Bible Commentary: Exodus 23

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Exodus 23

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More Than "Thou Shalt Not..." 

God revealed to Israel laws that prohibit slander, backbiting and lying. All these are based on the Ninth Commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." God Himself is not a respecter of persons and commands that we treat all people equally. He looks on the attitude of our heart, which is manifested in how we live each day. Obedience to God is much more than just following a list of dos and don'ts. The law tells us to perform acts of service for others. Even though we may have a problem with our fellow man, if we fail to help him when there is a need, we have broken God's law.

God also revealed laws that regulate mankind's relationship with the environment. One of these laws, the land Sabbath, is recorded in this chapter. The purpose of this law was to allow the land to regenerate the nutrients in the soil. When followed, this would allow for a much healthier crop to be harvested in the future. Today, man disregards this law and dumps all kinds of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on the soil. There indeed is a way that seems right to a man, but the result is the way that leads to all kinds of unforeseen problems--including, ultimately, death (Proverbs 14:12; Proverbs 16:25).

Interestingly, there was another purpose to the land Sabbath law - to allow the poor to glean whatever produce grew on its own in the year when the land wasn't planted or harvested (and there would certainly be produce for them in the vineyards and orchards). Thus, even this law promoted loving treatment of one's neighbor, particularly those who were less well-off. Moreover, it was also an act of faith-as the Israelites had to trust God to meet their needs during the year they neither planted nor harvested crops.

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