Sometimes Saying, “I’m sorry,” is Not Enough! (Exodus 21-22)

Scripture reading: Exodus 21-22

Moving forward with the Ten Commandments as the basis of God’s Law for Israel, believers should identify the Commandments, and the precepts that follow in today’s Scripture reading, as the foundation of democratic law, and our sense of justice and fairness.

Exodus 21 – Precepts for Slavery, Manslaughter, Rebellion, and Injury

In ancient times, there was the practice of slavery, and indentured servitude (21:1-11). Some might object to the inclusion of this institution in the Bible; however, it was a common, and accepted practice and the LORD instituted principles that were prudent, forbidding the injustices that have been a shameful practice of slavery down through the centuries.

For example, a Hebrew man reduced to slavery, was only to serve seven years; after the seventh year was accomplished, he would be freed from his indebtedness (21:1-2). Should a man become a slave, and was married at that time he was enslaved, he, his wife, and children would be freed after the seventh year.

Should a man marry during his servitude, only he would be set at liberty after the seventh year (21:3-4). Though freed from obligation, should he love his wife, children, and master, and not want to depart alone, a Hebrew was permitted to choose to continue voluntarily as a slave (21:5). Such a man would have his ear bored through (21:6), and would serve either till the death of his master, or be set free with his family in the year of jubilee (every 50 years).

Parents who found themselves in poverty, and lacked the means to provide for a daughter, might sell her as a young maiden (21:7), hoping the man who purchased her might take her as his wife when she was of age. Should the man or his son refuse to marry her, they were under obligation to provide food, and clothing for her (21:8-11).

The sixth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not kill” (20:13); however, the law recognized a difference between murder and manslaughter (taking a life without intent, 21:12-14).

The fifth commandment demanded, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (20:12). Cursing one’s parents was a capital offense and death was mandated (21:17).

In the matter of accidental injuries that did not result in death, but left the victim unable to provide for himself or his family, the innocent victim was to be fairly, and properly compensated (21:18-32). The law demanded, “24Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (21:24). Losses that were caused by one’s negligence, were to be compensated (21:28-36).

Exodus 22 – Theft, and endangerment of one’s likelihood, were not tolerated.

In an agricultural society where a man’s livelihood, and his family’s well-being, were dependent on farming and husbandry, the theft of ox, or sheep was a serious offense (22:1-4), as was the damage to a man’s crops (22:5-6). Personal responsibility and liability were important issues among God’s people, and fair compensation for losses, whether by theft or neglect, was mandated (22:7-15).

Exodus 22:14-15 stated the obligation a borrower assumed when borrowing another man’s property.  For the sake of illustration, if a farmer borrowed another man’s ox to plow his field, and the ox was injured or died, the borrower was under obligation to “make it good” (22:14); in other words, repay or replace the ox.  The exception was when the owner of the ox was plowing another man’s field “for his hire” (22:15).

Exodus 22 concludes with various laws that address moral and societal issues (22:16-23:19), including rape (22:16-17), witchcraft (22:18), bestiality (22:19), and idolatry (22:20).  The matter of borrowing, and indebtedness were addressed, and charging excessive interest that imposed an unnecessary hardship on the poor was condemned (22:25-27).

The Law, and its application to daily life, demanded honesty and integrity.

A borrower was under obligation to make right any damage, and loss. We need to restore this principle of justice, and fairness. If we want our children to have integrity, then we need to teach them to be responsible, and make another whole when their actions have cause loss or injury.

Lesson – Saying, “I’m sorry,” is just not enough!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith