We saw last week that the commands that God gave the people concerning how they were to treat their slaves were much more humane than what took place here in the United States in the years before and during the Civil War. Let me read for you this list I found of just a few of the differences between how slaves were treated under the OT Law and how they were treated here in America.
• Runaway "slaves" were not to be returned to their "masters" (Deuteronomy 23:15).
• If a Jewish male was attracted to a conquered female slave, he was required by law to treat her with dignity. If he had consensual sex with her, but decided not to marry her, she was to go completely free (Deuteronomy 21:11).
• If a Jewish male was attracted to a conquered female slave (or soon to be slave), he was permitted to marry her, but she was to be treated as a wife, not as a slave (Deuteronomy 21:11-14).
• "Slaves" were to take the Sabbath day off, just as the Jews were required to do (Exodus 23:12).
• "Slaves" could buy their freedom (Lev 25:47-49).
• The Jews were constantly reminded by God that they had been slaves in Egypt, and were NOT to treat foreigners as they had been treated in Egypt.
Although so-called corporal punishment was permitted by owners on disobedient slaves…even the loss of a tooth by a slave was to result in his/her immediate freedom (Exodus 21:26-27). (Full article here)
So we can see from this list—and there are many, many more commands along these lines—we can see from this short list that slavery under the OT Law was much more fair and much more lenient than what took place on these shores.
Now, whether we realize it or not, we are all slaves. You, me, the fellow down the road, your mom and dad. White folks, black folks, Asians, Puerto Ricans, you name it. Every single person from every single nation and every single family is a slave. But there are really only two masters. You can be a slave to sin—or you can be a slave to Christ. Romans 6:16—Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? From the time we were born until the day we came to know Christ, we were slaves to sin. We were, so to speak, the property of sin. Romans 7:14—For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. BUT, Romans 6:17-18—But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. How were we set free from sin? 1st Corinthians 6:19—You were bought at a price. Who paid that price? Galatians 3:13—Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law. Christ bought us from out of our slavery to sin, so that Romans 6:18—Having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. And one last thing before we move on from this subject—listen to how far the Word of God descended on our behalf, Philippians 2:5-8—5 Christ Jesus, 6 being in the form of God…7 He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a slave, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 …He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Well, not only was slavery much different than what took place here, even the way they dealt with matters of what we call criminal law were much different. And we’re gonna breeze through these statutes today concerning murder. Let’s start with Exodus 21:12-19—“12 He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. 13 However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee. 14 But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die. 15 And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. 16 He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death. 17 And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. 18 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.” I do want to mention a couple things. First, we will not be studying every single commandment in the Law. If we did, we could get really bogged down and it could become quite lengthy. Besides, many of these statutes and commands are quite simple. Some, though, require a lot of background study. We’re gonna kinda hit the ones that need some explanation but not a lot of deep digging. Second, we know that the Law points to Christ, but I do want to make one thing clear—not every single command in the Law points to Christ. Let me just be clear on those two things.
Well, with that said, let’s get started. Exodus 21:12-13—“12 He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. 13 However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.” Today, if someone gets charged with murder, they get arrested, booked, fingerprinted, and then there is a looooong, drawn out trial, and if the person is found guilty there is a loooong drawn out appeal, and it is very rare that a convicted murderer—or any other convicted criminal, for that matter—ever serves the full sentence pronounced upon them. Again, much different from what we see under the OT Law. There was no appeal; there were no “mitigating circumstances”; there was no question of whether you were “competent to stand trial.” If you committed an act worthy of punishment, you were punished. If you committed and act punishable by death, you were put to death. Period, paragraph, end of story. Leviticus 24:17—“Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death.” Hebrews 10:28—Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. This was nothing new; God told Noah the same thing hundreds of years prior to this, in Genesis 9:5-6—“5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man. 6 Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” Why does one deserve the death penalty for killing another human being? Because man was made in the image of God, and when you kill another man you are striking at the image of God.
Now, the first statute is quite simple. I hit Richard upside the head with a brick. He dies—I die. The second statute has to do with what we would call “criminally negligent homicide” or “involuntary manslaughter.” You committed and act that led to another person’s death, but you did not mean to. Deuteronomy 19:4-5—“4 Whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past—5 as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he shall flee to one of these cities and live.” The ‘cities’ referred to here were called “cities of refuge.” When a person was killed, the nearest relative was the one to avenge his brother’s blood. And for the man who kills his neighbor unintentionally, there were six cities where he could run to, and if he got to one of those cities before the avenger could catch him. Numbers 35:9-12—9 Then the LORD said to Moses: "10 Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 11 select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee. 12 They will be places of refuge from the avenger, so that anyone accused of murder may not die before they stand trial before the assembly." According to the ISBE,
“Upon reaching the city he was to be received by the elders and his case heard. If this was satisfactory, they gave him asylum until a regular trial could be carried out. They took him, apparently, to the city or district from which he had fled, and there, among those who knew him, witnesses were examined. If it were proved that he was not a willful slayer, that he had no grudge against the person killed, and had shown no sign of purpose to injure him, then he was declared innocent and conducted back to the city in which he had taken refuge, where he must stay until the death of the high priest. Then he was free to return home in safety. Until that event he must on no account go beyond the city boundaries. If he did, the avenger of blood might slay him without blame. On the other hand, if he were found guilty of deliberate murder, there was no more protection for him. He was handed over to the avenger of blood who, with his own hand, took the murderer's life.”And there was no getting off on a technicality.
