Text Box: Creator’s CovenantStarClus1.jpg

Judgments of the Sinai Covenant

Statutes, Sinai Covenant, ordinances, Law, Old Testament Law, Law of God

Major Threads




Contact Us

Challenge Rules


Bible Keys


Traditional Beliefs


Hebrews Old Covenant


Patriarchs Covenant

The New Covenant

New Testament Teaching


His Judgments

Other Studies



"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28  And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God." ( Eze 36:25-28)   

Apparently God is going to have to wait until He brings His people to their inheritance before they will properly live by His statutes and judgments.  Isn't that a shame?  Are those that consider themselves spiritual Israel an exception?  It doesn't indicate that here.  It appears that even a significant portion of the congregation of God will be left behind when the truly faithful are protected in the end times (Rev 12:17).  The truly righteous will be faithful in heeding not only the general instruction of the commandments, but also the detail instructed by the judgments, which are based on those commandments.  This is how it will be when God Himself takes charge.  This provides the few who might recognize this with an opportunity to truly be a special treasure to our Creator.


The rest of the congregation of God goes about their routine, comfortable that they know every important truth, that they are rich and increased in the goods of God.  They know not that they are in fact wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked before their Creator (Rev 3:17).  No wonder they have found no significant new truth for decades.  How could they when they already know it all? 


The very culture extant within the congregation of God resists any openness to new understanding from anywhere but the very top leadership.  However, when God corrects a situation He doesn't always do it the way one expects.  "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;" (I Cor 1:27).  This can hardly be summarized as being 'from the top down' in the way church leadership would intend it. 


What does God say about His Shepherds, the leaders, the top? "As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock" (Eze 34:8).


"And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd. 16  For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. 17  Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock!" (Zec 11:15e-17)


Not until David is resurrected will God's people have a proper shepherd that will teach them all of God's law. "And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them." (Eze 37:24)  If you wish to have at least an inkling of what on earth these judgments are, keep reading.  Probably no one fully understands every aspect of what our Creator is trying to tell us with these judgments, but we know where to start.  The most concentrated place is Exodus 21:1 "Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them."


To properly understand the Creator's judgments one must first understand that there is a difference between the law of God and the Law of Moses.  They both deal with many of the same issues.  Indeed the Law of Moses clarifies and adds additional detail to some of the Law of God, but it also adds some practices of which there is no hint in the Law of God.  It is not at cross-purposes with the Law of God, but in some aspects it does not conform to the intent of the Law of God.


The main example is probably the institution of the Aaronic priesthood and especially the Levites as God's representatives.  It was God's intent that the entire nation of Israel was to represent Him as priests,


"And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." (Ex 19:6)


However, after the episode of the golden calf it became apparent that they were not worthy of life, let alone capable of properly representing the Creator.  Something else had to be done.  At the behest of Moses, the Creator started putting together a plan that would allow Him to continue working with Israel (Ex 34:9-10).  It created a second covenant, the terms of which are specifically Deuteronomy (Deu 29:1, 31:24-26), but it also assumes the existence of the earlier detail of Genesis through Numbers (Deu 1:3).  This covenant was called ‘this covenant’ (Deu 29:9, 14) or the Law of Moses (Josh 23:6).


The tribe of Levi was established as a buffer between God and the rest of Israel, (Num 1:50-53, Deu 10:8).  Instead of being the go-between for God and the Gentiles, Israel was in need of a go-between of their own.  The law was the terms of this covenant.  It was based on the institution of the Levitical priesthood to direct Israel. 


Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need {was there} for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?  (Heb 7:11 NASB)


One purpose of The Law, the law of Moses, was to more thoroughly document the Law of God, (Deu 31:26).  It was another witness against them.  They obviously didn't 'get' the meaning intended by just Exodus 20-23.  As such, the Law of Moses adds detail and clarifies some of the original judgments given at Sinai.  However, the most concentrated place where God's judgments are recorded is in Exodus 21:1- 23:19.  This is the foundation of the original instruction under which Israel was to live, before The Law existed.  People are sometimes confused because the law of God is included in the Law of Moses.  Exodus 20-23 is included in Genesis through Deuteronomy even though it documents an earlier law.


It seems apparent that there were certain things understood in that time and culture, which we do not automatically understand now.  So fortunately for us, we have the Law of Moses to consult.  In our case, we are even more fortunate to have the New Testament and the instruction of Jesus Christ.  However, a little thought and a sincere desire to understand would go a long way toward understanding the mind of God from just the covenant of Exodus 20 and the following judgments.  Contrary to popular opinion, the Sinai covenant is not the "Old Covenant" of Hebrews 8-9.  See my article, "Are you under the law, or what is the Old Covenant?"


We also need to keep in mind that the instruction given at Sinai was a minimum requirement.  If Israel had obeyed this instruction they would have avoided death  (Ex 21:12, 29, 22:18-20, 24).  God would have been pleased with this and blessed them, (Ex 23:20-33) but these judgments are setting a minimum standard, not the expected standard, especially for a spirit led Christian.


Most people think the various judgments of the Sinai covenant are just a jumble of miscellaneous mundane regulations that were randomly documented in scripture.  Actually this is not the case.  There are four or five general divisions into which the judgments are grouped.  They deal with 1) Property rights, 2)Bodily harm, 3)Theft, 4)Proper honor of God and what seems to be a subsection expanding on Sabbaths.


Some of these judgments lend themselves to more comment than others.  Also how they apply to us may encompass multiple aspects, not all of which fit neatly in the divisions in which they are included.  Scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version unless otherwise stated.  When partial verses are quoted a small letter is added as a suffix to the verse.  The letter indicates the relative position of the phrase in the verse.


Section 1, Property rights

Ex 21:2-6   Servants’ relationship to masters       

This first regulation clearly defined as a judgment is a great place to start.  It deals with slavery.  On the surface one might look at this and immediately discard it.  Especially in the Western world we renounced slavery hundreds of years ago.  Of what value is this to us?

First, we should remember that slavery was not uncommon at all just 200 years ago.  Of course his judgment was given thousands of years ago.  So this judgment is not nearly as out of date as we might initially think.  There is also no instruction in the New Testament that forbids slavery and a number of verses that recognize it in place.  Indeed Philemon, to whom the New Testament book was written, evidently owned slaves and Paul honored that position. (See Philemon 10-15)  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).

In fact, the law clarifies that not only is an Israelite 'slave' to be freed after seven years of service, but he is really to be considered a hired hand, not a slave (Lev 25:39-40).

Slavery still exists today.  In the Western world it is hidden.  In some cultures it is commonplace.  Where it exists, His direct instruction still applies.  In spirit there are still master-slave relationships within every family.  We learn God's mind based on this instruction.

Specifically, this judgment talks of Israelite slaves.  One reason Israelites were made slaves was to pay a debt (Ex 22:3, Lev 25:39).  This certainly seems like a better solution than prison (Mat 18:30) or modern bankruptcy, where the merchant simply loses and irresponsibility is rewarded. 

When we read this judgment it is easy to simply read the letter of this law and think it deals only with slavery.  An additional purpose of this judgment is to recognize property rights.  Property rights are as important today as they were then. 

:2 "If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years: and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing."

This apparently applied to Israelites only (Lev 25:45-46).  God expects that brothers in Israel (everyone) would work to build one another up, not keep one another stuck in a system that prevents them from advancing or at least being self-sufficient.  Part of the purpose for slavery was to rehabilitate.  This is clear in Deuteronomy 15:12-15 where this instruction is repeated and clarified.  The slave was not just to be released, but he was to be given a jump-start toward independently supporting himself.  The master was to supply him with livestock and some hope of making it on his own.  This was the intent of Exodus 21:2.  Deuteronomy 15:12-18 was added as a witness against Israel.  God promised to make good the investment the master made toward the former slave’s well-being (vs 18). 

This brings to mind the instruction of Matthew 25:34-40.  "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." (vs 40b).  We will see a number of places throughout these judgments that God considers it His function to be the protector of the poor. This is the work of God. 

Of course, the overall purpose of the creation, and therefore a significant part of His work, is to make children for Himself.  However, in ancient Israel the teaching and instruction of those potential children was delegated to the tribe of Levi.  Overall He has taken a hands-off approach hoping we will seek to be like Him.  He expected that everyone would seek His way before Levi was established as the priestly tribe.

Jeremiah 34 shows God’s disgust with the job the leaders of Israel have done.

Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them."  For thus says the Lord GOD: "Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out."' (Vs. 10-11) 

The main instruction was left to others.  It was only after failure that the Creator was moved to involve Himself.  Even the Patriarchs were to be instructed by their parents (Gen 18:19) not directly by God.  He follows His own advice. " Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips." (Pro 27:2)

Anyway, Israel didn't get the point that they were to truly regard their fellow man as they would regard themselves.  Jeremiah 34 documents at least part of the reason why Babylon took them captive.  They would not release their Hebrew slaves (Vs 14-20). 

So, we may not have slaves to release, but do we have any part in a system that keeps our brethren functioning at a subsistence level, so there is little hope they will ever be able to extract themselves?  Hopefully not.  We should attempt to lift up our fellows.  This applies just as much today as it did in ancient Israel.  It applies to non-believers as well.  God will make up whatever we think we might personally lose in the process of lifting our brothers.

:3-4 "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.  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."

This makes pretty clear that the slave retains whatever he had when he arrived.  The master should not appropriate anything from the slave. 

However, anything acquired from a master while working for a master was still the master’s, even a wife and children.  The slave was simply an extension of the master.  This may seem somewhat heartless, but the Israelite slave was a slave for a reason.  He had a debt to pay.  Again, property rights were the issue. 

It may seem heartless to break up the slave’s family.  That whole knotty issue could be avoided in two ways.  1)Don't become a slave.  2)Don't take a wife from your master. 

How does this apply to us?  This particular situation clarifies God's thoughts regarding employer/employee relations. It can be easily applied in principle to an invention (sometimes referred to by its inventor as 'my baby') someone comes up with while an employee.  The company for which the employee works bought, paid for and therefore owned his/her 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 instruction (vs. 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 secrets and selling them in some form or other to a competitor.  With this ancient example God has weighed in with His opinion on an issue in modern society that no one would have thought of during the time of Moses.

There are places in the New Testament where believers are called the servants or bondservants of Christ (I Cor 4:1, Phil 1:1).  This indicates believers are the slaves of Jesus Christ.  Pondering the function of a slave and their relationship to their master is well worth the effort, since any believer is a slave.  Slavery is not an irrelevant institution to a believer, since he/she is one.

Questions have come up regarding how slaves and children should conduct themselves in relationship to their masters and/or parents in the New Testament.  This verse is a key to understanding those issues, but it is a large enough subject that it will not be covered here.  Ask for the article on “How to serve two masters”.

:5-6 But if the servant plainly says, "I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free".  Then his master shall bring him to the judges.  He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

The last two verses of this section describe what happens if the slave likes his situation just the way it is.  This presumes that a master has been kind, fair and probably even generous to the slave. God expected this to be a somewhat normal situation.  Again this reinforces the instruction of Matthew 25:40.  We are to treat everyone with respect and kindness.  Job certainly recognized the need for respect of his slaves. (Job 31:13-15)  He knew God would require an explanation.  He also knew if he were overly hard on his servant, he would have no reason to expect mercy from God.

It is worth noting that there is no penalty specified if a master does not release a slave after six years.  A blood covenant would have a default penalty of death.  Yet when God chose to punish Israel for ignoring this instruction he sent them into captivity (See Jer 34:8-22).  God had the option of doing this because of the covenant made in Moab, basically Deuteronomy.  The Law of Moses allowed for extensive curses of which captivity was one.

