Daily Bible Studies
Series Theme: Exodus Studies (Series 2 of 3 - chapters 20 to 24)
The Law in Exodus
Chapter: Exodus 21
Passage: Exodus 21:1-6
A. Find Out:
1. How long should a bought-servant serve for? v.2
2. How does he eventually leave? v.3
3. What might have happened during the serving period? v.4a
4. How shall he leave? v.4b
5. What may he prefer to do? v.5
6. How shall this be confirmed in law? v.6
1. What do you think is the purpose of the time limit in v.2?
2. What do you think is the significance of the ‘leaving rules'?
In some parts of the world in business, there are apprentices who are indentured for a period of years to work under the direction of a ‘Master' craftsman. The Hebrew system of serving as a servant was not dissimilar. ‘Slave' here gives a wrong connotation. God's Laws were caring for all classes and so if you were poor you would work for someone else in return of a payment and keep. To ensure that the servant was not exploited they were to be released from the arrangement in the seventh year of it, without any obligations on their part. If they were married when they came, then their wife went as well.
Now comes the difficult bit (in our modern eyes). If the master gives the servant a wife, she is under the master's directions and so she and any children remain with the master at the end of the period (unless of course a friendly master should release her as well). However legally she was to stay with the Master. It would be likely that a servant knowing this would either marry with the obligations and stay on at the end, or simply not marry during that time. If he did want to stay on, then a simple procedure of creating a permanent body mark (like we pierce ears for earrings) indicated his intent and the master's agreement to have he and his family. The purpose of these instructions was to formalise a process that often happened anyway, in order to prevent abuse and protect the servant.
1. God's Laws provide caring and protection for all.
Chapter: Exodus 21
Passage: Exodus 21:7-11
A. Find Out:
1. How is a woman servant to be dealt with differently? v.7
2. What must happen if she doesn't please the master? v.8a
3. What must not happen to her? v.8b
4. What is her status if she is to marry his son? v.9
5. What protection is given in cases of second wives? v.10
6. What is to happen if these things don't happen? v.11
1. Who does the first “If” apply to? What situation is it supposing?
2. Who do the 2 nd to 4 th “If” apply to? What are they saying?
3. How is the 5 th “If” a general protection?
In Laws that seem so far from modern life we need to remember that God is providing protection in a world very different and in some ways less civilised than our own. The word “If”, that we've picked up a number of times in the questions above, indicates possibilities.
The first one refers to a Hebrew father who has fallen into abject poverty (for that's only when this was allowed) and who is seeking to care for his children. Arranged marriages, although alien to most of us, often work better than the short term relationships we so often see. Here the father, in exchange for money, puts his daughter into the family of another to work “in service”. This is so that she can prove herself, and it acts as a prelude to becoming the wife of the master, or even of his son. It was a practice of the Middle East and so the laws here are to protect her.
The final “If” (v.11) says that if the Master isn't willing to fulfil the 2 nd to 4 th conditions, she is to be released without payment, i.e. the contract is annulled on both sides. If she doesn't prove herself, so that Master decides not to marry her, she is to be returned to her family and the money repaid (v.8). If she is to marry the son, then she is to be given every right as a daughter, not as a servant (v.9). If the master takes a second wife, as sometimes happened then, this first girl is not to lose out in any way. These are laws to protect her in that day.
1. Culture sometimes abuses. God always seeks to protect.
2. Hard times sometimes create less than admirable circumstances.
Chapter: Exodus 21
Passage: Exodus 21:12-17
A. Find Out:
1. Who shall be executed? v.12
2. Yet what is a possibility? v.13
3. So what is the clear Law about in respect of killing another? v.14
4. What other 3 groups are to be executed? v.15-17
1. How is murder and manslaughter differentiated?
2. How are verses 15 & 17 reflections of the Ten Commandments?
3. Why do you think the law of v.16 was included?
In a society that has decided capital punishment is inappropriate, we may find it difficult to accept the thought of execution for certain crimes. Several things need to be suggested. First, these Laws are God's Laws. The Maker who is all wise and all-loving knows best and perhaps, therefore, in the course of time, we may see as a society, that actually removing capital punishment has been detrimental and will be reinstated. In respect of terrorist bombers we have accepted that on occasion “shoot to kill” is a better alternative to having the bomber explode a bomb that kills dozens of people, so it is really a matter of degree. Perhaps the absence of capital punishment in our society is actually a sign of our godlessness and our shallow value of life. In nations with ‘harsh' laws, the overall crime rate is usually considerably lower than in nations with liberal regimes.
