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Bible Commentaries

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
Exodus 21

 

 

Verses 1-36

Exodus chapter twenty-one, God said to Moses,

Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them ( Exodus 21:1 ).

Now the judgments are really for the judges. You remember they appointed seventy to rule over the lesser, or they appointed "men over the thousands, men over the hundreds, men over the fifties, men over the tens", to judge in the smaller matters. So that they would only bring the major cases to Adam-I mean to Moses, so that Moses wouldn"t be bogged down. Jethro said, "Hey, you know, you"re gonna kill yourself standing here all day long, judging the matters of the people."

So these are the judgments or the guidelines for the judges who are judging in these matters that are brought before them. These are the judgments, the guidelines for the judges. These are not an individual kind of a retaliation-kind of thing that you"re supposed to take, but these are the standards that have been set for the judges. The term "judgments" referred to the standards set for the judges.

Now you read of God"s statutes, of His ordinances, of His law, and of His judgments. These are one of the things you read about. The judgments of God are different from the statutes. The statutes are different from the ordinances. The ordinances are different from the basic law. So all is comprised in the law, but these are now the guidelines for those men who were chosen to be judges.

Now it is interesting that here in verse six, and then in chapter twenty-two, verse eight and verse nine, the word "judges" in these verses is the Hebrew word "Elohim" which is the word for "gods". The judges are called gods because they are acting in the place of God in bringing God"s judgment upon man and enforcing God"s judgment upon the particular situations. They were acting in the place of God, and thus, the term for the judges was "gods", "Elohim".

Thus, in the New Testament when the Pharisees were arguing with Jesus in the gospel of John, and when He declared the fact that "before Abraham was I am", and they took up stones to stone Him. Jesus said, "I"ve done many good works among you for which of the works are you going to stone me?". They said, "Not for the works that you have done, but because you"re a man, and continually insisting that you are equal with God." He said, "Did I not say", or, "Did I not say, or the Word of God say that ye are gods? Then why are you gonna stone me because I say I"m the Son of God?"( John 10:32-36 ).

Now in the Word it said, "Ye are gods". In other words, here in Exodus these men are called gods, those who were to judge and to enact God"s judgment on men. It doesn"t mean in anywise that they were as the eternal God, the Creator of heaven and earth. It just meant that they were acting as gods and in the place of God, in the fact that they had been given this responsibility of judging men, and thus, men"s lives were in their hands. Thus acting for God, they were called "Elohim", gods. The word "Elohim" refers in the Old Testament to many different gods. It is not a term used exclusively for the God who created the heaven and the earth.

The Bible recognizes that man can have many different gods that are not true gods; that is, they are not the true God. They are god as far as they are the ruling master passion of a person"s life. David says, "The gods of the heathen are vain", ( 1 Samuel 12:21 ) "Elohim", recognizing that heathen had gods but they weren"t true gods. God challenged, "If you be gods, if you be Elohim, then prove it by telling us something that is going to happen before it ever happens." Thus the term "Elohim" refers to that which is the master guiding principle, or passion of a person"s life.

Now I went into that to give you just a background to the scripture that Jesus referred to in the gospel of John because the Mormons, because of that one reference of Christ to this scripture, "Ye are gods", have built the whole doctrine of man"s progression into gods. That if you are a faithful Mormon and your marriage has been sealed in the Mormon temple, and you"ve gone through the rites, and you wear your underwear, and the whole thing; what that has to do with making you a god, I don"t know, but you can be one.

"You will be gods." That"s their teaching. You and your wife, who has been sealed to you in marriage, will be able to go to a planet. You will be able to start your own little world on that planet. Other Mormons and good people, Christians and all, who weren"t faithful true Mormons all the way, who didn"t quite make it to the god stature, will be your angels and will serve you in your own system that you inaugurate. You will be god over that planet, and you will watch over that planet and develop and so forth, a whole life form and style, and all, from your offspring there in some planet in the universe. Now that is the acknowledged, recognized goal of the Mormon.