This judgment clarified aspects of the commandments dealing with stealing, the Sabbath and respect to the Creator God alone.  We disrespect God when we disrespect man, made in His image (Jam 3:8-18).


:7-11 Women's rights in marriage       

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.  8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.  9 And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.


Women were treated a little differently than men in servitude.  It seems to be assumed that a female slave will become her master's wife.  This is probably why she was not to be freed.  The marital relationship was intended to be for life.  However, if during the betrothal period, the master decided he didn't want this woman, he could sell her back to her family, which we assume would want to rescue her from a difficult situation.


It seems an important aspect of this, is the statement here that the man acted "deceitfully".  Why is this assumed? 


In acquiring a wife the man is making a commitment.  The commitment of betrothal in those times was little different from the commitment of marriage.  At betrothal the man was saying, "Yes, I will care and provide for you".  It is his responsibility to be sure he will follow through before he makes that commitment.  God expects us to stand by our word.


Now before the marriage is actually consummated, irreversible damage is not done, so God allows the man to back out.  He must, though, make the situation good.  If she was to be his son's wife rather than his, he must treat her as he would his own daughter.


One lesson for us is that we need to be very careful when we make a commitment.  If we say we will do something, but don't, we are dealing deceitfully.  It is our responsibility to make the situation right.  I think it safe to say that God does not appreciate deceit in any of our conduct.  If we find that we have over-committed ourselves we need to go the extra mile to make the situation as right as we can.


Now some in our society would probably be offended by God's treatment of women in this judgment.  They seem to be simple possessions of the man.  Indeed, throughout the whole Bible women are expected to be subject to some man, either a husband or father.  Of course they are also to be loved, provided for and protected by the men. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph. 5:25).  Certainly there have been abuses in this area.  Because God allowed a wife to be purchased, doesn't necessarily mean that He expected it to be done that way.


God can work with cultural diversity.  His judgments are broad and general in scope.  He expects us to seek the spirit of the law, i.e. the underlying principle(s).  They should then be applied to fit our particular situation.  Any particular society needs to examine all of scripture in determining what is cultural diversity and what is Law of God.  "if a man sell his daughter" does not mean that God requires or expects us to sell our daughters.  On the other hand throughout scripture, God deals more directly with the male than the female.  The pervasive nature of this should not automatically be ignored and dismissed as simply a matter of cultural diversity.


:10-11  If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. 11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.


This is another item that is addressed directly to a particular culture.  However, some have said that if you are estranged from your wife you cannot marry another.  That would be adultery.  Based on this judgment, God evidently doesn't feel that way about it.  He doesn't consider it adultery to have two wives at once.  Why would He be displeased at having two wives, just one at a time?


Matthew 19:9 and Mark 10:11 seem to say if you divorce and then marry again you are committing adultery.  Is this teaching something different?


It should be remembered that Jesus was speaking either Hebrew or Aramaic.  His subject was divorce not multiple wives.  Jesus words were translated into Greek at some point and then into English for us.  The Hebrew indicated by the Greek, that ultimately became 'divorces… and marries' in Matthew, Mark and Luke, actually indicates a meaning of 'divorces in order to marry'.   (For an explanation of the Hebrew as it applies here see '"And" or "In order to" Remarry' by D. Biven in Jerusalem Perspective Jan-March 1996 issue)


In Jesus’ day there was a relatively new teaching that a man could divorce for almost any reason.  Some were using this to dump one wife so that they could marry someone else.  Jesus was condemning those that sidestepped the judgment of Exodus 21:10.  It is not a problem to marry another if you adequately support the first.  However, if you dump one woman for another you are being unfaithful.  That is adultery, being deceitful and stealing from the first wife what is due.


It stands to reason that even if you dump your wife and don't marry another you are committing adultery as well.  God expects us to be faithful to our word.  Especially in the case of a marriage, if we commit to something, we should stick with it.


It is somewhat interesting that what is expected of the man could be described as maintaining her in the manner to which she has become accustomed.  This is familiar terminology to us because of the high rate of divorce and rulings in our own judicial systems.  This seems to be what God considers the minimum due a wife.  As such, it would also follow that should the couple divorce, a godly breadwinner would not begrudge the non-working spouse this level of support.  Other factors might need to be considered, but this would be the initial standard.


These judgments on rights of marriage clarify the meaning of adultery, stealing and bearing false witness.  If the wife was not properly cared for she was free to leave.  I would assume she took her possessions with her, which could have included a sizable dowry.


If the wife was not supported as was appropriate and left, this does not mean that God considered the situation closed.  The man had neglected God's instruction and was unfaithful toward his wife.  If she were unable to adequately support herself and fell into poverty, God would have included her in a special status that will be examined soon.


Section 2, Bodily harm


:12-14     Murder or manslaughter

He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.  13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.  14 But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.


If someone was killed accidentally, or without forethought and planning, the person responsible had the option to flee to a city of refuge where he would be safe until guilt, innocence or level of responsibility could be judged.  The details of this are explained in Numbers 35:6-34 and Joshua 20:6.  


Although an unintentional death would not result in the execution of the person at fault, it should be noted that a penalty was still paid.  In most cases the guilty party would need to remain in the city of refuge until the High Priest died.  More than likely this was looking forward to the time when our High Priest, Jesus Christ, would die for our sins.  Someone had to die to atone even for the accident.  Also the culpable party had his life seriously interrupted.  Yet he was still in an environment where he could be productive.  He was also in an environment that was made up of a significant number of people that understood the ways of God.  Hopefully he would learn how to be more careful.


It should be noted that the two parties involved here are described as neighbors.  The exact distance, which they lived from one another, is irrelevant.  No exception is made for a foreigner.  We are all neighbors.


Of course, the basis for this judgment is the commandment not to murder. The penalty for violation was death or severe restriction until the death of the high priest.


:15    Striking parents                    

15 And he who strikes his father or mother shall be surely put to death.

Simply striking a parent could bring the death penalty.  This is likely because it is indicative of so many problems.  First of course, the fifth commandment requires honor of one's parents and is the only command that includes in it a blessing if done.  Second, we can see with the teaching of the New Testament that the real intention is that we not even hate our brother let alone our parents.


"Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." (I John 3:15).  God is telling us what very bad behavior is.  If we wish to really please Him, we should do the opposite, not just stop short of the condemned offense.  This judgment doesn't condemn for hatred alone, but as a believer our mind, not just the body, is to be subject and in harmony with God. "casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (II Cor 10:5)


There are other judgments we will see that talk of honoring those in authority.  It should be noted that God is our ultimate parent.  In a similar way Psalms 82:6 claims that we are gods.  We create our children and are gods to them particularly when they are young.  The relationship is very similar between children and their parents and the parents and their Creator.  If the child is so hardhearted that he strikes out at his creator will he ever be able to respect the real Creator?


Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord”. (Col 3:20)  This reinforces the concept that when we honor our parents we honor God.  If we don’t honor our parents, we are establishing habits that will ultimately separate us from the Creator too.  This could probably be said of everything we discuss here, but it is especially true of this relationship.


The Ten Commandments and these judgments were directed mainly toward the adults, particularly the male adults.  All the people stood by the mountain in Exodus 20, but even the command to honor the parents is directing adults to care for their aged parents (Mark 7:9-13), not necessarily directing small children to obey their parents.  Although I'm sure God intended that anyone old enough would understand, He was dealing with the adults.  It was the adults' job to teach their children.


There is the possibility that a child will refuse to respect and obey his parents.  I would expect that as long as the child was under the control of the parents, the parents were responsible for enforcement of all applicable judgments with regard to their children. 


Legal age was evidently twenty (Ex 30:14, Num 1:3, 18, 14:28-29, 26:2).  Before that time, or possibly even after, if a child was uncontrollable, the Law of Moses instructed that parents could seek the assistance of the community to deal with this rebellious child (Deu 21:18-21).   The specific example cited indicates the child would be stoned. 


This seems rather severe.  However, we are dealing with a situation where the child is undoubtedly a major accident waiting to happen.  Should it happen to the cause of the accident or the victim?  Milder penalties may have been an option, but certainly if things went this far, the child had a serious and dangerous problem.


The immediate basis for this judgment is the commandment to honor parents, have no other Gods and do no murder. The penalty for violation was death.


:16    Kidnapping                 

He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.


Kidnapping occurs for a number of reasons, but the net effect on the victim is that his life is stolen.  Anyone who does this deserves the same effect on his or her life.  This conduct shows a blatant disregard for one’s fellow man and is absolutely contrary to the intent of God’s law.  Particularly one who holds his victim for ransom typically threatens to kill the victim if the ransom is not paid.  In doing so he is acknowledging that he is a murderer.  Whether or not he actually follows through is irrelevant.  He has condemned himself. 


There are unfortunately bizarre circumstances today where a parent kidnaps his or her own child.  I doubt God had that situation in mind when this judgment was set in place for Israel.


The commandments under which this law falls are: don’t steal or murder. The penalty for violation was death.


 :17   Cursing parents 

And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.     


This is another level removed from the physical striking of verse 15.  Simply the vocalizing of ill will toward a parent makes it apparent that this child is of the same mind as the one who strikes and is to be removed from the nation. 


Reading what we have about the spirit and intent of the law, can we now see that the thought of the heart is what is really important?  Just because we don’t actually murder someone, don’t actually strike them and don’t actually curse them, does that mean we are in line with the mind of God?  It seems apparent at this point that we are not even to hate in our heart.  This is where the violence begins and this is where it must be stopped.  This is made perfectly clear in I John 3:15: "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him".


Throughout the scriptures there are basically two types of people; the wicked and the righteous.  Having respect for the righteous shouldn’t be a problem.  To respect the wicked we must simply remember that they are the children of our Creator too.  God gives them the warmth of the sun and water too (Mat 5:48).  He gives them minimum necessities because He’s not finished with them yet.  He does not have to do this.  For their benefit and ours, He leaves the tares with the wheat (Mat 13:28-30).  If He did not do this He probably would have plucked us up with the other tares long ago.


In Matthew 15:3 and Mark 7:10, Jesus linked this verse directly with Exodus 20:12, which commands us to honor our parents.  It is apparent from that context that honoring parents is not just a matter of talking to them respectfully, but caring for them in their old age.  As such it is a good example of the connection between belief, faith and works.  If one truly believes he will act on that belief.


The immediate basis for this judgment is the commandment to honor parents, have no other God’s and do no murder.  The penalty for violation was death.


:18-19     Causing injury         

"If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to his bed.  19. If he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted.  He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed."     

God evidently places a great deal of value on personal responsibility.  If the injured man was permanently injured it appears that the perpetrator would become responsible for taking care of the victim for the rest of his life.  This is indeed a serious matter.


It stands to reason that this applies in everything else we do.  We take responsibility for our actions.  This is also evident in other judgments that follow.


There are people who blame the insurance industry for undermining a proper sense of responsibility in people and thwarting justice.  They have a point.  Insurance tends to relieve people of responsibility.  At the same time insurers are in the business of making money.  They have staff on hand whose job it is to pay out the very least they can to victims.


This judgment would be based on the command not to steal. 



:20-27         Injury or death to servant              

"And if a man beats his servant or his maidservant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished.  21. Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property."

