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The daily summaries are written by Wayne D. Turner, Pastor of SouthPointe Bible Fellowship in Fayetteville, Georgia

This is the February 17 reading. Select here for a new reading date:

BibleTrack Summary: February 17
<< Ex 18

For New King James text and comment, click here.

Exodus 19-21    Listen Podcast


Hey! Wait a minute! Doesn't this place look familiar? (Exodus 19:1-9)

1 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they INTO the wilderness of Sinai.
2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come TO the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.
3 And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;
4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
6 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.
7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.
8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.
9 And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD.

In our third month out of Egypt, where exactly are we? Are we lost? Well, no we aren't lost. We're camped at the foot of Mount Horeb (Horeb=Sinai), and Moses seems very familiar with his surroundings. He should be; this is the place where Moses brought his sheep when he lived with his father-in-law in Midian. As a matter of fact, look at the call of Moses in Exodus 3:12 (see notes), "...When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain." This is the place where God told Moses to bring the Hebrews when he received his call while tending sheep. Moses knows this mountain very well; he probably even knows the exact location of the burning bush. Call the Hebrews whatever you want, but don't call them lost!

Incidentally, the Hebrew phrasing of the first verse translated "in the third month" leaves a great deal of uncertainty with regard to exact timing. Scholars disagree. Some assert that it refers to lapsed time since leaving Egypt, while others maintain that it refers to some day within the third Hebrew calendar month. Therefore, the lapsed time out of Egypt could have been as few as six weeks by some accounting to as much as 10 weeks by the accounting of others.

In these verses Moses gets the big-picture plan from God and presents it to the Hebrews. Here's the deal. Do these Hebrews want to be the covenanted people of God or don't they? God tells Moses to go ask them. Look at Exodus 19:8, "And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD." After all of those years in Egypt, the people seem excited about their future prospects as God's people - so far, so good!

We see a little bit of strategy here in verses 8-9 with regard to God's installation of Moses as the undisputed leader of these Hebrews. Notice that God arranges for the people to hear God talking to Moses "that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever." God knew that these Hebrews were a tough bunch when it came to submission to authority.

It is worth noting that Peter borrows from verses 5-6 here in I Peter 2:9-10 (see notes) when he says, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." Let's not jump to any false conclusions because of Peter's usage of these words. Peter in no way is suggesting that the church is Israel's replacement. However, that special place, nationally, that Israel had with God is spiritually duplicated on an individual Believer basis by faith.

Israel prepares for the big sanctification ceremony (Exodus 19:10-25)

10 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes,
11 And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.
12 And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:
13 There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.
14 And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.
15 And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives.
16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.
17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
18 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
19 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.
20 And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.
21 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.
22 And let the priests also, which come near to the LORD, sanctify themselves, lest the LORD break forth upon them.
23 And Moses said unto the LORD, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it.
24 And the LORD said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest he break forth upon them.
25 So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them.

You will notice that the Hebrews spend three days cleaning up for this big sanctification ceremony. So, how special was this God-speaking-with-Moses event to be? Pretty special I'd say; notice that the people are to bathe, wash their clothing and abstain from sexual relations for three days prior to the big event (verses 14-15). God wanted to leave an impression upon these Hebrews regarding this special meeting. And by the way, NO TOUCHING THE MOUNTAIN! As a matter of fact, this mountain is placed off limits; violators will be executed. Only Moses and Aaron are to have any contact with the mountain itself. What a sight! Look at Exodus 19:16, "And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled." It's obvious to the people that today we're meeting God. Moses ascends up into the smoke and fire of the mountain; when he returns, God speaks to the Hebrews from the mountain and gives them the Ten Commandments. These commands are not actually placed on stone until Moses ascends the mountain again and returns in Exodus 32 (see notes).

Notice the reference to "priests" in verses 22 and 24. Obviously this was not the Aaronic priesthood; it had not been established yet. This must be a reference to the firstborn of every family who had been dedicated and consecrated to God according to Exodus13:2 (see notes). Only later was the tribe of Levi substituted for each firstborn male in Numbers 3:45 (see notes). Notice how absolutely adamant God is here about making certain that NO ONE except Moses and Aaron make contact with the mountain in verses 21-25. Afterward, verse 25 says that Moses and Aaron went down from the mountain and spoke to the people.