Verses 12 to 14 distinguish between murder (purposeful) and manslaughter (accidental). Verse 16 is against slavery, the removal of life from an individual in reality. Verse 15 (alternative) suggests attacking with the intent to kill. The spiritual reality of v.17, as it was understood by God and early Israel , is that a curse is not merely words but a decree that has effect, something we perhaps have much to learn about. Thus the censure is of a child who brings down their parents. In each case death is for the removal of life where that has been a purposeful, wrongly motivated thing.
1. God sees the wrong removal of another's life in the severest terms.
2. Wrong removal of another's life warrants death in God's eyes.
Chapter: Exodus 21
Passage: Exodus 21:18-27
A. Find Out:
1. What situation is next envisaged? v.18
2. What should happen if there is only short term injury? v.19
3. What is the next situation and its outcome? v.20,21
4. What is the 3 rd situation and outcome for minor injury? v.22
5. Yet what about serious injury? v.23-25
6. How about injuries to servants? v.26,27
1. What is the general law, about minor injuries inflicted?
2. What happens when major injuries are inflicted?
From capital crimes the Law moves to minor injuries and four situations are envisaged, two involving fights and two involving slaves or servants.
First, the fight situations: the Law recognises that sinful men will have upsets and disagreements and in the heat of the moment it will turn violent. Murder & manslaughter have already been covered, so now we consider lesser injuries incurred during such upsets. If it is a temporary injury caused, then the one causing it must compensate the other for the loss of his time. That is the extent of it.
Should the pregnant wife of one of the men (for that is the likely scenario) seek to intervene and stop the fight and be injured and give birth prematurely but there is no other injury, then a fine shall be imposed on the other man for having caused it, assessed as a compromise of what the husband demands and the court agrees. For more serious injuries caused, the penalty is to match the injury. This is a ‘limiting law', given to limit there being revenge.
Second, injuries to servants and slaves: if a slave is killed by a master the laws of murder and manslaughter will apply. If it is a temporary injury there is to be no penalty. If a servant is injured the penalty to compensate for that injury is that the servant is to be released. As one commentator has said, slavery in Israel was ‘rural, domestic and small scale', yet it still was concerned for the welfare of such workers.
1. Sinful men need the law to restrain them.
2. The law protects and provides for bad situations.
Chapter: Exodus 21
Passage: Exodus 21:28-38
A. Find Out:
1. What is to happen if a bull kills a person? v.28
2. What is to happen if the bull is known to be dangerous? v.29,30
3. What distinction is there between family victims and slaves? v.31,32
4. What happens if an animal dies from a man's carelessness? v.33,34
5. What happens if a bull kills another bull? v.35
6. How does it vary if the bull was known to be dangerous? v.36
1. How would you sum up verses 28 to 32?
2. How would you sum up verses 33 to 36?
The law of “Strict Liability” in our land says that if you bring something onto your land known to be dangerous if it escapes off, and it does escape, you are liable for the damage caused if you do allow it to escape. This is the law behind these verses here. They deal with, first of all, a bull killing a human being, and then a bull killing another bull.
The first element of this law considers a person being killed by a bull not normally known to be one especially dangerous. Bulls are naturally dangerous by their size and temperament and so a measure of care is required if you go onto another's land and encounter his bull. There is danger, which may be why the law is only a bull's life for the human's life. It gets worse if it is known that the bull is particularly savage and the owner allows it to escape and it kills another. The owner's life is thus forfeit but the family of the dead person may take compensation instead if they wish. If a slave was killed the compensation goes to the owner for his loss.