It seems the difference here is intent and/or self-control.  If the servant didn’t die that day it could be assumed that the owner acted in haste, without thinking and there was no intent to kill.  In that case he has significantly injured himself.  He has lost his servant and that is deemed a just punishment.


However, if the servant dies in short order, the owner was either out of control or intended to kill and “thou shalt do no murder”.  He is to be punished.  Exactly what that punishment should be is not stated.  We have to assume it is not an automatic death penalty or that would have been stated as it was for the murder in verse 12 above.  There is no mention of the need to flee to a city of refuge.


The next judgment provides for a judge to levy a monetary fine.  I’m not sure who would receive the fine in this case.  Perhaps a fair penalty might be to release a relative from servitude if the victim had relatives under the same masters’ control.  The remedy in this situation is probably left rather open ended to give the judges flexibility to issue an appropriate penalty.  In any case, even though the slave is the property of the owner, that did not give the owner the right to do with him 100% as he pleased.


Even though it is apparent that slaves were second-class citizens, in this case there is clear evidence that the Creator cared for them too.  According to the Critical and Experimental Commentary (Exodus) by Robert Jamieson, this law was unique in the ancient world until about the first century.  Nowhere else was there any concern for the loss of a slave.  The Creator is concerned for all life, especially human.  Everyone deserves a certain minimum level of respect.  The Creator is faithful to give this (Mat 5:44-48) and expects His children to do the same.


This judgment clarified the definition of murder.  The penalty for the owner was loss of the slave’s hours of labor or if the slave died, the local judges evidently had significant flexibility to exact a penalty depending on the circumstances.



:22-25         injury to unborn child 

"If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no lasting harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.  23.But if any lasting harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,  25. Burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."


The injured party has a strong hand in determining what the penalty should be.  Apparently other judges make the final assessment.  This again underscores the importance of personal responsibility.  Anyone who injures someone else is responsible for making it right, not according to what the responsible person deems to be fair, but according to what the injured party thinks is fair.  For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?” (I Pet 2:20)  When in error a believer should be anxious to make the situation right.


This is a fairly famous area of scripture that has been used by many who seek revenge.  Interestingly, some of this is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 5:38.  Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”


Jewish views of Pacifism by David Bivin, from Jerusalem Perspective, (www.jerusalemperspective.com), examines this text in Matthew and determines that Jesus is not advocating pacifism, and especially not revenge.  “Resist not” in this context most likely is intended to mean don’t contend, get even or get revenge.  The original judgment is intending to emphasize the exacting of a just and fair penalty.  It is not recommending mutilation as a penalty, but fairness, equity and justice.  It does not necessarily make sense to maim someone even if they maimed someone else.  That just makes two people who will have difficulty providing for themselves.  Jesus is not correcting the original instruction, but talking to a misinterpretation that allowed revenge.


A clarification in Leviticus 19:18 reinforces this. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I [am] the LORD.   So even Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 5 is not really a new teaching, but a clarifying of the original.


Actually this "eye for eye" instruction appears in Leviticus 24 and Deuteronomy 19 also.  This might tend to reinforce that maiming the guilty party was indeed a just penalty and indeed it appears in some circumstances this may be so.


The context in Deuteronomy 19:21 is in regard to a false witness (vs. 18).  If a false witness attempts to pervert justice and thereby cause some harm to someone else, the false witness is to receive the punishment he hoped to inflict on the other person.  God seems to take the matter of a false witness very seriously. "then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. 20. Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye…” (Deu 19:19, 20ab).  This potentially life-changing sentence is being levied on someone who is willfully and with premeditation falsifying the truth in a court of law.  The default penalty for conduct directly contrary to one of the Ten Commandments is really death.  So from that perspective the guilty party is getting off light.


The situation in Leviticus 24:20 also deserves more than just a surface reading.  Verse 17 states that whoever kills a man should be put to death.  This is more or less repeating Exodus 21:12.  However Exodus 21:13 allows that if there was no premeditation involved there might be extenuating circumstances.  In that case there was to be a trial to determine guilt and the appropriate penalty, which may or may not be death. 


It is reasonable to assume some similar procedure would apply in any other case where bodily harm was done.  It is only in the case where there was premeditated and malicious intent that the full penalty was to be exacted (Ex 21:14).  With this in mind all three of these instances seem to be in accord.  Malicious intent is key to determining a just penalty.


Numerous other verses in these judgments dictate the person in the wrong do what is necessary to make the situation right.  (See Exodus 21:19, 30, 34, 36, 22:3, 12 & 14.)  It appears he is to be anxious to correct the situation.  This conduct takes faith that God will respect and help one who takes this approach in his dealings with others.  David knew that this person would ultimately dwell with God, (see Ps 15:1) “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change” (vs.:4). 


This mentality along with a desire to live in peace is undoubtedly why Paul came to the conclusion in I Corinthians 6:7, that a true Christian would rather take the wrong than go to court with a brother.  If a Christian has done any wrong, he should be anxious to make the situation right.  Jesus reinforced this as well in Matthew 5:25.  Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer and you be thrown into prison.


This doesn’t mean you roll over and give in to anyone who brings an accusation against you.  In this account where Jesus clarifies the meaning of “eye for eye” he gives an example of someone slapping you and suggests you let him slap you on the other cheek also (Mat 5:39).  However, when Jesus was struck in John 18:22-3 He did not volunteer himself to be struck again.  He spoke respectfully to his assailant and clearly pointed out the error.  However, if Jesus had been in error, He would have bent over backwards to make it right.  Paul acted this way in Acts 23:4-5.  In any case, Jesus is recommending against revenge and/or promotion of further contention or antagonism.


This particular judgment could bring up the matter of abortion although it really doesn't directly deal with that.  It does deal with the possible death of an unborn child.  It allows that if there is lasting harm the judges have the option of giving 'life for life'.  Indeed it appears they are required to implement a severe penalty.  It doesn't differentiate between harm to the mother and harm to the child.  It seems this possibility of 'life for life' would make a death here the same penalty as a death in verses 12-14. 


I would assume that if the pregnancy was in the very early stages it is possible they would not even recognize that there had been an abortion.  They would have seen this as no permanent harm.


The father is involved in the decision when there is no permanent harm.  It seems that his involvement is not so integral when harm is permanent.  That would seem to indicate that the death of a significantly developed unborn child would be a community matter, not a personal matter.  There is no variation of penalty depending on the term or trimester of the child’s development.  That being the case it appears an abortion would be a community issue, life for life.


Not surprisingly judging a matter involves weighing all pertinent factors.  Intent cannot be ignored.  If it really comes to a choice between a child and a mother, or a choice between two dead people or one, where is the malicious intent?


Abortion in a life-threatening situation is not the only type that might not justify a harsh penalty.  Galatians 4:1 tells us that a child is no different from a slave, particularly in responsibility to the father/master.  Exodus 21:20-21 also indicates the master/father has the power of life and death over a slave.  He is not 100% free to do as he will.  Under some circumstances he must answer to the judges, but the death of a slave is not likely considered murder.  Even so, the death or abortion of a fetus approved by the father would not automatically be murder.  The judges and law of the land would determine the appropriate penalty.


This judgment of Exodus 21:22-25 is based on the commandments to not murder and steal.  The penalty could be anything that was judged from a monetary amount to death.


:26-27              Injury to a servant or slave

"And if a man strikes the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maidservant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye. 27. And if he knocks out his servants tooth, or his maidservants tooth, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth."


Again God makes it clear that servants are not to be treated carelessly.  Even slaves are to be treated with respect.  As with the slave that was freed in verse 3, any slave that was freed was to be given sufficient for them to be able to survive until they could establish themselves.  This exhortation is included in Deuteronomy 15:9 as part of the detail that was added to be a witness against anyone who simply kicked the slave out with nothing.


Any employer should consider this when dealing with employees.  Not that they can be set free, but that they should be respected treated with concern.  God obviously is concerned about the safety of employees.  They are simply servants of a slightly different type. “And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave.  40  As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee.” (Lev 25:39-40)


In this case the owner actually inflicted the damage directly.  However, in the following judgments we will see that the penalty would be hardly less severe if an accident was involved.


Likely this instruction is intended for Hebrew slaves not foreign slaves.  Hebrew slaves were to be released at the jubilee or after six years.  Foreign slaves could be inherited by children and serve for generations. 


The Hebrew word for free, chophshiy, primarily means freedom from slavery, but also freedom from taxes or debts.  Typically a Hebrew slave was a slave because he had incurred some debt.  Once the debt was worked off he would have been freed anyway.


This penalty would evidently be levied based on the commandment to not steal, since nothing else seems to fit.  This being the case, the master evidently owns only the slave’s labor or productivity, not the slave in toto (see Lev 25:42).  The master is responsible to free an Israelite slave in similar condition as he was acquired, minus normal wear and tear. 

:28-36         Personal responsibility and/or carelessness in accidents

"If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten: but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted.  29.  But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner shall be put to death. 30.  If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him. 31. Whether it has gored a son or gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him. 32.  If the ox gores a manservant or a maid servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned."

Verses 33-36 detail circumstances that are easily comparable to the above.  The bottom line is that we are responsible for what we do and for what those under our control do.  If the damage was truly an unforeseeable accident, the one responsible was to make it as right as he could, as judged.  If someone should have taken precautions, but did not, that one is as responsible as if he inflicted the damage directly.

How different would our world be if accidents were handled this way?  Would we not be extremely careful of our neighbors all around?  There was a case in San Francisco in July of 2002 where a couple living in an apartment building were keeping some very aggressive dogs.  The neighbors complained, but the owners did nothing.  The dogs ended up killing a woman who lived down the hall.  The owners had no regard for the safety of their neighbors.  This is not what God expects of His people.

This would apply to corporations as well as individuals.  There would be no dumping of toxic waste. Philip Morris would have discontinued the manufacture of cigarettes long ago.  There would probably be no second opportunity for a drunk driver to kill.

This may sound like big brother, but actually this is true freedom.  Think of all the auto accident victims that would have been able to live to their full age.  The cancer victims that would have done the same and the animals, vegetation, drinking water and finally people that would not have been poisoned by corporate greed.  Freedom is freedom for everyone, not just those who are lucky enough to dodge harm’s way.

Whether or not our civil laws hold us to this high standard, this is what God expects of us.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil 2:4)  This thought is also summarized in I Corinthians 13:5b.  Love “does not seek its own”.

At a very low level this matter would also include such assumedly minor things such as littering and graffiti.  Cheaply made products would probably qualify as well.  Litter and graffiti take away from what could otherwise be a peaceful, pleasant landscape either public or private.  In some cases it actually robs someone of their time or money to clean it up.  Shoddy workmanship or cheaply made products do the same when premature failure is the result and the job must be done again or product replaced.  It is this thought that may have partially inspired the direction in the law of Moses to put tassels on the corners of their garments.  The tying off of the corner of the garment reinforced the garment.

There were different penalties depending on who was harmed and probably based on how severe the damage was.  Of course the commandments that lead to this judgment would be commands against stealing, murder and possibly coveting. 

As I remember this passage has been used to verify the authenticity of scripture.  Scholars have evidently independently determined that thirty shekels was the price of a male slave at about this time.  Interestingly a female slave cost 20 shekels.

This completes the section involved mainly with bodily harm.  Somewhat connected and following immediately is the section on theft.


Theft section

22:1  Direct theft

"If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep."