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20)

1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
22 And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.
24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.
25 And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.
26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

Here we are a few weeks out of Egypt and God is giving the Hebrews his divine law; we're right on schedule. God spoke directly to the people here - verified later in Deuteronomy 5:4 (see notes), "The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire." We know this passage today as the Ten Commandments. Moses himself refers to them as the "Ten Commandments" in Deuteronomy 4:13 (see notes), "And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone." And again Moses refers to the event of this day in Deuteronomy 10:4 (see notes), "And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the LORD gave them unto me." These commands were not actually placed on stone until Moses ascended the mountain and returned in Exodus 32 (see notes). After seeing the people gathered around the calf in their heathen celebration, we see in Exodus 32:19, "And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount." Moses then ascends to the mountain again in Exodus 34 (see notes) where they are written down a second time; these tablets are subsequently delivered to the people.

The Ten Commandments are repeated again just prior to their entry into Canaan in Deuteronomy 5 (see notes). Below is a comparison between the verses containing these Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.

If you would like to read the following comparison in a separate window, click here.

Incidentally, the Catholic version of the Ten Commandment varies from that of the Jews in that they eliminate #2 (verse 4) and divide verse 17 into two separate commandments, giving them two distinct thou-shalt-not-covet commandments. The Jewish rendering of the ten is the one to which non-Catholics subscribe.

Almost everyone is familiar with this passage, but let me draw your attention to the fourth commandment found in verses 8-11. That's a lot of text for one commandment! Let's see what these verses say about the observance of the Sabbath day. By the way, the Sabbath day was, and always will be, the seventh day, Saturday; it was clearly established and sanctified as such in Genesis 2:2-3 (see notes) at creation. Pay close attention to verse 10, "but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates." Let me ask you this question. For those Christian Believers today who believe that they are bound by the provisions of the Ten Commandments as New Testament Believers, how do they get around the fact that they don't observe the clearly-stated provisions of the fourth commandment?

So, to an observant Jew, what is work? The Jewish Rabbis defined more precisely what kinds of work fell under this prohibition. They identified 39 , like weaving, hammering, writing, etc., based upon the specification in Exodus 31:13 (see notes) that the Sabbath was to be kept. The fact that this Sabbath-keeping provision is specifically mentioned as the specifications for the tabernacle are being given, it is believed that these particular activities, the activities associated with building a tabernacle, are specifically forbidden on the Sabbath because they would be classified as work.

Here's the reality: As Believers, our righteousness has no relationship to the Ten Commandments whatsoever - before or after salvation. For those who are confused on this issue, believing they are responsible for keeping the Ten Commandments, simply ask them why they are such big-time violators of commandment #4. Just look at Numbers 15:32-36 (see notes) to see how seriously a violation of this commandment was treated. God commanded in that passage for a man be stoned to death for gathering firewood on the Sabbath day. In actuality, we see in the New Testament that Christ fulfilled the law by his death on the cross (Matthew 5:17-18, see notes). Paul explains what this means to us throughout his epistles, but very specifically refers to this law as "done away" in II Corinthians 3:7-11 (see notes) and Colossians 2:14 (see notes) says it was "nailed to the cross." Many Believers have trouble reconciling the provisions of these commandments with their grace relationship with Jesus Christ. They continually try to juggle grace and law at the same time. That can be very frustrating. I have provided an article to the right of this window entitled, "The Sabbath Day, Why don't Believers today observe it?" You may click here to have this article displayed in a window by itself. Many Christians are simply adamant that Believers must observe the law, yet they make NO attempt to keep Commandment #4. Ironically, they see no lifestyle contradiction there. This article attempts to clearly show the contrast between the Jewish commandments as compared to life in Christ.

With regard to Gentile Believers, the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 (see notes) dealt with the question of the responsibility of non-Jewish Believers to keep the Law of Moses. It was determined at that council that Gentile Believers WERE NOT responsible for keeping the Law of Moses. How has that blatant decree been overlooked by so many Christians today? For those who are worried that these ten commandments are the only tool available for keeping Christians on the right track, Ephesians 5:1-21 (see notes) should set your mind at ease. There you will see the provisions God has made in the New Testament regarding the Christian's walk with the Lord.

