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Feb.22 Exodus Study

Categories: Exodus Study,News




Exodus 21:1-36

“House Rule’s part 1”


I.) Intro.

II.) Vs. 1-11 Set apart servants

III.) Vs. 12-27 Human rights  

IV.) Vs. 28-36 Animal rights



After the Lord gave the “Ten Commandments”, which made up the moral law and God’s claim upon the nation to the people, in verse 19 they asked Moses to be the “go between”. So the words recorded in this chapter through chapter 23 are not given direct to the people but rather to Moses making up the civil law, which would be their social legislation. The elders would use these laws to establish the legal presidents that would set them apart from other nations. They have become a standard for most judicial systems in the world today. They are God’s “house rule’s” for social order within society.

I know of no home that does not have certain “house rule’s”. You know the rule’s that govern the simple things that make your house run smoothly. One of ours is when you enter the house you take off your shoes. Now the rule was put in place to save the carpets. So if you violate this “house rule” you are sternly warned to take them off, however if you are a foreigner to our house you can still ware your shoes on the carpet with out any repercussions.

I have heard people say that you can not legislate morality or social behavior but the fact is that laws, or the absents of them is legislating morality. There have to be in place laws that seek to equitably govern our social behavior to not do so is to guarantee social immorality and total chaos. Though not all of these laws apply to us today they are non-the less valuable for us to look at. Today God has given us His Word so that we Christians can behave in a way that will impact our society as well. I’m all for voting on candidates and propositions but I am convinced that the quickest way to effect change in our society is for me to live as Jesus did!

II.) Vs. 1-11 Set apart servants

Vs. 1 Moses, at God’s instructions, establishes a standard of behavior so that when the people appear before the elders there will be a consistent judgment. All of us at times have been at the wrong end of a judgment. People set down rules and then bend the rules for some and not others.

Vs. 2-6 The first set of ordinances that God lays before them is one that regulates indentured servants. How interesting that all is in light of the fact that the nation had been slaves for 400 years. The first rights that God wanted to establish was the rights of servants. To get a better picture on slavery with in the nation of Israel it is important to realize how a person became a slave to another Jew. There were six ways a person could find himself or herself a slave:

  • Extreme poverty: If a person found himself or herself in such a condition as to not be able to fin for themselves they would sell their freedom to another and be their hired hand. This was an agrarian society and if your crops did not come in you would hire out to another. Most of us work for someone else, thus we would be considered a servant of the company we work for they tell us the hours we work the amount of compensation we get etc.
  • A father would sell his children: This may seem to be a bit harsh on the outside, but the idea is really more like an apprenticeship. A father might sell his child to a man who was a goldsmith or something so that they could learn the trade. This is still done in some countries today as the trades are passed down from generation to generation.
  • A person who could not pay their debt: A person who had accumulated a debt would have to go and work for the person they owed until the debt was paid off. This would even happen if the husband died and could not pay off his bills then the wife would then be obligated.
  • A thief: If a person stole something and there was a loss they would have to pay a fine. Now if they were unable to pay the fine then they would then be sold and the amount for their purchase was to be paid to the victim.
  • A prisoner of war: If during a battle they were taken as part of the spoils then they would find themselves a slave.
  • A prisoner of war who has been ransomed: In this case they were liable to pay back the price it took to purchase their freedom.

God established these standards to treat the above six ways a person could find himself or herself a slave.

  • 2 Servitude was never a life long: The max they could be forced to work was six years. At the end of six years they were set free. Even if the person had got himself or herself into the situation because of a foolish act they were only in it for a maximum time of six years and were to released in the year of jubilee.
  • 3-4 What ever you brought into slavery you took it with you: There was to be no extortion. You could not set a person free and not his wife or property. However, if the man had gotten married and had children they stayed. He could redeem them or work for their release as well.
  • 5-6 Servitude could be your life’s choice: This is one of those “what if” clauses. There were several reasons why a person would want to stay a servant, but notice the order.
  • I love my master: The primary reason was love of the master even before the family. The slave recognized that he had it better under the master then he did in the world.
  • I love my wife and children: It was in the best interest of the family that they stayed in servitude.
  • I will not go free: Obedience to the master was better then freedom in the world.

Eight times in the N.T. Christians are refereed to, as a bondservant and that is what Moses is saying here. A bondservant is one that recognizes that servitude to a loving master was better then slavery to the world. There were certain perimeters that the judges would want to make sure of, which we have already noted above. The most important one was that the servant had to be doing this not out of debt or obligation but only out of love and that love was based upon the master’s love and goodness towards him.

Vs. 6 In the ceremony that would show this the servant was brought to the door of the house and his ear was pierced or opened with an awl in the presence of witnesses, which should that he was going to serve the master forever. What this should symbolically was:

  • By going to the door of the house, that he was attached to the master and to his family. It showed that he belonged out of love to the family he served for life. This was not something that he could change his mind on later it was a once far all act!
  • By having the ear pierced or opened it was his way of saying that his ears were always opened to his master’s words. Not just to hear them but to obey them.

Having made this commitment, the servant was never treated as a slave but rather he was treated as a member of the family. That is what we have done as believers in Jesus but did you ever stop to realize that this is what Jesus has done to win our freedom? Jesus, we are told in Philip. 2:7 made Himself of no reputation and took on the form of a servant. In Psalm 40:6 speaking of the conversation between Jesus and the Father we read, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened.” Jesus could have gone home to the Father but instead he went through the doorway of death for us to purchase us back to the Father.