We will see later that the normal penalty for a theft is to restore double.  However, in the case of a disposed of ox or sheep the penalty is significantly more.  The likely reason is that these animals provide more than just their value as food.  The ox would be a work animal that helps a man earn his livelihood.  The sheep of course contributes wool for clothing and other goods.  Of course these are also clean, edible animals.  We could assume an unclean working animal would not bring quite the penalty that an ox would, but it would still be more than just double. 


Also if a man has lost a prized animal proving the exact value could be difficult.  Again God puts the responsibility on the wrong doer to make it right.  In this case in particular, the thief probably acted quickly to eliminate any chance of detection.  Such brazen conduct was to be rewarded in kind.


Supposedly if one was caught stealing a man’s horse in some areas and eras he could pay with his life.  This somewhat illustrates the severity of the offense in God’s eyes. This severe penalty is only implemented if the thief has somehow already disposed of the animal.  On the other hand, if a person’s life actually depended on an animal, the horse thief example doesn’t seem to be completely out of line.  Deuteronomy 19:16-18 instructs that someone who witnesses falsely against someone shall have done to him what he intended to do to the one he is accusing.  If the intent of stealing an animal is to cause death or could cause death, a stiffer penalty could probably be levied based on the kidnapping judgment.  Possibly Exodus 21:14 might apply whether or not the intended victim actually died.


Of course, this judgment comes directly from the command not to steal.


2-3a  Right of self-defense

"If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.  3.  If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed."


People have a right to defend their home and possessions.  On the other hand in daylight it is expected that a defender could more easily subdue an intruder with some care so as not to inflict death.  So apparently a death during a daylight intrusion would be subject to an investigation of some sort.  If it could be determined that the mortal wound was not justified under the circumstances some penalty could be levied on the defender.


God expects us to be careful even of someone who is trying to rob us.


3b-4  Penalty for recovered theft

"He should make full restitution: if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.  4.  If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or a donkey or sheep, he shall restore double."


The standard penalty was to return the stolen animal and add another to it.  This is consistent with the penalty for false witness that we addressed earlier.  What he thought to do to his neighbor is done to him (Deu 19:16-18).


This philosophy applies for good as well as bad.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged: and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Mat 7:2).  Mark and Luke apply the same principle to diligence in obedience, and mercy in judgment, condemnation, forgiveness and generosity, (Mk 4:24, Luke 6:37-38).  Since we have seen this principle in multiple judgments and reaffirmed in the New Testament it seems we can assume it is a fundamental way of our Creator.


If the thief had nothing with which to repay, he could be sold into slavery.  He obviously needs some help.


All the ramifications of this could probably be turned into a thesis of its own.  The victim has some hope of being compensated for his loss.  The thief is not locked away to become a drain on society.  He will not go from an amateur crook to a professional after being placed into an environment where he has many pro’s to teach him.  If he is unresponsive he will undoubtedly be disciplined.  Hopefully he will be disciplined by someone who is reasonable, but in any case his fate will, to some degree, be in his own hands.  We could expect that if he does well, he will be treated well.  He has a future.  He would be released after six years of service and have a chance to start over.


Certainly the criminal system in the United States is broken.  We keep needing more and more prisons.  Abuses and corruption within the system are no surprise to anyone.  We spend more on inmates per day than we do to educate our children (See Education vs Incarceration: A Mississippi case study, by Grassroots Leadership deemed representative of most of the US, 2002).  Then again animals must be transported more carefully than petty thieves.


A system such as that recommended in Exodus would put someone having difficulty providing for himself in an environment where he can be productive and he will have his basic needs met.  He will get into the habit of honest work free from hunger and fear.  It’s the stories of ungodly masters that have soured us on slavery, not slavery itself.


:5-6   Accidents   

"If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed, and lets loose his animal, and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.  6.  If fire breaks out and catches in thorns, so that stacked grain, standing grain, or the field is consumed, he who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution".


Again personal responsibility is paramount.  The one responsible is to make it right.  This requires diligence and continual awareness and concern for those around us.  We cannot be careless.  Everything under our control is our responsibility.


:7-13   Guarding others goods

"If a man delivers to his neighbor money or articles to keep, and it is stolen out of the man’s house, if the thief is found he shall pay double.  8.  If the thief is not found, then the master of the house shall be brought to the judges to see whether he has put his hand into his neighbor’s goods.  9.  For any kind of trespass, …. The cause of both parties shall come before the judges: and whomever the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor."


The judgment goes on to prescribe the standard penalty, if the master is determined to have taken any of the goods that he was keeping.  He would be liable to pay double. 


I suppose this is a good reason not to provide storage for your neighbor.  What is not said is that possibly rent or maintenance of some sort might have been paid to the keeper (vs.15). 


It appears that if there is little reason to believe a thief came and took the items alleged to be missing, then the owner of the house is liable to replace them.  On the other hand, it appears that if the alleged items were not there in the first place, the keeper would receive two of those from the false accuser.


Again how you attempt to defraud your neighbor it shall be done to you.  At least that was the intent of the system.  We have to assume that if Israel had actually lived by this code then God would have given them the discernment to nail the guilty party.


It is interesting to note that ‘judges’ in verse 8 is actually the word ‘Elohim’ often used of God(s).  Particularly in Israel’s case the judges were supposed to be God’s representatives.  A case could be made that the situation is similar in all countries.  Jesus answered, ‘you could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above’.” (John 19:11a).  It does not matter in which country we live.  We should respect all constituted authorities in all countries.


10.  "If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any beast to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or driven away, no one seeing it.  11.  Then an oath of the Lord shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor’s goods: and the owner shall accept that, and he shall not make it good.  12.  But if in fact, it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to the owner of it.  13.  If it is torn to pieces by an animal, then he shall bring it as evidence, and he shall not make good what was torn." 


This is very similar to the previous quote.  In this case it seems the two parties may avoid the adversarial situation if the keeper of the animals claims with an “oath of the Lord” that he did not take any goods.  I would assume this would amount to something like, “The Lord is my witness that I did not ….” 


Matthew 5:33-37 explains Jesus’ teaching toward oaths.  In a nutshell He seems to be saying not to speak an oath at all.  You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord” (Matt 5:33bc).  Specifically this is referring to Leviticus 19:12, “And you shall not swear by My name falsely” and Deuteronomy 23:23 “That which is gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth”.


In saying “…do not swear at all…” (Mat 5:34b), Jesus here is not contradicting Exodus 22:11 where someone is strongly affirming the past, but instructing concerning promises for the future.  Particularly verse 36 alludes to the fact that we can’t even promise and absolutely guarantee to be alive in two minutes, let alone perform any other feat.  What you solemnly promise you certainly should perform as the Law of Moses taught, but don’t involve other entities in the matter over which you really have no control.  If you fail to perform you bring dishonor on others when you involve them.


Solomon seems to be getting at this exact point in Ecclesiastes 5:5.  It is better not to vow than to vow and not pay.


Some have interpreted Jesus’ words as forbidding swearing in a court of law.  'Swear' here is the Greek word 'omnuw'.  The meaning in this context is 'to promise with an oath'.  This is apparent because "shall perform your oaths" follows in typical Jewish parallel form.  Jesus is strongly recommending against promising some future accomplishment while involving God or some other important sounding thing.  A court of law is looking for facts regarding the past.  One is to promise to tell the truth to the best of their knowledge.  This is something anyone can do.  I can't imagine why it would be wrong to request God's help if someone felt that was necessary.


The promise with the oath that is being discouraged is a promise to accomplish something that will take a certain amount of time and/or significant effort.  Numbers 14:28 is a good example.  Here God swears by his own life.  He can certainly bring about what He determines to do.  In Ruth 3:13 Boaz swore by God that he would redeem the possession his brother evidently sold some years before.  This is probably an example of what Jesus is teaching against.  Although Boaz did what he said he would do and there was no real problem, he could have run into problems beyond his control and failed.  This would have turned the situation into a double failure: one if he had not succeeded, the second by breaking his promise to God.


Is it always wrong to promise before God, or anything else, that some thing will occur?  God Himself seems to do it rather frequently.  I suppose if you can speak with the same authority and ability to accomplish whatever you promise, the Law of God will hold you guiltless.  Why would you want to take the chance?  Jesus seems to think the desire to do this would come from Satan (Mat 5:27).  I would assume this to involve ego.


Verse 12 is a bit of a problem.  It appears that if the animal was stolen from the keeper, then the keeper would have to supply the owner with a replacement.  It could also be interpreted as saying that if the keeper stole the animal then the keeper would have to make restitution.  In either case there appears to be an inconsistency in judgment.


In the first case, it really doesn’t make sense that the keeper was not responsible if an animal destroyed the goods, but he was responsible if a person stole the goods.  Certainly while in his care the keeper should care for the animals as if they were his own.  Why would he be more liable for not protecting from a thief than for not protecting from a wild animal?  Indeed the reference to being ‘driven away’ is likely a reference to being stolen.  In that case his word that he was not party to the disappearance was sufficient.  So verse 12 is not likely intending that the keeper was liable for the animal if it was stolen from him.


Of course, if he stole the animal himself he is liable.  However based on Exodus 22:4 he is not only liable for restoring the animal, but he is responsible for restoring at least double.  This is probably not specified, because the exact penalty can vary based on previous verses.  In any case, I would think this interpretation to be the most likely. The verse would then be read as, “But if in fact, it be stolen from him (the owner), he (the keeper) shall make restitution….”.


There is also a remote possibility that this verse is referring to an oversight, i.e. the item was temporarily misplaced.  Certainly if that could be determined the keeper would be responsible.  The temporary losing of someone else’s property is explained further in Leviticus 6:2-7.  In the process the keeper may have sworn falsely, even though unintentionally.  Instead of restoring double, the keeper adds a value of one fifth of whatever the misplaced items were to the original owner, but was also to offer an appropriate offering to God.


All sin is an offense against God.  He is the one that gives us the rules for appropriate conduct.  If we ignore those rules, whether intentionally or not, we have disrespected Him.  Particularly if we claim to be His child and claim to be conforming to His way, we take His name in vain and bring dishonor on Him.


It is interesting that Jacob seems to have known what was right and just in these situations in spite of never having read Exodus 22:10-13.  However, he did not necessarily expect some situations to be handled according to these rules in some of his dealings with Laban.  In Genesis 31:39 Jacob states that he absorbed the loss of torn (and stolen) animals instead of bringing them to Laban.  Evidently Laban held Jacob responsible.  This illustrates the length that believers should go in making peace.  Jacob trusted God would make it good.  Although it took a while, that is certainly what happened.


Since few of us are ranchers, how would this apply to us?  Perhaps it is more likely that some of us do employ people in one form or another.  Perhaps in the course of that we entrust something to an employee or hired hand.  If it is stolen or damaged we would likely be acting contrary to this judgment to require the employee to replace the damaged item.  If there was gross negligence or it involved a contractor this might be different.  Contractors are supposed to be highly experienced and fully capable of evaluating a situation and avoiding unforeseen dangers and problems.  Even so, we should seriously consider how this judgment applies.


:14-15         Responsibility for loaned or rented goods.

"And if a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it becomes injured or dies, the owner of it not being with it, he shall surely make it good.  15.  But if its owner was with it, he shall not make it good: if it was hired, it came for its hire."


Certainly this is reasonable.  If something is rented we assume it has had some wear.  It is probably not in perfect condition and who knows how much life is left in it.  Things break, but over the life of the rental object its owner should be able to recoup the value of the item. 


If the owner is there, we have to assume that the item was not being abused.  Therefore it has simply reached the natural end of its life and the borrower is not responsible to provide a fully functioning replacement in return.


