Friday, August 05, 2022

2022.08.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 21:28–36

Read Exodus 21:28–36

Questions from the Scripture text: What situation does Exodus 21:28 address? What happens to the ox? What mayn’t they do with it? What happens to the owner? But if the owner knew that the ox was like this, what happens to him (Exodus 21:29)? What is the only way that he gets out of the death penalty (Exodus 21:30)? Who imposes the amount (Exodus 21:31)? In what case is the amount fixed instead (Exodus 21:32)? What situation does Exodus 21:33 address? What must the pit-digger do (Exodus 21:34)? What does he get out of it? What situation does Exodus 21:35 address? What do they do with the live ox? With the dead one? But what if the owner of the live ox knew that his ox was like this (Exodus 21:36)?

What does proper dominion over beasts and land require? Exodus 21:28–36 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we must take care that no harm be done by those in our power to oversee, whether animal or inanimate property. 

The justice of the various case laws seems plain. Exodus 21:28 follows Genesis 9:5 in demanding a reckoning for man’s blood from beasts as much as from men. There must be no benefit gained by man from the death of the ox; its death must serve only the purpose of reflecting the dignity of human life being in the image of God. So, its flesh may not be eaten.

There are a few more principles that can be gleaned here.

Criminal negligence is culpable, not murder: Exodus 21:30. Numbers 35:31 is going to prohibit allowing a murderer to redeem his life. So, while the man his held responsible for his negligence (Exodus 21:29), the law makes enough of a distinction to distinguish it from murder.

God’s society values women as much as menExodus 21:31-32. As we will see later in the law, the work of men and women was valued differently. This corresponds to their general productivity. However, the lives of men and women here are valued equally. The father has the same right of demand for a daughter as he does for a son (Exodus 21:30). The life of a female servant is valued the same as that of a male servant (Exodus 21:32). 

The equal value of male and female life in Israel was revolutionary in the Ancient Near East, just as the Christian valuing of female babies as much as male babies was revolutionary in 1st and 2nd century Rome. But this valuing comes from the same reality that demands the destruction of beasts that have killed people: man, both male and female, is made in the image of God (cf. Genesis 1:27).

Additionally, the 30 shekels itself  was 50% more than a slave was worth in the Mesopotamian code of Hammurabi, and twice as much as in the Mesopotamian laws of Eshnunna. 

Negligence is culpable in the destruction of property, not just life: Exodus 21:33-36. A pit required a cover that would prevent an animal falling in. An aggressive ox had to be prevented from access to people or other animals. In the case of accident, the cost of the loss would be shared equally. In the case of negligence, the owner would bear the entire loss himself.

What are some ways in which we must think of the safety of others in managing our property? 

Sample prayer: Lord, we thank You for making us in Your own image, and for giving us dominion over Your creation. Grant unto us to exercise that responsibility in a way that properly acknowledges the dignity and glory of Your image. Thank You for valuing us and giving Christ for us. In His Name, we pray for help, AMEN!

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

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