Exodus 21:1, These are the judgments [mishpatim]. Mishpat(im) means “judgment, justice, ordinance, sentence, legal decision or seat of judgment.” Most of these laws (as listed in chapters 21 through 23) are civil in nature and relate to our relationship with our fellow man (as summarized by the phrase, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” Lev 19:18). Therefore, most of these laws would correspond to the second half (the fifth through tenth) of the ten statements of Exodus 20. Some, however, relate to the first four commandments, which show man how to love Elohim (e.g. the seventh day Sabbath, and the prohibition of worshiping idols and pronouncing the names of pagan deities, tithing, obeying the Messenger of Elohim, and celebrating YHVH’s feasts).
In reality, chapters 21 to 23 are simply an expansion or extension of the fundamental principles laid down in YHVH’s ten statements of chapter 20. This makes the ten statements to be a remez or “a hint” suggesting that there are additional laws that form the larger body of YHVH’s Torah. The ten statements of Exodus 20 simply springboards us toward the larger body of YHVH’s legal structure that is laid out in his full Torah. The ten statements are like the cornerstone of the building of Torah. Each of these judgments can be traced back to a fundamental principle laid out in the ten statements. For example, the laws pertaining to servitude are to prevent men from stealing from his neighbor via debt and the consequences of one’s inability to pay one’s debts. The laws pertaining to physical violence against one’s neighbor are an extension of the law against murder, fornication and bestiality is an extension of the law against adultery, sorcery is an extension of the law against idolatry, afflicting the widows or fatherless is from the law against theft, slander comes out of the prohibition to lying, the biblical feasts or annual sabbaths spring out of the weekly Sabbath, and being obedient to the Messenger of YHVH comes out of the first and second statements about YHVH being the Elohim of Israel and following no other gods. Moreover, the death a person by someone’s animal is an expansion of the “thou shalt not murder” command. The charging of usury on loaned money is an expansion of the commands not to covet or steal. The land sabbath and annual sabbaths (appointed times or moedim) are an expansion of the weekly Sabbath.
It should be obvious to see how all of YHVH’s Torah commands spring from the original ten, which form the foundation for the rest of the Torah. Additionally, the approximately 1056 imperative commands found in the Testimony of Yeshua all spring from the original 613 commandments found in the Torah. YHVH’s Word would be in opposition to itself if any of the 1056 were to contradict or nullify any of the 613. If they did, that would make YHVH into a liar and his word inconsistent with itself. This cannot be (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8; John 10:35)!
Exodus 21:6, Bore his ear. The servant who of his own freewill and out of love for his master chose to remain in his household forever was permanently marked in this manner to signify that he was willing to hear and obey all his master’s commands punctually. This is a spiritual picture of the disciples of Yeshua who chose to become his bond servants (e.g. Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10; Col 4:12; Tit 1:1; Jas 1:1; Jude 1; Rev 1:1; 15:3). Not only do the true disciples of Yeshua accept him as their Savior, but they submit to him as their Lord or Master. They accept the fact he has purchased them with his blood, and that they now owe their lives to him. They willing choose to dwell in his spiritual house forever, to serve him and to hear and to do all that he commands of them.
Forever. The Hebrew word olam translated as “forever” throughout the Scriptures means “as long as the conditions exist” and not necessarily “for eternity” as the meaning of the English word “forever” often implies. In this verse, forever obviously means “as long as the servant shall live” and not “for eternity.” When the Hebrew word v’ad translated as “and ever” is added to olam (forever), the concept of eternity is connoted (e.g. YHVH’s reign as king is for eternity, Exod 15:18; Ps 10:16; the resurrected righteous will live for eternity, Pss 21:4; 45:6; Dan 12:3; during the millennium, righteous redeemed Israelites will walk with YHVH for eternity, Mic 4:5; the righteous will keep YHVH’s Torah for eternity, Ps 119:44; the righteous will praise YHVH for eternity, Ps 145:1, 2, 21).
