Exodus Chapter 23

The Israelites are being led by the Lord, through the prophet Moses. They have been led to Mount Sinai, where they have had a witness of the Lord. At this point in the book of Exodus, the Lord is giving them laws and judgments to follow in order to be an obedient and happy people. These things continue as follows:

1 Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.

As I mentioned in the previous two posts, this is purely my understanding of these things and as I did not live then, there may be some things I don’t understand fully. Anyway, the Lord tells them that they are not to lie about what they have witnessed. They are to be honest in their dealings with others. They are not to speak against one another in an evil way. The footnotes references the word slander from the Topical Guide, which says to see also backbiting, deceit, gossip and lying. Any of these things are unrighteous and should not be a part of the lives of those who follow the Lord.

2 Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:

I think they were not to raise riots and uproars according to wickedness. In the footnote we read, “Thou shalt not follow the crowd to do evil, neither speak up in a lawsuit, being influenced by the majority, to subvert justice.” The people were not to influence the judgment in an unjust way, by allowing the crowd of people to make false statements. This is another verse reminding them that honesty is of great importance, no matter what the situation.

3 Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.

The Joseph Smith translation says that the word poor is actually wicked. That changes the meaning of this, which I was not understanding previously. They were not to favor a wicked man in his cause to do evil. I think that sometimes today, our courts will side with someone who has a lot of money or influence, instead of giving them just rewards for their crimes. I think that this is what the Lord was telling them not to do. Those who placed judgment on others, were to do so justly and not according to the ways of man. In addition, the Lord may have been telling them that they were not to take from others unjustly because they had something they wanted. I think this is a lot like placing an heavy burden of tax or judgment on someone who was undeserving of that, just to have more themselves.

4 If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.
5 If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
6 Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause.
7 Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.

They were to be honest when they came upon someone else’s livestock wandering. They were not to take it for themselves or let it continue to wander even, but were to return it to the owner, even if they were an enemy. They were to help their enemy with their burdens and not to harass the poor beggars. In short, they were to be charitable and serve those who needed help, no matter who they were. They were not to hurt the righteous or innocent, or their acts would not be justified by God. Those who judged, were to do it justly and with honesty.

8 And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.

The footnote for the word gift, references the word bribe. They were not to allow bribery, because it blinded those who were wise and would go against righteousness.

9 Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
10 And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof:
11 But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard.
12 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.
13 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.

It was said to not oppress any stranger, in the last chapter I believe, so this must have been an important rule to live by. The Israelites are reminded that they were not always in their own land and knew what it was like to be strangers in a land. They were to treat strangers as they had wanted to be treated themselves.

Also, they were given instruction on how to take care of their land. They were told to plant and harvest fruits and grains for six years, and then on the seventh year, they were to leave the land alone (sabbatical year) for the poor and the animals to eat. They were to do the same with their vineyards and such as well. They were to provide welfare to those in need. Likewise, they were to work only six days of the week and then have a day of rest on the seventh day, the Sabbath. This was wisdom, so that all would be rested and refreshed for another week of work. Again they are reminded to follow after these things of the Lord and nothing from any other god. There is a footnote in verse 13, which references Joshua 23:7. In this verse, it talks about not causing others to swear to their gods. If we believe that we are not to worship false Gods, then we should not push others to go to their gods, but instead we should help to bring them to the Lord.

14 Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year.
15 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: and none shall appear before me empty:)
16 And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.
17 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God.
18 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.
19 The first of the firstfruits 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.

There were to be three feasts during the year, the feast of unleavened bread, the feast of the harvest, and the feast of ingathering. (Deuteronomy 16:16 calls the feasts, the feast of unleavened bread, the feast of weeks, and the feast of tabernacles.) The feast of unleavened bread was a reminder of their deliverance from Egypt, also called the passover feast. The feast of harvest happened when they had harvested from their fields. The feast of ingathering was when all those who worked in the fields were given their break from field labor because the harvest was done. They were to bring the first fruits as an offering to the Lord at three times in a year. Then all the men of the Israelites were to sanctify themselves and make sacrifice to the Lord.

20 Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
21 Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.
22 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.
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.
24 Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.
25 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.

The Lord would send an angel, or a guide, before them, so that they would be led in the way the Lord desired for them. He was to guide them to the promised land. He would be holy and on the errand of the Lord, to be obeyed and not trifled with. They would loose him as their guide, as we loose the gift of the Holy Ghost, if there is any transgression of the laws of God. If they would follow this angel, they would be protected and delivered from all their enemies, with the Lord on their side. This was a promise also given to Abraham if he would be faithful. All his kindred would be blessed to have the Lord on their side, to protect them from their enemies. We can also be blessed with safety from our enemies, if we remain faithful and worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. The Israelites would be protected from sickness, if they would hearken to all the direction of the Lord. They were told not to worship other gods, or do the works of those who worshipped false gods, but instead they were to destroy those images and overtake those people who worshipped them.

26 There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil.
27 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.
28 And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
29 I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.
30 By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.
31 And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.
32 Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.
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.

The women would not be barren, or unable to have children. It seems also that the children would not die from miscarriage during this time. The people would live to their age of fulfillment. Others would fear the name of the Israelites, because of their strength in the Lord. I can just imagine hearing of the destruction the Israelites brought as they regained their land, and how other nations would fear and tremble over that. The other nations would be driven out of their land a little at a time, so that the land would still be good for them and their flocks. Then they would be able to inherit the land the Lord had promised to their ancestors. They were not to make any agreements or promises with those of other nations, and any others who remained in the promised land would be sinning against God. The Lord tells them that if others remained, their worship of false gods would be a temptation for the Israelites.

The laws of the Lord, given to the Israelites, may seem strange or different to us today. We live in a different time, but the reason for these things is the same. We are given laws of God, in order to help us stay worthy of His presence in our lives. We cannot worship other gods, we cannot be dishonest in our dealings with others, we cannot take advantage of others and so on. We may not be required to give feasts, but we do need to partake of the sacrament regularly so that we can be reminded of the Lord and His atonement. All of our men are expected to take on the mantel of the holy priesthood of God and then be diligent in the responsibilities that come with it. If we are faithful to these things, we will be worthy of our own angel of the Lord, or rather, the Holy Spirit of God. He will be our guide and lead us to the eternal promise land that we are striving towards. I am glad that we have laws to follow, so that we can know if we are on the right path back to our Father in Heaven. I look forward to returning to his presence again one day and I hope to be worthy of all He has promised to me.

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About My Scripture Study Buddy

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.
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