The law then moves on to cover the loss of animals by the carelessness of others, where the careless person simply buys the dead animal for its full value. If it's a bull killing a bull, they sell the live bull and share the money and carcass. However if the bull was known to be especially dangerous the dead animal must be bought by the other owner. Straight compensation applies in each case.
1. We have a duty of care with dangerous animals.
2. Compensation is fair if you've lost out through carelessness.
Chapter: Exodus 22
Passage: Exodus 22:1-4
A. Find Out:
1. What is to happen when cattle or sheep are stolen? v.1
2. What are the laws of killing an intruder? v.2,3a
3. What must happen to a thief if he can't pay up? v.3b
4. What happens if the cattle/sheep are recovered alive? v.4
1. How does the law of recovery differ between v.1 & 4?
2. What is the overall purpose of this law do you think?
3. What is the purpose of v.2,3a?
We come on to the law of straight-forward theft. Being an agricultural economy, theft of animals was clearly the worst sort of theft envisaged because it took away a families food or livelihood. Domestic theft is that sort covered here. The law here seems to have an element of deterrence in it.
There is a distinction between the situation where an animal has be stolen and disposed of, and when it can be recovered. If it has been killed or sold on, then the thief must pay the owner five head of cattle or four of sheep. If it is recovered alive, he simply pays two. The former case suggests a worse crime in that the thief clearly intends never to return the animal, whereas in the latter case he may have temporarily taken it. However in both cases there is a clear ‘living fine' imposed and if this law is known in society the potential thief knows he is going to have to pay out in a big way. If he can't, he knows he is going to become a slave – a sure deterrent.
The situation of defending your property at night against an intruder is also covered (a very modern problem!). The law is simple. If the intrusion happens at night you cannot know the intention of the intruder and it is legitimate to take whatever steps are necessary to defend your property – including killing the intruder. However the same does not apply once it is daylight and you can see and challenge the person.
1. Theft is a very basic form is disrespect and a crime.
2. The law of restitution and retribution helps the victim and criminal.
A. Find Out:
1. What careless act is first envisaged? v.5
2. What second such act is envisaged? v.6
3. What third similar act is considered & how dealt with? v.7,8
4. How are ‘possession disputes' to be dealt with generally? v.9
5. What further issue is covered? v.10,11
6. What are the 5 sub-clauses of this law? v.12-15
1. How would you summarise verses 5 & 6?
2. How would you summarise verses.7 to 9?
3. What is the point of verses 10 to 15?
Verses 5 & 6 are about restitution for loss caused by the carelessness of a land owner. Verses 7 to 9 are about restitution if a neighbour's goods, generally, are stolen while in the care of another. Verses 10 to 15 are specifically about animals left in the care of another and are summarised as follows:
a) Animals left for safe-keeping
b) Animals borrowed (presumably for use)
Again, in an agricultural economy, these things would happen and were therefore very important. God gives the guidelines.
1. Where we can be responsible, we should be so.
2. Where responsibility is not ours, don't take it.
A. Find Out:
1. What was the law for seduction? v.16,17
2. Who was to be put to death? v.18-20
3. How were they to treat foreigners? v.21
4. Who were they to care for and why? v.22-24
5. What were the laws of lending? v.25-27
6. What were the laws in respect of the Lord Himself? v.28-30
7. Why? What practical eating law was added? v.31
1. How do these laws show care towards others?
2. How do they draw boundaries of decent behaviour?
3. How do they relate to the Lord?
Caring for others seems to have been a high priority in these laws of the Covenant. This was to be a caring people. That could vary in respect of young women being taken advantage of (v.16,17), foreigners living with them (v.21), looking after widows and orphans (v.22-24) and not taking advantage of those who needed to borrow from you (v.25-27).
