|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #137, 138 and 139|
3 July, 1994
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our present series of Bible Studies is tracing the course of God's unfolding plan for the restitution of His Creation. This undertaking has led us through the Book of Genesis, and now into the Book of Exodus. More particularly, we have recently been looking into that section of Scripture which follows the Ten Commandments. These Ten Commandments are stated first, in Exodus 20, and then they are amplified and explained in a more detailed set of laws called Judgments which follow from them. Today, we have arrived at the beginning of Exodus 23, a chapter which continues the study of these various Judgments that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai for the constitution of the Nation of Israel.
As I have stated on other occasions, we of the British-Israel-World Federation view the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of today as representing the majority of the descendants of that ancient people of Israel. If this understanding is true, then these folk are under a strong obligation to accept God's Laws as moral guides to their own lives and that of their nations. Thus we believe that it is important that some, at least, among the many voices which speak for God and for Jesus Christ in our time, must address this area of Scripture and commend those Old Testament Laws which Christ enjoined to His followers, to their attention. If this is not done, it will be impossible for the conscience of individuals and nations to function correctly, for they will be as ships which have no rudders.
As is our custom, I shall read our scripture portion for today, and insert comments as we go. We begin at Exodus 23:1.
1. Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
Although that first verse in today's study conveys a very short statement in length, this is one injunction which forms a most important moral guide for our time. The reports circulated by the mass media consist of statements which must be selected by a relatively few controlling interests. Thus, there is a great tendency for large groups of people who are otherwise unable to assess the veracity of the reports to be led to similar appraisals of distant conditions or circumstances. How great, then, is the share of responsibility which rests upon any who report events on the world scene to be faithful in that trust which must be given to them. Of the word "raise", the Companion Bible notes its meaning as "utter, or take up." Thus, by that definition it covers both the initiation of a false report and also the repeating or passing on of a false report which one has heard, but which, in fact, one has not witnessed for oneself.
The New Bible Commentary considers the words "raise a false report" to be better stated as "receive a false report", and adds that this follows naturally upon the Ninth Commandment, found in Exodus 20:16 which stated "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." "An unrighteous witness", it explains, is "one who takes sides with the guilty party on trial."
Liars, according to Revelation 21:8, are to be excluded from Christ's Kingdom, and this would apply especially to those whose lies are calculated to turn vast groups of people against some who are righteous, and in favour of certain groups whose activities The Almighty will doubtless condemn as contrary to His Laws.
Keil and Delitzsch make an interesting comment. Such a false report, they say, is one which "has no foundation, and as the context shows, does inury to another, charges him with wrongdoing, and involves him in legal proceedings." On reading that last phrase, I cannot help but ask if our present Governmental and media focus on "hate crimes" and our legal system which features an enhanced ease of access to groups with "politically correct" attitudes in this regard, do not, in fact, combine to facilitate encouragement of false reports by over-sensitive complainants primed to seize any opportunity to display affront at the slightest imagined suggestion of insult. The stress upon a fair-minded adjudicator in such circumstances must be very high indeed! We continue at verse 2:
2. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:
The Companion Bible note explains the words "evil" as "injury", and "decline" as meaning "turn away [and follow]." Here, the New Bible Commentary adds "In all circumstances a man must stand firm to what he believes to be right, not moved by the opinion of others just because they are a majority or the popular party."
Just as the true nature of a good man is far more likely to emerge when he believes that no-one will see, or seeing, will not appreciate, what he has done, so it happens with other men of selfish inclination, when they believe no-one sees any sin or perversion they may incline to follow. Mobs are composed of many individuals who are for the time being and to all appearances quite anonymous and consequently unconstrained by social considerations. The mass surges forward with destructive intent focussed upon any obstructing individual, and it is a relatively easy course to preserve one's own anonymity and avoid danger by becoming one with the mob, gambling that a later judgmental authority, being unable to identify individual actions amidst the general confusion and excitement, will not draw one to account. It is much easier to evade the anger of a mob by joining in with the rest, than it is to act as a countering voice of justice, but that is exactly what the law of the Almighty God requires of those who would serve Him. Psalm 94:9, says "He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?" So there will be a day of judgment, and settling of accounts. We continue with the next verse which reads:
3. Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.
The Companion Bible notes that the word "countenance" means "prefer, or favour." This may at first glance seem a strange inclusion, for pity may be moved to aid a poor man. However, the poor in a dispute may not necessarily be righteous simply by reason of that fact. The New Bible Commentary says "Justice must be impartial, avoiding false sympathy on account of a man's poverty as much as fear of the rich man's power." This is a law which, these days, ought to find increased application where diverse minority groups clamour for redress of injuries, of which some may be real, but others simply imagined. The next verses are ones which are reflected in Our Lord's New Testament teachings.
