“Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.” (Exodus 22:28)
Israel was not to worship any other gods. Exodus 23:13 commands that they were to “…make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” They were not to even to dignify them by using their name to curse or make fun. At the same time, they were not to denigrate their leaders, but to respect the office no matter how undeserving the man holding it might be.
Romans 13:1-4 Describes the ruler as the servant of God. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
In effect, cursing the ruler was cursing God.
“Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me. Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me.” (Exodus 22:29-30)
In modern English, we usually use the word liquor to refer to alcoholic beverages, but in fact the English word refers to any liquid or juice. The Hebrew word translated liquor means literally “a tear”, or “something squeezed out.” It was commonly used to refer to juices and liquids. Fresh squeezed grape juice was stored in animal skin bags known as bottles. As time passed the juice fermented becoming alcoholic. The porous skin bottles allowed the escape of the alcohol, making the resulting liquid very low in alcoholic content, and as fermentation continued the juice eventually turned to vinegar. Diluted with water and mixed with honey, vinegar could be used as a drink similar to lemonade. Honey was often stored in a similar fashion as the comb could be used for a lot of other purposes, and olives were squeezed to produce olive oil. In addition, milk would be separated from the cream and allowed to turn to cheese or yogurt, depending on how it was processed and the cream allowed to sour and used as sour cream or churned to make butter. All the liquids could be referred to as liquors because they were squeezed out.
There was to be no delay in offering the first fruits, the first produced of their fruits or liquids, even in hopes of getting better to give to the Lord. There would be no time for fermentation. The very first part was to be given to the Lord, depending on him to make the rest worthwhile. In the same way, the firstborn son or first born animal was to be given to the Lord, as soon as they were eight days old. As we’ve seen, this was a reminder and a way of thanking God for how he had spared their firstborn in Egypt when he led them out.
“And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.” (Exodus 22:31)
The word translated holy refers to something that was consecrated or set apart for God. Just as one would not normally use a rag that had been used for cleaning toilets for washing dishes, something consecrated to God should not be contaminated. Animals usually kill the sickly and weak, and eating an animal they had killed could well expose one to what ever diseases the dead animal had. Truly carnivorous animals are better equipped to deal with such diseases. As God promised, obeying these laws would protect them from the diseases other people had. They were not to deliberately expose themselves to diseases because they were holy to God.
“Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment: Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.” (Exodus 23:1-3)
Several years ago, my mom served on a jury regarding a multi-car accident. The third or fourth vehicle was a brand new truck driven by a teenage boy. The family had very high coverage on the vehicle. Lawyers for the other drivers all sued the young man for causing the accident, because his insurance would cover the repairs to all the vehicles while several did not have collision insurance and would not be able to get their cars fixed if they were found liable. The young man admitted he had hit the car ahead of him, but the Jury decided he had not caused the entire accident, and his insurance company should not have to pay for other people’s guilt. Even the judge seemed upset by the jury’s decision, pointing out that it would only raise the family’s premiums a little and they could afford it. God forbade any distortion of facts no matter how sorry one might feel for one of the parties. They were not to go along with wrong or let themselves be intimidated by a crowd. The jury above clearly made a proper decision, although it was not the one the lawyers expected.
“If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.” (Exodus 23:4-5)
In an emergency situation, one is not to consider one’s feelings toward another person, but only their need. In fact the more one wants to walk away and let them suffer, the more important it is for our own spiritual well being to help them. God would later give instructions for non emergency situations. “Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause. Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked. And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.” (Exodus 23:6-8)
In no case were they to consider anything but the right or wrong of the case in making a judgment. The verdict was not to be distorted by any favoritism. They were to have no part in anything that was not on the up and up, and were to make sure the innocent were not punished or killed for their inability to defend themselves. With that in mind, they were to refuse to take any gift, because even the most innocent and insignificant gift affects our attitude toward the giver. It could well lead to unintentionally favoring one party over the other. Campaign contributions and wining and dining by lobbyists have perverted the American political process. God intended to prevent it in Israel.
“Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)
As a holy people they were to be aware of the feelings of those outsiders because they were familiar with them. It reiterates the command in Exodus 22:21. In all these things the focus is on maintaining a proper attitude, focused on what is pleasing to God rather than one’s own desires and convenience.