Oppression, Deception & Anarchy — Exodus Chapter 22
This blog post will cover the devotionals #118-130 for Exodus Chapter 22.
**Pictures will be added at a later date.
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[#118] Exodus 22:1-15
Now let’s look at theft. Verses 1-4 tell us that if a man steals someone’s ox or sheep and either kills or sells it, he must repay the owner five oxen for his stolen ox or four sheep for his stolen sheep. If a thief is discovered while breaking in, and is struck fatally, no blood must be shed for him—as he was struck in darkness and died. However, if he’s caught and killed in daylight, there must be a consequence for his death, because his punishment wouldn’t have been death, but to make full restitution (if he had nothing, then he’d be sold for his theft). If he’s caught red-handed (regardless of whether it’s an ox, an ass, or a sheep)—then he must restore double what he stole. Verses 7, 8 say that if a man entrusts his money or stuff to his neighbor’s care, and it’s stolen from the neighbor’s house—the thief must repay double if he’s caught. However, if no thief’s caught, then the trusted neighbor must be tried by the judges to determine whether he was the thief himself. Verses 10-14 further tell us that if a man entrusts his neighbor with any beast (whether an ass, ox, or sheep), and it dies, gets injured, or is driven away without any witnesses, then the two men shall make an oath of the Lord between them (swear on God’s name) that the entrusted neighbor isn’t guilty, and the owner accepts responsibility for the loss without restitution. The same goes for the situation in which the animal’s torn in pieces (likely by another beast)—he’s to bring it as evidence and isn’t required to make it right (interestingly, in Genesis devotional #141, we saw that Jacob was wrongfully forced to pay for this type of loss of Laban’s animals). However, if it was stolen while in his care, he’s responsible for making restitution to the owner. If a man borrows something from his neighbor and it gets hurt or dies without the owner present, then the borrower must make it right. However, if the owner is present when it’s injured or killed under the use of the borrower, then the owner’s responsible for it—especially if it was hired, because the owner was paid for its use. Verse 9 tells us that, for any type of trespass—which Strong’s Concordance defines as ‘quarrel’ or ‘sin’ (regardless of whether it’s for an ox, ass, sheep, clothing, or anything that was lost)—which another claims was his, then both parties are to bring their argument before the judges. The man condemned by the judges in the argument must pay his neighbor double. Outside of these situations, there’s also the case of negligence. We’re told in verses 5, 6 that if a man’s responsible for another’s field or vineyard being eaten (by putting his own beast in the other’s field)—then he must make restitution from the best of his own field and vineyard. If he kindles a fire, and it breaks into a wildfire (catching in the thorns)—causing the corn heaps or stalks to be consumed—then he’s responsible for making restitution for the loss of the corn. Thus, even if he didn't steal, per se, he's still liable for the loss.
[#119] Exodus 22:16,17
If a man entices a woman (who hasn’t been engaged to be married) to sleep with him—he must endow her to be his wife. Strong’s Concordance defines ‘endow’ as ‘bargain (for a wife)’ or ‘wed’. In other words, he’s to propose marriage—potentially paying a ‘bride price’ (which we’ll discuss shortly). Verse 17 says, “If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he must pay money according to the dowry of virgins.” This likely means that if the father won’t give his daughter in marriage ‘for free’ (or with her dowry), then the man must pay for the dowry. We saw this case being discussed (in Genesis devotional #141) between Shechem and Dinah’s father and brothers (Jacob and his sons) when he slept with her and desired to marry her. “Ask me speedily for dowry and gift, and I will give accordingly: but give me the damsel to wed.” Deuteronomy 22:28, 29 says that if a man finds a damsel that’s a virgin, which isn’t engaged to be married, and lays hold on, and sleeps with, her—and they’re caught, then he must give her father fifty shekels of silver (about twenty-eight dollars), and she shall be his wife. Because he has humbled (defiled) her, he may never put her away (divorce her). To clarify on the dowry and bride price—normally, a bride price was paid by the man to the bride-to-be’s family. It was a strictly symbolic gesture (as he wasn’t actually purchasing the woman) of his eternal debt to his bride’s parents (though it wasn’t a debt to be ‘paid off’). In contrast, a bride would bring her dowry (property / belongings and/or money) to her husband upon their marriage. This usually consisted of her clothing and household goods—and contributed to the welfare of her new home under her husband. Thus, in the event of pre-marital sex, the normal proceedings of engagement didn’t necessarily apply because of the disgracefulness of the situation.
