We said it yesterday, God brought His People out of Egypt, now He is taking Egypt out of His People by teaching them how to live in community with each other. He knows that they have lived the Egyptian way for many generations. So, that’s probably why God is commanding all these particulars. It seems we are “going through the weeds” of all the commandments’ intentions; but then we realize we humans need everything “spelled out” clearly because we fall to less than perfect behaviors, always looking for loopholes in our obedience to the laws. And besides that, Moses has been in the weeds before! (As a baby floating in a basket!) AND remember Moses, less than perfect, killed a man for abusing an Israelite! Yes, God has to be specific to help us learn His ways.
God knows His People. God knows our hearts, too. That’s why Jesus had to come down, not only to redeem us from our selfish driven sins, but He also came to teach us the true intent of how to love and live in community with each other.
It is a great study to read Matthew 5-7, the infamous “SOM”, or “Sermon on the Mount” by Jesus, as we walk through the weeds of Exodus, as we wonder why God got so specific in dealing with the punishment for disobedience. Remember when Jesus began each explanation with, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” He was making it clear to all who believed in God that over the centuries, His People made the law even more complicated with attachments to the Law! On top of that, love was lost for each other and for God. Sad, really. Very sad.
Walk through this reading, knowing that God had their best interest at heart. He is trying to protect His People from themselves. God has our best interests at heart for us today! Stay tuned and focused on God’s love for His people.
Exodus 21, The Message
“These are the laws that you are to place before them:
2-6 “When you buy a Hebrew slave, he will serve six years. The seventh year he goes free, for nothing. If he came in single he leaves single. If he came in married he leaves with his wife. If the master gives him a wife and she gave him sons and daughters, the wife and children stay with the master and he leaves by himself. But suppose the slave should say, ‘I love my master and my wife and children—I don’t want my freedom,’ then his master is to bring him before God and to a door or doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl, a sign that he is a slave for life.
7-11 “When a man sells his daughter to be a handmaid, she doesn’t go free after six years like the men. If she doesn’t please her master, her family must buy her back; her master doesn’t have the right to sell her to foreigners since he broke his word to her. If he turns her over to his son, he has to treat her like a daughter. If he marries another woman, she retains all her full rights to meals, clothing, and marital relations. If he won’t do any of these three things for her, she goes free, for nothing.
12-14 “If someone hits another and death results, the penalty is death. But if there was no intent to kill—if it was an accident, an ‘act of God’—I’ll set aside a place to which the killer can flee for refuge. But if the murder was premeditated, cunningly plotted, then drag the killer away, even if it’s from my Altar, to be put to death.
15 “If someone hits father or mother, the penalty is death.
16 “If someone kidnaps a person, the penalty is death, regardless of whether the person has been sold or is still held in possession.
17 “If someone curses father or mother, the penalty is death.
18-19 “If a quarrel breaks out and one hits the other with a rock or a fist and the injured one doesn’t die but is confined to bed and then later gets better and can get about on a crutch, the one who hit him is in the clear, except to pay for the loss of time and make sure of complete recovery.
20-21 “If a slave owner hits a slave, male or female, with a stick and the slave dies on the spot, the slave must be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he’s not to be avenged—the slave is the owner’s property.
22-25 “When there’s a fight and in the fight a pregnant woman is hit so that she miscarries but is not otherwise hurt, the one responsible has to pay whatever the husband demands in compensation. But if there is further damage, then you must give life for life—eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
26-27 “If a slave owner hits the eye of a slave or handmaid and ruins it, the owner must let the slave go free because of the eye. If the owner knocks out the tooth of the male or female slave, the slave must be released and go free because of the tooth.
28-32 “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox must be stoned. The meat cannot be eaten but the owner of the ox is in the clear. But if the ox has a history of goring and the owner knew it and did nothing to guard against it, then if the ox kills a man or a woman, the ox is to be stoned and the owner given the death penalty. If a ransom is agreed upon instead of death, he must pay it in full as a redemption for his life. If a son or daughter is gored, the same judgment holds. If it is a slave or a handmaid the ox gores, thirty shekels of silver is to be paid to the owner and the ox stoned.
33-34 “If someone uncovers a cistern or digs a pit and leaves it open and an ox or donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit must pay whatever the animal is worth to its owner but can keep the dead animal.
35-36 “If someone’s ox injures a neighbor’s ox and the ox dies, they must sell the live ox and split the price; they must also split the dead animal. But if the ox had a history of goring and the owner knew it and did nothing to guard against it, the owner must pay an ox for an ox but can keep the dead animal.”
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
(We are getting help from Warren Wiersbe, Commentor and Bible Scholar.)
Justice is the practical outworking of the righteousness of God in human history, for “He loves righteousness and justice” (Ps. 33:5; see Is. 30:18; 61:8). There may be a great deal of injustice in our world today, but the time will come when God will judge the world in righteousness by the Savior that the world has rejected, and His judgment will be just (Acts 17:31).
Though the Israelites were permitted to own slaves from other nations, usually prisoners of war, they were not allowed to enslave their own people. Two scenarios are presented here: a man who voluntarily becomes a servant, and a woman who is sold to be a servant. Yes, this is a bit confusing. Once slaves themselves, they could be as harsh as they were treated.
These laws regarding capital crimes are the logical application of the sixth commandment, “You must not murder” (20:13; Lev. 24:17). We’re made in God’s image, so to murder a fellow human being is to attack the image of God. If a person was found guilty of murder on the testimony of two or more witnesses (Num. 35:30, 31), then the murderer was killed.
Having dealt with murder in general, the law then dealt with specific cases. The first deals with a man’s mistreatment of his parents, abusing them physically and/or verbally, which would be a violation of the fifth commandment (20:12). It’s possible that the “prodigal son law” (Deut. 21:18–21) applies here and that this son was desperately in need of discipline. Children who have no respect for their parents usually have no respect for any other authority and want only their own selfish way. Oh, but we’re not like that today—are we?
When Jesus prohibited His disciples from retaliating against those who hurt them (Matt. 5:38–44; 1 Pet. 2:19–21), he was dealing with personal revenge (“I’ll get even with you!”) and encouraging personal forgiveness. He wasn’t criticizing Moses or interfering with the legal system, because He came to fulfill the law and not to destroy it (Matt. 5:17–20). As believers, we have the privilege of waiving our “legal rights” to the glory of God and not demanding compensation (1 Cor. 6:1–8). However, a judge has to see that justice is done and the law is respected.
Are you ready to walk out of the “weeds”, the specifics of the Law? The best way is to think more simply, to get basic, to return to the intent of God’s ways of relating to each other. It begins by loving God back. Love God because He first love us. Seek Him first before we think, say or do anything. Roll out of bed each morning, asking God what HE wants us to be and do for this new day. Believe, truly believe, that He is God. Then let us love God with ALL our hearts, minds, and souls. Love each other like He loves us.
Love God. Love People.
Jesus said, “Love others like I have loved you.”
This is the Law of Love.
I understand why you had to get so specific with the Israelites, Your Chosen. I also understand why Jesus had to come to save us from ourselves! We make your laws harder by our human efforts, always seeking a loophole to avoid obeying the true intent of what you say which is based on real, relentless love. I love you, Lord, with all that is in me. Guide my every thought and action today as I relate to you and to others. May Your Law of Love lead me.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen