Exodus – Chapter 21: Hebrew Servants

Last week we finished Exodus 20 and learned about the ten commandments, although they are not referred to in the Bible as the ten commandments.  Nearly everyone breaks at least one of these rules if not more.  The first four focus on honoring God and/or your parents.  The remaining six are common sense, and humans do not need a god to tell them not to do these things.  The one on adultery goes much farther than sleeping with someone other than your spouse and is one that everyone breaks from time to time.  Let’s now check out Exodus 21.

Ah, let me say one more thing before diving into Exodus 21.  Exodus 20 brought us the ten commandments fundamentalists continue to try to push into governments and schools.  Exodus 21 brings us further laws from God that the people are supposed to follow.  According to the Bible, the laws in Exodus 20 and Exodus 21 are no different in importance.  Yet no one mentions the laws in Exodus 21 and you’re now about to see why.

“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

And now you see why.  The first law after the ten in Exodus 20, allows you to buy servants!!!  These are not servants in the way we use the word servant today.  These are slaves.  Don’t think so?  Servants are free from day one.  I’m a servant to my employer, but I get to leave work and live my life as I choose.  The Hebrew servants aren’t free until their seventh year of slavery.  How nice of God to let them go free.  Free, that is, until someone else buys them into slavery!  You’ll hear christians argue that this isn’t really slavery.  A subsequent verse blows that argument out of the water.

“If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.” – Exodus 21:4

Guess what, it’s SLAVERY if your wife and children belong to a master when you are allowed to go free.  It disgusts me when Christians argue this is not slavery.  It’s slavery, no questions asked.

“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges.  He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.” – Exodus 21:5-6

If you have to pierce your ear with an awl to stay with your family…well, it doesn’t get more slavery than that.

“If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do.” – Exodus 21:7

If you are a female, you can be sold by your father and you never get to go free as the male servants (slaves) do.  It’s slavery to a whole new level!

“Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death.” – Exodus 21:12

I’m against the death penalty, but this is less crazy than the other laws.

“Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” – Exodus 21:17

If this was really true and God really wanted this to be done, humans would have become extinct millennia ago.  Who doesn’t curse their father or mother at some point in their life?  What child hasn’t told their parent ‘I hate you’ in the heat of the moment?  God clearly did not think this law through.

“Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.” – Exodus 21:20-21

Beating your slave (and yes, that’s the word the Bible NIV version uses) is okay in God’s eyes.  Just make sure to not beat your slave too hard.  If the slave dies, you get punished, although the Bible doesn’t state this punishment is death.  Apparently the law in Exodus 21:12 doesn’t apply to masters and slaves.

“An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye.  And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.” – Exodus 21:26-27

Woohoo!  The slave gets to go free!  The slave has lost an eye and/or a tooth and the slave still can’t take his family with him, but he’s free.  Note my sarcasm.  Is the owner punished?  Nope!

“If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible.  If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death.” – Exodus 21:28-29

Sigh.  God clearly is NOT intelligent.  Maybe a law should be made that all bulls should be fenced in?  Just a thought.  Might stop the bull from randomly goring people.  Let’s set that aside for a second.  If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death.  How then can a bull have a habit of goring people?  Shouldn’t the bull have been killed after the first goring?  WTF?!?!?!

“If anyone uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the one who opened the pit must pay the owner for the loss and take the dead animal in exchange.” – Exodus 21:33-34

First, why are people building pits everywhere?  Second, what if a person falls in a pit?  Are oxen and donkeys more important than humans?

“If anyone’s bull injures someone else’s bull and it dies, the two parties are to sell the live one and divide both the money and the dead animal equally. However, if it was known that the bull had the habit of goring, yet the owner did not keep it penned up, the owner must pay, animal for animal, and take the dead animal in exchange.” – Exodus 21:35-36

God’s very concerned about goring!

That concludes Exodus 21.  It’s a continuation of the laws God gave Moses in Exodus 20, but christians tend to ignore these, because let’s face it, they are crazy!  There is not a list of ten commandments in the Bible.  There is a list of MANY commandments and laws.  If you count them all up, there are 613 commandments God delivers to Moses and the Israelites.

Coming Soon:  Exodus – Chapter 22:  Protection of Property


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