Exodus 23:13 Decoded

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Have you ever heard anyone say that you are breaking Exodus 23:13 if you say, “God,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” etc.? Is that true? Are they right?

“Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.” – Exodus 23:13

Many read this verse and love to, with the help of fallacious meme’s and posters, tell others just that. Despite the facts that they are NOT names of other gods, some latch onto that belief anyway. Some also will get upset at others who type or say the name of other ancient (or modern) gods that people worshiped. Every believer I know who repeats their names does so in the vein of study and developing an understanding of the Scriptures through the ancient cultural context. Never mind the fact that the Scriptures actually record the names of many of these gods.

Despite that, I wanted to point out what Exodus 23:13 is really understood to be.  The sin of idolatry, and its penalties, are laid out clearly in the Mishnah.  Tractate Sanhedrin Chapter 7, Mishnah 6, is where we point to specifically for the purpose of this post.  The section we wish to point out says this;

“The person who makes a vow in its name or who swears in its name transgresses a Torah prohibition.”

In the Kehati Commentary on the Mishnah this ruling is connected to Exodus 23:13. The commentary states;

“..e.g., he said “Konam, may all the produce in the world be (forbidden me) as a sacrifice in the name of such-and-such an idol,” or who swears in its name – i.e., he takes an oath in the name of the idol; according to another interpretation, another person prohibited him by vow for the sake of idolatry, and he fulfilled the vow (see Yad Ramah; Hameiri), transgresses a Torah prohibition – as it is written, “and make no mention of the name of other gods” (Exodus 23:13).”

As you can already see the answers to the second and third questions put forth at the beginning are clearly, “NO” and “NO.”

Thus it is clear that the very Torah scholars (think lawyers who know the ins and outs of the law, the exceptions, rulings, etc.), the ones more familiar with the Torah than any of us, the ancient sages, understood that this meant taking a vow in the name of another god.  That is the context and meaning of mentioning the name of other gods.



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