Exodus 23 – The listing of wrongs continues: Do not spread false rumors; do not side with the majority to the perversion of justice; do NOT favor the poor in a lawsuit when the facts do not support their cause [this is an interesting one]; do not mistreat foreigners; do not accept bribes. What to do if you find lost property; caring for animals—even if they belong to people who hate you and your help will indirectly help your enemy; do not deny the needy their rights; avoiding dishonesty of every kind; not condemning the innocent man to death; not sparing the guilty man.
Then readers are reminded about not tilling the soil each 7th year so “that the poor among you may eat of it and the beast of the field may eat what the poor leave” (23:11); the Sabbath rest; celebration of the pilgrim feasts—Passover, Pentecost (Shavu’ot or Weeks—wheat harvest and first fruits in early June) and booths (final grape harvest in late September or early October—called Sukkot or Huts); offerings; not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk.
“See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you. Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion. But if you are careful to obey him, following all my instructions, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you” (23:20-22).
The Lord promises his blessings on those who are faithful—fertility, health, fullness of life (23:25). The victory over those in the land will not be quick but little by little. “I will drive them out a little at a time until your population has increased enough to take possession of the land” (23:30). God promises to hand over the people of the region to drive them out. They “must make no treaties with them or their gods. They must not live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me. If you serve their gods, you will be caught in the trap of idolatry” (23:32-33).
Of Apostles and Prophets
11 – If visitors come and introduce the community to teachings that differ from those presented here, people should pay no attention to them; but then the writer adds an addendum – if the teaching promotes “righteousness and knowledge of the Lord” (195), you should welcome him as you would the Lord.
There are “apostles” and “prophets” in the church. Apostles who come to visit should not stay longer than a day, “two if it is really necessary” (195). Anyone who stays longer than this is a “false prophet” (196). Apostles also should accept only provisions for another day’s travel and no money at all.
Prophetic inspiration was given great latitude. The possible relationship between this treatise and the 2nd c. Monatist movement seems very possible. Scholars are not certain about it. Prophets speaking “in the spirit” are not to be subject to “tests or verifications” – to do this would be to violate the authority of the Holy Spirit, an unforgivable sin (196). But it isn’t enough to just “speak” in the Spirit; you must also “exhibit the manners and conduct of the Lord. It is by their behavior that you can tell the impostor from the true” (196). If a prophet, seemingly “in the Spirit” calls out for food and eats, or calls out for money that is not meant for the poor, he is a phony.
A prophet, “thoroughly accredited and genuine, living the mystery of the Church in the world, may yet fail to teach others to copy his example. In that case, you are not to judge the man yourselves; his judgment lies with God. The prophets of old used to do things of a similar kind” (196).