Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Exodus chapter 21




1. These are the ordinances that you shall set before them: 2. When you buy a male Hebrew slave,  he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person without debt.  3. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him.

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 1 to 3)

On reflecting we can infer a special emphasis made by God on the number 7. In the beginning we find that on the seventh day God rested from His work. On leaving Egypt the seventh day was consecrated to God as the Sabbath meaning time of rest in God. In the given context the seventh year was also the year of liberation. God gives us the opportunity to become masters over our own sinful selves by means of His grace. Without Him we are slaves of our passions, wishes and instant gratification which does not always follow according to the will of God. 

Another observation that we can infer on reflecting on verses 1 to 3 of the twenty-first chapter of the book of Exodus is the fact that God is in favour of the preservation of the family. If a man entered slavery as a married man ,he would be liberated as a married man. As a family we cannot be saved by ourselves but as a family. He who thinks that he or she, will experience ones salvation on ones own has a surprise coming, for we cannot be saved on our own but as a family. We are all each ether's stepping stone or signpost to heaven by which God gives us directions in order to achieve this Holy goal.

As a community or Church we also cannot be divided, because we are also to be saved as one unit, even though there are divisions in the Roman Catholic Church and its offshoots. While on earth in the person of Jesus, He declared that there will be one flock and one shepherd and that any sheep that are out of the flock or maybe for some reason have been driven away will one again return to the original flock and there will be unity in the body of Christ.

4. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sins or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's and he shall go out alone, 5. But if the slave declares, " I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person," 6. then his master shall bring him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl, and he shall serve him for life.

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 4 to 6)

Verses four to six give us a perfect example of a person who is dedicated to God and his family in contrast to one who is simply self seeking. The dedicated person seeks the interest of both himself and that of his family, moreover,  he accepts to be a slave and stay with his family than to be a free person and be separated from his wife and family. Our choices are to be based on the will of God and not simply on our own egotistic wishes and agendas.

7. When a man sell his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8. If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her. 

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 7 to 8)

Before God we are not slaves but free people. God gave such orders as to establish a form of social order when the people would continue to grow and integrate with their social environment. Having a healthy social order is very sufficient for the community at large.  Unlike the ways of man, God paid the full price for our redemption regardless if we were males or females. 

9. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10, If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing or marital rights of the first wife. 11. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out without debt, without payment of money.

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 9 to 11)

Now that the people had been initiated in their spiritual welfare in their relationship with God, God started the social formation of his people. On reflecting on these verses we can find the beginning of a form of 'human rights' bill containing a list of norms, duties, rights and obligations, which are the foundation stones of our society.

12. Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death. 13. If it was not pre-meditated, but about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee. 14. But if someone wilfully attacks and kills another by treachery, you shall take the killer from my altar for execution.

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 12 to 14)

In relation to violence God ordered that if a person is killed by accident without any intention of killing the other person this person shall not be condemned to death, however, if the person was in control of his actions the person was to be executed. It is not that God is in any way in favour of the death of humans, however the example would act as a deterrent in the case of likewise negative actions. It can be said that the model being applied is one that has a meritocratic slant.

15. Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death.

(Exodus chapter 21 verse 15)

As in many laws there are many trap doors left open such as in verse 15. One may question the issue of self defence or if the person happen to be the abusers themselves. On reflecting God is positive and unlike humans focuses on the positive, therefore the law promulgated is one that exalts love and respect towards the parents and does not focus on the negative side thus portraying the parents as ever being at fault themselves.

16. Whoever kidnaps a person, whether that person has been sold or is still held in possession shall be put to death.

(Exodus chapter 21 verse 16)

The basic concept of verse 16 is that the person is held against ones own will and is therefore having his concept of liberty violated. This is what sin does to us. It keeps us kidnapped from the beautiful self that God lent us by which we can live on earth. As a consequence of our sin we end up spiritually and or physically dead. Therefore evil within us and beyond us is to be condemned. Satan is evil and therefore this evil entity is condemned by God but at times approved of by humanity.

17. Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death.

(Exodus chapter 21 verse 17) 

On reflecting I would add that whoever curses anybody is to be put to death. The fruit of cursing is pure anger. The fruit of anger is spiritual, psychological and social disorder in our systems. Disorder in turn is equal to sin or a negative intervention, which all boils down to the temptation of the evil one. Therefore when feeling angry we are to seek confession so that God will forgive us. When we experience God's forgiveness we will in turn forgive those who trespass against us and the circle of sin and anger is broken one again.

18. When individuals quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or fist so that the injured party, though not dead is confined to bed, 19. but recovers and walks around outside with the help of a staff, then the assailant shall be free of liability, except to pay for the loss of time, and to arrange for full recovery.

