May 11, 2015.
Daily Reading: Exodus 21-24.
Background: Exodus 17-20.
Concepts and Connections.
Practical laws: After giving the ten commandments that are well known, the Lord continues His law, giving the children of Israel a basis for rule and government as they now would become their own people without the oversight of another nation. In this chapter, there are many practical laws given to let the people know what to do in specific situations that would inevitably arise in the day to day lives when so many people are in one place. There are laws about slaves, both male and female, justice for offenses cause by both man and beast, and laws of restitution. We can gain some insights about the culture of God’s people and about God Himself from the laws that He gives in this section. This will become more evident in the chapters that follow. When the later writers refer back to the Law, this is where it starts, though many of the items in this section (and the book of Exodus for that matter) are repeated in subsequent books which are more typically thought of as where to go to find the law (such as Leviticus and Deuteronomy). Regardless, the specific revealing of the law began in the previous chapter and will continue through the next few chapters. Some of the laws presented throughout this section may seem strange or even a bit unsettling to us who look at them through the eyes of our own time and culture, but we must remember that this was a different time and society than our own, and the daily operations and attitudes were different. What was one thing to the ancient Hebrews may indeed mean something completely different than how we would think about it, such as slavery. More study is needed for many of these laws if one is to fully understand the purpose and implications of each.
Practical laws and social justice: This chapter is more of a continuation of the last two than a different section. More practical laws are being given, dictating what the children of Israel should do in various situations of wrongdoing and injustice. These laws help to place fault in situations that there might be ambiguity and work to maintain a level of justice for the children of Israel. After citing laws that deal with stolen and broken property/material things, the law turns to social justice to tell the children of Israel how to handle situations where one person directly wrongs another or problems in society in general. Notable laws in this section are those against sorcery (see I Samuel 28), against beastiality, for showing hospitality to sojourners and laws about lending. Each of these laws would play an important role at some point in Jewish history, some even beyond the time of Christ.
Laws, festivals and the promised land: The laws in the opening of this section show the love that God wanted His people to have for one another, even when the other person mistreated them. This section reveals the mercy and forgiveness that is God’s character, qualities He wanted His children to display as well. Then there are laws given about festivals and sabbath rests, each designed for a closer relationship with the Lord. For six days the children of Israel were to work, and then on the seventh they were to do no work, for it was a rest given to them by the Lord. Three times a year they were to hold a feast to the Lord: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest and the Feast of Ingathering. These festivals were a time to reflect on what God had done for and given them, as well as an opportunity to teach their children about the Lord. This teaching opportunity was very important to the Lord, as we see from other occasions (see Joshua 4). Finally, the chapter finishes off with a reminder of the promise that God had made to Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that He would give the land of Canaan to the children of Israel, going in and driving out the nations that were in there at the time. Interestingly, the Lord says that He will do this little by little, so that the land would remain fertile by the hands of the Canaanites until Israel grew into the land. They were not to make any covenant with the peoples of the land, nor were they to bow down and serve their gods. They were to utterly drive them out, lest the people’s gods become a snare to the Israelites (which is precisely what would happen as the Israelites did not completely wipe out the inhabitants of the land). This can be a lesson for us even today, that if we let the outside world influence us through association, it can become a snare to us and our faith.
The covenant confirmed: After these laws were spoken to the people, they said “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Then Moses confirmed the covenant with them by sprinkling blood on the alter and on the people. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and 70 of the elders of Israel were called up to worship from afar, being given the privilege to look upon the glory of the Lord in some fashion without being consumed. Then Moses was specifically called up close to God, so that the Lord could give him tablets of stone with the law of the covenant written on them, what many think of as the ten commandments. Aaron and Hur were left in charge when Moses went up on the mountain. On the seventh day (notice the significance in the number and day), Moses was called out of the midst of the cloud that engulfed the mountain to go up on the mountain to see the glory of the Lord, which looked like a consuming flame to all Israel who were at the bottom of the mountain. He was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights, a time period that surfaces a substantial amount of times throughout scripture (see Genesis 7:30, Deuteronomy 9:18-25, Numbers 13:25, I Kings 19:8 and Matthew 4:2).
Tomorrow’s Reading: II Samuel 10-14.
Fear the Lord.