Another observation is in order for verse 5, "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;" Does that mean that, no matter what the children down to the fourth generation do, they are marked outside the favor of God? No! Ezekiel 18 (see notes) makes it clear that this is a logical consequence of sin, but children can break the yoke of parents' disobedience.

Let's give some special attention here to verses 22-23:

Exodus 20:22 And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.
Exodus 20:23 Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

The Hebrews had been in Egypt where idols to their gods abounded. These Hebrews have just witnessed the giving of the Law by God himself. There was never a demonstration like that in Egypt with any of their gods. This clear demonstration that God cannot be found in man-made idols is accompanied by God's warning in verse 23 that no attempt ever be made to capture the glory of God in an idol.

Here's the irony of this passage. It is clearly stated in verses 3-5 and 22-23 that, most importantly, Israel should absolutely, positively forsake the worship of other gods and the likenesses thereof. Yet, that turns out to be their biggest infraction against God from the time it is mentioned here until their complete destruction in 586 B.C. They just couldn't seem to lay off those "other gods."

Those opposed to capital punishment often like to quote the fifth commandment here found in verse 13, "Thou shalt not kill." In reality, the Hebrew word for "kill" there is "raw-tsakh´" and holds the connotation of murder - not capital punishment. Of course, capital punishment is found throughout the Mosaic Law for various capital crimes.

We see a dividing point here beginning with Exodus 20:18. The giving of the Ten Commandments has been completed; then, in verse 21, "Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was." Here's where God continues with the giving of the Law verbally to Moses. You will notice what the people saw and heard while God was speaking to Moses in verse 18, "And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off." Not only did they back off, but look at what they requested of Moses in verse 19, "And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die." They were certainly impressed with this meeting between God and Moses in their presence. It's just too bad they have such short memories.

At this point, we see in verse 21 that Moses moves in closer to God and the people back off. The giving of the Law continues. God specifies that an altar for sacrifice should be erected. Incidentally, notice that this altar was to have no steps leading up to it for fear that he who ascends the steps might have his private parts exposed in the process of making sacrifice. Later, undergarments were designed for the priests. Isn't it ironic that modesty was so important here, but when the Israelites danced around that golden calf in Exodus 32 (see notes), they stripped their clothes off. Now...what's wrong with that picture?!!!

But wait! There's more! (Exodus 21)

1 Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.

Were you under the impression that God's complete law is contained within those ten commandments? Oh no! That's just the beginning - the top ten (so to speak). God delivered a big ol' list of commandments for Israel. As a matter of fact, it would appear that the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 (see above) are broad categories with the specifics covered throughout the remainder of the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament). And here they begin in chapter 21. It is true that we do see the basis of many of the laws in our society regarding the treatment of our fellow man. It is fair to say that the law given to Moses has provided a foundation for free societies upon which they have based their laws. However, our laws can be considered significantly kinder and gentler by comparison. For instance, look at Exodus 21:17, "And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death." Many teenagers would never make it to adulthood with a strict application of these laws. This chapter even deals with civil issues of the law, not just criminal. God's law was comprehensive for the times as it was given for the purpose of governing the nation of Israel. Understand this: God's law was given to Israel as the basis for their government. It was not given as a means for obtaining righteousness before God as some have construed it to be.

So, how do observant Jews regard these specifications of Law? Here's an excerpt from the Jewish Study Bible:

These laws may reflect a settled society of farmers and herders in premonarchic times (since the highest official of whom they are aware is the chieftain, not the king; 22:27 n.). Like the laws of the Torah as a whole, they are not a complete, systematic code. Practical details of how to apply the law are rarely spelled out, and areas such as commerce, real estate, marriage, inheritance, and government are mentioned barely or not at all. Apparently only part of the existing laws have been selected, perhaps to illustrate certain ideal principles of justice and religion. Other areas and details of enforcement must have been governed by the oral law, courts, and administrative agencies. These details became the subject of the Oral Torah in rabbinic times, embodied in the Mishnah, Talmud, and halakhic midrashim.

