Notes for Exodus 23:1LEB

People who claim to worship and serve the righteous judge of the universe must preserve equity and justice in their dealings with others. These verses teach that Yahweh’s people must be honest witnesses (1–3); Yahweh’s people must be righteous even with enemies (4–5); and Yahweh’s people must be fair in dispensing justice (6–9).


"take up, lift, carry" (נָשָׂא, nasa’). This verb was also used in the prohibition against taking "the name of Yahweh in vain." Sometimes the object of this verb is physical, as in Jonah 1:12LEB and 15. Used in this prohibition involving speech, it covers both originating and repeating a lie.


Or "a groundless report" (see Exod 20:7LEB for the word שָׁוְא, shav’).


"do not put your hand" (cf. KJV, ASV); NASB "join your hand."


The word "wicked" (רָשָׁע, rasha’) refers to the guilty criminal, the person who is doing something wrong. In the religious setting it describes the person who is not a member of the covenant and may be involved in all kinds of sin, even though there is the appearance of moral and spiritual stability.


The word חָמָס (khamas) often means "violence" in the sense of social injustices done to other people, usually the poor and needy. A "malicious" witness would do great harm to others. See J. W. McKay, "(Exodus 23:1–43LEB,: A Decalogue for Administration of Justice in the City Gate," VT 21 (1971): 311-25.


Notes for Exodus 23:2LEB

The word רָבִּים (rabbim), here rendered "crowd," is also used infrequently to refer to the "mighty," people of importance in society (Job 35:9; cf. Lev 19:15LEB).


For any individual to join a group that is bent on acting wickedly would be a violation of the Law and would incur personal responsibility.


"you will not answer in a lawsuit to turn after the crowd to turn." The form translated "agrees with" ("to turn after") is a Qal infinitive construct from נָטָה (natah); the same root is used at the end of the verse but as a Hiphil infinitive construct, "to pervert [justice]."


Notes for Exodus 23:3LEB

The point here is one of false sympathy and honor, the bad sense of the word הָדַר (hadar; see S. R. Driver, Exodus 237).


Notes for Exodus 23:4LEB

"meet" (so KJV, ASV, NASB).


The construction uses the imperfect tense (taken here as an obligatory imperfect) and the infinitive absolute for emphasis.


Notes for Exodus 23:5LEB

The line reads "you will cease to forsake him" – refrain from leaving your enemy without help.


The law is emphatic here as well, using the infinitive absolute and the imperfect of instruction (or possibly obligation). There is also a wordplay here: two words עָזַב (’azav) are used, one meaning "forsake" and the other possibly meaning "arrange" based on Arabic and Ugaritic evidence (see U. Cassuto, Exodus 297–98).


See H. B. Huffmon, "( 23:4–5LEB: A Comparative Study," A Light Unto My Path, 271–78.


Notes for Exodus 23:7LEB

Or "stay away from," or "have nothing to do with."


"a false matter," this expression in this context would have to be a case in law that was false or that could only be won by falsehood.


The two clauses probably should be related: the getting involved in the false charge could lead to the death of an innocent person (so, e.g., Naboth in 1 Kgs 21:10–13LEB).


Yahweh will not declare right the one who is in the wrong. Society should also be consistent, but it cannot see the intents and motives, as Yahweh can.


Notes for Exodus 23:8LEB

"blinds the open-eyed."


Notes for Exodus 23:9LEB

The verb means "to crush." S. R. Driver notes that in this context this would probably mean with an unfair judgment in the courts (Exodus 239).


"soul, life" – "you know what it feels like."


Notes for Exodus 23:10LEB

This section concerns religious duties of the people of Yahweh as they worship by giving thanks to Yahweh for their blessings. The principles here are: Yahweh requires his people to allow the poor to share in their bounty (10–11); Yahweh requires his people to provide times of rest and refreshment for those who labor for them (12); Yahweh requires allegiance to himself (13); Yahweh requires his people to come before him in gratitude and share their bounty (14–17); Yahweh requires that his people safeguard proper worship forms (18–19).


"and six years"; this is an adverbial accusative telling how long they can work their land. The following references to years and days in vv. 10–12 function similarly.


Notes for Exodus 23:11LEB

"and the seventh year"; an adverbial accusative with a disjunctive vav (ו).