Exodus 21:22, Hurt a woman with child. This passage is one of the strongest pro-life, anti-abortion verses in the Scriptures. Clearly, this passage teaches that life begins in the womb. The penalty for a man who is responsible for the death of an unborn child is death (v. 23.) Could any clearer statement be made about how the Creator feels about the sanctity of life? Here are some statistics about abortion:
- 42 million abortions occur worldwide each year (that’s 115,000 per day).
- In 2008, 1.21 million abortions occurred in the U.S.
- From 1973 to 2008, 50 million legal abortions occurred in the U.S.
- 22 percent of all U.S. pregnancies end in abortion.
- In 2007, 84% of all abortions were performed on unmarried women.
- At current rates, nearly one-third of American women will have an abortion.
(Sources of information: abortionno.org/Resources/fastfacts.html; guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html; abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/ — this is now a dead link).
Thankfully, as of this writing, the abortion rate in the US is slowly, but steadily dropping. In 2000 according to the National Right to Life (NRL), 1.36 million babies were aborted. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) puts the number at 857,475. In 2014 according to the NRL the number of abortions in the US dropped to 926,240. According to the NRL the total number of abortions performed in the US from 1973 to 2013 was nearly 58.6 million, while the CDC puts the number at nearly 51.9 million.
The murder of the innocent children is perhaps the greatest sin that a nation can commit. Abortion is a form of child sacrifice, which is something many ancient cultures practiced (e.g. the Aztecs, Incas, Phoenicians, pre-Islamic Arabs, and the biblical Canaanites). In the Bible, YHVH condemns the practice of the heathens and apostate Israelites who made their children pass through the fire in the worship of the demon-god Moloch (see Lev 18:21; 20:2–5; Deut 12:30–31; 18:10). YHVH placed on the nation of Israel a severe judgment for sacrificing its children to Moloch. He promised that their cities would be destroyed and that their nation be conquered by foreigners and that the Jews would be taken captive (see Jer 7:30–34; 32:35–36).
Exodus 21:22 clearly delineates the Creator’s position that human life begins at conception (see also Ps 139:13–16; Jer 1:5; Luke 1:15, 41, 44), not at birth.
Exodus 21:26–27, Eye…Tooth.This is the well known “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth passage.” This is a remez meaning that these verses lay out a principle that’s broadly applicable to many situations. That is to say, what this verse is teaching us is that justice is properly served when the crime fits the punishment—when the criminal is himself deprived of that which he deprived his victim. To be sure, such a punishment is a strong deterrent to criminality! In the case of one causing another an injury for which one can’t recompense the victim (in the case of a loss of an eye or tooth), the criminal must suffer the same fate as his victim. In the case where a criminal causes harm to another (such as theft), which can be repaid, it is the criminal’s responsibility to make restitution.
Exodus 22:26, Take your neighbor’s garment. The standard clothing for a Hebrew peasant farmer was a tunic and loincloth. A cloak was added for colder weather and doubled as a sleeping blanket. These articles of clothing may have been the only ones a peasant possessed, since the Torah mandated that a cloak taken from a man in pledge by a creditor had to be returned to him by day’s end, so he would have a blanket with which to cover himself at night (see also Deut 24:12–13, 17).
Exodus 22:28, Curse a ruler. The TWOT notes that in Hebrew there are six words that are all translated into the English word curse in the KJV. Each word has a different connotation, which our word curse fails to convey. In this verse, behind curse is the Hebrew word arar meaning “bind with a spell, to hem in with obstacles, render powerless, to resist.” This word is used for Elohim cursing the serpent and the earth (Gen 14, 17), Cain (Gen 4:11), and Balak hiring Balaam to curse Israel (Num 22:6ff). In the majority of times, the use of arar as used in the Scriptures falls under three broad categories: (a) the declaration of punishments (Gen 3:14, 17); (b) the utterance of threats (Jer 11:3; 17:5; Mal 1:14); (c) the proclamation curses for violation of Elohim’s laws (Deut 27:15; 28:16–19; ibid.).
Exodus 23:1, You shall not raise up a false report. In the Hebrew, false report literally means “a report that is vain, empty, a lie or nothing.” The colloquial term for this is “the evil tongue” or in Hebrew, lashon hara. This involves gossip, slander, false accusations, lies, rumors, and tale bearing. All these lead to strife and division among brother. The Scriptures say that hatred stirs up strife and that love covers all sin (Prov 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8). YHVH hates and calls an abomination the sowing of discord among brethren (Prov 6:16, 19).
