There’s still more rules before Moses comes down the mountain. These laws are concerning slaves, violence, and property. Are these commandments? Were these written on the first set of stone tablets that Moses brought down? I’m assuming they were. Although, these laws are pretty disgusting if you ask me.
Hebrew male slaves are free to go after they’ve served six years, if he was married when he came in, his wife will leave with him. However, if his master gives him a wife, she and any children she has will remain with the master. The male slave can declare his love for his master and wife and stay on as a slave for the rest of his life. Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a moral guide for all time? Yeah, I don’t think so. Oh, then we get to the part about selling daughters into slavery.
Daughters sold as slaves are basically “wives” for their masters. Female slaves are sold for life, and not for six years like male slaves. This is likely because she has to stick around and take care of any children she might have had with the master. If he takes another wife, the first wife will not be deprived of food, clothing, or marital rights. Should the master fail in this, she will be set free.
The section on violence starts off pretty normal for the bible, if a person kills another person, the killer will be put to death. If it wasn’t premeditated, then the killer will be allowed to flee to a predetermined location. There’s a lot of death penalty offenses for striking a parent, kidnapping anyone, or cursing a parent. If a person strikes another who is then laid up for a few days and needs a cane to walk, the striker will be free of liability and will only have to pay for the victim’s time off.
20When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. 21But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 171). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Please, tell me again how slavery in the Bible is kinder and gentler. It goes on to say that if the slaveowner takes the eye or tooth of a male or female slave, the slave will be freed to compensate for the eye or tooth. That’s so kind and gentle sending a slave who has nothing out into the world. Who is going to hire those slaves? What happens to them?
Apparently the life of an unborn child is not that important. The penalty for injuring a pregnant woman to the point of miscarriage is a fine. If there’s any harm after that point, then it’s eye for eye, tooth for tooth, etc.Property laws are mainly about oxen acting violently. Was this a big problem back in those days? If an ox gores anyone to death, the ox will be stoned to death, but not eaten. If the ox has been known to gore in the past and the owner doesn’t restrain it and it gores someone to death, then both the ox and the owner will be put to death. If the ox gores a slave, then the owner will pay the slaveowner thirty shekels of silver and the ox will be stoned. The rest of the chapter is about paying for the deaths of animals.
This is getting ridiculous. Another chapter of laws. Either there were a lot of stone tablets, or the text was so tiny that nobody could read it. I am not going to write about every law since much of it seems really uninteresting. The first section can be summed up as, “It you stole somebody crap and you get caught, you pay double.” The curious thing I find is that if the thief isn’t caught, then the owner stands before God to see if he’s running a con.
2If a thief is found breaking in, and is beaten to death, no bloodguilt is incurred; 3but if it happens after sunrise, bloodguilt is incurred.Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 172). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
The Oxford Commentary is no help here simply stating that time of day might have been taken into account. I am still trying to think of a reason that makes this make sense. I’ll get back to you.
The rest of this section refers to money, property, and livestock. Livestock seems to be dealt with the most harshly because it was most likely a person’s source of livelihood.
Next we come to social and religious laws, and another addition to the Biblical Marriage list. If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed, then the man has to pay the bride-price and take her as a wife. If the father refuses to hand her over, then the man will pay the virgin bride-price.
There is no rhyme or reason to this list of laws. One would think that God would be more organized in his lawgiving. Instead, it looks like a brainstorming session for a bunch of ancient people trying to think up laws. The next three laws are as follows:
18You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live.Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 173). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
19Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.
20Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction.
This is a group of guys sitting around the fire and thinking of things off the tops of their heads. I don’t want to know why that second item was put in there, but at least one person around that fire was disappointed.
The next part of the chapter is about being a good neighbor, like not oppressing resident aliens (I think some people need to reread this), not abusing widows and orphans (lest ye wives and children be made likewise). Don’t charge interest on money lent or take items in pawn. These are just laws that make for good neighbors.
The final few laws are about respecting God and leaders, making timely sacrifices including crops, livestock, and children. Also, don’t eat the meat of any animal that has been killed by animals.