Vs. 7-11 Here we are given the rights of female servants. First off this was very rare but in certain instances it would happen:

  • In the case of extreme poverty, the daughter would be better off in a home that could provide for her. It was only allowed in the case where she and her family were starving to death. And only if she was unmarriageable. This was only for a period of no more then six years then she would be set free.
  • 7 Another reason would be for what I said earlier in the case of serving an apprenticeship. Again she would be set free in six years, but notice that she was treated differently then was the males; “she shall not go out as the menservants”. The deal was that the parents were compensated for her labor the idea was that she could be bought out of her contract earlier.
  • 8 If the master intent was to marry her then she had to be treated as if she was his wife with out any of the privileges of marriage. Though she belonged to him he could not do to her as he pleased. He either had to marry her or set her free but he could not sell her to someone else who would just use her. If someone else took a fancy to her and he did not want her then she could be redeemed by the guy.
  • 9-10 We are told if his intention was to have her married to his son then he had to treat her as if she was his daughter. And if the son backed out of the deal then he had continue to provide for her and make sure she had every opportunity to marry.
  • 10-11 He had to take care of three areas:
  • Her food, she must not be fed slop she had to fed what the rest of the family ate.
  • Her clothing, she could not be given hand-me-downs she was again to have the same rights as the rest of the family. No Cinderella, in other words.
  • Her marriage, she was to be given the full rights of any other married woman if she was married to the master or to his son or anyone else.

If he did these things, then he did not have to pay her any money but if not he had to pay her at the end of her six years. Such rules in society was radical and truly set apart Israel from other nations.

III.) Vs. 12-27 Human rights

Vs. 12-14 God made a distinction between manslaughter and premeditated murder. The issue was of premeditation and treachery. God does not place killing and crimes of passion on the same level as 1st degree murder. In fact, God has a place where the judge could send the killer to protect them. There were no police so the victim’s family often was the ones trying to bring this to justice and with out protection vengeance would rule the day. It was to be society that acted on behave of the victim not the victim’s themselves. There was to be no mercy for first-degree murders though, they could not hide by the altar they were to be taken out and dealt with the same day of their sentence. These cites were not built until the time of Joshua.

Vs. 15-17 A child who murders or attempts to murder their parents were to be put to death. Even if the child threatens to kill the parents they were to be killed. This did not just refer to children but to adults as well. This might seem a bit harsh but God sanctified the home and He knows that if we allow anarchy in the home then in will permeate all of society. There had to be a generational respect for the knowledge of God was passed down from the parents to the children. The elder generation was at the mercy of the younger generation, so God say NO to euthanasia. Children who do not respect their parents will respect for no authority and will be a danger to all society. Paul describes these kind of people as those “without natural affection.

Kidnapping which is stealing another person’s freedom was a capital offence as well. Enslaving people against their will was wrong and was not tolerated. Our country fought a civil war on the issue of slavery but in reality it was not slavery as the Bible describes it. It was wide spread kidnapping and those that did so should have been put to death. To say that the Bible encourages or even supports slavery is to be ignorant of the truth!

Vs. 18-19 Here we have the laws of compensation for personal injury. Notice that this was confined into narrow perimeters. There was no payment for “pain and suffering”. A person was only compensated for their loss, medical bills and lost wages. If we would have stayed to these principals, we could have done with out a lot more lawyers!

Vs. 20-21 Here are the rights concerning “workman’s comp.” In other cultures, servants were nothing more then property so you could kill them and not get in trouble, that was not the case with Israel. The thought of remaining alive for a few days was a way of determining intent. The master beating a slave was wrong but if through hard work or accident he died he was not help responsible. It was hard to believe that a master would want to destroy his own work force, so if the slave recovered the master lost the wages he would have received if the servant had been able to work.

Vs. 22-25 Here we are given the laws of retribution. The case is that of a pregnant woman. If the baby and woman were Ok, then the judge shall pay a fine that is fair. But if there was death then it would be the death penalty if it was premeditated. And if there was permanent damage then like for like was the maximum that could be extracted.

Verse 24 is the earliest account we have of this law, but you need to know that this is an act of mercy. This was the maximum amount that could be imposed upon the guilty. Nothing here was ever to be part of private revenge as so often you hear people quote this verse it was only to be applied by society not the victim. This was a law that meant that the punishment had to fit the crime and it checked the desire for revenge. Our flesh wants always to add a little more own to those that have done us wrong. You beat me then when I beat you I’m going to run up the score. Only the loss could be compensated nothing more could be extracted.

Vs. 26-27 In the case of the servant the loss resulted in their freedom, what ever got them in that place they were no longer in debt etc. The bottom line was that you had better treat people right or it would cost you. Lose your temper and hit someone even if they were your slave and you would pay for it. What we see in all of these laws is the value God places upon any and every human life.

IV.) Vs. 28-36 Animal rights

Vs. 28-32 God establishes negligence here in the case of a bull that gores someone. If it was the first time it was only a fine, which would compensate the family for the loss. But if the bull had done this before and society had not been protected then the owner and the bull were both going to pay with their lives or there would be a fine paid that would enable the person to redeem their life. The price paid for a servant that was gored 30 pieces of silver. This the price paid to Judas who turned Jesus over to be gored for our sins on the cross.

Vs. 33-36 Lastly we have the first shop sign that reads “You broke it you bought it!” If negligence results in another’s loss of property you had to pay the full price of the loss. In a nut shall Israel was to take personal responsibility for their actions.