Now Brigham Young did something that has upset a lot of Mormons, in that he has carried this particular concept back one step instead of forward one step. If you carry it forward one step, every Mormon will acknowledge that that is the goal, and that is the purpose, and that is their desire, to be god and they"re ascending the scale in progression into godhood; to have their own planet, and take their wife and begin their own little experiment on a planet someplace. Brigham Young carried it back one step. He said that Adam was a good Mormon who progressed into god. He brought to the earth one of his celestial wives Eve, and they began to have their children and that they began to populate the earth. That Adam is our god and the only god with whom we have to do.

Now Mormons get very upset about that and they say, "Oh you"ve taken what he said out of context." But I challenge you to read the whole context of that sermon, and you"ll find that it isn"t taken out of context, it is actually consistent with the Mormon doctrine, but it takes it back one step instead of forward one step. Why not? If you and your wife can be god on a planet someplace and start the whole thing off, why wasn"t Adam a man somewhere in another planet within the universe, and became faithful and true and all, and ascended into the godhood, and of course brought one of his celestial wives Eve and started the whole thing?

Now that whole system of thought and idea taken from one little verse in the New Testament where Jesus said, "Did I not say in the law, Ye are gods?" From that one little verse, this whole system of thought and doctrine that you"re gonna be god, providing you are a faithful Mormon and so forth, has come out of that one verse of scripture, rather than researching and finding out what that scripture was referring to. Not at all a progression into the godhood, as such; it"s not what that was teaching.

In fact, that desire to be god is the thing that has started the whole problem with the human race and with the angels prior. You read of Satan"s fall in Isaiah fourteen, "How art thou fallen from heaven O Lucifer son of the morning?" ( Isaiah 14:12 ). He goes on to tell of his will against the will of God. The fifth statement of Satan was, "I will be like the most High" ( Isaiah 14:14 ). Shakespeare has someone saying "Oh Cromwell flee ambition, for by this sin did the angels fall." "I will be like God."

When Adam and Eve were in the garden and Satan came to Eve to tempt her to eat of the fruit that God had forbidden, what was the enticement that Adam held out to her? "The day that you eat of it, you will be wise as God"( Genesis 3:5 ). So that desire to be wise, as God is the thing that he used to trip Eve up in the garden. "Be like God, be as God." So it is the same thing that is being held out to people today.

But the word judges, "Elohim", does not refer at all to the living, eternal God who created the heavens and the earth, but men who are appointed to judge in the cases that are brought before them. And in judging are representing God and are acting for God, holding the lives and the destiny of these men in their hands. It is so that the judges will realize the awesome responsibility they have as a judge.

There is one occupation I would never want, and that is to be a judge. To me, I could not live with myself if I were a judge. I would have too much difficulty in worrying about making a wrong decision, making a wrong judgment, realizing the awesome responsibility that here"s a man, his life, his future, is in my hands. It would absolutely destroy me to think that I had sent a man to prison for five years for a crime he did not commit. That"s one occupation I would never want.

But unfortunately those men who have that occupation have more or less taken, I think, from judges the concept of gods. And so many of them act as though they are God and want to be treated as God. When they walk into the courtroom they want you to all stand and bow and so forth, and come before them and offer your pleas. The attitude that many of them have is reprehensible. They need to realize the awesome, awesome responsibility that they have. Rather than making them proud, it should humble them, and they should come in, I feel, in a very humble way to sit in judgment, realizing the awesome responsibility that is theirs.

Now this whole chapter twenty-one deals with the judges and deals with their judgments, as it does on into chapter twenty-two. So this is addressed basically to those men who were to occupy the position of a judge in Israel, and they were to judge over the various matters. So He starts laying out certain basic laws that will govern first of all, the position of a servant.

If you buy a 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 ( Exodus 21:2-3 ).

So here we find again the six-and-one pattern. "Six days shalt thou labor, do thy work, the seventh day is the day of rest"( Exodus 20:9-10 ) "If you buy a Hebrew slave, six years shall he serve." If you were a Hebrew sold into slavery, six years you would have to serve, but the seventh year you"d go free.

I believe that this six-and-one pattern is significant not only in a day, but God established it in a year also. He established the months. The seventh month of the Jewish calendar was to be a sacred month; the day of atonement, and so forth came in the seventh month along with the feast. It was a sacred month in their calendar. Then the six years they were to sow their land. The seventh year the land was to just grow of itself. They were just to eat of that which came from the land; they weren"t to sow it. They give the land a rest in the seventh year.

