If you’re a new Christian or just reading the Old Testament for the first time, please don’t run away after this chapter! While I absolutely adore this chapter, others may see it as not only harsh but also super weird. The first section alone screams, “Whoa!” I mean, owning slaves and selling daughters is pretty frowned upon these days, so it’s hard to accept that it was “normal” for God’s people to take part in this type of trade. However, we do know from past (and future chapters) that slaves then were (in theory) not treated like the present-day slaves we learn about today. Slavery in Israel was sort of a “chosen” occupation, or a way to pay off debt. Furthermore, slave owners were called to treat their slaves with respect and gratitude, not brutality, like the Israelites had seen in Egypt. We all know, however, that having a bit of a thumb hold on people can lead to feelings of superiority. Moses and the appointed “judges” in Israel were most likely hearing these cases on a daily basis. (I didn’t mean to rhyme there, but I like it!) I would go so far as to say that the examples God gives in the last section are real cases that Moses and the other officials were hearing first-hand. In other words, God was lending some much-needed legal guidance to a bunch of guys who faced some super hard decisions regarding their neighbors. God didn’t just pick these examples out of thin air; they were real-life cases and conflicts happening among the Israelites. We have to remember also that that was then, and this is now. Even in the Bible, laws evolve, just like today. If you’ve never read your state or country’s constitution, have a Google. The amendments should be available to read also, and you’ll find that many laws have changed over the years. For example, in my home state of Oklahoma, the law used to require all restaurants to serve ice water with peanuts. Huh? I looked that up when I worked for the Blackwell Journal-Tribune back in the early 2000s, and that law, plus a few others, made for funny column fodder one Sunday. Just like regular lawmakers, God has to make new stipulations here and there, too, but He does it because man keeps changing and evolving, not because He loves making new rules. Every one of these rules and weird laws could have been avoided if each of these neighbors would have followed God’s first bit of advice: just love one another. And it’s no different for us today.
Writing prompt: love
Read over some of the laws and punishments God is advising Moses to hand out to the Israelites, and then imagine all the cases recorded in today’s justice system. Write about how love trumps them all.