“And these are the laws [mishpatim]….” (Exodus 21:1)
In last week’s study, we read about God giving the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel through His servant, Moshe (Moses). (Exodus 14:31)
This portion of Scripture (Parasha) begins by describing a whole system of civil legislation, such as the rights of persons, slaves and servants, as well as laws concerning murder, personal injuries, offenses against property, and moral offenses.
These ancient codes are still relevant today. The laws found here are powerful and deep, and they remain a meaningful treasure in the Word of God.
The spirit of lawlessness causes many people to resent rules and regulations; however, without a standardized code of laws, chaos and anarchy reigns, and the love of many grows cold. (Matthew 24:12)
In fact, the closer we move toward the end times, the more lawless society seems to become, which is consistent with end-time prophecy.
“For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” (2 Thessalonians 2:7)
God is a God of peace and order. Laws are absolutely necessary to live a righteous, loving and peaceful life.
God’s Law for Slavery: A Humane Approach
“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.” (Exodus 21:2)
The first set of laws presented in this Parasha deals with Hebrew servants, also called slaves.
Even though the Israelites had been set free from slavery in Egypt, they had slaves and/or servants themselves.
Back then, a person might become a slave through poverty, debt, crime, or through being sold by someone; for instance, a father might sell a daughter in an effort to give her a good life with a wealthy family.
A Hebrew slave was not to be treated as an object that could be owned, but as a person. Furthermore, in the seventh year, the slave had to be set free.
A slave, however, who freely chose to remain a slave, would be brought before God to the door or the doorpost (mezuzah), where his master would pierce his ear with an awl (a kind of needle). After that, the slave would be bound to serve his master forever. (Exodus 21:6)
Similarly, when we freely pledge our allegiance to Yeshua (Jesus), out of love, we become a lifetime slave of God, which leads to becoming a holy and righteousness servant.
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)
Slave, Servant, Worker, and Worshiper
The concept of slavery permitted by the Torah was quite different from the cruel Greek and Roman systems. In fact, the Hebrew language does not differentiate between slave, servant, worker or worshiper.
The word for all of these is eved (plural – avadim).
“Behold, bless the Lord, all servants [avadim] of the Lord, who serve by night in all the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 134:1)
Eved has no connotation of shame; it actually shares the same root as the verb to workor to serve (avad).