Today’s laws cover what to do when someone or their property is injured. The Pastors explore the difficult difference between the individuals in different hierarchies of ancient cultures and how these laws functioned in their society. Surprisingly, these laws are reimagined in the life of Jesus Christ, the one who takes injury upon himself for the sake of saving those who can’t save themselves.
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00:00:13:08 – 00:00:49:40
Hey, everybody. Welcome back. Thanks for joining us again as we continue through Exodus kind of in the aftermath of our decision to summarize during these sections of law, we will begin today. We’re in chapter 21, verse 12, and my Bible works well for this, Michael. I’m sure other people’s as well. My Bible has tried to label these sections or to make groupings of similar laws, and the first one we run into versus 12 through about 27, it looks like is under the heading laws concerning violence.
00:00:49:40 – 00:01:25:51
And you know, it’s an interesting place to to start. In some sense. We did see laws about slavery, but imagining the need for guidance in terms of anger and violence, You can you can see how that would be very important in a community. And, you know, here again, I think some of the remarks we made yesterday, they fit the idea of these laws are fair compensation.
00:01:26:11 – 00:01:52:10
So if a person strikes somebody and kills them, that person is put to death. Interestingly, verse 16, if someone kidnaps a person, the penalty for that is death dishonor. Ring your mother and father and then you get into this kind of if somebody hits each other with a stone, if they recover, there’s one penalty. If they don’t recover, there’s another.
00:01:52:26 – 00:02:22:57
If that person is hit is a slave, then there’s interestingly not interesting enough, but we mentioned this yesterday as well, Michael, slaves have a different level of compensation for the person who has injured them, particularly if the person is the quote unquote, owner. In fact, it says here in verse 21, if the slave survives a day or two, there would be no punishment.
00:02:22:57 – 00:02:55:15
Then upon that person’s death for the slave is the owner’s property. We, you know, not comfortable language. But it is interesting the ways in which the law reflects the kind of hierarchy and the kind of value system that the people live under. I don’t I don’t know that there’s much devotional in this section. It’s it’s interesting, as you read through it, you might be struck by some of the language, but let me summarize with one verse here.
00:02:55:15 – 00:03:09:24
If any harm follows, you shall give life for life. I Farai tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn wound for wound, stripe for stripe. There’s a sense in which Michael, that hangs over that idea hangs over all of the law.
00:03:09:25 – 00:03:32:37
I think it’s a summary of the law in some ways, if not the summary, in the sense of the Ten Commandments, of the higher themes. I think it’s a summary of the guiding principle that lives underneath the law. I will only point out the next verse here when a slave owner strikes the eye of a male or female slave, then the owner has to let that person go compensate for the eye.
00:03:32:38 – 00:03:52:58
There is a check and balance here. We mentioned that the law’s not just for the protection of the master, it’s not just for the person who has the power. There are places where the law does offer some balance and protection for those who are in this case, a slave at the lowest rung, someone who is serving the master.
00:03:53:15 – 00:04:21:21
This is a form of protection for that. Not pointing that out to take away the difficulty of the rest of the text. Clearly, there is a societal structure of hierarchy and ownership and a kind of dehumanizing that is happening in the midst of this. So it’s not to in any way try to atone for that. It is simply to just make the point that the law does more than just one thing.
00:04:21:21 – 00:04:31:35
It’s not written only to subject some. It also does restrain others. And so I think in that tension, we should point out when we see it.
00:04:31:49 – 00:04:55:49
Yeah, though there is a certain is it too strong of a word to say inequity? You know, it’s interesting, Michael, in the verse that follows up eye for eye and tooth for a tooth. Yeah. You you find out that if the person who loses an eye or a tooth is a slave, then the owner has to only let them go free.
00:04:55:50 – 00:05:28:30
They don’t lose a tooth. They don’t lose an eye. Yeah. So that’s true. There is a different there is a different standard here. And, you know, the I think one critique that people have offered against the law from a hierarchical society is that it clearly reflects that hierarchy. And and I think that’s reasonable. And I think that’s probably is probably valid, at least on its surface, to have to to to admit that.
00:05:29:09 – 00:06:00:09
The next section, I think in some ways it’s easier for us to process because it’s less about that kind of hierarchy structure. In fact, I mean, when we move into verse 28, we’re going to see that regardless of what does damage to a person, you know, whether that person’s a slave or not, if an ox scores someone that there’s there’s a kind of balance of evidence that says, you know, within reason, the owner’s fine because it’s an animal.
00:06:00:19 – 00:06:21:09
But if that owner’s being negligent, then that owner should also be responsible. So I do think that it will color what we have just talked about, too. I think there’s an attempt which we’re not going to be satisfied by, but there is an attempt here to try to try to find not an equal playing field. That’s not the intention here.
