Exodus 21
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.
Exodus 21:1

The Maker's Laws, whether they are promulgated in Sinai thunder, to the ear or imagination, or quite otherwise promulgated, are the Laws of God; transcendent, everlasting, demanding obedience from all men. The Universe is made by Law; the great Soul of the World is just and not unjust. Look then, if thou have eyes or soul left, into this Shoreless Incomprehensible; into the heart of its tumultuous Appearances, Embroilments and mad Time-Vortexes, is there not, silent, eternal, an All-just, an All-beautiful; sole Reality and ultimate controlling power of the Whole? This is not a figure of speech; this is a fact.

—Carlyle, Past and Present.

The Egyptians were the first people upon the earth who emerged into what is now called civilization. How they lived, how they were governed during the tens of hundreds of generations which intervened between their earliest and latest monuments, there is little evidence to say. At the date when they become distinctly visible they present the usual features of effete Oriental societies; the labour executed by slave gangs, and a rich luxurious minority spending their time in feasting and revelry. Wealth accumulated, Art flourished. Enormous engineering works illustrated the talent or ministered to the vanity of the priestly and military classes. The favoured of fortune basked in perpetual sunshine. The millions sweated in the heat under the lash of the taskmaster and were paid with just so much of the leeks and onions and flesh-pots as would continue them in a condition to work. Of these despised wretches some hundreds of thousands were enabled by Providence to shake off the yoke, to escape over the Red Sea into the Arabian desert, and there receive a code of laws under which they were to be governed in the land where they were to be planted.

What were these laws? A revelation of the true God was bestowed on them, from which, as from a fountain, a deeper knowledge of the Divine Nature was to flow out over the earth; and the central thought of it was the realization of the Divine government—not in a vague hereafter, but in the living present. The unpractical prospective justice which had become an excuse for tyranny was superseded by an immediate justice in time. They were to reap the harvest of their deeds, not in heaven, but on earth. There was no life in the grave whither they were going. The future state was withdrawn from their sight till the mischief which it had wrought was forgotten. It was not denied, but it was veiled in a cloud. It was left to private opinion to hope or to fear; but it was no longer held out either as an excitement to piety or a terror to evildoers. The God of Israel was a living God, and His power was displayed visibly and immediately in rewarding the good and punishing the wicked while they remained in the flesh.

It would be unbecoming to press the parallel, but phenomena are showing themselves which indicate that an analogous suspension of belief provoked by the same causes may possibly be awaiting ourselves. It may be that we require once more to have the living certainties of the Divine government brought home to us more palpably; that a doctrine which has been the consolation of the heavy-laden for eighteen hundred years may have generated once more a practical infidelity; and that by natural and intelligent agencies, in the furtherance of the everlasting purposes of our Father in heaven, the belief in a life beyond the grave may again be about to be withdrawn.

—Froude, Short Studies, vol. II.

References.—XXI. 5, 6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1174. XXII. 21, 22.—H. Adler, The Orphan and the Helpless, Sermons, 1855-84. XXII. 29.—R. B. Brindley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. p. 41.

If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.
If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
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.
And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:
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.
And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.
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.
And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.
If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.
And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.
He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.
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.
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.
And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.
And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.
And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.
And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed:
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.
And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.
Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.
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.
And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him.
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.
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;
The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.
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.
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.
Nicoll - Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Exodus 20
Top of Page
Top of Page