Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Exodus 21-24

In chapter 21, the Lord continues giving the law to the Israelites. The first set of passages deals with rules for servitude, buying and selling servants, both Hebrew and foreign. There are time limits, and obligations on the master, and some rights for the servants. There are laws then dealing with personal injuries, with special admonitions against attacking one's mother or father. There are limits imposed on the beating of slaves and servants, and recognition of the special condition of pregnancy. Also, provisions for dealing with injuries which occur, not because of direct attacks, but because of uncontrolled livestock.

Chapter 22 provides rules dealing with the protection of property, from livestock to silver. The second half deals with more societal interaction issues, including some forms of sexual sins. The NIV header for this section is "Social Responsibility" and while that's a bit broad and vague, it seems to fit. Among the stern warnings are not to "take advantage of a widow or an orphan."

In chapter 23, the first laws described address "justice and mercy." These are concerned with issues of false testimony and helping the wicked. The law condemns not only active wrongs, but passive wrong, as men are enjoined from either performing bad acts or refraining from good ones. The next section deals with specific rules for the Sabbath, followed by a section on the three annual festivals to God. The first is "the Feast of Unleavened Bread" or Passover. The next is "the Feast of Harvest," and then the "Feast of Ingathering."

After giving them these laws, the Lord tells them that he is sending an angel ahead of them to guard them along the way, and to bring them to the "place I have prepared." He tells them to listen to him and pay attention, not to rebel against him. He tells them that his angel will bring them into the promised land and, of the people currently inhabiting that land, that God will "wipe them out." He tells them that he will send terror and confusion in to every nation that the Israelites must fight, and that he will establish them from the Red Sea to the "Sea of the Philistines." The people who live there will be handed over or driven out. And he warns them that the worship of their gods "will certainly be a snare to you."

In chapter 24, God and the Israelites confirm their covenant. Moses builds an altar at the foot of Mount Sinai, with twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young Israelite men who offered burned offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses read "the Book of the Covenant" to the people, who responded that they would obey the Lord and do everything that the Lord had said. Moses then sprinkled blood from the sacrificed bulls on the people and said, "this is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words." And the Lord called Moses on to the mountain to stay there, so God could give him stone tablets "with the law and commands I have written for their instruction." And Moses stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights as the flory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • Much, if not all, of the law handed down in these passages is simply expansion and commentary upon the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments said that "You shall not murder," but in these passages, he makes it clear that "thou shall not kill," which is the translation sometimes used to argue against capital punishment, is NOT what the commandment says.
  • Chapter 21 is an expansion and commentary on Commandments five and six. The first half of chapter 22 is an expansion and commentary on Commandment eight, the second half of the chapter touches on commandments one, two and seven. Chpater 23 touches on the fourth and ninth.
  • In one of the really jarring cultural dissonance passages, God contemplates men selling their daughters into servitude, and doesn't say, "DON'T" but gives rules for governing the practice.
  • There are, however, what we would now think of as "workers rights." There are God-imposed time limits on servitude. Even more interesting is that after the time limit, the obligation rests on the owner, if the servant wants to stay, to keep and provide for him.
  • Furthermore, in a polygamous society where brides are purchased and treated as chattel, God declares that men, in taking second wives, are not relieved of their responsibilities to provide for the first ones.
  • God is a proponent of capital punishment.
  • I've heard it said that "an eye for an eye" is from the code of Hammurabi and not the Bible so many times, that I had started believing it. Here's God, giving the law to the Israelites in Exodus 21:23-25 - "if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."
  • In chapter 23, God warns the people of Israel that the worship of the gods of the Canaanites "will certainly be a snare to you." Didn't that turn out to be the truth...
  • Ex 24:4 - "Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said." That strikes me as a very important line. This is internal evidence in favor of the proposition that the book of Exodus was (and, by logical extension, the books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy were) written down at the times at which the events described therein took place, rather than being handed down orally for generations as Genesis presumably was.
  • Another term that echoes through to the New Testament covenant with Jesus - "this is the blood of the covenant."
  • It seems likely that the Hebrew words translated as "forty days and forty nights" had some kind of figurative meaning other than 960 hours. Moses stayed on Sinai the same length of time that the Lord made it rain to cause the flood. It could be literal, I suppose, but I wonder if it didn't eupemistically mean "a really long time."
  • A fire that burned without consuming is how Moses saw the bush when he was at Sinai earlier, and it's how the Israelites saw the top of the mountain this time.

Psalms 3

The notes for Psalm 3 say that it is a song of David when he fled from his son Absalom.

Thoughts, questions, issues
  • The third psalm is the prayer or song or cry of a man who enemies surround him. "How are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me." But who nevertheless trusts in the Lord to help and protect him. "Thou, O LORD, art a shield for me...Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people."
  • Selah - סֶ֫לָה - To lift up, exalt

Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.

Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.

But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.

I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.

Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.

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