Exodus 23:10–12, Rest. The sabbath-rest principle relates to more than just the weekly (seventh day) Sabbath or Shabbat. Here we see the rest command as it relates to the land sabbaths and annual sabbaths or the feasts (moedim) as well.
Exodus 23:13, Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of your mouth. (See also Ps 16:4.) Not only is YHVH against the worship of pagan deities and wants their names to be destroyed (Deut 12:3), but he says that he will take from the lips of his people the names of pagan deities (Hos 2:17), and eventually, he will restore a pure language (presumably one that is free of pagan names) to his people (Zeph 3:9).
Obeying this Torah principle today is difficult, since so many common words such the days of the week and some of the months of the year are named for pagan deities making normal communication without using these names difficult. Nevertheless, the redeemed righteous of YHVH will endeavor to be mindful of this command and speak as cleanly as possible.
Since this commandment immediately follows commands regarding the weekly Sabbath and the biblical feasts, which are times YHVH has commanded his people to assemble, this is a clear remez or hint that YHVH’s saints should guard against mentioning the names of pagan gods when they gather together to worship Elohim. To mention the names of pagan deities is a slap in the face of the one and only true Elohim!
If one trains ones mind and mouth to use the biblical Hebrew names of “God,” then one will be fulfilling this command. Here is a list of the common English names for deity and their biblical Hebrew equivalents:
- God = Elohim, El (for short)
- LORD = YHVH (pronounced Yud Hey Vav Hey), or Yah (for short). After 40 years of research based on the work of the world’s leading Jewish linguistic scholars, I believe that the YHVH should be pronounced as Yehovah.
- Lord = Adonai
- Jesus = Yeshua
- Christ = Mashiach (or Messiah)
Exodus 23:14–19, Three times you shall keep a feast. The Scriptures teach us that during the three biblical pilgrimage festivals of Passover/Unleavened Bread, Pentecost and Tabernacles all Israelites were to leave their places of individual isolation and were to go up to where the presence of Elohim of Israel was. This sacred rendezvous was to occur according to the festival cycle or circle (Heb. chag) around the common sanctuary (where YHVH had chosen to place his name, Deut 16:2, 11, 15).
In fulfilling this command,each Israelite would become conscious in a real way that he was connected to all the other members of the nation of Israel, with YHVH Elohim, and with the Torah (The Pentateuch—Deuteronomy, p. 310, by S. R. Hirsch).
In biblical times, the Israelites would gather wherever the tabernacle had been placed. When the temple was built in Jerusalem, this city became the destination point for the Israelite pilgrims during these three biblical feasts.
For the saints who celebrate the biblical feasts now, there is no temple in Jerusalem to gather around. The saints are now the spiritual temple of the Spirit of Elohim (1 Cor 3:16). Moreover, Yeshua has promised to be in the midst of his people when they gather together (Matt 18:20). In light of these spiritual realities, YHVH’s people need to pray and seek his face to find out where he wants them to gather for his feasts, and then obey him in faith believing that he will be with them.
But there is much more to this spiritual dynamic if we add Yeshua the Messiah of Israel into the picture. This is because each of the three feasts point directly to him. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles all point to Yeshua, since the first two festal periods point to Yeshua’s first coming, while the last fall feast points to his second coming. Each of these feasts represent milestones in the spiritual journey of the redeemed believer from initial redemption to glorification and eternal life in the presence of YHVH Elohim.