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 18 to 19)

When issuing such laws God really knew what He was talking about. Since the beginning of socialisation such laws have been applied unconsciously and have been in time incorporated into ones civil code and legal system of jurisdiction. With reference to the Maltese legal system there is much in common to the tenets and addenda mentioned in chapter 21 of the book of exodus, however although modifications have been done on a compare and contrast perspective there is much in common. In order to reflect on this issue please click on the following link that takes us to the civil code of Malta. In order to browse in depth in relation to the issue of physical harm as mentioned  in Exodus chapter 21 verses 18 to 19  in light of chapter 9 of the Maltese Criminal Code please click on the following:

re physical harm

20. When a slave owner strikes a male or a female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner's property.

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 20 to 21)

Ideally nobody is the slave of anybody. When in such a position the slave is subject to all forms of abuse. The funny thing is that we make slaves of each other when God created us in full liberty as sons and daughters of God. It is human sin that causes slavery and the related abuse.

22. When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman's husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.

(Exodus chapter 21 verse 22)

When promulgating such laws God took into consideration many scenarios along with their long term and short term consequences, in order to cover all our needs and interests, from the stage of being an unborn baby to the stage of adulthood and death.

23. If any harm follows, then you shall give an 24. eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25. burn for burn. wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 23 to 25)

In the New Testament Jesus made an alteration to this law. Jesus introduced the issue of forgiveness in order to compensate for such grievances.  

26. When a slaveowner strikes the eye of a male or female slave, destroying it, the owner shall let the slave go, a free person to compensate for the eye. 27. If the owner knocks out a tooth of a male or female slave, the slave shall be let go, a free person, to compensate for the tooth.

(Exodus chapter  21 verses 26 to 27)

The logic used in this verse is that the loss of the part compensates for the whole, however God created us as whole beings and not as individual parts. Even as a Church we are one whole, the body of Christ and as in the body every part has its personal value and plays a special role. Therefore if at the time you are reflecting on this chapter and feel unworthy or even depressed, remember that as a member of the body of Christ you have value as much as all the other parts that make part of the body.

28. When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. 29. If the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and the owner has been warned but has not restrained it, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner shall be put to death.

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 28 to 29)

When reflecting on verses 28 to 29 of the book of Exodus it becomes clear that our sense of responsibility for our actions plays a vital role with reference to our well being and even that of others. As humans and moreover Christians we are to show concern for others well being and take responsibility for those actions that we do and even those that we were duty bound to do and was reluctant to perform at the detriment of others.

 30. If a ransom is imposed on the owner, then the owner shall pay whatever is imposed for the redemption of the victim's life.

(Exodus chapter 21 verse 30)

The big dilemma that arises is the exact total in ransom that is enough to pay in order to redeem a person's life. Jesus Christ gives us the answer. In order to redeem the lives of all the people of the world He gave up his whole human existence on earth, giving us his body blood skin and bone and even his natural mother whom he dearly loved. God paid the price for our redemption in full.

31. If it gores a boy or a girl the owner shall be dealt with according to this same rule. 32. If the ox gores a male or a female slave, the owner shall pay to the slave owner thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 31 to 32)

According to Exodus chapter 21 verse 32 the price of a slave was thirty shekels of silver. On referring to the New Testament we find that Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. Therefore it can be concluded that Jesus was ridiculed and devalued to the status of a slave in fiscal or monetary value.

 33. If someone leaves a pit open, or digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34. the owner of the pit shall make restitution, giving money to the owner but keeping the dead animal.

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 33 to 34)

As already mentioned although God did not do anything wrong, he paid the price for our redemption in full, but instead of keeping our sins, God pinned them on the cross at Calvary and took the brunt of the blame for our irresponsibility's as a human race.

35. If someone's ox hurts the ox of another, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the price of it; and the dead animal shall also divide. 36. But if it was known that the gore was accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not restrained it, the owner shall restore ox for ox, but keep the dead animal.

(Exodus chapter 21 verses 35 to 36)

As already mentioned the bottom line or philosophy is that of a tooth for a tooth, in which one replaces the other.  However as referred to throughout this chapter Jesus made a serious alteration to the thwarted logic of this philosophy and introduced the issues of forgiveness by being the first to break old patterns and set up a completely new one based on His live for us. Even though we all may have had negative patterns or history of bad habits or negative acts, gives us the opportunity to change our life styles and does not keep on accusing us of our previous faults. On the other hand God is just and cannot turn a blind eye to our faults and excuse us of our iniquities and their consequences for which we are to be accountable to both God and humanity.

The author of this chapter of the book of Exodus Mrs. Mary Geveetha chose to end this chapter with the following prayer which is the fruit of her reflection on this chapter:   

We Praise and Glorify You for Your Mighty works. We give You thanks for the commandments You laid upon the earth. Through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus we are bonded in a new everlasting covenant. And Your commandments lay morals and rules of natural justice of daily living. We pray to be obedient to Your commandments in all sense of living.  We pray to be led by the rules of justice for our wrongdoing. In repentance may we turn to Jesus for refuge and reconciliation and receive Your mercy through Him.We pray to become a people that is  bound by Your laws for a righteous living and savour the Grace our Lord Jesus purchased for a high price as He gave Himself on the Cross of Salvation.

In Jesus precious name we pray, Amen