They failed to do this and God got after them later for their failure to do that. Inasmuch as for four hundred and ninety years that they were in the land, they didn"t give the land the rest. God said, "You owe the land seventy years of rest, so you can stay in Babylon for seventy years and the land will get its Sabbaths that you robbed it of the whole time you were living there"( Jeremiah 29:10 ). So God gave the land its rest, its Sabbath, as He shut them up in Babylonian captivity for four hundred and ninety years.

But I believe that the pattern will also carry out that for six, and this is in a thousand-year cycles, for six millennia the earth will go on in the bondage to Satan, sold out by Adam. But the seventh millennia will be a restoration, the freedom, the return to God. Thus, it makes the age in which we are living extremely exciting because we"re getting very, very, very close to the beginning of the seven thousandth year.

Now how long before Christ Adam fell in the garden, we don"t know for certain. Somewhere around four thousand years before Christ, Adam turned this whole system over to Satan. Living now in nineteen seventy-nine, we realize that we are coming very, very close to the seventh millennia. Satan has ruled. We"ve been in bondage for just about six thousand years. But we look forward to that glorious seven thousandth year when man has been delivered, when the earth has been delivered. We"ll be restored, and we will live and reign with Christ upon the earth for a thousand years in the glorious kingdom age.

So this six-and-one pattern has been established by God. I am convinced that it will also follow in thousand year cycles, and that we are coming extremely close to the end of Satan"s reign and dominion and rulership over the earth and over man, that the day of redemption is very close. That"s what Revelation chapter five is all about, as Jesus takes the seven sealed books, the title deed of the earth, and lays claim to that which He redeemed with His own blood. Then in chapter nineteen of Revelation, returns to establish God"s kingdom upon the earth. So it"s a very interesting law.

"Now if he came, if he was sold as a slave, and he came by himself, he will go out by himself. If he were married and his wife came with him, then his wife can go out with him."

But if his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master"s, and he shall go out by himself ( Exodus 21:4 ).

The slave had no rights at all, no rights of possession. Therefore, if you were sold as a slave, and while you were a slave your master gave you one of the other slave girls for your wife, and you"ve had a couple of children, now the seventh year is come; it"s time for you to go free. You can go free, but you can"t take your wife and children because she belongs to your master. And thus, the fruit that has come from your relationship also belongs to him, because you had no rights of your own of possession while you were working for him. You say, "Well, that seems very hard and cruel." Yes, it does. It"s hard for us to even imagine such a thing.

But 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 [gods, the Elohim, translated,] judges; [Correctly so.] he shall also bring him to the door, or to the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever ( Exodus 21:5-6 ).

So you"ve had your wife and your children, say, "Hey I love this, I love my master, he"s treating me good. I love my wife; I love my children. I don"t want to go free, I want to serve him." Then he brings you before the judges and there your master takes an awl, and he runs the awl through the lobe of your ear, and he pins you to a post with that awl. Then you would put a gold ring, as a rule, in the pierced ear, which was the sign of a slave by choice. It indicated that you, it was a slave by choice. You had willingly submitted to this life of slavery.

Now there is an interesting prophecy concerning Jesus Christ that declares, "My ear hath He pierced." So Christ in a figurative sense had a pierced ear, inasmuch as He by choice submitted to the will of the Father. "Who, being in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet emptied Himself, became of no reputation, humbled Himself and became as a servant"( Philippians 2:6-7 ). The pierced ear servant, it was service by willingness. He willingly submitted Himself to the Father"s will, to serve. Thus the prophecy, "Mine ear hath He pierced", referring to Jesus Christ, and His serving of God.

Now in a figurative sense I have a pierced ear, in that I am glad to take the title of, "Chuck, a bondslave of Jesus Christ." It"s slavery by choice. I don"t have to serve Him, I don"t have to be His slave; I want to be His servant. I want to be His slave. I really want everything that I possess and am to belong to Him. Not to lay claims to things for myself, but what I am, and what I have are His. The pierced ear. All of the New Testament writers beginning their epistles would write, "Paul, a bondslave of Jesus Christ." "Peter a bondslave of Jesus Christ." "Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ." They loved the title.

