Contents Calendar Find Reference
Navigating the Bible
Exodus Chapter 23
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

23:1 Do not accept a false report.

Do not join forces with a wicked person to be a corrupt witness.

23:2 Do not follow the majority to do evil.

Do not speak up in a trial to pervert justice. A case must be decided on the basis of the majority.

23:3 Do not favor [even] the poorest man in his lawsuit.

Strayed Animals
23:4 If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey going astray, bring it back to him.

The Fallen Animal
23:5 If you see the donkey of someone you hate lying under its load, you might want to refrain from helping him, but [instead] you must make every effort to help him [unload it].

Justice and Festivals
23:6 Do not pervert justice for your degraded countryman in his lawsuit.
23:7 Keep away from anything false.

Do not kill a person who has not been proven guilty or one who has been acquitted. [Ultimately] I will not let a guilty person escape punishment.

23:8 Do not accept bribery. Bribery blinds the clear-sighted and twists the words of the just.
23:9 Do not oppress a foreigner. You know how it feels to be a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
23:10 You may plant your land for six years and gather its crops.
23:11 But during the seventh year, you must leave it alone and withdraw from it. The needy among you will then be able to eat [from your fields] just as you do, and whatever is left over can be eaten by wild animals. This also applies to your vineyard and your olive grove.
23:12 You may do whatever you must during the six week days, but you must stop on Saturday. Your donkey and ox must then be able to rest, and your maid's son and the foreigner must be able to relax.
23:13 Be very careful to keep everything I have said to you.

Do not pronounce the name of another deity. You must not let it be heard through your mouth.

23:14 Offer a sacrifice to Me three times each year.
23:15 Keep the Festival of Matzahs. Eat matzahs for seven days, as I commanded you, during the prescribed time in the month of standing grain, since this is when you left Egypt.

Do not appear before Me empty-handed.

23:16 [Also keep] the Reaping Festival, through the first fruits of your produce that you planted in the field. [There is also] the Harvest Festival [right after] the end of the year, when you gather your produce from the field.
23:17 Three times each year, every male among you must appear before God, Master [of the Universe].
23:18 Do not sacrifice the blood of My [Passover] offering in the presence of leavened bread.

Do not allow the fat of My offering to remain overnight until morning.

23:19 Bring your first fruits to the Temple of God your Lord.

Do not cook meat in milk, [even] that of its mother.

Promises and Instructions
23:20 I will send an angel before you to safeguard you on the way, and bring you to the place that I have prepared.
23:21 Be careful in his presence and heed his voice. Do not rebel against him, since My name is with him. He will not pardon your disobedience.
23:22 But if you obey him and do all that I say, then I will hate your enemies and attack your foes.
23:23 My angel will go before you and bring you among the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Yebusites, and I will [then] annihilate them.
23:24 Do not bow down to their gods and do not serve them. Do not follow the ways of [these nations]. You must tear down [their idols] and break their sacred pillars.
23:25 You will then serve God your Lord, and He will bless your bread and your water. I will banish sickness from among you.

The Land
23:26 In your land, no woman will suffer miscarriage or remain childless. I will make you live out full lives.
23:27 I will cause [the people] who are in your path to be terrified of Me, and I will throw all the people among whom you are coming into a panic. I will make all your enemies turn their backs [and flee] from you.
23:28 I will send deadly wasps ahead of you, and they will drive out the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites before you.
23:29 I will not drive them out in a single year, however, lest the land become depopulated, and the wild animals become too many for you [to contend with].
23:30 I will drive [the inhabitants] out little by little, giving you a chance to increase and [fully] occupy the land.
23:31 I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river. I will give the land's inhabitants into your hand, and you will drive them before you.
23:32 Do not make a treaty with [these nations] or with their gods.
23:33 Do not allow them to reside in your land, since they may then make you sin to Me. You may even end up worshiping their gods, and it will be a fatal trap to you.


  (Targum; Rashi; cf. Pesachim 118a; Sanhedrin 7a). Or, 'do not spread false rumors' (Ibn Ezra).

false report
  (Targum; Rashi). Or, 'an illegal report' (see Exodus 20:7). This prohibits the courts from accepting illegal testimony, specifically when the defendant or opposing party is not present (Sanhedrin 7a; Yad, Sanhedrin 21:7; Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative Commandment 281). Or, 'a trivial report.' This is seen as a commandment against listening to malicious gossip (lashon ha-ra) when not necessary, even if it is true (Pesachim 118a).

to be a corrupt witness
  Since two witnesses are always needed (Numbers 35:30, Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15), and a wicked person is not a valid witness, it is forbidden to join with him to make a pair (Mekhilta; Saadia; Yad, Eduth 10:1; Ibn Ezra; Sforno). Or 'Do not join forces with a wicked person to be a false witness' (Targum; Rashi).