However, if someone loans something out we assume it is healthy and fully functioning, requiring no special supervision.  This is intended to be at no cost to the borrower.  If that item breaks or dies, the borrower has a responsibility to make it good.  This may not require fully replacing the item, but whatever is in good faith, depending on the circumstances.  With mechanical things it would probably mean having it repaired.


When the owner lent the item out, he took a certain risk that it might not come back in the same condition in which it went out.  Indeed there would certainly be some wear involved.  The borrower takes the risk that something may go wrong, factored against the fact that he may get the use for free.  In a rental arrangement the price is decided up front.  When borrowing is done the price is decided on the back side. 


Based on the judgment of Exodus 21:22, the owner/master of the item would have a major say in what was fair.  The borrower should be willing to pay whatever restores the item and/or satisfies the owner.


:16-17         Spur of moment sex

"And if a man entices a virgin who is not bethrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife.  17.  If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins."


There is no such thing as sex before marriage.  Sexual intercourse between a man and a virgin makes the woman a wife.  The man may or may not end up with a wife in his house, but he must acknowledge her to be his wife.  In ancient Israel this amounted to paying the full price of a virgin.  Again, God’s way requires taking full responsibility for our actions.  The man took the woman’s virginity without permission or adhering to the norms of society.  Therefore he has lost any option to negotiate.


There is no concern here as to whether or not the man is married.  It made no difference.  However, “If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her (first wife) food, her clothing, and her marriage rights” (Ex 21:10).  The living standard of the first wife was not to be diminished if the man took a second wife.


If the father refused to let his daughter go with the man, this evidently had no bearing on their relationship as husband and wife.  He still had to pay the price.  There was no provision for what we know as divorce until almost forty years later.  It was allowed if the wife had been unfaithful. (See Deu 24:1, Num 5:28-9 There is also an article available on divorce and remarriage that deals directly with this issue, should you wish to pursue it.)  According to David Instone-Brewer, "The divorce certificate, which gave women the right to remarry, was unknown elsewhere in the ancient near east." (Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, Ch 2 p. 20 Eerdmanns Publishers, 2002) 


He goes on to say, “There were few cases where a woman could remarry without being properly divorced or widowed, or without having been properly married” (p.125).  In this case Mr. Brewer is probably aware of none, since he doesn’t describe any at all.  So even after divorce was allowed, the woman whose father refused to relinquish her had little chance of being remarried.


Of course, if the woman were betrothed she was considered married.  That would cause the matter to fall under adultery, which, of course, was directly forbidden in the seventh commandment.  Handling this is detailed in Deuteronomy 22:23-30.  In summary, the man would be executed.  The woman would be evaluated as to whether or not she was complicit or simply a victim in the affair.


This instruction probably seems to us somewhat out of place in the theft section of judgments.  For ancient Israel this was apparently not the case.  The man involved had taken a wife without the father’s permission.  It was theft.  If the woman were betrothed, the man had hijacked someone's wife, also a type of theft. 


This marks the end of the theft section and the beginning of the section dealing with direct respect to God.


:18    Sorceress

"You shall not permit a sorceress to live."


Anyone who seeks contact with spirits other than God is obviously disrespecting God.  For some reason women seem more inclined to deal with spirits than men.  Perhaps it is because of an emotional attraction or perhaps it is because it provides a means of self-support financially.  The Law later clarified that a sorcerer is to be eliminated as well. (Deu 18:9-13) 


This illustrates an important aspect about the nature of this instruction.  It is not intended as a detailed list of what is permitted and what is not.  It is a sample list of infractions, which illustrate the mind of God.  The reader is expected to apply reasonable logic to the samples given and understand the principle involved. The principle is then applied to similar situations.  In this case it should be apparent that a sorcerer is just as much a problem as a sorceress.


Not only do those involving themselves in this activity put another God before the true God, they are typically involved in a false witness.  The spirits that would respond to humans in this way are not the ones that would tell the whole truth.


The penalty for being a sorceress was death.


:19   Sex with animals          

"Whoever lies with a beast shall surely be put to death."


At first reading this particular judgment seems out of place.  However, according to the Jamieson commentary sex with animals was a religious rite in Egypt (See JFB on Ex 22:19).  Evidently people in Canaan practiced this too (Lev 18:23-24).


It is of note that chapter 18 of Leviticus mentions all sorts of sexual practices that are abominable in God's eyes.  Early on (vs 3) in this chapter God brings out that what was done in Egypt and Canaan is not to be done.  This judgment regarding sex with animals is probably intended to summarize all the despicable practices of the pagans in this one particularly revolting example of their conduct.


The context in Leviticus 18 & 20 revolves around honor to God.  If we want to honor Him and keep ourselves holy we don’t mix our flesh with animals or inappropriate humans.  Leviticus 18:20 gives the definition typically attached to adultery, but all of these inappropriate sexual relationships adulterate the flesh.  These regulations have to do with who God is, i.e. His character.  Even if there were no specific command against adultery, if one wants to honor God one does not defile himself with another man’s wife.  In like manner the godly wife is faithful to her husband. 


Perhaps the lesson we should learn is that believers are faithful to the Creator alone, seven days a week, 365 days per year.  When we walk contrary to God and sin we are defiling ourselves with other gods.  Sin typically involves putting something above the Creator.  Connecting with this thing defiles just as connecting in sex defiles.  Harkening back to the instruction on the children of slaves, as the servant of the Creator, everything we do is a reflection on Him (Ex 21:4).  He intended us to be content with our own appropriate mate, not another kind and not someone else’s.


God is a God of mercy and patience (Ex 34:6).  He expects us to be merciful and patient (Luke 6:37-38).  He is the God that rested on and then sanctified the Seventh day (Gen 2:2-3), so He expects us to rest on the seventh day (Ex 20:8).  He expects us to be holy like he is holy (Ex 22:31, Lev 19:2, I Pet 1:16). It seems that what is most emphasized in Leviticus 18, 19 and 20 is that God is who He is and if you want Him as your God, He expects you to live to His standard.  Anything else is having some other God before Him.


This includes physical things as well as mental and spiritual.  He commanded Israel to physically clean themselves up before the meeting at Sinai (Ex 19:10).  He doesn’t want to see pollution or sloppiness in the camp (Deu 23:14).  Even the food we consume can taint us in His eyes (Lev 11:42-44).  The sacrifice of Jesus Christ didn’t remove the need to be clean, prevent pollution and filth or to eat only what God intended should be eaten. 


God is still concerned about these things as well as spiritual things.  “… present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1cd).  Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.  For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (I Cor 3:16-17).  Clearly this is referring to physical care we take of our bodies as much as mental and spiritual care.  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor 6:20)


So while sexual union with animals certainly would seem to adulterate, this prohibition seems most apropos to this section honoring God and none other.  The penalty for disobedience is death.  I Corinthians 3:17 affirms the fact that nothing has changed here with the New Testament.


:20    Sacrifice to other god                      

"He who sacrifices to any god, except the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed."

This seems fairly straightforward.  God is a jealous God (Ex 20:5b).  Paul may be applying this judgment to those who teach any other gospel than what he was teaching.  “… let him be anathema” (i.e. a person or thing doomed to destruction; Thayer’s, Gal 1:8c, 9).  It makes sense that teaching others to worship other gods would be worse than simply worshiping them oneself. 


It seems that this ought to make us think very seriously about what we consider important.  Many religious people seem to get very excited and adamant about some rather detailed and twiggy matters.  Some of these have little bearing on justice, mercy or faith (Mat 23:23).  Those who take it upon themselves to instruct others lay themselves open to greater condemnation (Jam 3:1) and Paul’s curse (Gal 1:8-9).  The wise course is to consider carefully what anyone says and choose our own words carefully (Jam 1:19).  How many things have been held to be absolutely true only to be found false later?

Obviously God can forgive what is done in ignorance.  However, why should we misspeak, offering what is considered the sacrifice of fools (Ecc. 5:1)?  If we claim to know and are wrong, our sin remains.  If we acknowledge that we are not sure and conduct ourselves accordingly (“…for whatever is not from faith is sin.” Rom 14:23c), we have no sin. (John 9:41) 

Just because we pronounce the name of Jesus doesn’t mean we are doing his work (Mat 24:5).  Many who think they are doing Jesus’ work, teaching in His name, are working havoc and encouraging lawlessness (John 7:23).  Honoring other gods brings death. 


*:21-27       Fair treatment of disadvantaged      

"You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  22.  You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child.  23.  If you afflict them in any way, and they cry out to Me, I will surely hear their cry:  24.  And My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless."


Of all the explanations we might give of what it means to honor God I can think of none more appropriate or fear-inducing than these verses.  Our God takes the plight of the disadvantaged VERY personally.  Let there be no doubt!


Every other matter in these judgments is left to the Israelites themselves but mistreatment of the poor (see also verse 27).  Improper treatment of the disadvantaged God will weigh and exact a penalty Himself.  And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts” (Mal 3:5).   Of course we should respect and treat everyone as a brother or sister, but with those who have no one to support them we should take special care.  Not doing this is a clear indication that we don’t really fear God.  We are hypocrites.  We think neither He nor anyone else will see, so we can get away with it.


The real intent of this judgment is more clear in Leviticus 19:9-14.  We are to help and support the under-privileged.  The Israelites were to leave the corners of their fields and the gleanings and deal in an honest and straightforward way, not taking advantage.  Perhaps we should translate that into providing employment when we can and paying a generous wage.  Pay promptly as agreed or when the job is done.  Fairness and honesty in all dealings should go without saying.


Jesus Christ also addressed this subject frequently.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Mat 25:37-40).  


But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  14.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you: for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:13-14). 


So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing.  Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me.”’ (Luke 18:22)


Of course the teaching didn’t stop with Jesus’ death: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?(I John 3:17).  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit (help) the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (Jas 1:27). 


Even before Moses, Job knew God would be aware of any wrong in this area.  If I have kept the poor from their desire, Or caused the eyes of the widow to fail, 17.  Or eaten my morsel by myself, So that the fatherless may not eat of it.  18.  (But from my youth I reared him as a father, And from my mothers womb I guided the widow);  19.  If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, Or any poor man without covering;  20.  If his heart has not blessed me, And if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;  21.  If I have raised my hand against the fatherless, When I saw I had help in the gate;  22.  Then let my arm fall from my shoulder, Let my arm be torn from the socket.”  (Job 31:16-22)


This is the special category in which an abandoned wife could easily find herself (see Ex 21:11).  If she cries to God, her husband’s new wife could easily find herself a widow.


There are cautions to consider in giving.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures…6  But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." (Jam 4: 3, 6)  The Creator does not always give to those that ask.  If we are to be like our Father we need to carefully consider His approach. 


"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,  45  "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  46  "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  47  "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  48  "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.  1   "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.  Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Mat 5:44 – 6:1) 


There is no point in letting other people know when you give.  Also, the Creator is concerned that peoples’ necessities are provided, not necessarily their latest whim.  He provides the basic necessities for all.  Everyone is due a certain minimum respect. 


We should not pass by the reference to Israel being strangers in Egypt.  This is repeated in Exodus 23:9 and Leviticus 19:34 & 25:38.  If we think about this for just a moment it is apparent that the purpose for bringing this up is to remind Israel how it felt to be strangers in someone else’s land.  It undoubtedly wasn’t as pleasant as it should have been.  It seems apparent that God did not want the stranger in Israel to be mistreated the way Israel had been.