[#120] Exodus 22:18 (Part 1)
Genesis 22:18 touches on witchcraft. “You shall not suffer a witch to live.” Obviously ‘suffer’ in this context means ‘allow’, but Strong’s Concordance goes further than that—to ‘keep alive’ or ‘revive’. Thus, it’s referring to actively trying to sustain or resurrect. Interestingly enough, that’s what those who practice witchcraft, etc. are trying to do with the dead. There are several passages which discuss different aspects of witchcraft (see Leviticus 19:31; 20:27, Deuteronomy 18:9-14, and Isaiah 8:19; 19:3)—nine kinds of divination. This includes people acting as wizards (men who magically conjure spirits to appear), enchanters / witches (ones who cast spells), necromancers / charmers (people who supposedly communicate with the dead—especially to predict the future, or use black magic—invoking evil spirits for evil purposes), or observer of times (aka soothsayers—people who claim to foresee the future). It also includes related practices such as divination (fortune telling / psychics, for example), consulting with familiar spirits (demons assuming the form of animals or dead loved ones pretending to visit and obey a witch), or peeping and muttering (using faint chirps / voices like birds or incoherent words / babbling to sound like ghosts, etc.). God condemns these things (witchcraft, spiritualism, ancestral worship) saying they defile you (they deceive men and destroy their souls) and are an abomination to God from heathen nations, which He hasn’t permitted men to do or be. Psalm 146:3-5 tells us not to put our trust in princes or the son of man, in whom there’s no help—because when he dies, his breath departs, he returns to his earth, and in that very day, his thoughts die. But he that has the God of Jacob for his help is happy because his hope is in the Lord his God. Ecclesiastes 12:7 says (in reference to the death of man), “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God Who gave it.” This ‘spirit’ isn’t referring to a soul or ghost-like spirit, but to ‘breath’, as defined by Strong’s Concordance. To clarify the references, Genesis 2:7 says, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” To give extra clarification on the meaning of ‘soul’ in that passage, Strong’s Concordance defines it as ‘a breathing creature’. And lastly, Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6 says that the dead don’t know anything, and their love, hatred, and envy is also dead. Nor will they ever have any more portion in anything done under the sun. God said that living men should be seeking the living God for wisdom and help instead of those that are dead. Only God can see the invisible and predict the future, and He is to be our only source of information in these types of things. To consult with others in these matters is to consult with Satan himself, as he is the headmaster in the house of witchcraft and magic. Thus, it’s definitely no surprise why God calls it an abomination. As we’ll see when we look at one of the most famous stories in the Bible concerning witchcraft (in devotional #121), bowing down to a familiar spirit (etc.) is literally bowing down to Satan. In Matthew 4:8-10, Satan tried to get Jesus to fall (bow) down and worship him. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Depart, Satan: for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall only serve Him.’’”
