Friday, July 29, 2022

2022.07.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 21:12–27

Read Exodus 21:12–27

Questions from the Scripture text: What crime does Exodus 21:12 address? What penalty does it require? What distinction does Exodus 21:13 make? Where can this accidental killer go? But for murder, what place isn’t even safe (Exodus 21:14)? For what does Exodus 21:15 prescribe the death penalty? For what does Exodus 21:16 prescribe the death penalty? For what does Exodus 21:17 prescribe the death penalty? What penalty and restitution must be made if death does not result from an attack (Exodus 21:18-19)? Who is punished similarly, even if there was cause (Exodus 21:20)? What does Exodus 21:21 imply that the servant was refusing to be/do? What further protections are servants given, even if there was cause for their being struck (Exodus 21:26-27)? For what would men be punished, even if there was no other harm at all (Exodus 21:22)? What two parties conclude the amount of the punishment? To what extent are they punished for any harm to the child (Exodus 21:23-25)? 

What will God’s new society be like?  Exodus 21:12–27 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Israelites were to apply God’s moral law by having a civil law that guarded and valued His image in human life and His honor in established authorities. 

God values His own image in human life. We already knew the commandment (cf. Exodus 20:13) and even the penalty (cf. Genesis 9:6) that are in force in all societies: murderers must be executed (Exodus 21:12). Accidental killing (Exodus 21:13) is different because it isn’t an assault on God’s image. But murder being an attack upon God, even the place of mercy—God’s altar—is not safe for the murderer (Exodus 21:14). And if his victim does not die, he is kept alive to work and pay for whatever harm has come, as long as that harm continues (Exodus 21:18-20). 

This valuing of God’s image holds true, even in the case of servants. Exodus 21:16 again clarifies (cf. our previous devotional in Exodus 21:1–11) that slavery in Israel was different than the power-based manstealing by which slavery has existed throughout the history of fallen man. Those who tried to have this sort of slavery were to be executed. But when a man sold himself into slavery to pay a debt, he was agreeing to act as property (Exodus 21:21), and even to be physically corrected when he did not. Verse 21 does not teach that a man who wishes to own an object for beating can purchase a man for that purpose, but rather implies that the struck servant was not operating according to the agreement. Even so, for a slave who deserved punishment, the master who was severe enough that the slave lost an eye or tooth would lose his slave (Exodus 21:26-27). And the master would forfeit his own life, if he was severe enough that the slave lost his life.

This valuing of God’s image holds true, especially in the case of the pregnant and preborn. The woman and child in Exodus 21:22 are bystanders, so their harm would have fallen into the case of Exodus 21:13. But God’s special regard for them requires complete vengeance, even and especially for the child in the womb (Exodus 21:23-25). And when premature birth results, there doesn’t even have to have been other harm. The husband/father is given a blank check, restrained only by the judges, to demand whatever he wants in restitution! In the 21st century, the so-called “civilized” world has so set itself against God in its treatment of the pregnant and preborn as to show itself most uncivilized and condemn itself to death.

God values His own honor in His established authorities. Sprinkled into these cases of capital crimes are the one who strikes his father or his mother (Exodus 21:15) and even who “merely” curses his father or his mother (Exodus 21:17). As we considered in the fifth commandment (cf. Exodus 20:12), what is at stake here is not only submission and obedience, but honor from the heart. By executing such children, God not only reminds all that it is His authority that is behind all legitimate authority, but He protects the society of His people from being slowly infected and destroyed from within by the rebellious.

How should nations punish murder? For whose lives should they have a special regard? Whose authority should a nation acknowledge behind all authorities? What should the church do with children who attack or curse their parents (hint: not execution, since it doesn’t have the sword)?

Sample prayer: Lord, forgive us for how little we have valued Your image in men and Your honor in authority. Conform our hearts to Yours, and give us nations and churches whose laws and actions reflect the same, we ask, through Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or TPH164 “God Himself Is with Us”

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