Yes, this was to be a distinct people and part of that distinctiveness meant that clear boundaries were drawn as to what was considered acceptable. To emphasise the seriousness of this, the death penalty was applied to those who blurred the distinction between light and darkness by dabbling in the occult (v.18), those who blurred the distinction between human and animal (v.19), and those who blurred the distinction between real and false in the spirit realm (v.20).
But the height of that distinctiveness was to be in respect of the way they related to the Lord. Thus they were always to honour Him (v.28), express that honour in giving a token offering of their produce, as an expression of thankfulness (v.29a & 30), and their first born son as a token offering to remember the Exodus deliverance (v.29b). This holiness was to extend even into their eating, probably to maintain health, by not eating savaged meat (v.31). A truly distinctive people!
1. Is care and respect at the heart of my behaviour towards others?
2. Am I distinct by God's making and by my lifestyle?
A. Find Out:
1. How were they not to pervert truth? v.1
2. How were they not to pervert justice? v.2,3
3. In what two ways were they to show mercy? v.4,5
4. What further 3 ways are they not to pervert justice? v.6,7
5. What further were they not to do and why? v.8
6. How were they to act in respect of aliens and why? v.9
These laws recognise that things will go wrong in community life, there will be disagreements, there will be appealing to the courts, and so a number of these particular laws relate to what should happen in such disputes. For God, truth is important. Perverting the truth in any way in respect of such disputes is injustice.
Therefore false reports and false testimony (v.1) are forbidden. Indeed letting public opinion sway you from the truth (v.2) and being biased for or against those in court, is forbidden. Excluding people from the judicial process because they cannot afford it (v.6) denies them the opportunity for the truth. False charges (v.7) deny the truth, and mishandling a case so the innocent are made guilty (v.7) also denies the truth. Justice is ascertaining the truth in disputes and acting accordingly. Thus bribes (v.8) work against the truth being brought out and are therefore forbidden.
Working against someone simply because they are a foreigner (v.9) denies them truth. Israel should know better – they have been aliens in Egypt ! Denying truth denies care for people and caring is behind all of God's laws. Caring should be extended even to those who you don't get on with (v.4,5) and if you find yourself with an opportunity to help those you would consider and enemy (v.4) or someone who hates you (v.5), then take it.
A. Find Out:
1. What are they to do for the seventh year? v.10,11a
2. What can then happen? v.11b
3. What are they to do on the seventh day? v.12a
4. Why? 12b,c
5. What are they to do? v.13a
6. What are they not to do? v.13b
1. How do these laws have very practical caring aspects to them?
2. Read Mark 2:27. What was Jesus' comment on the Sabbath?
The use of the “Sabbath” brings together reverence for God, with His very practical caring for man. The fourth commandment (Ex 20:8) was to make the seventh day holy, or different, by not working on it. As a command immediately following three about God, and coming before the practical commands about man, it seems to be a caring for man while at the same time thinking of God.
First of all here, the law is about having a year off work. This would have been a real act of faith because it would mean waiting two years for harvest supply. Several points are worth noting here. It is suggested that leaving the land for a year increases its fertility, .i.e. wise use of land. Some have suggested it was calculated from when a person received the land, which meant staggered Sabbaths across the land. Care for the poor and for the environment generally (animals in particular) are also seen as purposes in God's mind.
Then we come to the more usual aspect of the Sabbath, a rest on the seventh day. Again the emphasis here is on the workers (including animals) having a much needed rest and being refreshed. Resting up from work would have meant it was a great communal day, as people had opportunity to get together in relaxation, as well as to specifically remember the Lord together. Societies that do not do this have lost much. This is God's wisdom and we reject it at our peril.