"living thing/creature/beast of the field." A general term for animals, usually wild animals, including predators (cf. v. 29; Gen 2:19–20LEB; Lev 26:22LEB; Deut 7:22LEB; 1 Sam 17:46LEB; Job 5:22–23LEB; Ezek 29:5LEB; Exodus 34:5LEB).


Notes for Exodus 23:12LEB

"alien," or "resident foreigner." Such an individual would have traveled out of need and depended on the goodwill of the people around him. The rendering "hired help" assumes that the foreigner is mentioned in this context because he is working for an Israelite and will benefit from the Sabbath rest, along with his employer.


The verb is וְיִּנָּפֵשׁ (véyyinnafesh); it is related to the word usually translated "soul" or "life."


Notes for Exodus 23:13LEB

The phrase "to do" is added; in Hebrew word order the line says, "In all that I have said to you you will watch yourselves." The verb for paying attention is a Niphal imperfect with an imperatival force.


Or "honor," Hiphil of זָכַר (zakhar). See also Exod 20:25LEB; Josh 23:7LEB; Isa 26:13LEB.




See also Ps 16:4LEB, where David affirms his loyalty to Yahweh with this expression.


Notes for Exodus 23:14LEB

The expression rendered "three times" is really "three feet," or "three foot-beats." The expression occurs only a few times in the Law. The expressing is an adverbial accusative.


This is the word תָּחֹג (takhog) from the root חָגַג (khagag); it describes a feast that was accompanied by a pilgrimage. It was first used by Moses in his appeal that Israel go three days into the desert to hold such a feast.


Notes for Exodus 23:15LEB

This is an adverbial accusative of time.


"in it."


The verb is a Niphal imperfect; the nuance of permission works well here – no one is permitted to appear before Yahweh empty ("and they will not appear before me empty").


Notes for Exodus 23:16LEB

The words "you are also to observe" are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.


An infinitive construct with a preposition and a pronominal suffix is used to make a temporal clause: "in the going in of the year." The word "year" is the subjective genitive, the subject of the clause.


An infinitive construct with a preposition and a pronominal suffix is used to make a temporal clause: "in the ingathering of you."


"gathered in your labors." This is a metonymy of cause put for the effect. "Labors" are not gathered in, but what the labors produced – the harvest.


Notes for Exodus 23:17LEB

Adverbial accusative of time: "three times" becomes "at three times."


Here the divine Name reads in Hebrew הָאָדֹן יְהוָה (ha’adon yéhvah), which if rendered according to the traditional scheme of "Lord" for "Yahweh" would result in "Lord Lord." A number of English versions therefore render this phrase "Lord Yahweh," and that convention has been followed here.


Notes for Exodus 23:18LEB

The verb is תִּזְבַּח (tizbbakh), an imperfect tense from the same root as the genitive that qualifies the accusative "blood": "you will not sacrifice the blood of my sacrifice." The verb means "to slaughter"; since one cannot slaughter blood, a more general translation is required here. But if the genitive is explained as "my blood-sacrifice" (a genitive of specification; like "the evil of your doings" in Isa 1:16LEB), then a translation of sacrifice would work (U. Cassuto, Exodus 304).


See N. Snaith, "( 23:18LEB and Exodus 34:25LEB, " JTS 20 (1969): 533-34; see also M. Haran, "The Passover Sacrifice," Studies in the Religion of Ancient Israel (VTSup), 86–116.


Notes for Exodus 23:19LEB

On this verse, see C. M. Carmichael, "On Separating Life and Death: An Explanation of Some Biblical Laws," HTR 69 (1976): 1-7; J. Milgrom, "You Shall Not Boil a Kid in Its Mother’s Milk," BRev 1 (1985): 48-55; R. J. Ratner and B. Zuckerman, "In Rereading the ‘Kid in Milk’ Inscriptions," BRev 1 (1985): 56-58; and M. Haran, "Seething a Kid in Its Mother’s Milk," JJS 30 (1979): 23-35. Here and at Exodus 34:26LEB, where this command is repeated, it ends a series of instructions about procedures for worship.


Notes for Exodus 23:20LEB

This passage has some of the most interesting and perplexing expressions and constructions in the book. It is largely promise, but it is part of the Law and so demands compliance by faith. Its points are: Yahweh promises to send his angel to prepare the way before his obedient servants (20–23); Yahweh promises blessing for his loyal servants (24–33). So in the section one learns that Yahweh promises his protection (victory) and blessing (through his angel) for his obedient and loyal worshipers.