We still hear the ‘golden rule’ quoted occasionally.  Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mt 7:12).   And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (.Luke 6:31).  What isn’t noticed is that this rule originates in the law of God.  Specifically it ought to be clear that it is firmly rooted in this judgment.  God reminded them of their situation in Egypt to get them to put themselves in the other person's shoes and treat them as they would have wished to be treated when they were in Egypt.  Although phrased more clearly, the concept behind Jesus’ statement came straight from this judgment.


A directly associated principle involved here is that as we do to others, so shall it be done to us.  We dealt with this from the perspective of punishment before, but it applies on the positive side as well.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mat 5:7)   “36.  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.  37.   Judge not, and you shall not be judged.  Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38.  Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.  For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:36-38).


Besides direct disrespect and light regard for God, those who mistreat others are stealing at least their self-respect.  They also disrespect their own parents because they reflect poorly on them.  God will have no respect toward these people.


:25  Loans between Israelites

"If you lend any money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest."


When one can earn interest in a savings account this seems like a rather foolish policy.  However, Jesus reinforced this.  Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” (Mat 5:42) 


The assumption seems to be that anyone who borrows is poor.  Of course, they are the least likely to be able to repay.  This is at least one aspect of the kind of faith that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 23:23.  Many seem to think faith was not required of the general population in Old Testament times.  This is not at all the case. 


On numerous occasions (Ex 32:7-10, Num 14:11-12, Josh 7:1) God tried to make the point that Israel was a unit and family.  They were to work together so everyone would have sufficient.  This was incompatible with trying to make money off someone who was having difficulty.  You shall not charge interest to your brother- interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest” (Deu. 23:19).  However they could charge interest to a foreigner, but it should be assumed it was interest at a reasonable rate. (vs.20)


More than likely a long-term resident foreigner would be considered as one born in the land as far as interest was concerned.  The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Le 19:34)


Instruction on loans to the poor appears in Leviticus 25:35-37.  In verse 38 God reminds Israel of who He is, the God that brought them out of Egypt to give them Canaan.  They didn’t work for the land of Canaan.  It was given to them.  How then could they withhold from someone in need when they owed their safety and comfortable living to God?  If they wanted this God to be their God, they needed to be kind, helpful and merciful to the poor, Israelite or not.


26-27    Settling agreements and paying of wages

"If you ever take your neighbor’s garment in a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down.  27.  For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin.  What will he sleep in?  And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious."


Although this doesn’t seem to mention anything about payment of wages the only plausible explanation of this thought I have come across involves manual labor.  Particularly labor in the fields.  This is work the poor will typically take.  But why would it involve taking one’s garment in pledge, i.e. as collateral?


Someone working in the fields and harvesting crops would possibly be in a position to pilfer what he had harvested and sell it.  It appears that a landowner would take a man’s garment and hold it as collateral while the harvesting was being done.  This would provide some assurance that the man wouldn’t fill his pockets or wander too far off.  It would also extend the life of the garment, since it wouldn’t be stained with prodigious amounts of sweat.  At the end of the day the landowner was to return the garment with the day’s wages.


Yes, as strange as it might seem to us, the man was likely naked during this time.  Many works of art from ancient times show exactly that.  We think they were just taking artistic license.  In fact they are more likely depicting laborers exactly as they appeared.  As is indicated by these verses, poor people didn’t have a whole closet full of clothes.  What little they had would have quickly been in tatters if they had worn it while engaged in heavy manual labor.  It was not the custom to wear underwear in those times.


This is likely the basis for Mark 13:16.  "And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes."


There are a few other places where pledges are mentioned, especially in Deuteronomy 24.  Verse 12 again talks of returning a man’s pledge before evening.  It makes little sense to take a pledge that must be returned that evening unless the reason for the pledge would be fulfilled that day.


Of course, in the New Testament there are references to clothing the naked.  It seems unlikely this would be said if no one was naked.  Not that everyone should rush to the fields to cover the workers, but certainly if someone had sunk to the point that their garment was worthless or next to worthless they should be helped. (Mat 25:44-45, Jam 2:15)


Again God reinforces that He will involve himself in the function of protecting the poor.  These verses are simply a continuation of verses 21-24.  Blatant disregard is likely to result in death for the offender.  One doesn’t fear God if one is not merciful to the poor.


:28  Respect to God and rulers

"You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people."


Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom 13:1, see also I Pet 2:13-14).  Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? 11  Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin (John 19:10).  When we respect our rulers and civic leaders we are respecting God.  He reserves the right to set them up and take them down.  If they are in power, it is because He has allowed it. 


Leviticus 19:32 clarifies God's true desire.  We are to "rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man".  This illustrates again the spirit of God's instruction.  Often the Sinai covenant was worded to a minimum standard.  The real desire was that Israel would actively do the positive, not just refrain from the negative.


The problem is probably often that we do not see the long-term effect or underlying causes why a leader is where he is.  Yet justice is before Him, and you must wait for Him” (Job 35:14b).  God gives rulers authority to further His cause.  That cause may be to show a nation that they have fallen short or to illustrate the end result of their own actions. (Mat 21:43, Rom. 10:19) 


From the time God brought Israel out of Egypt, He worked with them as a unit.  Moses as the leader received the brunt of the criticism when others neglected to properly note the Sabbath in Exodus 16.  God was looking to destroy the whole nation when only a percentage actually worshiped the golden calf (Ex 32:10).  Achan, only one man, disobeyed the instruction regarding the handling of booty.  Joshua 7:1 says the children of Israel committed a trespass. 


The bottom line is: we are all on this earth together.  We must help and support one another.  If we don’t, our rulers will reflect our sin and we will be oppressed ourselves.  As we do unto others so shall it be done to us.


:29-30  Tithes & Firstborn are God's

"You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices.  The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me.  Likewise you shall do with your oxen and your sheep.  It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to me."

I’d like to quote from the New Living Translation, "Do not hold anything back when you give me the tithe of your crops and your wine.  You must make the necessary payment for redemption of your firstborn sons.  How is ‘tithe’ justified here?  The word typically used for tithe does not appear in these verses. 


The word in question here is m’lehah, Strong’s 4395.  The primary meaning is ‘fullness’ and evidently usually refers to a whole or the complete thing.  In the NKJV it is translated 'first of your ripe produce' evidently because the translators didn't feel God really intended that all Israel's produce was intended in this verse. 


M’lehah is used in Deuteronomy 22:9, which instructs us to not mix different kinds of seeds, i.e. grapes or herbs and wheat.  One possible reason for this prohibition is that the crops would be difficult to harvest without damage.


The only other use in the Bible is in Numbers 18:27.  And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress.   This is talking of the heave offering that the Levites gave to the priests, the sons of Aaron (vs 26, 28).  This heave offering was a tenth of the tithe (singular in the Hebrew) that Levi received from Israel for their service in the Tabernacle (Num. 18:21).  Levi gave a tenth of what they received from Israel to Aaron’s sons, the priests.


This heave offering of a tenth of the tithe was accounted to Levi as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress”.  In other words, it was the Levites’ equivalent of the 'fullness of the produce and liquors' that was required of all Israel in Exodus 22:29.  So instead of Levi bringing in the fullness of their crops, they paid a tenth of Israel’s tithe to Aaron’s sons.  This was accepted as their fullness.  (Remember, Levi was short-changed in land and they were not in a position to be self-sufficient.)


It makes sense that God did not intend Israel to give their entire crop to Him, but the same fullness required of Levi, a tenth.  That was considered their fullness for God’s purposes.


The first mention of tithing apart from this, after the Exodus, is in Leviticus 27:30.  And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s.  It is holy to the Lord.”  Considering the personal effect this is going to have on everyone, it seems a rather curt statement.  It seems to assume they knew a tithe would be collected.  This just clarifies some of what it included and what would happen to it.  This is not completely out of the question, because a number of historical sources indicate that it was normal that the ruler of a nation would collect a tithe from the people of the land.  “Esretu” is the word for tithe from the ancient Akkadian language spoken in the region where Abraham grew up.  Tithing was not a new concept with Israel in the wilderness.  God also warned Israel when they requested a king that the new king would expect a tithe (I Sam 8:15).


Since Exodus 22:29 is apparently telling Israel that they will be required to pay up to their King, the wording in Leviticus 27 should have been no shock at all.  It simply reinforced and clarified what was intended in Exodus 22.  They already knew that a tithe was to be collected.


Just because God gave His tenth to the Levites doesn’t mean He is no longer concerned about it.  Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!  But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. (Mal 3:8).  There does not seem to be any indication that tithing is no longer necessary.  Of course Matthew 23:23 indicates it is of secondary importance, but should not be ignored.  Hebrews 7:5 indicates that as of that time the sons of Levi “have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law”.  Lacking some other direction it is still “Holy to the Lord” (Lev 27:30).  Jesus reinforced that we are to “render to God the things that are God’s”.  (Mat 22:21).  Specifically in this context money is the center of the discussion, although what is God’s is not necessarily exclusively money.


God also required the first-born.  God apparently expects prompt payment and/or to be paid first.  This is reflected in Exodus 22:29, “you shall not delay”.  The first tenth is God’s and we keep the next nine.  If we wish to truly honor God we need to keep this in mind.


Exactly how one gives God His tithe is another study.  A document for your consideration is available.  This seems to be a matter of some controversy.

Originally it appears God intended to use the firstborn males of Israel in His service (Ex 13:1-2, Num 3:12-13).  These would tend to be the leaders of the various families.  Assuming they were zealous for their God, this would have made the hereditary leaders the spiritual leaders as well.  It would have been a powerful force for good.  Unfortunately it was not to be.


Disregarding this instruction would violate the commandment against theft and honoring one’s parents as well as putting something before God.


:31    Don't eat animal kill (Be holy)                 

"And you shall be holy men to Me: you shall not eat any meat which is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs."

How does one “be holy”?  In this verse God connects being holy with not eating meat that has been killed by an animal even if it is otherwise fit to eat.  That seems simple enough.  Most people in the western world would certainly qualify as holy if that is the only criterion.  We might ask if that is all that is necessary.


Leviticus 11:44 probably has something to do with this too.  For I am the Lord your God.  You shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.  Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.  This whole chapter is given to the discussion of what is appropriate to eat and what is not.  Towards the conclusion God makes clear an integral part of being holy is to stay away from eating these creeping things.  Certainly the other ‘unclean’ animals defile as well. 


Leviticus 11:44 also includes mention of sanctifying one’s self.  If we avoid these foods might we still need to be sanctified?  Then the Lord said to Moses, Go to the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes.” (Ex 19:10)  We should not only try to eat ‘clean’ food, but also keep our bodies clean.  Cleanliness is next to Godliness.


What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor 6:19-20).  It is apparent that God was concerned with how ancient Israel cared for their bodies.  The New Testament instruction is no less concerned.


Her priests have violated My law, and profaned My holy things: they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.” (Eze 22:26)  What is it called when we claim God’s authority for something, which He doesn’t authorize?  It is taking the name of God in vain or profaning God’s name.  Evidently this applies to ignoring God’s direction in matters of clean and unclean as much as to the observance of the Sabbath.


Actually, this connection with profaning the name of God and claiming God’s authority, for something for which He gives no authority, ought to give us long pause for thought.  If we claim to represent God, but our actions run contrary to what Christ stands for, we are taking God’s name in vain.  Anyone saying they are of Christ ought to understand they are saying they represent Christ.


Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17  If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (I Cor 3:16).  This sounds pretty serious.


