Exodus 23

These small group studies of Exodus contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Exodus 23 Inductive Bible Study

Outline:

  1. Do what is right regardless of what others do (1-3)
  2. Love your neighbor through action (4-5)

III.  Be just in everything and towards everyone (6-9)

  1. Laws concerning the Sabbath (10-13)
  2. The three national feasts (14-19)
  3. God will help them to conquer the land (20-33)
  4. Verses 1-3

Discussion Questions

What is the normal motivation for bearing a false report?

What does it mean that “you should not follow the masses in doing evil.? Can you give any biblical examples where people did follow the masses doing what was wrong? How about any examples where someone did what was right even when everyone else was doing wrong? What do you think of the statement “everybody is doing it” as a justification for doing “it” yourself? Does this statement have any merit? Why is it so easy to follow the masses? What is the appeal? Can you give any examples where you yourself were tempted to follow the group when you knew it was wrong? Can you give any examples of someone you saw who refused to follow the group to do wrong? What verses can you think of that can help us to stand firm even if the whole world is sinning?

Aren’t people normally partial to the rich? Why would anyone be partial to a poor man? Isn’t it good to show favor to the poor instead of the rich? Why does God say we should not do it? What principle can we learn from this? Does this mean that God doesn’t care about the poor?

Teaching Points

  1. Apparently the judicial system in that area of the world was very corrupt at the time. Justice was often perverted. People routinely lied and bore false witness against others, just like they did at Jesus’ trial. We should treat all situations as if we were in court and under oath to be completely honest with others.
  2. “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil.” This is my favorite phrase in the entire chapter. Who are the masses? The masses refer to large groups of people. It could include an entire family, a class, a tribe, a village, a nation, or the entire world. But it doesn’t matter how many people are doing something, if it is evil/sin, we should not join with them to do it. Some biblical examples of the masses doing evil (and almost everybody following them) include the Israelites later worshiping the golden calf (it seems everybody joined), the crowds who had shouted joyously when Jesus entered Jerusalem shouting for His death, Reuben giving in to his brothers to sell Joseph, the Benjamites refusing to hand over the criminals who violated the priests concubine, Saul following his people to keep the spoils from the Amalekites, Peter giving in to the Jews to eat with them and not the Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-13) Some examples of biblical characters who refused to follow the crowd are Daniel and his friends, Caleb and Joshua, Noah (literally everyone else was doing evil), Nicodemus and Josephus, and the Levites after the golden calf incident, and David when all the rest of the Israelites were too afraid to fight Goliath.
  3. This is the perfect verse to argue against the excuse “everybody is doing it.” So what if everybody is doing it? Everybody doing something doesn’t make it right. There are many times when entire societies are all doing it wrong. Examples? WWII Hitler. Most countries and abortion/sex. Instead of asking what is everybody else doing, what should we ask? We should ask, “What does God want me to do?” Even if other Christians are doing something and even if that thing is good, it doesn’t mean we should do it (becoming a preacher for example.)
  4. Normally when we think of bias, we think that people/judges may be biased towards the rich like we see in James. Why are people biased towards the rich? The rich can give benefits and favors in return for special treatment so people like to be friends with them, whereas the poor maybe can’t give anything in return. But that doesn’t mean that some aren’t biased towards the poor. Why might somebody be biased towards the poor? Generally people feel sympathy for the poor. It is easy to imagine a judge siding with a poor person against a rich person as a Robin Hood gesture. They feel sorry for the poor person’s difficult life, but dislike the “sleezy” rich person who doesn’t care about the “little guy.” I think this kind of case is more and more common in America today. Judges sometimes excessively punish rich people because they are rich and excessively reward poor people because they are poor. Lawyers for poor people will try hard to show their client’s difficult life to win sympathy for their client from the jury. This is wrong because God is a just God. Justice doesn’t take any sides, rich or poor. It is on the side of right. A just judge must decide the case on the merits of the case regardless of the position, background,or economic level of either side. On an individual basis we should make sure that we aren’t biased, but treat everyone justly and fairly.

Psalms 1:1-3 – Do not sit in the seat of scoffers….

Psalms 141:4 – Do not eat of the delicacies of sinful men.