The three feasts also spiritually represent the three sections in the Tabernacle of Moses (Heb. mishkan). These are the outer courtyard, the holy place and the holy of holies. These three sections of the tabernacle correspond with the three parts of man, which are his body, soul and spirit (1 Thess 5:23). The feasts of Passover (Heb. Pesach) and Unleavened Bread (Heb. Chag haMatzot) are the first two feasts the righteous believers are to celebrate in the spring and represent the first steps in a new believer’s spiritual walk. This corresponds with the outer courtyard and relates more to the spiritual cleansing of the outer parts or body of man. It is here that one begins their spiritual walk and relationship with Yeshua, who is the Word of Elohim. The Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (Heb. Shavuot) is the next step one takes in their spiritual walk as one goes into the tabernacle of Moses. The tabernacle’s holy place speaks of one bringing one’s soul (the mind, will and emotions) into submission to the will of YHVH as one advances in their spiritual walk and grows in the fruits and gifts of the Spirit of Elohim. This readies the redeemed Israelites to move into a place of worship and praise before the Almighty.
Finally, the holy of holies corresponds to the Feast of Tabernacles (Heb. Chag haSukkot) and the spirit part of man. This section of the tabernacle points to man’s ultimate spiritual relationship with Elohim. It is here that man relates to Elohim, who is a Spirit, on a deeper spirit to Spirit level (John 4:24; 1 Cor 2:10–13). This prophetically points to man’s ultimate destiny as glorified beings in the New Jerusalem as adopted members into the family of Elohim (John 1:12; Rom 8:14–15, 23; 9:4; 2 Cor 6:18; Gal 4:5–6; Eph 1:5; 1 John 3:1; Rev 21:7).
Exodus 23:17, Three times in the year. Three times a year at the three pilgrimage feasts—the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and Feast of Tabernacles—Elohim commands that all men appear before him at the place where he has chosen to place his name (Deut 16:2, 6, 11, 15, 16). At these three times, Israelites would gather wherever the tabernacle or temple of Elohim was located to celebrate before Elohim with their fellow Israelites. The Torah repeats this command in Deuteronomy 16:6–17.
On these three occasions, YHVH commands that all males bring with them a feast offering—they were not to appear before YHVH empty-handed, but they were to bring an offering as they were able according to how YHVH had blessed them materially during the year (Deut 16:16). This was not a tithe, but a freewill love offering in addition to their regular tithes. Through Malachi the prophet, YHVH accuses backslid Israel of robbing him by not giving to him their tithes and offerings (or contributions). Because of this negligence, Elohim declares that Israel has been cursed with a curse,whereupon he promises to reverse the curse, rebuke the devourer that has destroyed their prosperity, to open the windows of heaven over them so that the will not be able to contain the prosperity of YHVH (Mal 3:8–12).
Some people may insist that this offering no longer applies to those who are “under the new covenant.” However, Yeshua declares that not one jot or tittle of the Torah has been annulled (Matt 5:18), and those who follow the eternal principles of the Torah will be blessed (Matt 5:19). Although, we may not be able now to fulfill all aspects of YHVH feast laws, YHVH expects us to love him and to keep all of his commandments the best we can (John 14:14; 1 John 2:3–6). To not obey his Torah-commands is sin (1 John 3:4), and on judgment day, Yeshua promises to reject those who were Torahless (workers of iniquity), despite their professed religiosity (Matt 7:21–23).
Giving financially to those who are doing the ministry of Yeshua is a spiritual principle that is immutable, universal and is part of the walk of the righteous redeemed (Prov 3:9–10; Phil 4:14–17; 1 Tim 5:17–18; 1 Cor 9:13–14; Gal 6:6).
Exodus 23:19, The first of the firstfruits. This is the first place that giving to YHVH is commanded in the Torah. Though the word tithe is not mentioned here, giving a tenth of one’s increase is assumed. The question is this: Does the tithing principle still apply to us today? This verse specifically mentions giving of the firstfruits of ones agricultural products. Some assume that if one is not a farmer who lives in the land of Israel, then tithing doesn’t apply to them. However Abraham tithed on the spoils of war (Gen 14:18–20), and Jacob tithed on all that YHVH blessed him with (Gen 28:22). Not only that, but Solomon instructs us the give not only on the increase of our agricultural products, but the firstfruits of all our increase (Prov 3:9–10). (For more on this subject, see notes at Prov 3:9–10.
