Possessing or Protecting?
Lord, please help me not to dismiss passages that deal with subjects that I might not like very much.
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.
A sizeable part of the joy of being a believer under the new covenant is the joy of being liberated from the Old Testament Law. Read Galatians 5:1 and consider its implications.
“These are the laws” (1) introduces what some consider to be the Book of the Covenant that Moses wrote down (Exod. 24:4,7), a book which runs from Exodus 21:1 to 23:33. These laws start with those concerning servants. The idea of buying and selling people as servants is undoubtedly bewildering, and we may wonder why the Bible does not explicitly condemn the practice. Instead, the Bible works within the context of its day and tends to place boundaries on behavior and to encourage fair treatment, even protection, of the vulnerable. For instance, the Law says that a Hebrew servant must be freed after six years, as must his wife if she
arrived with him (2,3). In a world where God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), verse 4 seems strange, but it is also a world where women and children relied on the financial protection of men. A man who had been reduced to poverty to the extent he had to sell himself would be unlikely to be able to support a family, whereas the master could. The servant still had the opportunity to retain his family by becoming a life-long servant of the master (5,6). Or, a female slave must not be sold on to foreigners (8) and if the master’s son marries her, she must have full rights as a daughter (9). The son must provide for her even if he takes another wife (10). Such laws discourage the sexual abuse of female slaves. The Old Testament is full of laws that protect the weak and the vulnerable.
While we probably do not consciously exploit others, there may be areas of improvement, for instance, by resisting pressure to make our office team work unpaid overtime during evenings and on weekends. Or perhaps we emotionally manipulate people now and then? We must consider our actions.
Do you fully understand the inadequacy of the Old Testament Law to bring peace with God? What would it be like to remember to keep all 600-plus commandments every day?
Father, help me not to exploit or manipulate others at work, home or church. May I treat fairly all those who come into contact with me.
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