Exodus 21

  1. This section (Exodus 21-23) has posed some difficulty for some readers of the Scripture. The difficulty results from a lack of understanding concerning the times in which the Lord revealed to Moses these ordinances (commands). Slavery was common in ancient times; in fact, perhaps, to a lesser degree slavery is still prevalent in some societies. In our modern society what can we say about slavery as Moses recorded it? “One thing is decidedly unique about the slavery situation in ancient Israel is that there was no such thing as permanent, involuntary servitude for a Hebrew slave to a Hebrew master (Lev. 25:25-55). It appears that slavery was not a desirable aspect of social behavior in ancient Israel. Nonetheless God permitted its practice and established laws to regulate it” (Davis, p. 227).
  2. Rather than detail the particulars, I will give a summary outline to the verses. Slaves are servant and they belong to those who own them. The male slave (21:1-6). The female slave (21:7-11).  Disciplining the slave (21:20-21). Violence to a slave (21:26-27).  Violence toward another. What to do at the murder/manslaughter of another man (21:12-14). With regard to parents (21:15, 17). With regard to kidnapping (21:16).  With regard to men fighting (21:18-19). With regard to punishment for civil wrong (21:22-25). With regard to livestock (21:28-32). Restitution. Livestock loss (21:33-36).
  3. Application. “Chattel” slavery is sinful, but bondservant slavery, is that? I am a willing bondservant (slave) to the Lord Jesus, are you?