Boil a young goat.The traditional rabbinic interpretation of this verse is that the Torah forbids eating meat with dairy products. Thus, eating a cheeseburger isn’t permitted. The problem with this interpretation is that Abraham served the Messengers of YHVH meat and milk who willingly ate it (Gen 18:6–8). Some have conjectured that this verse, instead, prohibits cooking a young animal in its mother’s milk. This interpretation is unlikely too since the Hebrew word for boil can also mean “to bake or roast”—a cooking process that doesn’t require the meat to be cooked in a liquid. The third interpretation of “boiling a kid in its mother’s milk” is the likely intent of this passage. This would be the prohibition against killing and eating a kid or calf that is still nursing, and hasn’t been weaned yet, or is still in its mother’s milk. There may be some health reasons for this of which this author is unaware. If so, that doesn’t answer the question why this passage is placed in the context of the festival sacrifices. One explanation for this could be that since all the sacrifices of Levitical system pointed to Yeshua, to sacrifice an unweaned (juvenile) kid or calf would not be a proper prophetic shadow picture of Yeshua, who was crucified as a mature, adult male.
Exodus 23:20–21, Behold, I send a Messenger before you to keep you in the way. The pre-incarnate Yeshua was this Messenger [Heb. Malak] from YHVH Elohim (see 1 Cor 10:4 and Acts 7:37–38). He is the Word of Elohim that would later become flesh (John 1:1, 14).
Exodus 23:33, They shall not dwell. Israel didn’t have an open border policy with its heathen neighbors. Even though earlier YHVH instructed the Israelites not to oppress the stranger who was dwelling among them (v. 9 and 22:21), this was not a carte blanche suggestion that anyone could cross Israel’s border and dwell within the land of Israel. The strangers had to meet certain conditions (or legal citizenship requirements) including being circumcised and keep the Passover (Exod 12:48). Foreigners living in Israel also had to follow the Torah (Exod 12:49), which was the law of the land. Beyond that, Israel was to have nothing to do with the heathens around them including worshipping their gods, even mentioning the names of their gods, practice their customs (Exod 23:13, 24) nor enter into any legally binding covenantal agreements (including marriage) with the heathens (v. 32). Heathens and illegal aliens were not permitted to dwell in the land of Israel (v. 33). Period. Laws and borders are for the protection of a nation, even as skin and cell walls protect living organisms from infectious disease, fences protect livestock and people from predators and criminals, walls protect cities from being overthrown, and an army protects a nation from foreign invasion.
Exodus 24:1–2, Worship you from afar…shall come near. YHVH stipulated that Aaron, his sons and the elders of Israel were permitted to worship him, but from afar, while he would allow Moses to come near to worship him. At the same time, the people of Israel could worship him from their camp at the base of the mountain, which was further removed from the presence of Elohim. Each of these three location indicates a higher location on the mountain of YHVH—a picture of his heavenly throne room. Most saints are at the foot of the mountain, a few are on the mountain but low, while even fewer are actually climbing higher toward the top. These three venues or positions of worship portend the three subdivisions of the tabernacle—the outer courtyard, the holy place and the holy of holies. This points to the fact that different people are in different places in their spiritual journey toward or walk with Elohim, and where they are at in that journey determines the level of intimacy that they can experience with our Father in heaven.
In biblical Hebraic and ancient religious cultures and mythologies, mountains have always traditionally symbolized heaven or the place of Elohim or the gods, and ascending mountains is a picture of drawing close to deity. This is why churches, temples (including the temple in Jerusalem) and religious shrines are often located on hills or mountains, so that people have to go up to them as if ascending to heaven.
Exodus 24:1, Worship you far off. This verse clearly tells us that man can approach to worship YHVH only on the basis of the blood of the Passover lamb, but not on the basis of his own works of the law, since YHVH had not yet given the full Torah to the Israelites (that would occur later at Mount Sinai in Exod 24:12).
That is not to say that the works of the Torah are not essential in one’s spiritual walk. Rather, they simply are not the basis of our salvation, but rather a guide to lead us in the paths of righteousness once we are saved, and to keep us on the path of righteousness until we die (Eph 2:8–10).
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which Elohim prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Furthermore, Yeshua taught that our works will determine our level of rewards in his kingdom (Matt 5:19), though not our initial salvation.