Then, Exodus 21:14-17—“14 But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die. 15 And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. 16 He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death. 17 And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.” These are pretty simple. Premeditated murder; cursing or striking your mother or father—all worthy of death. The command forbidding the kidnapping a man to sell him as a slave would have brought slavery in America to a screeching halt. These are the qualities of a person who has no regard for human life, or for the order that God has established for the home, and therefore they need to be removed from society post haste.
Now, Exodus 21:18-19—“18 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.” Again, I smack Richard upside the head with my brick. He doesn’t die, but he is going to be out of work for a while. And they didn’t have AFLAC beck then. Therefore, since it’s my fault that Richard has been out of work, it is my duty to compensate him for the time he lost from work, and to pay for all his medical bills until he is able to go back to work. Jesus repeats this principle in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:33-35—"33 But a certain Samaritan…when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds…set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day…he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’" Now, let’s think about this a moment. Whose responsibility was it to make sure this man was taken care of for his injuries? But, look at the compassion the Samaritan shows. Jesus is saying that loving our neighbor means going beyond what we need to do, and going on to the point of what we are not even required to do—and help our neighbor whenever we can “Sorry, pal, that’s not my problem” is not a phrase that should be in any Christian’s vocabulary.
Next, we see that a man who owned a slave had to be careful as well. Exodus 21:20-21, 26-27—"20 And if a man beats his male or female servant 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…26 If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye. 27 And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth." Again, pretty simple. You beat your slave and he dies, you were punished. I don’t think the punishment would be death because if it was, God would have probably said it. I'm just speculating here, but it was probably likely to have been 40 stripes. Deuteronomy 25:2-3—“2 If the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows. 3 Forty blows he may give him and no more, lest he should exceed this and beat him with many blows above these.” If the slave did not die from the beating, however, the owner was not to be punished, as it says, because that slave was the property of the one to whom he had sold himself, and the owner would have brought enough harm upon himself by losing that slave’s labor. If, however, you knocked out one of their eyes or one of their teeth—so long, my friend, you are free. What recourse did slaves have in this country if they lost an eye or a tooth?
Then we get to Exodus 21:22-25—“22 If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no 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 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.” In verse 22, where it says “if no harm follows”—the KJV actually gets closest to the real meaning of the Hebrew. The word translated here as “harm”, the KJV translates it “mischief.” This word is only used 5 times in the OT—twice here, and three times in Genesis. And each time it is used it refers to some kind of grave danger. Listen to these verses from the KJV. Genesis 42:4—But Benjamin, Joseph's brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, “Lest peradventure mischief befall him.” Genesis 42:38—And he said, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him…then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.” Genesis 44:29—“And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.” Every time the Hebrew word (אָסוֹן, acown [pronounced ah-sone], mischief) is used, it carries with it the connotation of the potential for death. So what this command is saying is that if two men are fighting, and they strike a woman with child, and death follows, then you shall give life for life. Now, the command is rather ambiguous because, is it talking about the death of the mother or the death of the child? And as Pastor Phil would say, the answer is “Yes”. God does not make a distinction here because both the mother and her child are living human beings. And if two men fight and hit the pregnant woman and either she or her baby is killed in the process then the one who hit her shall be put to death. Now, of how much more punishment is a man worthy if he intentionally rips a living human being out of a mother’s womb? Abortion, under the OT Law, would have been punished by death for at least one of the parties, if not all involved.
Now, to finish up this section, we’re going to look at a couple of statutes that deal with the presence of a known danger that the guilty party knew about and did nothing to fix. Exodus 21:28-36—“28 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 also 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 male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. 33 And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner, but the dead animal shall be his. 35 If one man's ox hurts another's, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the money from it; and the dead ox they shall also divide. 36 Or if it was known that the ox tended to thrust in time past, and its owner has not kept it confined, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall be his own.”
First, you were responsible for your animal. If your ox killed someone, it was killed and destroyed, but nothing was done to you, if you had no prior warning of this ever happening. Animals are animals. Sometimes they do things you don’t expect. IF, however, you KNEW that your animal had “thrust with its horn in times past” and you didn’t do anything about it, and it killed a person—the animal dies, and you died. You were responsible, you knew it was not under control, you knew what kind of an animal it was and you did nothing about it, it’s your fault that it killed someone. Today, if a person owned a vicious dog, and they knew that dog was vicious, and they kept it anyway and it mauled a little girl who happened to be walking down the sidewalk—You, the dog owner, would be tried, convicted, and executed. If your animal killed a neighbor’s animal, they divided the dead animal, sold the live one and split the profit. But again, if you knew it had “thrust with its horn in times past” and you did nothing about it, you gave your neighbor one of your oxen to make up for his loss—but you keep the dead one as a parting gift.
Finally, if you were digging a foundation, or a cistern, and you did not put up any fences or any kind of warning, and your neighbor’s animal fell into it, you paid him for the loss of his animal—but again, you got to keep the dead animal. And I think the reason these statutes had the guilty party keeping the dead animal was as a way to remind them not to let that happen in the future. Today we would say “You break it—you bought it.” That dead animal was of no more use to the one who was wronged; it was now only a nuisance and burden to dispose of, so the one who was in the wrong was saddled with the responsibility of disposing of it.
Jesus is Lord Amen.