Updated: Jun 15, 2020
“Thou shalt not revile the gods…” (Exodus 22:28)
Revile - Rail against; abusive and demeaning language (1 Peter 2:23 ).
Who are the gods? - why does he say this? In the very next chapter we are commanded to make no mention of any other god (Ex 23: 13).
a. We should not make an oath to another god: Jove, for example – another name for Jupiter, a primary Roman god. (Regrets to Sherlock Holmes’ fans!)
b. We should not liken or correlate God’s account of creation to another god – the Greek goddess of creation, Chaos or Khaos, for example. (Regrets to Clarence Larkin’s readers.)
c. We probably shouldn’t even use our Roman calendar as the names represent pagan deities: June is for Juno, Jupiter’s wife; Thursday is Thor’s day – a Norse god, and so on.
But the question is, who are the gods, the god we shall not revile? Thankfully, we don’t need to run to ‘the originals’ for help – we already have the help within our Cambridge Bible. The margin notes read “Or, judges.” Nice of them, the translators, to clear that up. Judges discern good and evil, and they pronounce authoritative judgment; in that sense they are like gods (see Genesis 3:5).
Therefore, make it easy on yourself as you study; before going to outside sources to gain understanding, use the helps, the margin notes provided in your Bible. Another case is found in Psalm 17:14, “…whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children….” I’m sure that it’s translated perfectly; but full of children means something different to us (regrets to the Donner party!); therefore this clarifier is written in the margin “Or, their children are full.” Easy.
Back to the text: we should not revile our judges; nor raise a false report (fake news?); nor follow after a multitude to do evil (rioting for example). But if you exercise your right to protest, follow the pattern God gave to Samuel: protest solemnly (1 Sam 8:9). State your objection, make your case (solemnly), and rehearse the response in the ears of the Lord. Then go home!
Notice that Samuel was rejected here, but his best days were yet ahead of him. Because Samuel ‘kept his cool,’ and despite the majority and emotions to the contrary, he would go on and be a great influence on Saul, David, and the fledgling nation of Israel. Lesson: let us make our case in solemn terms (not reviling), with biblical balance, and be prepared to serve: for our best days are yet ahead.