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.
In The Companion Bible, we find that the words "ox or his ass" are "put for any kind of beast of burden." The New Bible Commentary says "The ill feeling which a man shows towards another, or even actual wrong done, does not absolve the injured party from the usual duties of kindness both to the man and his beast. The Lord Jesus fulfilled this law in His word 'Love your enemies...' (Mt. v.44; cf. Pr. xxv.21,22)."
Keil and Delitzsch indicate the meaning in the expression "beware of leaving an ass which has sunk down beneath its burden in a helpless condition, even to thine enemy, to try whether he can help it up alone; rather help him to set it loose from its burden, that it may get up again." Verses 6 and 7:
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.
Of the words "The judgment of thy poor", we find in The New Bible Commentary that "This balances the injunction of verse 3." In other words, judgment must not stray either because of sympathy towards a poor man, nor towards the opposite bias to favour the rich who are able to return the favour. The false matter, in verse 7, it states, refers to "Either a false accusation or the passing of an incorrect sentence of judgment, which might lead to the execution of an innocent person. It is better to err on the side of acquittal and leave it to God to punish the accused should he really be guilty." The Companion Bible notes in amplification, that the word "wicked" in verse 7 means "a wicked one." Continuing with verse 8:
8. And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.
Concerning that word "gift", The New Bible Commentary says: "i.e. bribe. This was a sin against which the prophets often had to declaim, e.g. Mi(cah). iii. 11." That verse reads of Zion: "The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us." Of the words "blindeth...perverteth", The Companion Bible states "i.e. causeth these acts, or sins."
There is not only justice manifested in these laws, but also good common sense, for a community cannot be free if injustice favours the wicked individual or group unfairly as seen by The Almighty God. Remember, as with others of these Judgments, all must be evaluated in the context of Our Lord's own words, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." This must, however, work both ways in order to reflect true justice. We shall continue our studies on our next programme.
10 July, 1994
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Having recently examined the Ten Commandments, we are continuing our Bible Studies in the Book of Exodus with a review of each of the Judgments which follow and which amplify the applications of those Laws. We are by this means becoming informed concerning God's will for His Nation of Israel. The Almighty God is placing into the hands of Moses this most important treasure for transmission to the Israelites, presently waiting at the foot of Mount Sinai. As usual, I shall be reading our Bible passage, verse by verse, adding comments as we proceed. Today's portion begins at Exodus 23:9 in the following words:
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.
Now they who are about to hear this injunction from Moses are those Israelites who have themselves just previously emerged out of Egyptian bondage through the interposition of The Almighty God in the Exodus, so they were perhaps better able than those of more recent time to understand the full importance of this Judgment. Keil and Delitzsch point this fact out, restating the verse as "ye know from your own experience in Egypt how a foreigner feels."
Further, as I have remarked on another programme not so very long ago, King Alfred the Great, who translated portions of the Holy Scriptures for the governance of his Saxon subjects, adapted almost verbatim much of his law code directly out of the Law given to Moses by The Almighty God on Mount Sinai. When dealing with the Judgment we have just read, he included those words which complete the sentence, and by this inclusion he showed that the injunction "seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt" was applicable to those same Saxon subjects, being descendants of the same Israelites to whom the original Judgment had been given.
Perhaps it would be appropriate at this point to state, once again for our new listeners, that the British-Israel-World Federation holds the belief, based upon various lines of evidence, that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples in the world today are the direct descendants of the majority of these same Israelites about whom the story that is recorded in our Holy Bible was chiefly written. In a sense it reads much as a family history might, if it was prepared for the great-grandchildren and later descendants of an individual family today.
Incidentally, regarding that mention about knowing the "heart" of a stranger, the Companion Bible notes that the word "heart" in this passage is a translation of the Hebrew word "nephesh", usually translated "soul" in our Bible. Keil and Delitzsch also mention this, giving that word as "animus, the soul as the seat of feeling." We return to our passage at verse 12:
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.
These three verses make reference to what is essentially a principle of Sabbath-keeping although the word Sabbath is not used in this passage. Thus they provide Israel a reinforcement of Exodus 20:8-11, the Commandment which includes the words "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." The observance of this principle of a rest period once in every cycle of seven is designed to provide for a time of restoring of health to the whole land and all its productive capacity. Here, it not only applies to individual days, but also to years, and the importance of keeping that commandment can be shown by turning to II Chronicles 36:21, which speaks of the captivity which God allowed to fall upon the Southern Kingdom of Judah, centuries later, "To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years."