Proverbs 22:5 – In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares.

1 Cor 15:33-34 – Bad company corrupts god morals.

  1. Verses 4-5

What would most people do if they saw their enemies ox or donkey lost or in trouble? What is the principle in these verses? Give some modern day examples of similar situations and what you should do? What other Bible verses teach this principle?

  1. These laws aptly show specific examples of “loving your enemies,” a concept that clearly exists even in the Old Testament. The natural tendency would be to “look the other way” and ignore the ox/donkey. Most people would do just this. And they would walk away happy that they had taken this little revenge on their enemy. God says this is wrong. It doesn’t matter if the enemy deserves your help or not. What matters is that God says you should do it. Perhaps this small act of kindness will turn your enemy into a friend. Also, this shows kindness to the animal. There are many possible applications to today. It could be seeing something someone who doesn’t like you lost and returning it to them. It could be returning extra change a bad restaurant gave you. It could be helping a co-worker or correcting a mistake they made on your own initiative. If you treat others like this, it is likely you won’t have many enemies.

Cross-Reference – Matthew 5:44 – Love your enemies.

III. Verses 6-9

Discussion Questions

What can we learn from verse 6?

What does it mean to “keep far from a false charge.”?

What is the problem with taking bribes? Do you think someone taking a bribe can still be impartial? What would you say if someone told you “everybody is doing it” (for example Chinese doctors).

What is the principle taught in verse 9? Do you know the so called Golden rule?

Teaching Points

  1. Verses 6-9 deal with justice. Treat people fairly. Many of the great problems in the world have been caused by injustices, which have led to revolts, revolutions, wars, slavery, etc. While it probably deals specifically with judges or those settling disputes, it could also apply to bosses, teachers, politicians or anyone with authority. Treat those under you fairly and justly. If they have a complaint or two together have a dispute, listen to both sides and make a right decision.
  2. Keep far from a false charge. This means we should not stay close to the line between right and wrong. Do not give any appearance of evil. For example Billy Graham always had someone go into his hotel room before he did to make sure there were no women there who would throw themselves at him and then have somebody take a picture of them together. Apparently there were evil people who went out of their way trying to discredit him. Although he would have been blameless in a case like this he went out of his way to make sure he gave no appearance of evil. Any hint of scandal or misconduct could have had a huge negative impact on the ministry he was doing for the Lord. We need to carefully consider what we do to examine how it may be perceived by others. This doesn’t matter you need to live your life for others, but it does mean that we need to strive to keep a good testimony before others.

Cross-References

Psalms 119:80, Philippians 2:15, Titus 1:6, Titus 2:8 – Verses on being blameless.

Acts 24:16 Keep a clear conscience before God and man.

  1. Verses 10-13

Why do you think God set this law for leaving the land fallow in the 7th year? What effect did this have on the land? How about the poor? Since in one year they would have no crops, what should do in the previous years to prepare for that?

What is the reason given here for the Sabbath day rest on the seventh day? If the people and animals worked the entire week every week, what affect might this have on society and on those people? What principle if any can get from this about how much we should work today?

These laws served at least four purposes.

  1. It was good for the land. Letting land go fallow for a year meant that it wouldn’t be overused. If land is overused then over time it will gradually become less and less fertile. This was something that seemed unique to the Israelites at this time, meaning the other nations didn’t know this point. The land was one important part of God’s covenant with them so it is natural God would want them to take good care of it.
  2. It gave the needy people a chance to gather from the fallow fields the food that was growing wildly or from the seeds that fell from the last year’s crops. I would assume not every field was on the same schedule, meaning that the poor always had some fields they could go to for food. Also, God made other provisions for the poor (specifically the law of gleaning.)
  3. The laws for the Sabbath had two additional benefits. Firstly, the remind people of Creation where God worked 6 days and rested the seventh. Therefore people should also rest on the seventh day. This prevented overwork and ensured that the people had one entire day devoted to worshiping God.
  4. It also protected the servants, workers, and animals from overwork. This is a reminder that not only the landowners/bosses need time off, but all workers need time off too. Otherwise they face possible burnout.
  5. Verses 14-19

Discussion Questions

What were the three feasts? What was the purpose of each feast? Do you remember the key points of the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

What were they supposed to do for each feast? (17)

What were they supposed to bring? What kind of gifts were they to bring to God (18)? What can we learn from this about giving?

