The Book of Exodus Bible Study Chapter 21 Part 1

Exodus 21:1-17

Righteous people worship G-d. In our natural condition we can’t fulfil His expectations (laws). We need Him to change us, by giving us the Holy Spirit, in order to do so (2 Cor 5:17). When we worship G-d, as new creations, a righteous change takes place in our lives, and manifests itself through our behaviour.

G-d gave the commandments to Israel in order to impact the world. As His people are salt and light, the nations see their ordered lives (lived according to the righteous judgements/laws of G-d) and they desire the same for their own disordered lives.

v1: Before them: Before the children of Israel.

The law was given as an outcome of rejecting G-d’s call to respond to Him by faith. The law shows us that we are sinful and unable to obey G-d. In order to be pleasing to Him we have to accept Him by faith. It is only through faith that we are enabled to obey His Word and do His will.

v2: Biblical slavery is very different to worldly slavery. Hebrew slaves (generally) served fellow Hebrews in order to pay off their debt. The maximum sentence to pay off a debt was six years. If the debt wasn’t paid after six years the rest was forgiven/cancelled (principle of grace)

v3: In Scripture there are spiritual implications to physical truth (physical slavery has a spiritual application of being in bondage to sin). This man is released from slavery but doesn’t receive any profit from the work he has done. When we are under the bondage of sin, and are released from it, we take only our lives out of the “transaction”. No profit is gained from sin.

v4: This cements the above principle – he comes in by himself, he leaves by himself (nothing good comes from out of his bondage).

v5: I love my master: This shows us that the ruler is not supposed to abuse but, according to Jewish law, needed to provide for his slave.

v6: Judges – those who have authority to make judgment (similar to elders. Elders, primarily, made decisions. Judges would carry out punishment. They had a greater degree of authority)

· Forever – obviously means until the slave (or master) dies, and not for eternity. Death brings about change (we see this principle at play in the NT in regard to marriage).

v7: This is a type of Biblical welfare program. This father cannot afford to provide for his daughter. She is a servant, until such time as she grows up and is married (to this man who brought her).

v8: If the master decides not to marry her (after he has kept her as a servant in his house) he has no authority to sell her. He has betrayed her and the agreement (she served, expecting to

marry him). The implication is that she then goes free – back to her home- the moment he says he cannot marry her.

v9: If she was betrothed/engaged to his son and the son doesn’t marry her she was to still be provided for.

v10: Two or more wives is not G-d’s ideal will (Gen 2:24, Mk 10:8) – but it did happen (and does happen) in society. If this happened, the husband could not treat the first wife any less than he had previously treated her. This teaching is regulating righteousness into an unrighteous (displeasing) act.

v11: This would end the relationship. Biblically there is a concept that many call “progressive revelation”. This is seen (for example) in Matt 5:21-26 etc. G-d expects more from His new covenant people in regard to the intent of the law – more than those who are not saved, or those who do not have the Holy Spirit.

v12: This applies to the man who has premeditated the murder of the other man (as context bears out in v13) – hunted him down in order to kill him, so to speak.

v13: This verse speaks of someone who had no intent to kill, but killed the second man by chance/accident in a conflict. Killing someone by accident still had consequences.

· A place where he may flee: This is a city of refuge.

v14: Again, premeditation with intent.

· With guile – the same word is used to describe the cunning of the serpent in Gen 3:1

· Altar has to do with the concept of sanctuary. These cities of refuge were seen as places of sanctuary. The people who premeditated murder couldn’t run into a place of worship and claim “sanctuary”. Judgement was still to be exacted from them.

v15: There is a debate as to whether this is a blow to death or just simply a strike (read in light of verse 17)

v16: Kidnapping carried a death sentence.

v17: If a man curses his parents (doesn’t hit or kill – just curses) he shall be put to death. All these laws teach us how to bring righteousness into an unrighteous society. G-d was preparing Israel to do that. Israel didn’t carry it out, so now believers have been equipped to demonstrate righteousness and provoke Israel to jealousy – in order to bring them to faith.

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