However, Keil and Delitzsch perceive in this injunction concerning a seventh period of rest an aspect which I ought to mention. It is that we are here viewing the principle of a provision of rest to beasts of burden, slaves and foreigners, not particularly for Israelites themselves. For this reason, they distinguish the actual Sabbath from this injunction because the Sabbath was a feast given to Israel. Thus this command in Exodus 23:10-12 is to provide a correct relationship between man and man. They continue: "There is then attached to this, in ver. 13b, a warning, which forms the transition to the relation of Israel to Jehovah..." Let us, then, read verse 13.
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.
The New Bible Commentary says of the words "make no mention": "As the name of the true God was to be uttered only with the greatest reverence, so the names of the false gods were to be so abhorred that they were not even to be spoken, except, for example, by preachers or writers of history." As Keil and Delitzsch point out, regarding this verse, "This forms a very fitting boundary line between the two series of mishpatim, inasmuch as the observance and maintenance of both of them depend upon the attitude in which Israel stood towards Jehovah." We now move over that transition to "The Fundamental Rights of Israel in its Religious and Theocratical Relation to Jehovah", a passage covered in verses 14-19. As Keil and Delitzsch occupy over five pages in making comments upon these six verses, we will not have time to make full use of their wisdom on this occasion, so I shall content myself for the present with a straightforward reading of the verses and add a few sketchy comments thereto.
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.
The New Bible Commentary note on the three feasts here mentioned states of the feast of harvest: "Pentecost, called in Dt. xvi. 10 the 'feast of weeks', being seven full weeks after the first day of the Passover. It celebrated the first reaping of the ripe wheat... while the feast of ingathering... was a thanksgiving at the end of the agricultural year when all crops were in."
The New Bible Commentary (Revised) notes of verses 14-17: "The three annual festivals are dealt with at greater length in Lv. 23 and Dt. 16. The fact that they appear here in brief statement form is testimony that an experience of deliverance and reception of covenant were at the heart of Israelite religion... The feasts began with that of Unleavened Bread in which a hasty and effective deliverance was gratefully remembered, and in this a thank-offering was brought to the sanctuary. Then the goodness of the Provider was remembered at harvest time, and at ingathering. These commands were tokens that the wandering Israelites would one day be in Canaan according to God's promise. All able-bodied males were to participate as representatives of their families. The women were not obliged to come owing to other duties at home, but were not forbidden (cf. I Sa. 1:18)." That reference, incidentally, was to the appearance of the barren Hannah praying in the temple in Shiloh for a son; a prayer which was granted in the birth of Samuel.
The New Bible Commentary (Revised), continues, of verse 18: "This refers to the Passover, and the fat is the choice part of the sacrifice which was to be consumed by fire." Of verse 19, it says "The first fruits are to be offered to God, for He gave them. The heathen practice referred to in 19b..." (that is, the seething of a kid in his mother's milk) "...was a vain attempt to increase fertility and productivity by magical arts."
We may say a few words in addition on these verses next week but our time for this programme has expired. May we continue to accept into our own lives the over-riding principle outlined by these Judgments, which is summarised in Our Lord's command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself", and may we seek to apply those reverend attitudes in our own lives which these Judgments explain to us as forming our obligation towards God which Christ summarised by the words "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matthew 22:37). We shall continue these studies on our next programme.
17 July, 1994
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
In the present series of Bible Studies, we have been studying the Great Plan of Almighty God for the restitution of His Creation. We began this present series at the Scriptural account of the Call of Abram, and we have traced God's interactions with Abraham's descendants through most of Genesis and the first twenty-three chapters of Exodus, leading to today's passage. We have seen how Almighty God developed His plan through the lives of Isaac and of Jacob (Israel), and his children as they went down into Egypt to escape a famine, and how, later, The Almighty led them out by miraculous signs resulting in their Exodus.
At Mount Sinai, The Almighty God, Yahweh of Israel, has made a covenant, granting special status to this new nation. They are to act as His own special people, and to Moses, their representative, Almighty God has listed the Ten Commandments by which they are to guide their lives and relationships.
Now we are examining the Judgments which follow those Commandments, and towards the end of our last programme, we had finished up by taking a rather brief look at Exodus 23, verses 14 to 19, a passage which Keil and Delitzsch describe as a transition to "The Fundamental Rights of Israel in its Religious and Theocratical Relation to Jehovah."
As Keil and Delitzsch occupy over five pages in making comments upon these six verses, I left for today's study a few additional comments in that regard before moving on to the succeeding passage which speaks of an angel to lead the nation onward. Verses 14 to 19 speak of three feasts during the year, which the Israelites are to observe: of unleavened bread, of harvest firstfruits, and of ingathering which we might call thanksgiving after the harvest is gathered in.