Do not follow
  (Targum; Rashbam; Ibn Ezra; Bachya). Or, 'Do not follow a majority [of one] to impose a [death] penalty' (Mekhilta; Yad, Sanhedrin 8:1).

to pervert justice
  (Ibn Ezra; Tur; Abarbanel). See Exodus 23:6; Deuteronomy 27:19, Malachi 3:5. The form li-n'toth here denotes 'to turn [oneself] aside' (cf. Numbers 22:26; 2 Kings 20:10; Psalms 17:11). Hence, it is also translated, 'do not speak up [in a trial] to bend yourself [to follow the consensus]' (Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative Commandment 183; cf. Rashbam; Saadia, Yad, Sanhedrin 10:1). Or, 'Do not speak up to bend yourself [and change your mind about your verdict]' (Yad, Sanhedrin 10:2; Sefer HaMitzvoth loc. cit.). See note, this verse, 'A case must be...'.

Others translate this, 'Do not speak up in a lawsuit [to coach either party]' (Bachya; cf. Yad, Sanhedrin 21:10; Choshen Mishpat 17:8).

Since the verb anah has the connotation of testimony (Exodus 20:13), the verse can also say, 'do not testify at a trial to pervert justice.'

A case must be decided...
  (Chullin 11a; Bava Metzia 49b; Saadia; Sefer HaMitzvoth, Positive 175). This is a general rule that we must follow a majority in all cases.

Some put the entire second part of the verse together, 'Do not speak up in a trial, leaning toward the majority to pervert justice' (Mekhilta; Rashbam; Abarbanel). The form le-hatoth used here has the connotation of perverting justice; Isaiah 10:2, Proverbs 17:23, 18:5, Lamentations 3:35. It also has the connotation of turning aside another (Numbers 22:23, 1 Kings 8:58). Hence, 'Do not speak up in a trial to turn aside, following a majority to change someone else's decision (Chizzkuni).

If you come across...
  See Deuteronomy 22:1.

you might want to refrain

make every effort to help
  (Targum; Rashi).

unload it
  (Bava Metzia 32a; Mekhilta; Yad, Rotzeach 13:1; Sefer HaMitzvoth, Positive Commandment 202). Some see the verb azav here as denoting unloading rather than helping (Ibn Ezra). Others see it as denoting loading (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim).

  Or, 'worthless.' Therefore, justice must be administered fairly even to the worst criminal (Mekhilta; Yad, Sanhedrin 20:5; Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative Commandment 278). The word literally means 'one who desires' (Rashi; Radak, Sherashim), and hence also denotes a poor person (Targum).

not been proven guilty
  Literally, 'guiltless.' This teaches that it is forbidden for the courts to impose a death penalty on the basis of circumstantial evidence (Mekhilta; Yad, Sanhedrin 20:1; Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative Commandment 290). It also teaches that it is forbidden to impose the death penalty as long as anyone has evidence to present in the accused's favor (Mekhilta; Sanhedrin 33b; Rashi).

or one who has been acquitted
  Once a suspect has been acquitted, the death penalty cannot be imposed no matter how much evidence against him is found. This prohibits double jeopardy (Ibid.). Some count these as two separate commandments (Ramban on Sefer HaMitzvoth loc. cit.; Chinukh 82).

  (Mekhilta; Rashi).

Do not accept bribery
  See Deuteronomy 16:19.

words of the just
  (Rashbam; Hirsch). Or, 'words of the innocent' (Ibn Ezra); or, 'just claims' (Targum; Saadia; Rashi).

  Or 'proselyte.' See Exodus 22:20. Here the Torah is speaking specifically to judges (Ralbag; Chizzkuni; Bekhor Shor).

leave it alone
  (Rashi; Rashbam; Radak, Sherashim). Or, 'let it be public' (Saadia; Ralbag). See Leviticus 25:1-7.

withdraw from it
  Not eating any of its produce (Mekhilta; Rashi).

wild animals
  Literally, 'animals of the field' (see note on Genesis 2:5).

  Literally, 'the seventh day.' See Exodus 20:9,10.

  (Hirsch). See note on Exodus 20:10.

Offer a sacrifice
  Or, 'celebrate' (see Chagigah 10b). See note, this verse, 'three times.'

three times
  (Targum; Rashi; Radak, Sherashim). Or, 'Celebrate three pilgrimage festivals to Me each year' (Ibn Ezra; cf. Sefer HaMitzvoth, Positive Commandment 52). See Exodus 34:23, Deuteronomy 16:16.

