My times, my future, are in Your hand, Lord. I trust You for my life as I bow before You now.
Read EXODUS 21:1–27
21 “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.[a] 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,[b] 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.
12 “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. 13 However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. 14 But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.
15 “Anyone who attacks[c] their father or mother is to be put to death.
16 “Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.
17 “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.
18 “If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist[d] and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, 19 the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.
20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.
22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[e] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
26 “An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. 27 And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.
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.
‘Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.’1
Having laid clear foundations,2 set firmly in the context of worship,3 Exodus now begins to spell out the requirements of the covenant in some depth. Exodus 20:22 – 23:33 is often known as the Book of the Covenant. Unlike modern statute law that seeks to cover every angle, Pentateuchal Laws are designed to educate Israel in a distinctive way of life, providing them with major guiding principles accompanied by enough detailed examples to demonstrate how they should be applied.
The laws begin by discussing the treatment of Hebrew servants (slaves in NIV) in verses 2–11 and are designed to restrain abuse and put limits on servitude. Freedom comes after six years, unless the slave voluntarily and publicly chooses to remain under his master’s authority. While, to us, some of the laws affecting women seem discriminatory, in comparison with neighboring law codes they are remarkably enlightened. The laws that follow concern personal injuries (vs 12–36). They give consideration to the complexity of various situations while essentially stipulating penalties that are clearly designed to act as a deterrent to violence. Verse 13 anticipates the cities of refuge to be established once they had settled in Canaan, as set out in Joshua 20.
What is notable about these laws is that their first concern is with the treatment of people, not property, as was characteristic of other contemporary law codes. They reveal a God whose concern is for justice for all, including the weaker members of society and its genuine victims. And they reveal a justice that is even- handed, not bent according to the social standing of the offenders. Administering justice without favoritism and judging neighbors fairly reflects the holiness of God and is required of all his people.4
In what practical ways can you support the weak, the vulnerable and the victims in your society? Do you see it as a mark of Christian discipleship?
Father God, I pray today that I will show to others the difference for good You can make in a life centered on You.
1 1 Pet 1:17 2 Exod 20:1–21 3 Exod 20:22–26 4 Lev 19:15