. The Three Great Annual Feasts are Passover and Unleavened Bread in the month of Abib, Feast of Weeks or Pentecost fifty days afterwards, and Feast of Booths or Tabernacles, here called Feast of Ingathering, at the end of the agricultural year: see on Leviticus 23:4-22, Leviticus 23:33-43.

15. None shall appear before me empty] As these festivals are all commemorative of God's goodness they are to be celebrated with thankfulness and rejoicing. And in token of their gratitude the people are to present gifts and entertain the poor: cp. Deuteronomy 16:16-17; Nehemiah 8:10. The same principle underlies the custom of making offerings of money as a part of Christian worship. It is expressive of the worshipper's thankfulness for all the divine mercies, temporal and spiritual, of which he is the recipient, and must never be omitted.

17. Three times in the year] These annual pilgrimages served to maintain a conscious unity of race and worship.

18. Leavened bread] see on Exodus 12:8. Fat, like blood, must not be eaten, but burnt upon the altar: see on Exodus 29:13.

19. Thou shalt not seethe, etc.] This prohibition may be intended to preserve the natural instinct of humanity: cp. Deuteronomy 22:6, Deuteronomy 22:7. But it more probably refers to a superstitious practice of using milk prepared in this way to sprinkle fields, as a charm against unfruitfulness: see Deuteronomy 14:21, where the prohibition is connected with the law of unclean meats. On account of this law, the Jews to this day abstain from mixing meat and milk in the same dish; nor will they partake of the one, except at a considerable interval after the other.

20-33. The Book of the Covenant closes with an exhortation in which a promise is made of God's presence, guidance, and help in overcoming their enemies, of wide dominion, and of material prosperity, on condition that they serve Jehovah alone and make no covenant with the heathen nations or their gods.

20. On the Angel of Jehovah, see on Exodus 3:2.

25. See on Exodus 20:12.

28. Hornets] The hornet is a large and fierce kind of wasp. It is doubtful whether the promise here is to be understood literally or figuratively (cp. also Deuteronomy 7:20; Joshua 24:12). It seems to be taken literally in Wisdom of Solomon 12:8. But it is more probably a figurative way of describing the terror which would fall upon the nations on hearing of the victorious march of Jehovah's people: see the previous v. and Deuteronomy 2:25, and cp. Deuteronomy 1:44; Psalms 118:12; Isaiah 7:18. Or the 'hornets' may be intended to describe the Egyptians, who were frequently at war with the inhabitants of Canaan. Rameses III is known to have broken the power of the ancient kingdom of the Hittites, which would be about the time of the Israelites' sojourn in the wilderness, supposing the exodus to have taken place towards the end of the nineteenth dynasty.

29, 30. The book of Judges shows that the conquest of Canaan was effected gradually.

31. The sea of the Philistines] the Mediterranean; the river is the Euphrates. These bounds were reached in the reign of Solomon: see 1 Kings 4:21, and cp. Genesis 15:18; Deuteronomy 11:24.

32, 33. The commandment to expel the Canaanites and to destroy their idols and places of worship was only partially fulfilled, with the result that the evil influence of Canaanitish idolatry and immorality made itself felt over and over again in the history of Israel and was the cause of its final overthrow: see Joshua 16:10; Joshua 17:12-13; Judges 1:19, Judges 1:27-36; 1 Kings 11:1-10; 1 Kings 14:22-24; 2 Kings 12:3; 2 Kings 17:6-28. With this passage cp. Exodus 34:12-17; Numbers 33:50-56; Deuteronomy 7 and see on Numbers 25:16-18.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 23". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.