Festival of Matzahs
  Or, 'festival of unleavened bread.' See Exodus 12:15, 13:6, 34:18, Leviticus 23:6, Deuteronomy 16:16.

Do not appear before Me...
  See Exodus 34:20, Deuteronomy 16:16.

reaping Festival
  This is Shavuoth (Rashi). See Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10, 16:16.

through the first fruits...
  See Numbers 28:26. See Exodus 23:19.

Harvest Festival
  This is Sukkoth (Rashi). See Leviticus 23:34, Deuteronomy 16:13,16.

right after
  (Ibn Ezra). Sukkoth falls two weeks after the new year (Rosh HaShanah).

Three times each year...
  See note on Exodus 23:14.

Master of the Universe

Do not sacrifice...
  See Exodus 34:25, Deuteronomy 16:4.

  This was the part that was to be burned on the altar. See Leviticus 3:16, 17:6. Also see Exodus 29:13, Leviticus 3:3, 7:31, etc.

  Or, 'festival offering' (see Chagigah 10b). See Exodus 34:25, Deuteronomy 16:4. This is speaking specifically of the Passover offering (Rashbam), but applies to all offerings and sacrifices (Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative Commandment 116). Above (Exodus 12:10), there was a commandment not to leave over the edible portions; here there is a commandment not to leave over the portions that are to be burned on the altar.

Bring your first fruits...
  See Deuteronomy 26:2 f. Also see Exodus 26:2, 34:22,26, Leviticus 2:14, 23:17, Numbers 18:13.

  Literally, 'kid,' denoting any young animal (Hirsch; cf. Chullin 114a; Midrash HaGadol).

in milk
  See Exodus 34:26, Deuteronomy 14:21. This commandment forbids us to eat meat cooked in milk (Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative Commandment 187; Yad, Maakholoth Assuroth 9:3).

One reason for this law is that meat represents death (the slaughter of the animal), while milk represents new life, and it is not proper to mix life and death (Recanti; Tzeror HaMor; Zohar 2:124b). It is also forbidden because eating meat cooked in milk was an idolatrous practice, especially on festivals (Moreh Nevukhim 3:48; Ralbag).

  (Cf. Chullin 114a, Ramban ad loc.; Hirsch).

  See Joshua 5:14 (Shemoth Rabbah 32:3; Rashbam; Abarbanel). Some say that this angel was necessary since all prophets other than Moses could only receive their prophecy through an angel (Moreh Nevukhim 3:34). Others say that the 'messenger' here denotes a prophet (Ralbag). See Exodus 32:34.

  (Rashi; Abarbanel). Literally, 'He will not pardon.... since My name is with him.' This means, 'My commandment is with him' (Moreh Nevukhim 1:64). Some translate this, 'He will not forgive you, even though My name [indicating mercy] is in him' (Saadia); or, 'He will not forgive you, since he is [merely] My representative' (Ralbag).

  See note on Exodus 3:8.

sacred pillars
  See Genesis 28:18, 35:14, Deuteronomy 16:22.

I will cause...
  Literally, 'I will send My terror ahead of you.'

deadly wasps
  Some authorities identify the tzir'ah here with the hornet, Vespa Orientalis, a species that is known to multiply in time of war. It was known as a honey-producing insect (Makh'shirim 6:4), and in Talmudic times, was known to be dangerous (Shabbath 80b; Taanith 14a). Also see Deuteronomy 7:20, Joshua 24:12; Wisdom of Solomon 12:8.

According to others, tzir'ah denotes a type of plague (Saadia; Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim), perhaps related to leprosy (Ibn Ezra).

  Only the nations to the east of the Jordan (Rashi). Cf. Joshua 24:12.

Red Sea
  The Gulf of Aqaba, which is the eastern arm of the Red Sea (Rashi on Exodus 10:19). Others say that this is the Gulf of Suez, which is the western arm of the Red Sea (Midrash HaGadol).

Philistine Sea
  The southern Mediterranean, near the land of the Philistines (Rashbam).

  Some say that this is the desert to the south of the Holy Land (Rashbam), while others say that it is to the east (Midrash HaGadol).

  The Euphrates (Targum Yonathan; Rashi). Others, however, identify it with the 'River of Egypt' in Genesis 15:18. (Torah Sh'lemah 19:311). This is identified as Wadi el Arish (Saadia on Numbers 34:4; Chamra VeChayay, Sanhedrin 11b; Teshuvoth Radbaz 6:2206; cf. Kuzari 2:14).

Copyright © 2000 World ORT
Notice: This computer program is protected by copyright law and international treaties. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this program, or any portion of it, may result in severe civil and criminal penalties, and will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible under the law.