[#121] Exodus 22:18 (Part 2)
In devotional #120, we discussed witchcraft. Let’s look at one of the most famous Bible stories concerning the topic and see a prime example of its results. In 1 Samuel 28:3-19, Samuel had died, and King Saul had removed the witches and wizards from the land. Now the Philistines and Israelites were gathering for war, but when Saul saw their army, he became very fearful. He enquired of God, but He was quiet, so Saul quickly told his servants to find a medium (witch) he could consult. He went to Endor in disguise and asked her to bring up the familiar spirit of Samuel. She’d feared her fate would be like the others Saul had killed, but he swore by the Lord’s name that he wasn’t trying to trap her and that she wouldn’t be punished for it. He hoped that Samuel could advise him since God wasn’t responding. We learned, in devotional #120, that the dead know, feel, and take part in nothing, thus there’s no way for them to come up as spirits to instruct the living on what to do or what will happen. As we learned in devotional #32, magic, sorcery, etc. is simply man cooperating with Satan to deceive men into believing his lies are truth, and God’s truths are lies. It’s the same with spiritualism (witchcraft, etc.). Familiar spirits are demons that come in the form of animals, deceased loved ones, etc. We know this can be done because Satan himself (a fallen angel) appeared to Eve as a talking serpent (Genesis 3), and God’s angels often came in the form of men to deliver messages to people throughout the Bible (like Lot’s angels whom the Sodomites thought were men in Genesis 19, etc.). Thus, Saul’s medium brought up one (a demon) who looked, sounded, and spoke like Samuel, and Saul bowed down to him (thus, worshipping Satan himself). The spirit asked Saul why he’d call upon him for help since God had clearly departed from him and was doing what He had said (through the real, living Samuel in 1 Samuel 13:13, 14) because of his disobedience—taking his kingdom and giving it to David. Now Israel would fall into the enemy’s hand, and Saul and his sons would die the next day. Interestingly, what the spirit said seemed to be the type of judgment that a prophet of God would speak to one who was erring—and furthermore, what the demon said did actually happen (see 1 Chronicles 10:4-6, 13). Yet, that doesn’t mean it was a messenger from God (let alone Samuel himself), because we know that this wasn’t the only time in Scriptures where demons would be compelled to declare the truth. Recall when they declared who Christ was from the mouths of those they possessed, like the men in the tombs (Matthew 8:28, 29) and the man in the synagogue (Mark 1:23, 24), who each said similar phrases to Christ: ‘Leave us alone. What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth, You Son of God? I know Who You are, the Holy One of God.’ Likewise, the soothsaying, demon-possessed woman (Acts 16:16-18) followed Paul and Silas for days, declaring, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, which show us the way of Salvation.” It's interesting that Saul used God’s name to swear to the medium that there’d be no consequence for practicing the witchcraft that God Himself condemned (showing that they’d have terrible consequences). Yet, as He often does, God overruled these powers of darkness to be used as a mouthpiece for the truth.
[#122] Exodus 22:19 (Part 1)
Verse 19 discusses bestiality—or even the approach / attempt of it. It’s defined as ‘sexual intercourse between a person and an animal’. “Whoever lies with a beast shall surely be put to death.”Leviticus 20:15, 16 says the beast must also be slain. Genesis 2:20 shows that after all the animals were created, not one was fit to be a help meet (or companion / mate) for Adam—and thus, God created the woman for him. Man was never meant to lie with beasts. In Genesis devotional #7, we learned that when it says that the earth should produce creatures and reproduce their same species (Genesis 1:22, 24)—natural reproduction wasn’t meant to be modified by man. Verse 25 said that when the creatures were created according to their kind(s), it was good. Then, in verses 26, 27, God decided to make man in His image and likeness—and they were specifically man and woman. Thus, making any other type of ‘man’ creature (by crossing anything other than a man and woman) would be creating something that isn’t ‘like’ God (His image). Thus, the image of God was defaced / defiled. Leviticus 18:23-25 says that lying with a beast defiles yourself and the land (and the land itself vomits them out), and God calls it ‘confusion’, defined by Strong’s Concordance as ‘mixing’ and ‘unnatural’. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” Thus, Deuteronomy 27:21 says that he who lies with any type of beast is cursed. How? Romans 1:23-28, 32 discusses God’s uncorruptible glory being made into an image like corruptible man and like animals (we’ll discuss ‘corruption’ more in devotional #123). Therefore, God’s wrath was to give them up to uncleanness and vile affections—to dishonor their bodies unnaturally with others through the lusts of their hearts (rather than as God created / intended it to be). Thus, He gave them over to a reprobate (worthless) mind to do inconvenient (unfit) things. Those that know the judgment of God (which is that, those who do such things are worthy of death) not only do the same things, but have pleasure in those that do those things. We’ll see a powerful example of this in devotional #123. The curse is the unnatural, confused state of mind God surrenders them to.
