23:1 1 “You must not give 2 a false report. 3 Do not make common cause 4 with the wicked 5 to be a malicious 6 witness.
1 sn People who claim to worship and serve the righteous judge of the universe must preserve equity and justice in their dealings with others. These verses teach that God’s people must be honest witnesses (1-3); God’s people must be righteous even with enemies (4-5); and God’s people must be fair in dispensing justice (6-9).
2 tn Heb “take up, lift, carry” (נָשָׂא, nasa’). This verb was also used in the prohibition against taking “the name of Yahweh in vain.” Sometimes the object of this verb is physical, as in Jonah 1:12 and 15. Used in this prohibition involving speech, it covers both originating and repeating a lie.
3 tn Or “a groundless report” (see Exod 20:7 for the word שָׁוְא, shav’).
4 tn Heb “do not put your hand” (cf. KJV, ASV); NASB “join your hand.”
5 tn The word “wicked” (רָשָׁע, rasha’) refers to the guilty criminal, the person who is doing something wrong. In the religious setting it describes the person who is not a member of the covenant and may be involved in all kinds of sin, even though there is the appearance of moral and spiritual stability.
6 tn The word חָמָס (khamas) often means “violence” in the sense of social injustices done to other people, usually the poor and needy. A “malicious” witness would do great harm to others. See J. W. McKay, “Exodus 23:1-43, 6-8: A Decalogue for Administration of Justice in the City Gate,” VT 21 (1971): 311-25.
7 tn Or “stay away from,” or “have nothing to do with.”
8 tn Heb “a false matter,” this expression in this context would have to be a case in law that was false or that could only be won by falsehood.
9 tn The two clauses probably should be related: the getting involved in the false charge could lead to the death of an innocent person (so, e.g., Naboth in 1 Kgs 21:10-13).
10 sn God will not declare right the one who is in the wrong. Society should also be consistent, but it cannot see the intents and motives, as God can.