About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Chapter 21
Verse 1 simply says that
God told Moses to pass the following laws on to
Verse 2 tells us that if
a Jew buys a Hebrew to be his slave, he must set the slave free after
six years. In our culture
slavery is greatly looked down on. In
this culture, it was clearly not looked down upon.
You might wonder why a Jew would buy a Jew.
One big reason is that if a Jewish man found himself in debt to
the degree that he could not pay the debt, he himself could be
collateral. He would
actually pay off his debt with himself.
That was understood in Israeli culture, and other cultures as
All that being said,
after six years he must be set free.
His debt is recognized as being paid.
Note the seventh year was the year of freedom.
We have many allusions to the number seven, especially as it
applies to the Sabbaths.
In verses 3 and 4 the
command concerns wives of slaves. If
a man becomes a slave and has a wife, when he is free she must go with
him into freedom. But, if a
man is given a wife by his master, and even if they have children, when
the man is freed, the wife and children must stay with the master.
They belong to him. This
implies ownership of the wife on the behalf of the slave master.
This is hard for us to
understand in our culture. The
Law of Moses is more than a list of rules to follow.
It is prophetic, and I believe many of these laws that seem
strange to us, has a deeper prophetic meaning to them.
Another thing to consider
Another point to consider
is that since
Many of these men who
sold themselves into slavery would know the rules before entering
slavery. Those who chose to
have a wife in slavery might not want to be separated from them, so
there is provision made in the law for this as seen in verses 6 and 7.
The man could stay, but he would have to appear before a judge
and become a slave for life. In
Biblical terms, this is known as a "bond servant".
The man would have a whole put into the lobe of his ear to show
that he was a slave for life. The
whole would be put into the ear by nailing the ear lobe to the door post
of the house of the slave master. This
signified the man becoming a slave for life to the home owner. The
apostle Paul calls himself a "bond servant'.
Paul viewed himself as a slave for life to Jesus.
Verses 7 through 11
concerns the rights of a girl who is sold into slavery by her father.
This too is very foreign to our culture.
Yet again, people in those days viewed themselves as collateral.
We view our houses, cars, and many other things as collateral,
but we donít view ourselves as collateral.
The first law was that a
girl slave was not to go free after six years.
That sounds like discrimination to our western culture.
The main reason why girls were sold, that is, on the behalf of
the slave owner, was to be a concubine for himself, or a wife for one of
his sons. This is probably
why she couldn't go free, but within this restriction, she had some
We see in verse 8 that if
for some reason the slave girl doesn't please her master, or for some
reason, he doesn't want her, he just can't sell her to a foreigner who
is passing by. If he did,
the text states that "he has broken" faith with her.
This is the same type of language that is used in Malachi 2
concerning divorce. This
means that if a master buys a slave girl, he has a good measure of
responsibility for her. If
he does not want her any longer, "she must be redeemed".
Redeemed means, purchased. The
question arises, "who can redeem, or buy, her?"
We know that a non-Jew can't buy her according to the text.
Therefore, the girl can only be sold to a Jew, and quite possibly
to her father that sold her in the first place.
We see in verse 9 that if
the slave girl is given to the masters son for his wife, then she is no
longer a slave, but a daughter. Once
again, we see protection for the girl.
In verses 10 and 11 we
see that if the son marries someone else after he marries the slave
girl, he still must treat her as a wife.
He must provide food, clothing, and normal sexual relations.
If he is not willing to do this, then she must be set free.
So it is clear to me,
that even though we do not view slavery in the same light as the Jews
did back then, slaves still had some right of protection, and they were
granted to them by God in the Law of Moses.
Verses 12 through 14 is
all about premeditated and not premeditated murder.
If a man killed someone, and he had previously thought to do so,
he would be killed himself. If
it was an accident, or could be proved it was a killing of rage, he was
not to be killed. He could
actually go to a predetermined place to be protected.
This place would come to be known as a "city of
refuge", that you see mentioned later on in the Old Testament.
We see the term "if
God lets it happen", that is, if God lets the murder happen.
This is unintentional murder.
We see the sovereignty of God here.
He is capable of not letting such killing happen, but obviously
He does allow such bad things to take place.
The important thing to
understand here is that in the Law of Moses, there is a distinction
between intentional and unintentional killing.
In verses 15 through 17
we see a number of crimes that are punishable by death, that seem pretty
severe in our western culture, but not severe in some cultures of the
world today, especially in Muslim culture.
Verse 15 says a man who attacks his mother and father must die.
In verse 16 a kidnapper must die. In verse 17 one who curses his
father or mother must die. What
we see here is how God detests such things.
What God hates, He really hates.
It is not simply a dislike. It's
a good thing Jesus died for our sins.
Verses 18 and 19 concern
two people in physical combat. It
appears both are equally guilty of fighting, but that's not the point
here. If one man gets hurt
and doesn't get killed, the one who hurt him must pay restitution.
Restitution is something that has not been seen much in our law,
although it has at times. I
personally believe paying restitution whenever is possible is important.
I see it as an act of true repentance.
Verses 18 and 19 concerns
the treatment of slaves. If
a slave is beaten and dies, that master who beat the slave must be
punished, but the text does not say what the punishment is.
If the slave recovers from the beating, the master does not have
to be punished. There's some
obvious questions here. Why
was the slave beaten, and was the beating warranted?
Verses 22 to 26 concerns
hitting a pregnant woman causing premature birth.
Restitution must be paid to the husband, and the amount is
determined by the husband and the court.
Here again, we see the importance of restitution.
This is the first time we see the word "court" used
concerning Israel. That only makes sense,
with laws, there must be a
If the injury to the baby
is serious, then the same type of injury must be inflicted on the one
who caused the injury. This
is the first time we see the idea of a life for a life, and eye for an
eye, and so on. The idea
here is all about fairness in the midst of justice.
In our society we swing from one extreme to another.
Sometimes the punishment in our courts do not fit the crime.
Verses 26 and 27 concern
master injuring their slaves. If
they hurt them bad enough, they must let the slave go free. Here we have
a measure of protection for the slave.
So once again, even though God allowed for slavery in those days,
the slaves were to be treated with respect.
From verses 28 to 32 we
see the law concerning a bull hurting or killing a person.
If that happens, the bull must die.
If it had happened before a number of times and the bull wasn't
killed, then both bull and must be killed, that is, unless the family
member of the dead person requires money instead of the death penalty.
In light of this law, I remind you of Genesis 9:5 where God said
that He would demand an accounting from every animal that took the life
of a person.
In verses 33 and 34 we
see restitution again. If a
bull gets injured by falling into your pit, you must pay the owner of
the bull sufficient funds to cover his losses.
In verses 35 and 35 if a
man's bull kills another man's bull, the live bull must be sold and the
money split between the two men. If
the bull has a history of such violence, then the full funds from the
sale of the bull must be given to the man whose bull was killed.
In this chapter, and
throughout the Law of Moses you will see that the intent is all about
fairness in the culture in which the Jews lived, even if the culture
differs a lot from ours.
One thing I believe is
right is that even though some of these laws seem so archaic to us, God
set forth the Law of Moses into the cultures of the world at that time. It
would be too unreasonable for God to attempt to re-order civilizations
back then. So He made laws
and placed them into the Jewish culture in order to be an example to the
rest of the world. He could
have banned slavery, but He didn't.
He most likely knew that would not be possible in that age, so He
provided protection for the slave, which would be the next best thing to
banning slavery altogether.
We see the death penalty
in this chapter. This has
been a topic of debate for years. This
chapter would certainly be used by those in favour of the death penalty.