From this, we are able to understand more fully how the Law of Moses in Jesus' day, 15 centuries later, had become quite complex in the practice of the Pharisees with the addition of oral tradition added to it.

Laws regarding Hebrew slaves (Exodus 21:2-11)

2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.
3 If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.
5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:
6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.
7 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.
10 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.

These laws specifically regulate Hebrew slaves. There is a clear distinction in Old Testament Mosaic Law between Hebrew and non-Hebrew slaves. Only Hebrew slaves earned their freedom in the seventh year as specified here. More instructions concerning Hebrew and non-Hebrew slaves can be found in Leviticus 25:39-55 (see notes).

One popular misuse of terminology is that of "bondservant" or "bondman." The Hebrew slave who chooses to remain after his six years of servitude does go through the procedure with the aul through the ear in verse 6 (OUCH!), but he is not then referred to as a bondservant. That term is used to describe a non-Hebrew slaves or Hebrew slaves who were enslaved by non-Hebrews. The Hebrew man who chooses to leave servitude after his commitment may leave with what he brought into servitude, but not with the wife and children who may have been awarded to him during the six years by his master. That is when he may choose to stay himself past his specified commitment.

Verses 7 through 11 would appear to specifically deal with Hebrew daughters who were sold for the purpose of becoming wives. Her rights as a Hebrew wife were protected in these verses, and she may never be sold - only "redeemed" (verse 8) or released "free without money" (verse 11).

Incidentally, you may like to know more about this issue of slavery with regard to the New Testament treatment of the issue. If so, read the notes on Ephesians 6:5-9 (see notes).

Laws regarding violence (Exodus 21:12-27)

12 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 neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.
15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.
16 And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.
17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.
18 And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed:
19 If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.
20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.
21 Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.
22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
26 And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.
27 And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.

In this passage we see the death penalty imposed for premeditated murder, striking or even cursing one's parents and kidnapping. Manslaughter (killing that is not premeditated) was handled in a special way, clarified later on in Deuteronomy 4:41-43 (see notes). Cities of refuge were established throughout Israel to which he might flee where he would be protected from an avenger pending trial. Incidents involving bodily injury short of death are also dealt with in these verses.

Laws regarding animals (Exodus 21:28-36)

28 If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit.
29 But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.
30 If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.
31 Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him.
32 If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
33 And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein;
34 The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.
35 And if one man’s ox hurt another’s, that he die; then they shall sell the live ox, and divide the money of it; and the dead ox also they shall divide.
36 Or if it be known that the ox hath used to push in time past, and his owner hath not kept him in; he shall surely pay ox for ox; and the dead shall be his own.

It is interesting to see in these verses that a man who knew he had a violent ox and did not keep him confined could find himself guilty of a capital crime. We also see payment due for damage caused by one's ox to another's ox.

This law-giving session continues into the chapters that follow. Jewish tradition through the centuries and continuing today subscribes to 613 Jewish laws found in the Torah. That's a lot more than just the top ten. Some of these laws are civil, and some are criminal.

You may find it interesting to know that the Hebrews were not the first nation to have a written code of conduct. The Code of Hammurabi predates Moses by over 200 years. Hammurabi was the ruler over Babylon from 1795 to 1750 B.C. Ancient Babylon was a polytheistic society, reflected in this detailed code of conduct which constituted their criminal and civil procedures. This document was etched in stone and remains extant (still in existence) to this day. Many of the civil and criminal provisions of the Mosaic Law are very similar to those of the Code of Hammurabi. There's a reason why I make this point. When you read through the 613 Jewish laws of the Old Testament, you might wonder, "What's up with that law?" Our 21st century society simply can't relate to some of the ancient provisions and safeguards. However, these laws were absolutely relevant to lifestyle issues that faced Hebrews during that period of time, as did the Code of Hammurabi 200 years or so earlier. You must remember: Much of the Mosaic Law was to provide direction for civil government; such is the case here in chapter 21. If you have an interest in knowing more about the Code of Hammurabi, click on this link to read a translation of this ancient document.

For commentary on another passage, click here.

Copyright 2003-2011 by Wayne D. Turner