Our Creator obviously wants us to take good care of our bodies.  The designation of clean and unclean food is undoubtedly a part of this.  Are unclean items the only food that is bad for our health?  In fact it should be general knowledge that soft drinks, heavily processed foods, milled grains and even many lightly processed foods are in the long term detrimental to good health.  These items were not designated unclean, simply because they didn’t exist, not because they are approved. 


For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples of the face of the earth” (Deu 7:6).  If this applied to ancient Israel, how much more to the believing congregation of God who have not only the instruction of the Hebrew scriptures, but also the instruction and selfless example of Jesus Christ?  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom 12:1)   Not only should our minds be dedicated to representing our Creator, but our bodies should be cared for just as carefully.  This would apply to anything that might pose a serious threat.  If we think back to Exodus 21:33, we are to be careful to prevent harm to anyone by accident.  Certainly this applies to ourselves as well.  In doing this we honor God as well as preserve ourselves.


Part of having no other gods is to properly represent Him and not to misrepresent Him.  What we eat is one aspect of being holy (see also I Cor 7:34, 6:20).



23:1-3         Speak truthfully & justly      

"You shall not circulate a false report.  Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.  2.  You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.  3.  You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute."


We’ve all played the game where someone says something to his neighbor and it is relayed around a circle until it gets back to the original teller.  When I’ve seen this done what comes back has never even been close to what started out.  As mundane as this instruction may seem, God is obviously concerned about it.  Even if something seems harmless why should we “put our hand with the wicked”, involve ourselves in something wherein we have no knowledge?  And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.” (1 Tim 5:13, see also 2Thes 3:11, 1Pet 4:15).


This instruction also warns about going along with popular opinion or with the crowd.  Just because many people believe a certain way, does not mean that belief is the right way.  Each situation must be weighed on its own merits, not public opinion.  The word of God is the guide, not any human.


Interestingly enough ‘crowd’ is Hebrew ‘rav’ and could also be interpreted as referring to the leaders or rulers. (see Job 32:9, Gen 25:23, Est 1:8)  “I was just following orders,” is not a completely acceptable excuse.  A conflict between the law of God and the directives of superiors must be considered very carefully.  A master is responsible for the actions of a slave (Ex 21:4) and rulers for their subjects (Neh 13:17).  That doesn’t mean individuals need not consider what is right and act appropriately (Neh 13:15-17, Ex 1:17-21)


Even though God is very protective of the poor, He does not want justice perverted for their benefit.  Justice is not to be perverted for anyone.  Jesus gave us more direction on how this could be done.  I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)  We are not to be concerned about how we will look, gain or lose in the course of judging.  (see also Lev 19:15)


Paul added a bit too.  For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8  But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate” (Titus 1:7-8)


Luke calls the resurrection of the righteous, the resurrection of the just (ch 14:14, cf Acts 24:15).  Evidently if we don’t get this aspect down we will be in some other resurrection, i.e. the unjust.  God’s very nature and being are categorized as just and true (Rev 15:3).  One who allows public opinion, the leadership, self-interest, or prejudice to sway his judgment is doing his own work, not the work of God.  Justice is the first weighty matter of the law according to Jesus’ reckoning (Mat 23:23).


Part of justice is how we do business on a daily basis.  You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement, of length, weight, or volume. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I [am] the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (Lev 19:36)  This practice especially applies to the treatment of the poor.  Everything is to be done with an even hand.


Being a party to injustice constitutes a false witness, profaning of Gods name and indicates one is worshiping some other God than the true God.  When this is ignored some just person is probably robbed.  Anyone who truly fears God will be careful not to do this.


:4-5   Care for other’s property (even an enemy’s)    

"If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.  5.  If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it."

Well-respected scholars have said that Jesus’ instruction to love your enemy was revolutionary for his day (See: Jesus’ Jewish Command to Love. By R. Steven Notley, Jerusalem Perspective).  Why should it have been?  Clearly this was the intent of God’s instruction while ancient Israel was camped at Sinai.  Leviticus 19:34 further clarifies that we are to love even the 'stranger'.  The intent is everyone.

Obviously, if your neighbor doesn’t have a donkey, but has some other animal this instruction could still be followed.  For that matter if their car is straining under its’ burden you might be able to help as well.  This doesn’t mean you put yourself in harms way for any reason at all, but we should be of service to those in need whenever possible because we represent the God of justice, mercy and faith.

But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you, and persecute you, 45.  That you may be the sons of your Father in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mat 5:44-45). 

This is the character of the God we claim to honor.  He is looking for those who think like He thinks and act like He acts.  We are the offspring of those we emulate (John 8:39, 41, 44, Rom 6:16).  The question is simply, are we representing our Creator, or ourselves?

This is not an easy task.  It takes faith that God will make up any loss we might incur.  We need to understand this may not necessarily happen in this life, but it will happen.  This is nothing more than God asked of ancient Israel.  Certainly God asked faith of them too (Mat 23:23, Hab 2:4) as is obvious if one thinks about what this judgment instructs.

The concept of being the children of God is not a New Testament invention.  So you should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you. Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to fear Him” (Deu. 8:5-6).  In a bit of a circle we come back to the fact that the ways of God, the essence of His being and how He conducts Himself, He defines as keeping the commandments.  This includes, of course, as they are expanded or more fully explained by these judgments.

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Heb 13:16)  We are to be a positive influence on this world.  God created the world for all of us.  Just as we would want our own children to support one another, so God expects us to support one another regardless of ideology.  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others?  Do not even the tax collectors do so?” (Mat 5:47)


If we ignore this instruction we are not only placing ourselves above God, but stealing due respect and help from our brothers and sisters.  I don't think I can overemphasize the importance of understanding the precept that our Creator is wishing to communicate in this judgment.  It also ties in with every other judgment that deals with relations between people or our conduct involving others.


We are to care for our neighbor, even our enemy.  We do this not because we want to or because it's easy, but because God tells us it is His way and that He wants us to do it.  We let go of our own way to walk in His way.  This is how to lose our own life and be a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1, Mat 16:25).  He will make up for whatever loss we feel we incur (see Isa 58).



:6-9   Judge justly for poor, innocent, righteous, strangers; no bribes

"You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute.  7.  Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous.  For I will not justify the wicked.  8.  And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous. 9.  Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

The importance of unfailing justice is certainly reinforced in these verses.  There is hardly any difference in intent with verses 1-3.  This appears to be making sure we don’t lump people together, but discern between the guilty and innocent.  Not doing so will place the judge in with the wicked that he seeks to punish.  Judges are to hear and fear too.


Here also God repeats the thought that Israel was a stranger in Egypt, expressed in Exodus 22:21.  Certainly this was intended to impress upon them and us the importance God places on justice and treating everyone with kindness, concern and compassion.  In short, treating them the way we would want to be treated.  There is no different standard of measurement for an outsider (Lev 24:22).


One new aspect dealt with here is the condemning of bribes.  Of course this ought to have been understood, but it is stated anyway.  Some things we can still see apart from the law of God some 3500 years later.  Other things have been lost on us even though they were taken for granted by Israel.


The commandments on which these verses are based are the same as verses 1-3.  However the inclusion of the instruction on bribes brings to light that covetousness is a factor as well.  We accept a bribe because we want something quick and easy that God has not yet chosen to give us. 


Bribes come in many forms.  In some cases no direct goods or services may change hands.  One can simply be influenced by flattery or possibly some personal relationship.  We should have our guard up against this kind of influence as well as monetary.  Nothing should 'blind the discerning or pervert the words of the righteous'.


Beginning of possible inset section focusing on Sabbaths


:10-11   Land Sabbath

"Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, 11. But the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat.  In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove."

The sabbatical year is a fundamental principle of the law of God.  Since so many of us are so far removed from the land we may be at a loss as to how to implement this instruction.  I will readily admit to being in that position. This is no excuse to ignore it. 


Certainly part of the purpose for this is to help feed the poor.  Produce will still be produced.  One is not to sow crops, but let whatever will grow, grow.  Everyone was permitted to eat, but there was not to be a harvest, as such. (Lev 25:1-6). .  In modern society most people wouldn’t understand how the sabbatical year or other customs implemented by God were supposed to work.  So few would take advantage of what produce was available.   Also they would probably come back the next year and expect to help themselves again. 


There are many other customs mentioned in the Law of Moses that would go hand in hand with this custom.  Even during a non-sabbatical year it is permissible for anyone walking by to help themselves to a little food.  They are to take only what they will immediately eat (Deu 23:24-25).  Nothing is to be carried away for later.


Of course gleaning was another matter.  In that case, after a crop had been harvested, or the harvesters had bypassed the ‘corners’ of the field, the poor could come and collect from what was left.  They were free to collect a second harvest.


It seems the purpose of the land Sabbath was to provide for the poor and to let a fair amount of the crop fall to the ground and be absorbed back into the soil.  Perhaps also the “beasts of the field”, which would be attracted, would also enhance the environment in some positive way.  In any case there are a number of different situations to be concerned about here.  There are those growing mint in their apartment flowerpot and there are large-scale agribusinesses with thousands of acres in production.  In any case we should do something to reestablish this practice in our little corner of the earth.


Leviticus 25 goes on to talk about the Jubilee year.  Jesus’ message in Luke 4:18-19 is taken by some to be a reference to the Jubilee year (JFB).  He quotes from Isaiah 61:1-2a.  The acceptable year of the Lord is associated with the Jubilee in Jewish writings.  Of course, in order to have a Jubilee, we are supposed to have Sabbatical years.


This judgment obviously falls under the command to keep the Sabbath day.  But isn’t it a bit of a stretch to get from a weekly Sabbath to an annual Sabbath?  Actually no, it’s not.

Interestingly the Hebrew word usually translated ‘day’ in Exodus 20:8 is ‘yowm’.  Its primary meaning is indeed ‘day’.  However, it carries with it secondary meanings of ‘time’ and ‘year’.  In the immediate context of Exodus 20:8-11 certainly ‘day’ is a reasonable translation. In the larger context of the entire Sinai covenant including especially Exodus 23:8-16 ‘time’ is just as valid a translation.  That would have Exodus 20:8 saying ‘Remember the Sabbath time to keep it holy’.

Although Exodus 20:9-11 seems to be specific to the weekly Sabbath, these verses draw authority from the creation.  The purpose and plan of the creation is pictured in the annual Sabbaths. It is not a great stretch to understand that Exodus 20:8 was intended to include every Sabbath of the Lord, i.e. every day in which no work was to be done as detailed in Leviticus 23. 


In the same way, the Sabbatical year is part of God’s Sabbath time.  This was very likely explained by Exodus 19:7-8, if not before.  It was also included in the judgments that accompanied the official “Words” of the covenant of the Lord.  All Sabbath time it to be revered as Holy. 


:12    Weekly Sabbath

"Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your maidservant and the stranger may be refreshed."

Here the fourth commandment is more or less repeated.  Most of the judgments add some new facet to or shed additional light on one of the main commands of Exodus 20:3-17.  There is a slight change in emphasis here too, but it really gives us no new information.


The emphasis seems to be on others resting besides ourselves.  We are to rest so that our animals and the servants can rest.  The Creator wants everyone to take a day off.  So it seems that anyone who takes advantage of some service for hire that a non-believer offers on the Sabbath would be more directly condemned as being in violation of the Sabbath by this instruction, more so than Exodus 20:10 might indicate.  It also ought to be clear that whether or not someone is in a Sabbath state of mind or attitude is irrelevant.  The ox and the donkey are not likely to be in a Sabbath attitude, but God still wants them to rest.