1. Again, care and concern is in God's mind in these laws.
2. God designs His world. He knows the best way for it (us) to work.
A. Find Out:
1. What was the first feast and how long was it to last? v.15a,b
2. How and when were they to do it and why? v.15c,d
3. What was the second feast? v.16a,19
4. What was the third feast? v.16b
5. Who was to do what at these times? v.17
6. How were they to bring the offerings? v.18,19b
1. What does the word ‘feast' suggest to you?
2. What therefore is the sense behind these instructions?
3. How are they each linked to the Lord?
If we've had a religious upbringing then perhaps a feast simply indicates a particular festival in the church's calendar. However, a dictionary defines a feast as “to eat sumptuously” and the sense is of a big meal. You have a big meal when you have something to celebrate and that was true of Israel .
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was a seven-day feast that reminded the Israelites of their coming out of Egypt . They had been instructed by God to prepare by making their bread without yeast or leaven. The idea there is that yeast takes time to rise and the Exodus happened so quickly that they did not have time to sit around waiting for the bread to rise. Bread without yeast was a reminder, therefore, of that time of hasty preparation and God's miraculous deliverance. By this feast, the Lord wanted them never to forget their origins – delivered!
At the Feast of Harvest they took some of the first fruits of their crops and presented them to the Lord, a declaration that God is the great provider and the crops therefore first belong to Him. The Feast of Ingathering was a rejoicing over the crops that had been safely gathered in and provision therefore made for the coming year. In each case it was a time of major rejoicing over the Lord's provision for them. For comments about the offerings see the following note.
1. Are we aware that our provision comes from God's grace?
2. Are we therefore thankful?
SPECIAL NOTE : Offerings & Exodus 23:18
These are the first instructions in respect of the offerings, and in the Law there are many more. Previously there was a brief note about bringing “burnt offerings” and “fellowship offerings” (Ex 20:24 )
The requirement was that two lambs were to be sacrificed daily, burnt on the altar, one in the morning and one in the evening (see Ex 29:38-42). There the context is consecration and the holiness of Israel before God. The offering was burnt completely – possibly a reminder of the lamb given at Passover, and of course, our Lamb, Jesus (Jn 1:29 , Rev 5:6).
The fellowship or peace offering was an indication of peace between Israel and God, and the fellowship that existed between them. In this offering, part of the animal was burnt (given to God) and part was eaten by the person offering it, a symbol of God and man sharing the beast together.
As we indicated in the main notes, yeast took time to rise within the dough. Yeast is therefore symbolic of the world's laid back, relaxed attitude, over religion. It came to by symbolic of sin, of man's indifference. Although Jesus later used it to illustrate the quiet way his kingdom grew (Mt 13:13 ), he also used it in the more traditional sense (Mt 16;6,11)
Blood represents life (Lev 17:11 ). Thus blood being shed was a sign of the giving of a life to bring redemption. All of this side of the sacrifices points towards the work of Christ on the Cross (see the book of Hebrews). Thus ‘sin' (symbolically) was not to be mixed with the ‘life' (symbolically) being offered in the sacrificial offerings.
The fat of the inner organs was never to be eaten but given to God (Lev 3:16 ). It was symbolic of the life and well-being of the animal. If it was kept over night it would go rancid and so had to be burned (given to God) on the day of the sacrifice.
RECAP - "The Laws" - Exodus Chapters 21-23
In this second group of 11 studies we have seen the laws given by God to Israel as follows :
A quick overview of these laws, shows us that they provide protection, provide guidelines when mishaps occur or relationships are abused, and provide a basis for maintaining their relationship with the Lord. Underlying these laws are the characteristics of the Lawgiver, God, His care and compassion for His people, and His concern to maintain truth and conform to reality as He has designed it.
1. Are our working relationships characterised by care and integrity?
2. In the law applied, does our society know justice and fairness?
3. Does our knowledge of the Lord reflect on the way we live?
4. Do we have a positive attitude towards the Law?
5. Do our Laws reflect God's character of care and protection?
Thank the Lord for the laws of our country that protect the weak and vulnerable. Ask for them to be fully upheld righteously.
PART 3 : "The Words (2)"
In this next Part we'll see God's words about the days immediately ahead and then Moses' actions after he came down the mountain and his next trip up the mountain to meet God again.