What effect would the 3 times a year required national assembly have on the people/nation? Is there anything similar that Christians do to accomplish similar goals?

Notes: The Feast of Harvest is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Weeks or Firstfruits and the Feast of Ingathering is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths.

Teaching Points

  1. These feasts were to be celebrated yearly. The purpose was to give thanks to God and remember what He had done for them. The Feast of Unleavened Bread remembered the Passover and their Exodus from Egypt. The Feast of Harvests was meant to show gratitude for the coming harvest. This Festival was much like Thanksgiving. And the Feast of Ingathering was after the harvest was over as thanks for God’s provision.
  2. Every male was to appear before the Lord ( at the tabernacle or temple) three times a year. This had many positive effects on society. Firstly, it ensured that none of the people would stray from the Lord (verse 13). Basically it served as fellowship and accountability, which believers receive every week in the church. This was in addition of course to local meetings. It would also encourage national unity, a problem that often plagued the 12 tribes. It would serve as a time to gather together in thanks to share what God had done for each individual. If someone didn’t come, others would know that this person didn’t value God’s commands. Remember Jesus going to Jerusalem before His death? They were still celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread for the Passover. That is why Jerusalem was very crowded with people welcoming Him and Jesus sent His disciples to find a room. There were one or two other cases where Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast. He always went up for the Feast because this command was never rescinded.
  3. Besides being a time for unity, for worship, and for fellowship, it was a time for sacrifice. The people were not to come empty handed. They were to bring gifts to God from their soil of the firstfruits. Why firstfruits? This was the best and the first of the harvest. It ensured that God was the priority and people gave to God first before keeping for themselves. It was a recognition that everything they had was from God to begin with.

Exodus 34:23-24 – God would protect their land while traveling to the tabernacle/temple.

  1. Verses 20-33

Discussion Questions

What is special about this angel? Do you think anyone might get the concept of “guardian angel” from this passage? How should they treat this angel? What would He do for them? Could they see this angel? What form did He take?

Who was going to destroy the Canaanites? Why was it necessary to utterly destroy them? What form would God’s blessings on them take? Do you think God will similarly bless His people today?

Why should they not make any covenant with the people’s? Did they? Is there any modern day application we can get from these verses about not making covenants?

Teaching Points

  1. This angel appears to be the pre-incarnate Christ because the text says He has the choice to pardon sins (21) and that “My name is in him.”
  2. God gives some promises to the Israelites. What was the condition for these promises? The condition was obedience (22), and worshiping only God (24-25)
  3. If they obeyed God then God would fight against their enemies (22), forgive their sins implied (21), destroy the peoples of the land (23), bless them (25-26), throw their enemies into confusion (27), send hornets to drive them out (28), fix a boundary for their land (31). As a sidenote, we should remember that if we obey God He will also bless us. His blessings very well may take a similar form of blessing our food and water (keeping us healthy with plenty of nutrition) and our families by giving healthy pregnancies and happy families. It is not guaranteed He will bless everyone in these exact ways, but it is true in many cases.
  4. If we believe and follow God then we do not need to fear any man or nation around us. God is powerful and can protect us. Many times though, His blessings are conditional on our obedience.
  5. Remember last chapter where we saw the crimes that deserve capital punishment. Just by looking at those laws we see that according to God’s righteous standards the people in that land deserved to die for their sin. The Israelites were merely the instruments God used to bring this about.
  6. God commanded them not to make any covenants with the people of the land. Why? God knew their hearts. He knew that if allowed to stay, the people of the land would slowly turn the Israelites hearts away from God. The did make covenants. They did not destroy the people of the land. And the people of the land did turn their hearts away from God and to many false gods and idols including Baal. From this we are reminded never to make a deal with Satan, never make a compromise with sin. Stay far from the line. If you allow any sin in your life, it will spread to other areas. If you hang out regularly with unbelievers in intimate situations, they will influence you. It is unavoidable. God is much wiser than man. Man might think, “no they won’t.” “I won’t be influenced.” But God is always right.
Study Exodus 24

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