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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Exodus 23

Verses 1-12

The Covenant Code Exodus 21:1 to Exodus 23:12 can be called the “Covenant Code.” Sailhamer tells us that the laws listed in the “Covenant Codes” (Exodus 21:1 to Exodus 23:12) are 42 (7 x 6), which was in intentional multiple of seven. He also notes that there are 611 laws listed in the Pentateuch, which equals the numerical value of the Hebrew word “Torah” ( תורה ). He notes that “the traditional number of laws in the Pentateuch (613) is obtained by treating both Deuteronomy 6:4 (the “Shema”) and Exodus 20:2 (“I am the Lord your God”) as ‘laws.’” In addition, there are three hundred seventy-five (375) proverbs in Solomon’s First Collection (Exodus 10:1 to Exodus 22:16), which equals the numerical value of Solomon’s Hebrew name. He says there are His point is that such numerical coincidences reflect deliberate composition by the ancient Jewish scribes, and concludes that the laws, as well as the statutes, were not intended to be exhaustive. [87]

[87] See John H. Sailhammer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, c1995), 257.

Exodus 21:10 Scripture References - Note

Isaiah 4:1, “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel : only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.”

Exodus 21:11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

Exodus 21:12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

Exodus 21:12 Comments - The Mosaic Law considered murder as a capital offence punishable by death. This method of judgment against such a sin is a type and shadow of eternal judgment God will impart unto wicked men.

Exodus 21:13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.

Exodus 21:13 Comments - This is killing a man accidentally.

Exodus 21:14 But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.

Exodus 21:14 Illustrations:

Deuteronomy 19:11-12, “But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities: Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.”

1 Kings 2:29-30, “And it was told king Solomon that Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD; and, behold, he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him. And Benaiah came to the tabernacle of the LORD, and said unto him, Thus saith the king, Come forth. And he said, Nay; but I will die here. And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.”

Exodus 21:15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

Exodus 21:16 And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

Exodus 21:17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

Exodus 21:17 Scripture References - Note:

Matthew 15:4, “For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.”

Mark 7:10, “For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:”

Exodus 21:18-19 Comments The Penalty for Smiting a Man - See Luke 10:25-37. The good Samaritan paid the penalty under the Law for those who beat the man. Likewise, Jesus paid our penalty.

Exodus 21:21 “if he continue a day or two” - Comments - That is, “If the man live a few days before dying.”

Exodus 21:22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

Exodus 21:22 “No mischief follow” Comments - That is, the woman is not hurt in any way. Note Exodus 23:25-26.

Exodus 23:25-26, “And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. There shall nothing cast their young , nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil.”

Exodus 21:23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,

Exodus 21:24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Exodus 21:24 Comments - The context of this passage is referring to compensation and not to retribution. It is not about getting even with someone, but about how we are to give a righteous compensation to those who are injured and wronged by others. It is to be an act of love and not an act of vengeance. Evidently, the first-century Jews used it to justify retribution (Matthew 5:38).

Matthew 5:38, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:”

Exodus 21:32 “thirty shekels of silver” Comments - Scholars suggest that thirty shekels of silver was considered the price of a good, healthy slave (see Adam Clarke [88] , Keil [89] ).

[88] Adam Clarke, Exodus, in Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000), comments on Exodus 21:32.

[89] C. F. Keil, and F. Delitzsch, Pentateuch, vol. 2, in Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, trans. James Martin, in P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000), comments on Exodus 21:32.

Matthew 26:15, “And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver .”

Exodus 21:33 Comments - This pit would most commonly be a well. Short walls around a well were required to prevent a person or animal from falling into the pit.

Verses 13-33

Exodus 23:15 “the feast of unleavened bread” - Comments - See Exodus 12:1-11; Exodus 12:14-20 for a full account of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Exodus 23:16 “And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field” Comments - The Feast of the Harvest is also called the Feast of Weeks (Numbers 28:26-31). It is also called the Day of Pentecost. This feast was held in the third month (May-June), which was fifty days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or the Passover. This Feast of Harvest was to commemorate the early harvest.

Numbers 28:26, “Also in the day of the firstfruits , when ye bring a new meat offering unto the LORD, after your weeks be out , ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work:”

Acts 2:1, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”

Exodus 23:16 “and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field” - Comments - The Feast of Ingathering was also known as the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths). It was an autumn feast held in the months of September thru October to celebrate the completed harvest. It also commemorated the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness for forty years, living in tents. The Jews would build themselves temporary booths in honour of Israel's life in the wilderness.

A similar feast took place as a part of the African tradition until recently. When the rainy season came to an end, and the crops ripened, the drums beat to gather the people for a feast of the food that has been gathered during that growing season. Note this quote in Joseph E. Church's book Quest for the Highest:

“This was harvest time in Ruanda, the beginning of the long dry season, and it was quite normal for the hundreds of homesteads around Lake Mohasi to meet and rejoice in a heathen way to the beat of the drums and clapping of hands. But this time it was to sing praises to the Giver of all life whom they had learned to love. Almost all the European tunes for hymns were more or less syncopated at this time when there was great joy and fervour in singing.” [90]

[90] Joseph E. Church, Quest for the Highest (Exeter, UK: The Paternoster Press, 1981), 131.

Exodus 23:19 “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God” - Comments - Anyone who has farmed knows that the best of the crops usually ripens first. The later crops are not up to the quality as the firstfruits. It was an act of faith to give up the best to the Lord, and believe that the Lord would bless the harvest of the remaining crops.

Exodus 23:19 “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk” - Comments - Note the exact same verse:

Exodus 34:26, “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.”

Deuteronomy 14:21, “Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.”

Exodus 23:20 Comments - This angel not only took the children through the wilderness and through the conquest, but he makes numerous appearances in the book of Joshua and Judges years after the conquest.

Judges 2:1, “And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.”

Judges 6:11, “And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.”

Judges 13:3, “And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.”

Scripture References - See:

Exodus 14:19, “And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:”

Exodus 23:23, “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.”

Exodus 32:34, “Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.”

Exodus 33:2, “And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:”

Exodus 23:27 Scripture References - Note:

Joshua 2:9, “And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.”

Exodus 23:28 And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.

Exodus 23:28 Scripture References - Note:

Deuteronomy 7:20, “Moreover the LORD thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed.”

Joshua 24:12, “And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.”

Exodus 23:32 Comments - Joshua disobeyed the commandment in Exodus 23:32 when he made a covenant with the Gibeonites.

Joshua 9:15, “And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.”

Exodus 23:33 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.

Exodus 23:33 Scripture References - Note:

Psalms 106:34-36, “They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the LORD commanded them: But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.”

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Exodus 23". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/exodus-23.html. 2013.