00:06:21:09 – 00:06:28:08
But there is a there’s a kind of harmonious relationship between these steps of a ladder, I guess.
00:06:28:10 – 00:06:48:30
I actually think, Michael, that we could probably relate to these kind of laws more easily than many others because, you know, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that few, if any, of our listeners have owned an ox, but they’ve had dogs. The idea of your dog bites a neighbor, your dog gets in a fight with the neighbor’s dog.
00:06:49:12 – 00:07:15:54
We’ve driven cars. If your car knocks over somebody’s mailbox, if your your car drives across somebody, I mean, there is a kind of communal legal consideration in these law. Yes. They talk about it in terms of ox and donkeys because that’s what they owned. But the question is, in the midst of those accidents, who’s at fault? Who bears responsibility?
00:07:16:08 – 00:07:40:33
If it was a foreseeable accident like your ox has done this before, then there is more of a penalty. And I think that makes sense to us. On some level. Our own laws are probably reflective of that kind of approach. And though it seems very foreign to us because of the nature of the things being described, I think it translates reasonably well.
00:07:41:34 – 00:08:12:19
Yeah, and I do. I agree with that. And I also think that it once again, even in doing that, codifies some of the difficulty. I’m just looking at verse 32, if that ox goes or attacks a male or female slave, then who gets paid? Not that the slave, but the slave owner. And, you know, so everything that we say is going to have a caveat today, and that’s going to be, you know, pretty common throughout this, the section that we’re in.
00:08:13:06 – 00:08:38:27
But then you keep moving, You know, this idea that if someone opens up a pit, I mean, this literally happens in construction sites today. If you build a pit and you leave that open and there’s no fencing around it, who’s negligent for that? Once again, an animal and dividing it if that animal is hurt. I mean, all of this kind of stuff farmers deal with what happens if you’re pigs on the road and it gets hit by a truck.
00:08:38:38 – 00:08:43:26
That’s the kind of, you know, very nitty gritty life stuff that’s being fleshed out here.
00:08:43:31 – 00:09:20:11
Yeah, it’s it’s interesting to think, Michael, theologically about laws that have to do with accidents because so much of the Old Testament reflects the idea that God is intimately involved in the happenings of life. And yet these laws are written with an acknowledgment, an acknowledgment that some things unexpected do happen. And when they happen, there is a settling that has to be done.
00:09:20:36 – 00:09:46:28
And if if anyone doubts the seriousness of that, I would just add point you to verse. What are we here? Verse 29 If the ox has been known to Gore in the past and the owner has been warned, but the ox has not been restrained and it kills a man or woman, the ox will be stoned and the owner shall also be put to death.
00:09:47:06 – 00:10:24:05
So that that the very deep concern over someone’s practices as a danger and detriment to the broader community. And if that person has had ample reason to be cautious and has not been cautious, then they’re held liable for the penalty of murder, not of accident, but of something that they did or could have been easily prevented. And I think, you know, that’s where that’s where it’s fairly easy to see that the laws of the Old Testament are there.
00:10:24:30 – 00:10:31:58
They’re exacting. They are oftentimes harsh, but they they are logical within the framework.
00:10:32:38 – 00:10:57:34
I think what is interesting about this section that we just cover, as opposed to the previous section, the one is about action and the other is about omission. Largely, you know, when you lose your temper, when you lash out and fight, when someone commits an act of murder and they do so in a state of mental or emotional duress, that’s one thing here.
00:10:57:48 – 00:11:20:00
You know what happens if you’re not the direct party? It’s an indirect thing connected to you, but not you. You’re still responsible because ultimately it still affects the community. And I don’t think that we would point to this. You know, I’m not a Old Testament scholar. I certainly haven’t spent a substantial amount of time in these law texts.
00:11:20:33 – 00:11:52:21
So I I can’t tell you how this relates to the laws of the nations that surround Israel. But I would suggest that Israel is not the first nation to have put together social codes like this. So, you know, the point here is the community is worth protecting and the people within the community matter. And so whether it’s your direct action, which hurts another or something indirectly connected to you but still hurts someone else, then there must be consequence for it.
00:11:52:21 – 00:12:15:05
And I think that that is the central throughline. That’s the crimson thread that goes through these laws, is that there are consequences to actions that if you do a thing, there is a response. And if that thing is not explicitly named by the law, then it’s the responsibility of the community to figure out, well, what’s the closest thing and how is it going to apply to you?
00:12:15:05 – 00:12:46:48
Sure. You know, I think, Michael, we could have lots of conversations about whether, by our standards, these laws are fair, whether they’re reasonable, whether they’re acceptable, etc.. But the thing that I think would be hard to argue is that these laws very highly value the idea of accountability. That one is accountable for their actions not only to God, ultimately to God, but also to their neighbor, also to their community.