In addition to the comments made last week, we find from Keil and Delitzsch that there are here two "rights, conferred upon the people of Israel...for keeping a feast to the Lord, and appearing before Him, were both of them privileges bestowed by Jehovah upon His covenant people. Even in itself the festal rejoicing was a blessing in the midst of this life of labour, toil, and trouble; but when accompanied with the right of appearing before the Lord their God and Redeemer, to whom they were indebted for everything they had and were, it was one that no other nation enjoyed. For though they had their joyous festivals, these festivals bore the same relation to those of Israel, as the dead and worthless gods of the heathen to the living and almighty God of Israel."
Concerning the command that "none shall appear before me empty" They comment that Israelites were to appear "with sacrificial gifts, answering to the blessing given by the Lord..." They continue: "This command, which related to all the feasts, and therefore is mentioned at the very outset in connection with the feast of unleavened bread, did indeed impose a duty upon Israel, but such a duty as became a source of blessing to all who performed it. The gifts demanded by God were the tribute, it is true, which the Israelites paid to their God-King, just as all Eastern nations are required to bring presents when appearing in the presence of their kings; but they were only gifts from God's own blessing, a portion of that which He had bestowed in rich abundance, and they were offered to God in such a way that the offerer was thereby more and more confirmed in the rights of covenant fellowship."
Regarding the command, "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk", Keil and Delitzsch make a comment which parallels that of the New Bible Commentary (Revised), as they state "But the actual reference is to the cooking of a kid in the milk of its own mother, as indicating a contempt of the relation which God has established and sanctified between parent and young, and thus subverting the divine ordinances."
Now let us proceed to that passage in which God speaks of an angel. Keil and Delitzsch introduce this section of the chapter by the heading "Relation of Jehovah to Israel." We start at Exodus 23:20.
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.
Of the term "Angel", The New Bible Commentary points out that "The same word means either 'angel' or 'messenger'. This therefore might mean a human messenger divinely commissioned, such as Moses or Joshua; or the mysterious angel of Jehovah." The Companion Bible considers this being to be Michael, mentioned in Daniel 10:13, 21, 12:1 and Jude 9.
Now the passage we just read a moment ago might be made the basic thesis for a small book, should some author feel inclined to write one, for there are many examples which might be taken out of the history books wherein God has worked for a people and against His, and their, adversaries, and the theme in each case would answer to this promise if we could only see the relationships involved.
As regular listeners know, we of the British-Israel-World Federation believe that the present day Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples literally descend from these same Israelite tribes, so we would naturally incline towards those aspects of history which knit this identification to the theme. However, it is vital to repeat the verse which contains that little word "if." If thou shalt indeed obey his voice...then...", and speaking of those in the land whose religious practices were anathema to The Almighty, it is vital to repeat the words "Thou shalt not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do after their works..."
Now why is that important? A question which is often asked is this: "Were not all religions equally valid?". Have we not heard the question put something like this: "Are there not a whole variety of paths to one supreme spirit which dwells in all living beings?" We are being assured by today's pantheistic and humanist prophets that this is the case. Why this exclusiveness, then, on the part of Yahweh, the Israelite deity? Why should Israel be told that other religious persuasions were to be obliterated? The answer must be that there can only be one "Truth", and these other religions did not have it. Isaiah 43:8-12 gives God's statement:
8. Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.
9. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.
10. Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servants whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he; before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
11. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.
12. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.
Isaiah 44:8 says:
8. Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.
What would Yahweh of Israel, then, say to the descendants of these same Israelites among the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples today? We have a clearer understanding as we read St. Paul's words in II Thessalonians 1:7-8, written to those who were suffering for their Christian witness even in that day:
7. And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Now that does not sound quite so pantheistic, or tolerant as those inclining towards the New Age people would like to have it! "How utterly bigoted!" one can almost hear them protest. "How racist", they might add, noting that a single group of tribes, a single people, Israel, is being granted this insight. Those who follow these New Age concepts will, no doubt, revise their view of truth at the point when that startling revelation suddenly occurs, but by then they will have missed their chance. It would be cruel to permit them to drift into the condemnation which the next verses describe, without at least trying to pass along some word of warning. Let us conclude by reading the next verses in our passage which list blessings to those who obey:
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.
Those remarkable words, though brief, encompass the fullness of life, for they cover the requirements of food and water, provide health, both physical and mental, promise happy families, bountiful increase of wealth, and a full lifetime during which to enjoy these blessings untroubled by envious neighbouring peoples or enemies. These blessings were to follow when the people obeyed the command to "serve the LORD your God."
May we commend these remarkable words to the attention of one another in the days ahead. We shall continue these studies on our next programme.
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