[#123] Exodus 22:19 (Part 2)
In devotional #37, we touched on the Egyptian god, ‘Apis’, ‘the golden calf’ known for strength, vital energy, and power. They selected a calf with certain features to be raised as the Apis bull for the people to worship. Once the animal died, they’d find and inaugurate a new calf, starting by leading it in a procession at a New Moon to a location where only nude women saw, exposed themselves to, and waited upon him for forty days. These inaugural ceremonies indicated the how far Israel’s sinfulness extended when they similarly worshipped the golden calf at Sinai—as heathen worship was always sensual and indecent. We’ll go more into this event when we get to Exodus 32, but suffice it to say that there was clearly inappropriate sexual behavior exhibited ‘between’ beast and man among God’s people, and He was greatly displeased by it. God’s displeasure of Israel’s worship of the golden calf extended beyond the fact that they were worshipping something / someone other than Him. It went beyond the fact that this particular idol represented Apis, who supposedly ‘hosted God Himself’ and was connected with sun-worship (representing Sunday reverence / worship—the greatest opposition to the true worship of God, represented by the Lord’s true Sabbath (Saturday)). No, the extent of their sin at Sinai is described in Exodus 32:7 as them having ‘corrupted themselves’. The meaning can be seen by paralleling this situation with Genesis 6:11-13, which says that the earth was corrupt before God because all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth. Thus, God predicted the end of all flesh—He would destroy (aka, let them be destroyed) with the earth in the flood. In both situations, the same version of ‘corrupt’ was used. As the result of their corruption led God to let them be destroyed, we see Him inclined to do the same, in Exodus 32:10, because of their corruption at Sinai. He says, “Now therefore, leave Me alone, so My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them.” Their sins were related to those of the Antediluvians who, as we saw in Genesis devotionals #7 and 54, were likely practicing amalgamation (mixing two or more species together to ‘create’ something else). Amalgamation is also referred to as ‘hybridization’, the crossing of animals—or man with beast. People argue that it was never possible for a man and beast to sexually reproduce since they can’t do that today, but they forget the fact that life isn’t the same as it was back before the flood. The physical strength and life force of creatures and mankind was incredible before (and even just after) sin entered our world. The possibility of this kind of mixing shouldn’t be beyond consideration for the men who lived almost a thousand years and weren’t severely physically degraded by six thousand years of sin. You might think about some of the Greek mythology creatures like the ‘centaur’ (the upper body of a man with the lower body of a horse), or more fittingly within this context, the ‘minataur’ (the body of a man with the head and tail of a bull). Of course, I’m not claiming that such creatures ever existed, or that man and beast were ever able to reproduce, or that the science of amalgamation didn’t occur in a ‘laboratory’ setting rather than a sexual encounter. However, that wouldn’t take away the act or attempt of man and beast to lie together (as was forbidden in Exodus 22:19). Why would God specifically create a law against bestiality unless there were pre-existing issues with it?
