Study Notes

Exodus 21:1-22:31

21:1-6 Bondslaves

God is not establishing, validating, or instituting slavery. These laws that He's giving are merely regulating the practice, which is already a part of their culture. A person could end up a slave as a result of poverty, debt, or crime.

Now as we read this section of Exodus, we see that sometimes the slave came to the conclusion that he had a way better deal in slavery than he did out in the world. Upon proper consideration, he realized that his master treated him well, was always fair, and faithfully provided for all of his needs. In that case, being set free from his master would have been a bad choice - the world's a rough place, you know?

So if he decided to stay,

Exod. 21:6 then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.

And practical as these things are for the Israelites, there are deeper spiritual connotations for us. The Bible tells us that every human being is a slave to one of two things: a slave of sin, or a slave to righteousness.

Rom. 6:16-18 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone {as} slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

No wonder we read that many of the writers of the New Testament said,

Rom. 1:1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus...

Phil. 1:1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus...

Col. 1:7 ...Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant

Col. 4:7 ...Tychicus, {our} beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord

James 1:1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ

2Pet. 1:1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ...

Jude 1 Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ...

They all proclaimed themselves to be bondservants - willingly committing to serve their Master for life. Since we're always going to be a slave to something, so let's be slaves to righteousness, bond-servants of Christ.

21:7-11 Female Slaves

In a circumstance of extreme poverty, a man could sell his daughter into a wealthy home, where she would be cared for, and possibly married.

If the man who bought her didn't take her as a wife or concubine, he could either give her to his son as a wife, or sell her to another home, as long as it was of the people of Israel.

If he wasn't willing to do any of these three things, she was to be given back to her family.

21:12-27 Injuries and Death

In God's Law, first degree, pre-meditated murder is to be punishable by death. This began back in Genesis:

Gen. 9:6 Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed...

God has never rescinded that law for "civilized" nations. Statistics prove that when the death penalty is in place, violent crimes go down. Unfortunately, our nation continues to run away from God and His standards.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, criminals who have already been caught, convicted, and returned to the streets on early parole murder are responsible every day for the murders of 17 people, the rapes of 14 girls and women, assaulting 22 and robbing 57. That's more than 40,000 victims every year just to people that were not punished according to God's Law.

Strict penalties for crimes work. FBI data gathered since 1950 shows that increases in the chances of arrest, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration cause crime rates to decline.

Cities Of Refuge

Now, in the case of manslaughter, God promised to provide cities of refuge that a person could flee to.

Num. 35:12 'And the cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for trial.

So there was no exemption, only protection, until the man could stand trial without fear of being put to death by an angry friend or family member of the one who was killed.

Christian Responsibility

Nationally, this is the way things should be: justice for crime. But individually, Jesus brought a higher standard to his disciples. "Retaliation is made unlawful by Christianity, not in the administration of justice, but in the private dealings of man with man." (Rawlinson) Jesus said,

Matt. 5:38-39 You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.

So while government needs to be just, we need to be people of mercy.

21:28-36 Taking Responsibility

People need to take responsibility for their actions and their animals.

22:1-15 Making Restitution

This section of the law is about making restitution, whether it be for theft, irresponsibility, or neglect.

Restitution for theft is four or five times the amount stolen. If the thing stolen is still around, then it is two times the amount.

If a thief is caught breaking into your house, you can kill him, and his family will owe you nothing. But if the sun comes up and he gets arrested, then he has to make restitution. If he's got nothing, then he is to be sold as a slave and the money given to the homeowner.

If someone's animal grazes in your field, they owe you from their own field.

If someone burns down your field, crops, etc., they are to pay for the loss.

If you leave something with a neighbor to keep, and it turns up missing, then either the thief must be caught and made to pay double, or it goes to court to see if the neighbor took it.

Speaking of going to court, does this apply to Christians today? Yes, but with a clarification. Remember that we read in 1Corinthians 6,

1Cor. 6:1-7 Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent {to} {constitute} the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life? If then you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say {this} to your shame. {Is it} so, {that} there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?

If you as a Christian have a dispute with another Christian, don't take it to court. Take it to the church. I or an elder would be happy to mediate it, or if it with someone from another church, we'll sit down together with one of their leaders too. Don't take it to the public court system. Certainly, any believer with the gift of discernment is better qualified to judge a dispute between believers than any of the world's judges.

And that is assuming that you must resolve the dispute. Paul asked the Corinthians, "Why not rather be wronged?" Is it really worth getting the money back? Is it really worth it to get what's yours? Are your rights more important than the love that Jesus' followers are to have for one another? Why not rather be wronged?

22:16-17 Violating A Virgin

Here we see that if a man lies with a virgin, he is to marry her. Oh, how the sexual activities of teens would be curbed if they knew that they would have to marry the person they become intimate with!

In the case of the girl's father saying, "You're not marrying my daughter," then the man still has to pay the amount of the dowry.

22:18-20 Sorcery, Bestiality, Idolatry

Here are three practices abominable to the Lord, deserving of death: sorcery, bestiality, and idolatry

It was so grievous to me the other day to see the American Legion Hall with a giants sign out front "Psychic Fair Today,", when in the background on the building were the words, "For God and Country." How hypocritical! God despises witchcraft, sorcery, psychics, Ouija boards and horoscopes. He says that those who practice such things must be put to death!

Reading your horoscope in the newspaper is something that would have gotten you instantly killed in those days. How sad that we view it as entertainment today.

22:21-24 Strangers, Widows, Orphans

God has a special place in His heart for the helpless. Whether the person be a widow, orphan, or stranger in a strange land, God is watching out for them, and you'd better not take advantage of their helplessness.

22:25-27 No Interest

When they lent money to their brother in the faith, they were not to charge any interest. You're not supposed to profit off the hardship of others. That includes keeping his cloak after dark.

22:28 Don't Curse Authority

Not only are you not to curse God, but also the ruler of your people. Romans 13 says,

Rom. 13:1-2 Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

The first mention of authority in the Bible is a command by God in Genesis 16 for Hagar to go back and submit herself to an unjust, hateful authority. Often, we're not too happy with the authorities that are over us. Sometimes it's authorities in the family, or the workplace, or especially the government. Often, the authorities over us treat us in a harsh or unfair manner. We are overworked and underappreciated. We are misinformed, mismanaged, and mistreated.

Then the complaining and cursing begins. Children complain about their parents, wives complain about their husbands, Workers complain about their bosses, and everyone curses the politicians. Brothers, this should not be.

1Tim. 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority...

We are not to curse the authorities over us, but to pray for them. Paul told Titus to remind his church:

Titus 3:1-2 ...To be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.

And Peter said:

1Pet. 2:13-15 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors... For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

It's easy to look at the ungodliness of the authorities over us and justify our lack of submission to them. But:

Prov. 21:1 The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.

As we've seen, Scripture says that regardless of the wickedness of the authority, it is established by God. Accomplishing His purposes and His plan.

22:29-31 Give God His Due

God deserves the first-fruits of the children, cattle, and produce. And he tells them not to delay offering them. Funny how when we put off giving to God, it somehow disappears.

God told them to be holy, to be separate and set apart from the other nations. Their separation was to be marked by practices uncommon to the nations, like not eating the meat from an animal that was killed by another. They were to throw that meat to the dogs.

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