00:12:47:09 – 00:13:14:31
And one’s actions always have to be seen in light of the impact upon those around them. And I think, you know, those are concepts we could celebrate. I think we could elevate and we could be thankful for in our own legal system. You know, we’ve tried to incorporate some of that idea, but accountability is an important theme that runs through all of the law stuff.
00:13:14:31 – 00:13:15:19
In the Old Testament.
00:13:15:59 – 00:13:52:37
There is a thing called the Hammurabi Code, and it is not a document that comes from Israel, but it’s sort of a surrounding nation type document. And it points out, or my commentary points out here in chapter 21 of verse nine or sorry, verse 29, that here if the ox is, it does cause damage to another person. For the Israelites, they’re commanded to kill the ox, the hammer, or I’ll be killed, which is not this law from the people of Israel.
00:13:52:37 – 00:14:25:22
It has nothing to say about that. The animal would live under that system. So if that is the case, as the commentary points out, that this law is more exacting than the law from outside the community, which in many ways I think makes sense, I do think that part of the identity of the people of Israel is that they’re God’s people and they have understood that to be a reflection of what God expects, that God has given the law, God has an expectation for the community.
00:14:25:46 – 00:14:34:04
And so the fact that the law would require a great deal, that the consequence would be high shouldn’t be surprising, I don’t think.
00:14:34:08 – 00:15:05:09
Yeah, I think I could I think one could make a case, Michael, that the legal codes of Israel see very few things as neutral food has an inherent goodness or lack of it. Animals as well. You know, just a couple of chapters, So go. We saw God tell Moses, don’t let animals come to the mountain. They would they would be put to death that are It’s not that those things are treated.
00:15:06:16 – 00:15:27:41
They’re not anthropomorphized. They’re not treated as though they were people. But there is the expectation that there’s very little that is neutral, that there’s good and bad, there’s good clothing and bad clothing. There’s good ways to farm in bad ways. There’s just there’s right and wrong. And that permeates everything about the Old Testament laws.
00:15:28:03 – 00:15:56:16
By the way, not to linger here any more along longer than we need to. Excuse me, but I would just quickly say this does already begin to help us cling to contextualize and understand how significant Jesus Christ’s life and death is for us, because the law is exacting. And so the God who comes to save us is willing to do well more than pay for the price of the exacting law.
00:15:56:16 – 00:16:27:30
And there is some misunderstanding. I think when you read a book like Hebrews and it talks about Jesus Christ being the eternal sacrifice, I mean, it’s important that we know that the extent to which this law has very strong and specific requirements for humanity, certainly for the people of Israel, the grace and gift and sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the New Testament is framed as being not only sufficient, but greater than what’s necessary to meet the requirements of the law.
00:16:27:32 – 00:16:48:16
So really, to whatever extent this is a strong, difficult and exacting understanding of the world we see as it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, God’s amazing beyond imagination, ability to not only meet that law, but go beyond it for the sake of those that God loves.
00:16:48:36 – 00:17:23:02
So yeah, I think I don’t want to call it a secular reading, Michael, but I think one of the interesting ways to examine the Old Testament law is and we’ve said this before, but I think is to see it as a reflection of how deeply the people believed God cared about all aspects of life. You know, we often don’t think of our pets and their behavior as a reflection of our faith.
00:17:23:15 – 00:17:51:12
The I think the idea of the Israelites that the way you dug a pit and marked it and the way you treated your animal and the way that you treated your your household servants, that all of that that everything you did, that everything in your household, that everything in your possession had some bearing upon your status, not status, your reality and identity as as one of God’s people.
00:17:51:32 – 00:18:22:53
And that the law is so, so permeates the whole of their life, I think is fascinating because I, I don’t think that we think like that culturally. And yet there is no part of their day to day life that they don’t believe God has an opinion about God has a concern over and there is a a right and a wrong way to reflect God in that in the practice of all of those little things.
00:18:22:53 – 00:18:25:49
And I think that’s very interesting.
00:18:26:07 – 00:18:52:58
Yeah. And I think in many ways it could help us not that we’re going to turn this devotional, but there is benefit in remembering that the things that we count as small can yet be acts of discipleship. And, you know, certainly from a Christian perspective, the way that you love your neighbor does not need to be a grand gesture for it to be God honoring and we sometimes forget that it’s the hands and feet, which is by definition small.
00:18:52:58 – 00:19:18:52
It’s one step, it’s one hand being extended that those are the moments in which we can, by practice, by habit, by intentionality, serve others in the name of the God who is currently alive and at work in our lives. It is that concrete and simple. And yes, look at these laws. They may be opaque to us, but if we see in them that spirit clearly, I think it helps us make the road farther down.
00:19:18:52 – 00:19:32:33
Yeah, we’ll press on tomorrow. Thanks for being with us. I appreciate your time. Stay warm if you’re local. And thanks for joining us.