I know of nothing better that could happen to any of us than just to be a bondservant of Jesus Christ, a servant by choice. Oh, that He would bring us to the post, and run the awl through our ears that we might demonstrate that we are servants by choice. It isn"t forced upon us. We don"t have to be, but I love Him. I love my Master. No one"s ever treated me so good. I"ve never had it so well. I love serving Him.

Thus it is the choice of life, and the choice of being a bondslave was irrevocable, that was it. Once your ear was pierced, that was a choice of life, an irrevocable choice.

So the law of the servant,

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. And if she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: but to sell her to a strange nation he shall nave no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her ( Exodus 21:7-8 ).

So it"s the idea of-actually, men bought their wives in those days when they became like a servant, or like a slave practically; you bought her, she belonged to you. So they had this form of dowry. If you took a wife, you paid the dowry.

Now a dowry wasn"t such a bad deal. Actually, what a dowry was, was alimony in advance. The father would figure how much it would take for her to live, if you should decide you don"t want her after you"re married, because divorce was quite easy. Find out once I"ve purchased her, I don"t like her, then let her be redeemed. She doesn"t have to stay there and take my guff forever. But I don"t have any right to sell her to a strange nation, but she should have the right of her dowry. She can live off of what I paid to get her in the beginning. "If she please not her master who has betrothed her to himself, then let her be redeemed."

Verse nine,

And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. And if he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. [In other words, he"s got to go ahead and pay her alimony, and take care of her and so forth.] And if he do not these three unto her, then she shall go out free without money ( Exodus 21:9-10 ).

So it was tragic, but that"s the way their customs were in those days. Women had very little rights; so you"ve come a long way. Why have you come a long way? Because of Jesus Christ. Hey, women still have it tough in a lot of cultures. If you don"t believe it, you just go to some of these other areas, New Guinea, Guatemala, even, close by. Look at the lot of the Bedouin women; man, they have it tough. You women can be thankful for what the Lord has done in liberating you.

It is actually because of Jesus Christ, and His declaring that we are, all of us, children of God, and in Christ "there is neither male nor female". The distinctions are broken down. It is Christ that has put us all on an equal footing, and an equal plain and has taken away any concept or idea of a superior sex. That God favors men over women, or vice a versa; it doesn"t exist. "We are all one in Christ Jesus" ( Galatians 3:28 ). It is the Christian ethic that has done so much to give the woman the rightful place of equality with a man but such does not exist in cultures where the Christian gospel has not had a strong influence.

Be glad women, you"re not a Moslem. If you don"t believe that, just read what Khomeini is doing to the women there in Iran, and you"ll find out that being a Moslem woman wouldn"t be so easy. Many of you wouldn"t last long under his reign.

Now we deal with assault and battery, and murder, manslaughter, first and second degree in manslaughter.

Now he that smites a man, so that he dies, shall surely be put to death. And if a man lie not in wait, but God delivers him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee ( Exodus 21:12-13 ).

So if you first of all are guilty of just plain murder, capital punishment. But if it was accidental or just not a premeditated thing, then God was going to appoint a place where you could flee and be safe; they were called cities of refuge that they established. You could flee to a city of refuge and there you would be safe from the avenger.

Now if you would kill my brother, then I would be obligated to kill you because you killed my brother. So if it were an accident and yet I"m mad at you because you were foolish in doing it, and I"m wanting to get retribution and kill you, you could flee to a city of refuge, and there you would be safe as long as you stayed in the city of refuge. But if you came out and I caught you, then I could kill you. But you had to stay in that city of refuge. So God appointed these cities of refuges at strategic points in the land when they came into the land. So God is promising that these cities of refuge would be appointed.

Now if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, [This would be premeditated, your purpose for coming was] to slay him with guile; [deceitfulness] thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die ( Exodus 21:14 ).

In other words, you may even flee to the altar of God, but they can take you right from the altar of God and kill you, because yours was a premeditated action.

