Lord, may I take these moments to be still and to prepare to tune in to Your agenda, rather than my own.
Read Exodus 21:1–11
“These are the laws you are to set before them:
2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. 3 If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.
5 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
7 “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. 8 If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. 9 If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectWho woke up thinking, “I want to know regulations for Hebrew slavery”? Consider them in light of God’s law of love.
Welcome to “the laws” (1). They were not written in a 21st-century context, although we can learn glean something from them today.
First, they show us that Hebrew slave ownership was not perpetual. After six years, slaves were to go free. Israel had survived harsh slavery in Egypt, and these laws were meant to stop them from copying Egypt’s system.
Secondly, they suggest that slavery was not in itself problematic. It was more like an assumed social structure, capable of being abused but also of sustaining life. This may be why translations like the NIV say “servant” rather than “slave”: it need not be (in principle) an inherently sinful set-up when controlled by God's law of love (more so for male than female slaves, admittedly, since the men clearly got a better deal).
Thirdly, it was imaginable that slaves could “love” their master (5), at which point they could engage in a symbolic ceremony of having their ears pierced to obtain perpetual servitude. Psalm 40:6 uses this as an image of how we might choose perpetual service to the Lord (not an easy verse to translate, though, perhaps because the psalmist was distracted by having his ear pierced).
Have you chosen to make Christ your “Master” and to live in perpetual servitude to him? Live today in light of this concept.
Loving Master, I praise You that Your “demands” on my life are for my best. Teach me to walk in the ways You have set out for me.
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.