Obviously emergencies can arise. Carelessness can also create an unnecessary emergency.  The Sabbath was made for our benefit; we are not slaves to the Sabbath (Mat 2:27).  However, lacking some emergency, why would we put ourselves in a position to encourage a non-believer to offend the Creator by working on the Sabbath?  Wouldn’t we be encouraging him to offend if we pay him for his work or product?  Wouldn’t we be guilty by association?  Nehemiah accused the rulers of Judah of profaning the Sabbath, because they allowed others to profane the Sabbath (Neh 13:16-18).  There is no indication the rulers were working themselves.  Nehemiah really seems to hold the rulers more responsible.  They were in a position to have known better.  How much more would we be guilty if we actually paid someone to work when there was no emergency.


God expects us to prepare ahead for the Sabbath.  This was taught to Israel very shortly after they left Egypt.  He gave Israel double the manna in the wilderness on the sixth day (Ex 16:22-26).  He says He will give sufficient produce in the sixth year (Deu 25:21) so it will last through the eighth year.  The sixth day is for preparation so the Sabbath can be enjoyed by all.


:13   No talk of other gods

"And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth."

Our Creator considers this matter to be serious.  We ought to understand by now.  Jokes about bombs are not tolerated in airports, why should our Creator be understanding of casual mention of some imaginary god?  They ought to be left to pass from memory.


Could it be that the location of this instruction sandwiched between instruction on the weekly and annual Sabbaths is to reinforce the need to be circumspect in how we impact others on the Sabbath too?


:14-17         Appear for and keep festivals

"Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year:  15.  You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty);  16.  And the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering, which is at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.  17.  Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God."


Of course all of these occasions are mentioned in the New Testament.  Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:   8.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (I Cor 5:7-8)


Now when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” (Acts 2:1)  I hope no one was late.  What an event, but what Christian group still gathers on this day the way these people were gathered?  This day must be calculated from the time of the offering of the wave sheaf (Lev 23:15).  Hardly anyone actually calculates it, including the Jews.  They have convinced themselves that it is calculated from one of the annual Sabbaths, which really means no calculation is required at all.  It falls on either Sivan 6 or 13 depending on which annual Sabbath they use.

Paul also recognized the need to keep Pentecost.    For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16).  Earlier he also cut off his journey to attend a Feast in Jerusalem.  Likely this was Pentecost too, but the text isn’t specific.  When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; 21  But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem” (Acts 18:20).

John 7:1-53 records Jesus as participating and teaching during the Feast of Tabernacles.  A fairly famous event that took place during this festival was a water pouring ceremony at the temple.  Jesus is probably making reference to this ceremony in verse 38.


Leviticus 23 also lists the pilgrimage festivals and includes as well some single day occasions.  The law of Moses was added as a witness and included some things Israel should have understood even though not specifically mentioned.  The additional single day events are evidently included there so Israel would be without excuse.


There is some differentiation made between the pilgrimage festivals and the additional single day “Feasts of the Lord” mentioned in Leviticus 23:4.  In fact, "feasts of the Lord" is better translated "appointed times of the Lord".  The Hebrew word chag meaning Feast or festival is not applied to the day of Trumpets (Shoutings), Atonement or the eighth day after the Feast of Tabernacles.  Chag is applied to occasions of joy and mirth and is connected almost exclusively to the pilgrimage festivals.


The unique thing about the festivals mentioned in Exodus 23 is that they required the attendance of all the males at the place God resided.  God also requested a special offering from each male at this time (Deu 16:16).  The Jews called these festivals, pilgrimage festivals.  The single day festivals of Trumpets and Atonement did not require everyone to gather at the place of God’s residence on earth or give an offering. 


Since these occasions are all lumped together in Leviticus 23 it seems that God considers them all fundamental to His way.


:18    No leavened bread w/sacrifice

"You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread; nor shall the fat of My sacrifice remain until morning."

Of course leavening in bread is used often as a symbol of sin.  This is especially evident in I Corinthians 5:7-8, quoted above.  As symbols, God is interested in honest things that are what they appear to be. Things that are filled with air and look bigger or more important than they really are, are not what God wants to represent Him.


The first appearance of ‘sacrifice’ in this verse is zeh’vagh.  It is often used of a peace offering and appears frequently in Leviticus 3 & 7.  It does not appear in Leviticus 1 or 2 that talk of burnt offerings.  The peace offering is typically a festive occasion.  The one who offered the sacrifice typically gathered the whole extended family together because the sacrifice could be shared by all.  After two days though if anything was left over it was to be burned (Lev 7:16-17).  All the more reason to invite the whole clan.  No use worrying about leftovers.


This is the kind of offering that would typically be offered during the festivals.  Actually the second appearance of ‘sacrifice’ in this verse is Hebrew chag and typically is translated ‘feast’.  It appears in verses 15 & 16 above referring to the feast of Unleavened bread, Firstfruits and Tabernacles.  It typically refers to these three occasions.


The three main festivals were not the only occasions when one could offer a peace offering.  It could be done at almost any time, but certainly this type of offering should be done during these occasions.  If we want to honor our Creator we need to honor Him the way He wants it done.


Blood mentioned in this stipulation may be symbolic of our own lives.  We don't offer our life with sin.  We give up our own way in favor of living the way of God.


Paul taught that we are to sacrifice ourselves to our Creator (Rom 12:1).  In doing this we should eliminate the malice and wickedness that typically comes with those who have an inflated opinion of themselves.  We are to live in sincerity and truth with humility and no pretense, just as unleavened bread is without pretense.


This is not the typical human condition.  However, God is interested in those that serve Him, not themselves.  The real trick is to not be desirous of the praise of men at the same time. 


This instruction also dictates that the fat is burned (not eaten) before the next morning.  Elsewhere the law reinforces this by a statute that specifically states that the fat is not to be eaten. (see Lev 3:17 & 7:23-25)  Of course now we know that many toxins are stored in the fat and it is not part of a healthy diet.


**** end of possible inset Sabbath  section ****

:19a  First of firstfruits go to God's house

"The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. "

This seems to fit Deuteronomy 26:1-2.  And it shall be when you come into the land… 2. That you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide.

However, the connection between this verse and Leviticus 23:10-11 also seems unmistakable.  “..when you come into the land which I give to you, and reap it’s harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.  11.  He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf…

Jesus Christ was the first of the firstfruits (Col 1:18, Rom 8:29).  Just like Israel was to bring a basket of the firstfruits to God, so the very firstborn of the dead was presented to God.  Zechariah 3:1-5 may be describing this scene, which would have taken place after John 20:1, 14-17.  Keep in mind that Jesus’ name was really Yeshua, which English speakers would normally transliterate to Joshua.  The name Jesus came from the Greek transliteration of the name.

Early in the day Jesus withdrew from Mary Magdalene (John 20:17).  He didn’t want her to touch Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father.  Later that same day Jesus appeared to most of the disciples and encouraged them to feel the wounds and scars (John 20:19-20, Luke 24:12-35, 38-39).  He had evidently been with the Father between those two occasions.

So it appears God is requesting the first of the first fruits, not just because He wants stuff, but because this looks forward to Christ being accepted before Him after triumphing over this evil world and being sacrificed for our sins.  This also reinforces the validity of the wave sheaf ceremony detailed in Leviticus 23:10-11.  That occasion looked forward to the acceptance of our Messiah as the very first of the first fruits.

At least partly because God killed the firstborn of Egypt and saved the firstborn of Israel, He sanctified the firstborn for Himself (Num 3:13, Ex 13:15).  He then gave His own firstborn to clean us from our sins (Heb 5:5, Col 1:15, 18, John 3:16, Rom 8:29).  Is a little produce to remind us of this occasion unreasonable?  If we wish to honor God we will not forget.


:19b   No worship like pagans

"You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk."

This seems a rather odd climax to laws and instruction that are wise, just and apropos.  Certainly it seems heartless to use a mother’s milk to stew her offspring.  However, this command is repeated in chapter 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:2.  So this is apparently quite important and there is evidently a deeper issue involved here. 


In Arabia there was a custom that revolved around exactly what this verse forbids.  Remnants of it may persist still.  Evidently in ancient times it was directly associated with certain superstitious rites to produce magical charms and the broth from the dish was spread around the gardens and fields to promote special productivity.  The Arab name of the dish uses words that are very similar to the Hebrew used in this verse for ‘mother’s milk’. (see JFB Commentary)


What one ought also to understand from this instruction, if not from anything previous, is that God doesn’t appreciate any pagan tradition being used in fun or attempted worship.  If He doesn’t want the names of the pagan gods mentioned (Ex 23:13), He certainly will not want their traditions copied in a misguided attempt to honor Him.


These judgments are and integral part of what Moses called the covenant of the Lord (Deu 4:23) and the covenant made at Sinai (Deu 29:1).  The words of Ex 21-23:19 were the bulk of the book that Moses wrote and read to the people as part of the confirmation ceremony (Ex 24:3-4, 7-8) of that covenant.  “…the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words” (vs 8d).  It was a package deal.   The judgments clarified things that were not necessarily obvious simply by the words of Exodus 20:1-17.  Consequently they carry the same weight as the Ten Commandments.


Unfortunately, this instruction and much else in this solemn covenant, has been  set aside by the vast majority of those who claim to be His followers.  His Holy festivals are hardly ever mentioned and the festivals of ancient pagan gods are wrapped in new names (usually) and celebrated by all.  Is it any wonder that we seem to be under a curse?


****end of No Other God section  and entire judgments/statutes section***


The rest of chapter 23 exhorts Israel to obey and promises them blessings and protection if they do.  It also warns them that if they don’t expel the current residents from the land that God will give them, they will corrupt Israel and ultimately bring them down.  The historical record shows this warning fell on almost totally deaf ears.  As a result the kingdom did not last.


Part of the problem is that people typically take a very surface only approach to God’s instruction.  What is needed is to go deeper and understand the intent, so the concept can be applied to situations that are not specifically addressed by the specific instruction.  In other words, one must seek to understand the spirit of the regulation, not just the letter.  This requires extended thoughtful consideration and reevaluation; indeed continual diligent searching and thought (Heb 11:6).


There is also the human tendency to protect ourselves.  Indeed, we acknowledge that self-preservation is a basic human characteristic.  The law of God requires we forego this characteristic in lieu of dependence on our Creator.  Those that will dwell with God, among other things, will speak the truth even if it hurts (Ps 15:1, 4).  They will not be depressed when punished, but rather be anxious to make right whatever wrong was done.  Job may have had his subtle problems, but he understood this (Job 31:16-22).  We should be just as anxious, if not more so, to keep God’s law by paying the penalty when due, as we are to do what He asks. He prefers obedience, but repentance is the next best thing.


The default penalty for all infractions of this covenant is death.  It is someone's responsibility to see that gets done.  Who's?  Well, the covenant was with the nation, everyone.  There were no judges set up initially. The whole nation or at least the males, were all to be representatives of God.  There are no uninvolved parties here.  The reversion to a patriarchal system based on already recognized leaders (Deu 1:12-16) didn't necessarily change that.


When someone was gathering firewood on the Sabbath, it was the responsibility of the whole congregation to stone him (Num 15:35-36).  The story of Achan (Josh 7) also makes a point of group involvement and responsibility.


This is carried on in the New Testament, although the application has changed a bit, because we, as followers of Christ, are not responsible for the civil government.  "But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." (Heb 3:13).  "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.  15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (II Thes 3:14-15).


God is telling us what very bad behavior is.  If we wish to really please Him, we should do the opposite, not just the minimum.