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Exodus 23 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Exodus 23 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

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

(23:1) "Thou shalt not raise a false report."
Is it OK to lie?
Thumbs up, but what when the author of the SAB gives a false report about the Bible?

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

(23:2) "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil"
Don't do what everyone else does, if what they do is wrong.

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

4 If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.

(23:4) "If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again."
How should we treat our enemies?
There is quite a difference between someone who is opposed to us, and someone who is trying to kill us...

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.

(23:5) "Thou shalt surely help."
Treat the poor fairly.
Eh, this is not about the poor, but about helping an animal, the ass labouring under a burden.

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.

(23:7) "Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not"
Be honest. Don't kill innocent people.
Is it OK to lie?
Is it OK to kill?
It is not OK to lie obviously, see verses where the author of the AB tries to find a contradiction such as chapter 1:18.

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

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.

(23:9) "Thou shalt not oppress a stranger."
How should strangers be treated?
There is quite a difference between stranger and stranger, see Num. 1:51. But I suppose a false report doesn't matter when it concerns the Bible.

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.

(23:11) "That the poor ... may eat"
Every seventh year leave your field unharvested, so that the poor will have something to eat.
An interesting concept.

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.

(23:13, 24, 32) "Make no mention of the name of other gods."
Don't even mention the names of the other gods.
How many gods are there?
This verse does not address the existence of other gods, but only the actions of those that profess to believe in them.

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:)

(23:15) "Thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days."
How many days is unleavened bread to be eaten?

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.

(23:17) "Three items in the year all thy males shall appear before the LORD God."
Three times a year God wants to see all of the males. The females he never wants to see.
The females could go up as well, and went up, see 1 Sam. 1:3-10. The males are named, because they are the appointed head of the households. They can't turn this into a duty just for females as they otherwise might have easily done.

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.

(23:19) "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk."
Don't boil a kid in its mother's milk.
This is a law against cruelty, as animals have intrinsic value. But it also appears to be directed against heathen practises as John Gill quotes:

“it was a custom of the Heathens at the ingathering of their fruits to take a kid and seethe it in the milk of the dam, and then, in a magical way, go about and besprinkle all their trees, fields, gardens, and orchards, thinking by this means they should make them fructify, and bring forth fruit again more abundantly the next year.“

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, and 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.

(23:24) "Thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images."
Religious freedom is not permitted.
Do not allow others to worship a different god. Conquer them and destroy their religious property.
There is false and there is true religion, you cannot have a middle ground.

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.

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.

(23:27) "I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people."
What the Bible says about terrorism
The fear that God sends was especially targeted at the inhabitants of Canaan, who had fulfilled their time of sin and would now be judged.

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

(23:28) "I will send hornets before thee."
God has hornets that bite and kill people.
John Gill comments:

Which may be interpreted either figuratively, and so may signify the same as fear before which should fall on the Canaanites upon hearing the Israelites were coming; the stings of their consciences for their sins, terrors of mind, dreading the wrath of the God of Israel, of whom they had heard, and terrible apprehensions of ruin and destruction from the Israelites: ... or rather, the words are to be taken literally, for hornets, which are a sort of wasps, whose stings are very penetrating and venomous; nor is it any strange or unheard of thing for people to be drove out of their countries by small animals, as mice, flies, bees, &c. and particularly Aelianus relates, that the Phaselites were drove out of their country by wasps: and Bochart has shown that those people were of a Phoenician original, and inhabited the mountains of Solymi; and that this happened to them about the times of Joshua, and so may probably be the very Canaanites here mentioned, as follow:

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.

(23:32-33) "Thou shalt make no covenant with them nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in thy land."
Stay away from those that believe differently than you. Do not make treaties with them or allow them to live in your land.
This command was for a very specific time and place. The Canaanites would be judged, no grace would be given to them. That's not true in any other case, as God has not commanded any other nation the things he commanded the Israelites to do and even in their case he commanded it only for a very specific occassion.

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.