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Judgments Introduction

Judgments, Sinai Covenant, Statutes and Judgements, Exodus

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The first judgment speaks to the matter of slavery (Ex. 21:2-6).


"If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. 3 If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself." (Ex 21:2-4)


We might think that there aren't very many actual slaves in the Western world today. So what good is this instruction?


We should remember that slavery was not uncommon at all just 200 years ago. On that basis, in the overall context of time this judgment is not nearly as out of date as we might initially think. Consider also that some of the largest employers in the world are involved in a form of slavery. Anyone conscripted into the military will easily understand. There is no freedom of choice in military conscription.


There is also no instruction in the New Testament that forbids slavery. Indeed Philemon, to whom the New Testament book was written, evidently owned slaves and Paul honored that position. (See Philemon 10-15) Paul also instructed that servants "under the yoke" (slavery) should show honor to their masters (I Tim 6:1). We should also be aware that slave owners were not expected to be heartless and cruel taskmasters as they are often pictured to be (Ex 21:5, Job 31:13-15).


When we read this judgment in Exodus 21 it is also easy to simply read the letter of this law and think it deals only with slavery as practiced in the US South or in the Roman Empire. The real purpose of this judgment is to establish property rights. Property rights apply just as much today as they did in ancient times.


The slave instruction can be easily applied in principle to an invention (sometimes referred to by its inventor as 'my baby') someone comes up with as an employee. The company for which the employee works, bought and paid for and therefore owned the inventors time and any invention created with that time. It belongs to the company unless some other agreement is worked out. It would be considered theft, based on this principle (Ex 21:4) as it applied to slaves, for the employee to take his knowledge of this invention elsewhere and sell it.


This principle is recognized today in employee/employer regulations. Laws prohibit people from taking company property and or trade secrets and selling them in some form or other to a competitor.


That example has a rather narrow application. Not too many of us are employed as inventors. However, there are places in the New Testament where believers are called the servants or bondservants of Christ (I Cor 7:22, Phil 1:1). This indicates believers are the slaves of Jesus Christ, Yeshua. That touches all believers.

Consider again that even a child fathered by the slave belonged to the master if the master supplied the wife. Is anything more a part of a person than the child he engenders? Yet that child was not considered to be his, but the masters. This tells us that everything the slave did was done on behalf of the master. The slave’s actions were considered the actions of the master.


What does this say of our actions in relationship to Messiah, our Master, if we claim to be His servants? Doesn't it mean that everything we do is as if Messiah did it Himself? Does this have any connection to Christ living in us? Certainly it must. Is He proud or embarrassed? Are we doing what is pleasing in His sight or making Him the servant of sin? It is not likely He will own such action. Certainly He is not the servant of sin. If we pollute our self by sin do we expect Him to live in that environment?


The other judgments associated with the Sinai covenant clarify other aspects of the Ten Commandments that might not otherwise be apparent from just reading the Ten Commandments. Moses included these judgments with the Ten Commandments in a book (Ex 24:4, 7). Those instructions contained more detailed information about how to apply and administer the Ten Commandments.


The Sabbath command, for instance, evidently was intended to provide for a Sabbath for the land, not once every seven days, but once every seven years (Ex. 23:11). This is not at all apparent based simply on Exodus 20:8-11. There is also instruction requiring the prompt payment of hired help (Ex 22:26). We should keep in mind that God is a practical God, and seek to accomplish what is intended by these judgments and draw on the principles evident in the application for Ancient Israel.


The Sinai covenant includes many judgments, which show how to apply the Covenant of the Lord, His Law. Specifically it is written for the time of ancient Israel. However the principles enable us to better understand the full meaning of the Covenant of the Lord, His covenant, the Ten Commandments.  It is not weighted down with temple rituals or the levitical system integral to the Law of Moses.


A thorough investigation of the judgments of Exodus 21-23 is absolutely vital if one is to understand how God wants us to relate to our neighbor. Many of the most highly regarded teachings of Yeshua have their foundation right in these chapters. A full grasp takes careful thought. Consider our document on how to Ponder the Law of God. Understanding how to extract the principles and concepts taught in this law is more important than even an extensive commentary on it written by someone else. This instruction can be applied in an infinite number of situations. Extensive commentaries may never touch on the particular thought that fits a situation with which you are confronted. Train using the tools the Creator gave us to be able to think like He thinks. 


Some people who have practiced a respect for the Law don't see that knowing the difference between the Law of God and the Law of Moses really changes much.  Before you make up your mind I recommend you consider CreatorsCovenant's perspective on the significance.  If you would like to consider a more complete examination of the Judgments of Exodus 21-23, click here.