[#124] Exodus 22:20
Verse 20 discusses the utter destruction of anyone sacrificing to any god outside of the Lord. We’ve discussed this at length throughout our devotionals, and the Bible goes deep into these issues (with stories like Baal worshippers, etc.) but to be more specific—it’s interesting that this is so closely paired with witchcraft (discussed in devotionals #120, 121), because most of those same passages that included the abominable witchcraft practices involved the worship of ancestors and the sacrifice of children—making them walk through the fire, as the Bible often puts it. Sacrificing to anyone other than God (regardless of what the sacrifice actually is) is a form of false sacrifice. However, it goes so much deeper than that. Why did God call for sacrifice? In Genesis devotional #32, we saw the first form of false sacrifice, or sacrificing to any god but the Lord. Cain and Abel made their sacrifices, Abel’s was accepted / approved, and Cain’s wasn’t. We know where it went from there. We learned that God required sacrifice to remind themselves of the effects of sin, and that He required a lamb for the offering, because of what it represented—Christ, the Lamb of God—the One Who died to take away the sins of the world. He also required that the sacrificial animal had no blemish or ‘evilfavoredness’, which were abominations to Him (see Deuteronomy 17:1). By choosing to offer anything other than the symbol of Christ was to reject the death of the spotless Son of God on his behalf (thus rejecting Christ as his Savior). Choosing to sacrifice to anyone other than God was to look to someone else as their god and savior. These variables are self-explanatory when it comes to understanding why Exodus 22:20 says that “He that sacrifices to any god, except the Lord only, shall be utterly destroyed.” In other words, false sacrifice (which ultimately means the rejection of God) naturally leads away from salvation to utter destruction. Deuteronomy 17:2-5 discusses the stoning of any person (man or woman) that commits the abomination of serving and worshipping other gods, and we specifically see mention of the sun, moon, and other host of heaven (likely to include the stars, etc.). We’ve talked about sun worship (as well as worship of the moon), in devotionals #37, 42, and 95, and the implications of that (which we’ll go deeper into in Exodus 32)—so it's no surprise that God would continually remind them of those things.
[#125] Exodus 22:21-24
In verses 21-24, God continues reminding Israel of their recent experience as strangers in Egypt so that they wouldn’t be tempted to treat strangers the same way while in their own land. They were not to vex or oppress the foreigners that united with Israel. Strong’s Concordance defines ‘vex’ as ‘rage’ or ‘be violent to’; ‘suppress’, ‘maltreat’, ‘destroy’ or ‘oppress’, and defines ‘oppress’ as ‘press’ or ‘distress’ (‘afflict, crush, force, hold fast’). But it didn’t stop with strangers. He also discusses the treatment of widows and fatherless, which were not to be ‘afflicted’, defined by Strong’s Concordance as ‘look down [on]’ or ‘browbeat’ (which means ‘intimidate, typically into doing something, with stern or abusive words’). God tells them that any affliction that causes them to cry out to Him will instigate His wrath, and He will kill them (which we’ve learned, throughout our Genesis and Exodus devotionals, means that He would permit them to perish) with the sword—and the result would be that their own wives and/or children would then be widows and fatherless. Proverbs 23:10 also says not to enter the fields of the fatherless. However, not only should they not be afflicted, but they should also be taken care of. Isaiah 10:1, 2 indicates that one of the main sins that made Israel wander from God and be cursed with great woe was the neglect of the widows and fatherless. Every three years, the Jews were required to give a tenth of their income (a ‘second tithe’) to the Levites, strangers, fatherless, and widows—as these four classes of people had no means of support. God cared deeply for the helpless state they were in, and for the cries of the widows for their children, and He was providing special protection for their rights. The Bible talks heavily about appropriate dealings with widows and fatherless. In Psalm 10:14, God calls Himself the helper of the fatherless, and Psalm 68:5 says, “God is a Father of the fatherless and a judge of the widows in His holy habitation.” Deuteronomy 24:17, 18 and 10:18, 19 parallel nicely saying to execute judgment as God does—rather than perverting it. This was said for the following people: (1) the stranger—love him as God does (because they themselves were strangers and bondmen in Egypt, from which God redeemed them), (2) the fatherless, and (3) the widow—don’t take her raiment as a pledge of payment (which concept we’ll discuss in devotional #127). Just by seeing the terminology used in Exodus 22:21-24, we can recognize the various forms of mistreatment they underwent in Egypt, and that all of that (and anything else) was covered by God in His warning against repeating the same. God has always wanted His people to be distinguished from others by acting according to His righteous principles. Kindness, compassion, and sympathy should mark the character of those who profess to be men of God.