Now several things for which capital punishment was to be given:

He that smites his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death. [The law said, "Honor thy father and thy mother."] He that stealeth a man, and sells him, [or kidnappers] or if it be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. He that curses his father, or mother, shall surely be put to death. [They didn"t have nearly the problem with juvenile delinquency in those days that we have today.] And if men are fighting together, and one smites another with a stone, or with his fist, and he did not die, but he laid up for awhile: And he"s able finally to get out of bed, and walk on a crutch, he that smote him will be acquitted: only he shall pay for his loss of time, until he is thoroughly healed. Now if a man smite his servant, or his maid, [Shows you what little rights the maids and servants had, if it"s your servant or maid,] you smite him with a rod, and he dies under his hand; he shall be punished. [But it wasn"t capital punishment.] Notwithstanding, if he continues a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money. [In other words if he, if he lingers before he dies than you won"t be punished because actually you"ve lost your own money, he belongs to you.] If men are striving, and hurt a woman that is pregnant, so that she aborts [actually] the child, [miscarriages, has a miscarriage] and yet no further danger, or mischief follow: he shall surely be punished, according as the woman"s husband will lay upon him; and he must pay whatever the judges determine. But if any further mischief follow, then you are to 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; then he shall let him go free for his eye"s sake ( Exodus 21:15-26 ).

But this "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burning for burning", and so forth, now men had begun to misinterpret this law. As if someone had struck you in the eye, that you have a right, not only a right, you"ve got an obligation to smack him in the eye. In other words, they made it an obligatory thing. "You knocked out my tooth, all right man you"ve had it. I gotta knock out your tooth." Tooth for tooth.

Jesus said, "You"ve heard that it hath been said" ( Matthew 5:38 ). Now really what the Lord is doing here is limiting because there is a perversity about our human nature that doesn"t want to just get even. We want to more than get even.

It used to be when my brothers and I were growing up, scuffling with each other, you know we"d be sort of boxing and all, and maybe he would catch you one. What do you want to do? You want to catch him one back just a little harder. So many times when we started out just playing, boy, we ended up in a full-fledged fight cause you keep getting harder, and harder, and harder, and wanting to get back at him a little more. You"d start out with just sort of a game, and playing, but boy you end up just really going at it. That is human nature.

So this was to put a limitation. "An eye for an eye", not two eyes for an eye. "A tooth for a tooth", not three tooth, three teeth for one tooth, three tooths. So the purpose of the law was so that it would not exceed, but they had begun to interpret it as an obligation.

So Jesus said, "Hey look, I say unto you if a man smites you on one cheek, turn the other. You know, don"t seek retribution, don"t seek to get even"( Matthew 5:39 ). So Christ gave a whole new concept to this. It isn"t, "I"m not under an obligation to blacken your eye cause you blacked mine. Better to forgive, better to pass it over." So Christ was showing actually that the law was intended to curb man"s spirit, and to curb that spirit of retaliation, that desire to retaliate, but it had become misinterpreted by the Pharisees.

Now we deal with the person dealing with his servant. "If he hits his servant in the eye, and the servant loses the eye, the servant goes free for the eye"s sake."

If you knock out a tooth of your servant, or your maidservant; then they get to go free for the 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 will be acquitted. But if the ox were known to push with his horn in times past, and it has been testified to his owner, and he did not keep him corralled, but that he has killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also will be put to death. [You"ve been told that your ox is bad, that it"s out there goring people, or trying to gore people, and you"ve been told about it and you do nothing to corral it or to restrain it, then you are responsible for what your ox did.] If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for ransom for his life whatever is laid upon him. [So you could buy your way out of that one.] Whether he have a gored son, or a gored daughter, according to the judgment it shall be done unto him. Now 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 ( Exodus 21:27-32 ).

So it is interesting that Jesus was sold by Judas Iscariot for the price of a slave that had been gored by an ox. That was the amount if a slave was gored by an ox, you were to pay the master thirty pieces of silver.

If a man shall open a pit, if you dig a pit and you don"t cover it, and an ox or an ass falls in; Then you"ve got to pay for the ox or the ass to the owner of the beast that was slain. If one man"s ox hurt another that it die; then they will sell the live ox, and divide the money; and the dead ox also they can divide. [And barbecue.] So if it be know that the ox has been used to push in the times past, and the owner did not keep him in; then he shall pay for the ox; and the dead one shall be his own ( Exodus 21:33-36 ).

In other words, you get the whole thing. He kills your ox, he has to pay you, and then you get the dead carcass also.

"

 


Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.

Bibliography Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Exodus 21:4". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/exodus-21.html. 2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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