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Exodus 20:22-21:36

Read Exodus 20:22-21:36

Here is the original sermon on the mount.  Here is a comprehensive discipleship programme for the Israelites to live out in the land in anticipation of Messiah's fulfilment.

After the Ten Words the LORD seems to make a concluding remark about idolatry and altars (20:22-26).  Here the false gods are differentiated from the true God who meets His people at the altar (20:22-26).  Interestingly the altar is also the place to which sinners flee and from which the unforgiven are banished (21:13-14).

From chapter 21:1 we settle down to the more everyday elements of the Father's discipleship programme.

We begin with slavery and freedom (21:2-11) - very appropriate given the redemption of the Israelites.

Calmet gives us six different ways in which a Hebrew might lose his liberty:

  1. In extreme poverty they might sell their liberty. Leviticus 25:39: “If thy brother be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee”, etc.
  2. A father might sell his children. “If a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant”; see Exodus 21:7.
  3. Insolvent debtors became the slaves of their creditors. “My husband is dead-and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen”, 2 Kings 4:1.
  4. A thief, if he had not money to pay the fine laid on him by the law, was to be sold for his profit whom he had robbed. “If he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft”; Exodus 22:3, 4.
  5. A Hebrew was liable to be taken prisoner in war, and so sold for a slave.
  6. A Hebrew slave who had been ransomed from a Gentile by a Hebrew might be sold by him who ransomed him, to one of his own nation.

They serve only for 6 years maximum and would go free in the Sabbath year.  Slavery and redemption was written into the calendar for the Israelites.

Next we see the protection of life.

Note well that protection of the unborn is naturally covered within these laws for all life.  Its destruction is destruction of "life".  You can imagine how great a concern this would be for the Israelites - especially given that they are waiting for the birth of the Messiah!

"Eye for eye" is clearly in operation here (v23ff).  But this is not to foster a cycle of violence, rather it is the absolute limit of just retribution.  Chapter 23:3-4 will enjoin love and mercy for enemies in very practical ways.  It's simply not the case that OT law itself was into revenge and the NT is into forgiveness.

Other thoughts gladly received in comments...

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