[#126] Exodus 22:25-27 (Part 1)
Verses 25-27 discuss dealing with debts. Hebrews weren’t to make themselves rich by taking advantage of the needs of their poorer fellow Hebrews and making them poorer. Loans to friends, family, neighbors, etc, weren’t to be treated as business transactions—they were forbidden to act as an usurer or to lay usury on them. Strong’s Concordance is very clear about the meaning of usury. It concerns interest applied to loans, and the exacting nature of debt collection. ‘Usury’ is ‘lending money at unreasonably high interest rates (beyond the legal rates)’ (aka, requiring borrowers to return substantially higher amounts than they were lent). Lovers of God, with means and integrity, can be helpers to the poor. Lending with reasonable interest brings no loss to one’s self and prevents one’s borrower from getting deeper into debt / poverty or losing to the schemes of the dishonest lenders. Like Satan—'the roaring lion walking about, seeking whom he may devour’—these predatory lenders (now known as ‘loan sharks’) exploit the poor in their desperate moments, but won’t benefit from their profit for long. Proverbs 28:8 says that “He that increases his substance by usury and unjust gain gathers it for he that pities the poor.” (See also Jeremiah 17:11). In other words, God will see to it that his wealth will be transferred to men with integrity and compassion for those who were cheated in the first place. Likewise, Satan (who claims ownership over the earth and its inhabitants) will lose it all to Christ, the compassionate Benefactor). Violating today’s usury laws is punishable by fines (returning interest collected with a fee, etc.) and/or imprisonment. Satan will suffer imprisonment on the earth for a thousand years (see Revelation 20:2, 7), and will have to answer to those he deceived in the end. Psalm 15:5 says that he who doesn’t put out his money to usury or take bribes against the innocent shall never be moved (waver). Deuteronomy 23:19, 20 clarifies that only strangers can be given loans with interest (which still couldn’t be outrageous / oppressive), but never brothers (aka, Hebrews)—whether it be interest on money, victuals (food), or anything else. Many states today have legal rates topping at fifteen percent, but most are between six and ten percent (including the late fees, etc. they consider interest as well). Most also have usury limits, but those who don’t may still be subject to a federal usury limit, as exorbitant interest rates indicate the presence of loan sharking. All business should apply the Golden Rule principles, because even if man’s laws permit usury, God views high interest rate percentages as unjust, and robbery. In Ezekiel 22:12, 13, God rebukes Israel for taking bribes to kill, taking interest and unjust / dishonest gain, and extorting their neighbors for greedy gain. What does the use of just balances, weights, and measurements (discussed in Leviticus 19:35, 36 and Deuteronomy 25:13-16) refer to? There were men that would use scales with unequal tares, or measuring cups (etc.) with unequal volumes. In other words, they’d have one set that gave the true measurement, so that the customer would pay the proper amount due for the product to be received. They’d also have sets that were either under or over the true, so that they could use them to bribe or falsely benefit some and overcharge others, which God says is unrighteous, and an abomination to God. He has high expectations of His people to function with His principles, and if they did, this world would be a far different place. Forbidding the lending of money with interest, etc. was to show that acts of kindness to our fellow man in need weren’t to be done with expectation of something in return, let alone with punishment if they didn’t return it. We’ll see more about this in devotional #127.