The particle הִנֵּה (hinneh) with the active participle indicates imminent future, something Yahweh is about to do.


The word is מַלְאָךְ (mal’akh, "messenger, angel"). This angel is to be treated with the same fear and respect as Yahweh, for Yahweh will be speaking in him. U. Cassuto (Exodus 305–6) says that the words of the first clause do not imply a being distinct from Yahweh, for in the ancient world the line of demarcation between the sender and the sent is liable easily to be blurred. He then shows how the "Angel of Yahweh" in Genesis is Yahweh. He concludes that the words here mean "I will guide you." Yashuwaian commentators tend to identify the Angel of Yahweh as the second person of the Trinity (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., "Exodus" EBC 2:446). However, in addition to being a preincarnate appearance, the word could refer to Yahweh – some manifestation of Yahweh himself.


"protect you in the way."


The form is the Hiphil perfect of the verb כּוּן (kun, "to establish, prepare").


Notes for Exodus 23:21LEB

This means "the manifestation of my being" is in him (S. R. Driver, Exodus 247). Driver quotes McNeile as saying, "The ‘angel’ is Jehovah Himself ‘in a temporary descent to visibility for a special purpose.’" Others take the "name" to represent Yahweh’s "power" (NCV) or "authority" (NAB, CEV).


Notes for Exodus 23:22LEB

The infinitive absolute here does not add as great an emphasis as normal, but emphasizes the condition that is being set forth (see GKC 342-43 §113.o).


Notes for Exodus 23:23LEB

"will cut them off" (so KJV, ASV).


Notes for Exodus 23:24LEB

The Hebrew is מַצֵּבֹתֵיהֶם (matsevotehem, "their standing stones"); these long stones were erected to represent the abode of the numen or deity. They were usually set up near the altar or the high place. To destroy these would be to destroy the centers of Canaanite worship in the land.


Both verbs are joined with their infinitive absolutes to provide the strongest sense to these instructions. The images of the false Yahwehs in Canaan were to be completely and utterly destroyed. This could not be said any more strongly.


Notes for Exodus 23:25LEB

The perfect tense, masculine plural, with vav (ו) consecutive is in sequence with the preceding: do not bow down to them, but serve Yahweh. It is then the equivalent of an imperfect of instruction or injunction.


The LXX reads "and I will bless" to make the verb conform with the speaker, Yahweh.


On this unusual clause B. Jacob says that it is the reversal of the curse in Genesis, because the "bread and water" represent the field work and ground suitability for abundant blessing of provisions (Exodus 734).


Notes for Exodus 23:26LEB

Or "abort"; "cast."


No one will die prematurely; this applies to the individual or the nation. The plan of Yahweh to bless was extensive, if only the people would obey.


Notes for Exodus 23:27LEB

The word for "terror" is אֵימָתִי (’emati); the word has the thought of "panic" or "dread." Yahweh would make the nations panic as they heard of the exploits and knew the Israelites were drawing near. U. Cassuto thinks the reference to "hornets" in v. 28 may be a reference to this fear, an unreasoning dread, rather than to another insect invasion (Exodus 308). Others suggest it is symbolic of an invading army or a country like Egypt or literal insects (see E. Neufeld, "Insects as Warfare Agents in the Ancient Near East," Or 49 [1980]: 30-57).




The text has "and I will give all your enemies to you [as] a back." The verb of making takes two accusatives, the second being the adverbial accusative of product (see GKC 371-72 §117.ii, n. 1).


Notes for Exodus 23:28LEB

"and I will send."


Notes for Exodus 23:29LEB

"the beast of the field."


Notes for Exodus 23:30LEB

The repetition expresses an exceptional or super-fine quality (see GKC 396 §123.e).


Notes for Exodus 23:31LEB

The form is a perfect tense with vav consecutive.


In the Hebrew Bible "the River" usually refers to the Euphrates (cf. NASB, NCV, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NLT). There is some thought that it refers to a river Nahr el Kebir between Lebanon and Syria. See further W. C. Kaiser, Jr., "Exodus" EBC 2:447; and G. W. Buchanan, The Consequences of the Covenant (NovTSup), 91–100.


Notes for Exodus 23:33LEB

The idea of the "snare" is to lure them to judgment; Yahweh is apparently warning about contact with the Canaanites, either in worship or in business. They were very syncretistic, and so it would be dangerous to settle among them.