Some have misunderstood Paul’s teachings to mean that since we are not saved by keeping the law, we therefore no longer need to keep the law. This is not what Paul taught! In numerous places in Paul’s writings, he upheld the validity of the Torah in the life of the redeemed believer, and even confessed that he was obedient to the law in his own life.
Exodus 24:2, Moses alone shall come near YHVH. This passage shows that Moses was acting as a prophetic shadow-type of Yeshua’s future ministry in that he was acting as a mediator between YHVH and the Israelites. Similarly, Yeshua acts as our Mediator representing us to the Father in heaven (Eph 2:18; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 7:25–26; 8:1–2, 5–6; 9:11–22; 10:19–22; 1 John 2:1).
Exodus 24:5, Young men. Here the young men were fulfilling priestly duties of offering sacrifices to YHVH. Eventually, this responsibility was transferred to the Levitical priests after the golden calf incident. The young men were acting in accordance with the standards under the Melchizedek priesthood, which stipulated that each man be the priest of his own family.
Exodus 24:7, We will do. Israel says, “I do” once again to YHVH. They said it a total of three times (see also Exod 24:3 and 19:8). As they were entering into a marital covenant agreement with YHVH, they witnessed against themselves three times. According to the Torah
, the Israelites were witnessing against themselves in a legally binding agreement or contract (see Num 35:30 and Deut 17:6; 19:15). Also, the word obedient (KJV) in verse seven is the Hebrew word shema (Strong’s H8085). Compare the usage of shema in this passage with the well-known Shema prayer passage of Deuteronomy 6:4–9 where the word hear in verse one is shema meaning to both “hear”and “obey.”
The Book of the Covenant. This was the Torah as it first appeared in a codified form, which became known as the Law of Moses.
Exodus 24:8, Moses took blood. Moses sprinkled blood on the people and called it “the blood of the covenant.” This act was prophetically symbolic of Yeshua’s death on the cross (see Heb 9:18–20).
Exodus 24:10, Body of heaven. Body in Hebrew is estsem meaning “bone, essence, substance, body, limb, members, external body, substance, self.” It appears that the elders of Israel were given a vision of the “Godhead” in heaven.
Exodus 24:10–11, Saw Elohim…they ate and drank. This is a prophetic picture the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Exodus 24:12, Commandments which I have written. This was Torah, which up to that time had been in oral form and had been passed on down from one generation of righteous saint to another. Now that Israel was a physical nation, it needed a law in written or codified form to which kings, rulers, priests and judges could refer when making judicial decisions or when teaching the people the ways of Elohim. This Torah in codified form became known in Scripture as the law of Moses. But this code book had its origin here on Mount Sinai from Elohim himself and which he himself actually wrote as this verse plainly tells us.
Exodus chapter 24, YHVH finalizes his marriage contract with Israel. In this chapter, we see YHVH finalizing a contractual agreement (or ketubah) with the Israelites and commonly referred to as the Mosaic or Sinaitic covenant. YHVH was marrying his people (See Ezek 16:1–14). But there were terms and conditions. Here are the aspects of a modern contract:
A contract is an agreement made by two or more persons that is enforceable by law. It consists of voluntary promises to do or not to do certain things. When persons make a contract, their promises become legal obligations.… The making of a contract usually involves two important acts, (1) making an offer and (2) accepting the offer. The acts may be verbal or in writing. … Before a contract is formed, the parties usually negotiate terms of the agreement. One party makes one or several offers. As soon as the other party accepts an offer, the negotiations are over. … Most contracts are enforceable only if all parties get something out of the agreement. … A contract is said to be discharged after the obligations of the agreement have been fulfilled. If either party violates the agreement, a breach of contract occurs. In that case, a court ordinarily awards money, called damages, to the other party. (The World Book Encyclopedia, vol. 4, article entitled “Contracts,” 1969)
After reading this, we can see how a modern contractual agreement compares with the covenantal agreement between YHVH and his people. Modern contracts as well as that which YHVH made with his people have parties who agree, terms are established, a contract or covenant is ratified (there is a signature, handshake, or an oral agreement), and there are witnesses. There is a penalty clause if there is a breach of contract.