[#127] Exodus 22:25-27 (Part 2)
There were clear conditions that God laid out in managing a pledge (what we call a deposit or retainer—which would be held as security to ensure a payment was actually made). In Genesis devotional #161, we saw an interchange involving a pledge between Jacob’s son, Judah, and his daughter-in-law, Tamar (see Genesis 38)—unrecognized when dressed as a harlot for the purpose of gaining the son that Judah should’ve provided her through his youngest son. He promised her payment of a kid of his flock, and she asked for a pledge of his payment, since it wouldn’t be given upfront. He gave her his seal (ring), bracelets, and staff. Deuteronomy 24:10-13 says that they were not to enter their brother’s house to fetch his pledge when they lent him something, but to stand abroad (outside) and he would bring the pledge out to them. If the man was poor, they were not to sleep with his pledge (keep it overnight). Exodus 22:26, 27 says that, when taking their neighbor’s raiment (clothing, etc.) for a pledge—it must be returned to them by sundown, as it’s his skin’s covering in which he sleeps. Otherwise, he’ll cry out to God, Who hears and responds graciously. Nowadays, we see this violated all the time. When banks / lenders aren’t paid for a period of time, they bust into the debtors’ houses and seize (take) their belongings, vehicles, or house / property. They called this repossession, taking things for collateral. God was never into that. Slavery in Egypt started with the Egyptians themselves when they couldn’t afford to take care of themselves anymore during the famine. Luckily for them, Joseph ‘managed’ their servitude graciously—they weren’t treated like slaves, and they were permitted to keep plenty of what they grew for Egypt to take care of their families. After Joseph was gone, Egypt got greedy and forced Israel (the ones who weren’t destitute) to become actual slaves—exacting extreme measures upon them. Thus, these particular concepts (concerning debt) were extremely relevant to Israel, and God wanted to make sure they were never on the other end of that oppression. Ezekiel 18:5-9 says that a man’s just and shall surely live if he does what’s lawful and right, and has (1) oppressed none, (2) restored the debtor’s pledge, (3) spoiled none by violence (robbery), (4) given his bread to the hungry, (5) covered the naked with a garment, (6) lent without usury, (7) taken no increase (unjust gain), (8) withdrawn his hand from iniquity, (9) executed true judgment between men, and (10) walked in God’s statutes and kept His judgments—to deal truly.
[#128] Exodus 22:28-31
Verse 28 says not to revile the gods or curse the ruler of their people. Strong’s Concordance defines ‘revile’ as ‘make light of’, ‘lightly esteem’, or ‘bring into contempt,’ and defines ‘curse’ as ‘execrate’ or ‘bitterly curse’. The dictionary calls ‘revile’ (‘criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner’) and ‘execrate’ (‘feel or express great loathing for’) synonyms. Strong’s Concordance indicates that the usage of ‘gods’ in this verse refers to magistrates or judges, rather than deities / idols. This would make more sense, especially considering the context—contempt and rulers. In court, a person can be ‘held in contempt’ if they display willful disobedience to, or open disrespect of, a court, judge, or legislative body. Thus, the version of ‘revile’ used in verse 28 would be even more fitting, because to have contempt for someone is to feel that they’re beneath one’s consideration, worthless, or deserving of scorn. I doubt that this verse is referring merely to just a public display of contempt though, as God is concerned with the heart as well. Interestingly, Ecclesiastes 10:20 says something poetic about the matter. “Do not curse the king, no, not in your thoughts; and do not curse the rich in your bedroom: because a bird of the air will carry the voice, and that with wings will tell the matter.” The Bible indicates that honoring earthly kings falls just behind fearing God (see 1 Peter 2:17). Despising God’s government is a step away from despising human authority. Disregarding His claims means that any obedience to human laws is done only to avoid immediate punishment. Those who don’t fear speaking evil of authority figures, but rail at those in official positions (in Heaven or on Earth), are dangerous—even if they do no great evil. It may be that they’ve had no opportunity, but if they get one and don’t fear immediate punishment—nothing would keep them from going all the way. There were wicked kings on the throne when Peter and Paul instructed people to honor the king and be subject to the higher powers. However, regardless of how wicked they are, their position of authority should be respected, and to see men railing even at them is a bad sign. True Christians show respect towards authority—even the evil ones. Matthew 22:21 shows Jesus saying to render unto Caesar that which is his, and render unto God that which is His. In other words, obey government authority—up to the point that their law(s) require disobedience of God’s authority. Yet even then, treat them as Christ would. Jesus stood (innocent, in an unjust trial) before several corrupt authority figures (the scribes and elders, Pilate, and Herod), and even when He chose not to comply or even respond, He never treated them with disrespect. Yet, a display of respect towards corrupt rulers doesn’t mean that they’re justified—let alone encouraged—to be corrupt. We saw, in devotional #110, about how judges were to conduct their duties as well, which we’ll discuss more in devotional #132.
