Exodus 21 Commentary
While Chapter 20 focuses on basic commands, Chapter 21 moves a step further to detail civil laws meant to define conduct amongst God’s people. As can be seen, these laws or sub-laws are given within the cultural context of the people. We can see that there is slave trade going on here amongst God’s people. The word of the LORD intervenes to ensure justice in the system.
Slavery is terrible. You would expect the LORD to draw a straight line here. There is a lot more going on, though. The picture presented here is that of a commercial operation where an individual hires himself out to a particular rich individual. Today’s complex labor laws have refined work relations in such fine details and terms that make these laws look not only primitive but also sinful. But in truth these laws are way above reproach within the context of the times. They protect both the employer and the employee. Special attention is given to female employees who may easily suffer injustice and abuse at the hands of the rich.
Also important to note is that these laws are going down to everyone in the community, both to the godly and the godless. You would expect a godly man to stick to his wife and have nothing to do with the maid sexually. But man is in a fallen state and these sub-laws can be seen as a compromise or laws meant for fools since they cannot keep the higher law of righteousness as of first importance.
Besides it should surprise us if these laws were more refined than the law of the Spirit today. The cross has made our days beautiful and consequently, the gift that comes with it is expected to be fully and completely superior.
More sub-laws follow on injuries. Of special interest is an injury inflicted unintentionally resulting in death. The LORD provides a safe haven for this kind of accidental sin. The picture of Jesus as our safe haven for the adamic sin….sin over which you and I have absolutely no share – comes to mind. The LORD Jesus also serves as a safe haven for other sins like generational sins or community-wide sins that have nothing to do with you personally. Of course the blood covers my own sinfulness, importantly.
More resources visit http://www.bibleproject.com