Feb. 7. Instructions for Altar; Various Civil, Moral and Ceremonial Laws Commanded

Ex. 20:22-23:33

Nations around the Israelites had many gods that they worshipped. One of those countries was Egypt. They were very familiar with idol worship while they were there, but God made it very plain that He was number one. There was to be no idol worship among them.

God has always been very specific about the way He wants people to worship Him. He gave Moses instructions for the type of altar that He required His people to use in their worship. It was to be built out of earth or they could choose uncut stone. At that time, He wasn’t interested in fancy structures of worship. Splendor would be expected later.

As God expanded upon His basic ten commandments, He recognized the presence of slavery in the land. Without strictly forbidding it, He gave regulations to guide the Israelites in dealing with slavery. Actually, in some cases, a poor person would be better off being under the care of a good master as a slave, than he would be fending for himself. Provisions were made that after every six years, slaves would be freed unless they had committed themselves for life to their master.

Premeditated murder and kidnapping were high on God’s list of capital offences. Even the next of kin could legally take the life of someone who had accidentally killed a relative. However, God did provide cities of refuge for a person who had accidentally killed someone.

Slaves were to be treated humanely. In the event of mistreatment, if a slave lost a tooth or an eye, he would be set free. If a slave were killed by his master, the master would then be put to death.

The Israelites were responsible for their personal actions. If through carelessness or neglect, they caused harm to someone else, they were required to make restitution according to the amount of damage that was caused. They were also responsible for the actions of their livestock.

God made provisions for respecting the property rights of others. Laws and penalties were provided to punish thieves and recompense their victims.

Sexual purity among His people was expected by God. A man who enticed an unbetrothed unmarried virgin was expected to marry her and pay her dowry. If her father refused to give her in marriage, the dowry was still to be paid.

God did not tolerate idol worship of any kind, including sorcery as these acts were in direct opposition to His preeminence. The poor and strangers were not to be oppressed. Rulers were to be respected and not cursed. He also demanded the firstfruits of their labors, including the firstborn sons. However, provision was made to redeem their sons from sacrifice.

Truth and justice were required in courts of law. A poor man could not be favored or oppressed just because he was poor. Bribes were forbidden. Enemies were even to be helped if they were in need.

Two sabbaths were introduced. The Israelites were to work six days and rest on the seventh. They were also to till the ground six years and let it lie fallow the seventh. Any volunteer grain that grew was to be used by the poor and wildlife.

God instituted three annual feast days. The first of these was the Feast of Unleavened Bread/Passover that commemorated the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Celebrated second was the Feast of Harvest/Feast of Weeks/Pentecost at the end of grain harvest. This feast came fifty days after Passover. The third feast came at the end of olive and grape harvest. It was the Feast of Ingathering/Feast of Tabernacles. It commemorated the forty years of their dwelling in tents in the wilderness.

If God’s people will remain faithful and loyal to Him, He will bless them beyond measure. He promised the Israelites that He would feed, protect and give them good health while driving the inhabitants out of the land that He was giving to them.