[#129] Exodus 22:29, 30
Verses 29, 30 discuss the immediate offering the first of one’s fruits, liquors, sons, oxen, and sheep to God. The animals should be given seven days with their dam (mother), and then given to God (also see Leviticus 22:27-30). The offering of the firstborn (of children and animals) to God hearkens back to Exodus 13, where Israel was called to dedicate their firstborn sons to God’s service. Return to devotional #58 to review all about why, but recall that it was a memorial of His deliverance of Israel, but more importantly, it pointed to a greater deliverance, which would be accomplished by God’s only-begotten (firstborn) Son. Strong’s Concordance defines ‘fruits’ as ‘fullness’ or ‘abundance’. As Proverbs 3:9 tells us, we’re to use our substance (wealth)—and the firstfruits of all our increase (income) to honor God. This appears to be referring to tithing, which God promises to bless in the following verse: “Thus, your barns will be filled with plenty, and your presses will burst out with new wine.” We’ll see more about this in Exodus 23:19, but Deuteronomy 28 and Malachi 3 go heavily into how God will bless the fruits of the obedient and the faithful tithers. Our hearts are so sinful that we naturally put ourselves in the foremost place of worship and love. Thus, God calls His people instead to seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things (needs for food, drink, clothing, etc.) will be added unto them (Matthew 6:25-34). Thus, God calls us to immediate tithing (offering the first portion of all our increase). Let’s look a connection between tithing, seeking God’s kingdom, and being provided for. If we return to Exodus 22:29, we see the mention of ‘liquors’, defined by Strong’s Concordance as ‘tears’ or ‘weeping’. Why does He combine substance and tears in a passage discussing tithing? Psalm 126:5, 6 says that “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall without doubt return with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Even if the work you did was hard, give back to God joyfully from the bountiful fruit of your tearful labor. Tithing does more than help cover the livelihood of the ministers. The work done by the ministers should be powerful to bring people to God. Thus, he who labors tearfully, bearing precious truth, will return joyfully with others he’s brought to Christ. Acts 20:19, 31 shares Paul’s experience in this, where he served the Lord with all humility of mind, many tears, and temptations—which befell him by the Jews who lied in wait for him. Therefore, he asked them to remember the three years he spent tearfully warning everyone. Jesus Himself also had a tearful work to do that led to the salvation of all who would accept Him. Hebrews 5:7 talks of “when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him that was able to save Him from death”. Jesus’ labor also lasted three years (in His official ministry) and was full of tears—even to the point that He was tempted to give up. But look at the results of His labor!
[#130] Exodus 22:31
Verse 31 wraps up the chapter explaining God’s expectation of them to be holy men for God, who eat no flesh of animals torn by beasts in the field (which should be given only to the dogs—which Ezekiel references in his conversation with God in Ezekiel 4:14). ‘Holy’ here is defined by Strong’s Concordance as ‘clean’ and ‘sacred place’ or ‘sanctuary’. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?” Romans 12:1, 2 says to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, and not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may prove (determine) what God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will is. To be holy men to God was to be worthy of a holy God’s acknowledgement. They were to be distinguished among the rest. The institution of the Sabbath was the thing that was to set the Jews apart from all other nations. True Sabbath-keeping designated them as God’s people—a sign that they were disconnected with idol worship and connected with worship of the one true God. Men must be holy to keep the Sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8). Thus, God called them to do just that in Exodus 22:31, “And you shall be holy men to Me.” But the context of all the animal sacrifices, etc. shows that it isn’t just a holiness of mind and character, but of the body itself. Throughout Scripture (as we’ve discussed in both our Genesis andExodus devotionals), God lays out health laws, which may, to some, appear to be arbitrary. However, it was for a purpose. Certain foods and drinks toxify and inflame the body in such a way as to affect the brain’s capacity for discernment of both general and spiritual matters. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to focus or even stay awake—let alone be perceptive—after you’ve had a heavy meal (or even a lighter one)—even in the middle of the day? By maintaining a healthful, clean body and physiology, the mind is better fit to receive clarity from God. This is the point of fasting. It isn’t meant to be a spiritual motivator for God to answer our prayers, but a physical abstinence to aid the body in clearing up anything that would cloud the mind’s judgment and perception of God’s voice.