God’s Merciful Laws Concerning Servants

God’s Merciful Laws Concerning Servants

Preacher Huijun - 23 July 2023

God's Merciful Laws Concerning Servants

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The “Covenant Code” / “Book of the Covenant”.

  • <Ex 20:22—23:33>.
  • Laws given as a result of entering a covenantal relationship with God.
  • Prescribed the code of conduct, the rules by which God wanted His people to live.
  • <Ex 19:5-6> Now if you obey me fullyand keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…
  • Covenant Code applies the principles of the Ten Commandments to specific situations.
  • g.: <Ex 22:1> “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay backfive head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.”
  • <Ex 22:2-3> “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.”
  • The Covenant Code may not be exhaustive, but it provides comprehensive enough guide.
  • Centre upon the relationship between God and His people, to love God and men.

 

<Ex 21> 1 “These are the laws you are to set before them:

2 “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. 3 If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. 4 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.

5 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 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.

7 “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. 8 If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. 9 If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

 

Understanding Hebrew servants.

  • Different from the inhumane African slave trade that was abolished in 19th century.
  • “Slave”: “ebed” in Hebrew, meaning “slave” or “servant”.
  • How could Israelites become a slave?
    • Poverty and debts.
    • Penalty for wrongdoing.

 

God’s concerns for the least in society.

  • Most of Israel’s slave laws are protecting the interests of the servants, rather than the masters.
  • Just as God had been gracious to the Israelites when they were slaves, they too were to be kind to their servants.
  • God’s laws more protective of slaves than other pagan laws during that time.
    • Restricted to 6-year term.
    • To be a servant would be better than to starve or be homeless.
    • God’s laws guard against cruelty against slaves:
      • <Ex 21:26-27> “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.”
    • <Deut 15:13-14>: Not only free the servant after 6 years, but the master must supply them generously.
    • Runaway slaves won’t be pursued: <Deut 23> 15 If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. 16 Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.

 

But why didn’t God abolish slavery altogether in Israel?

  • God/Moses did not institute slavery.
  • God’s laws were given to constrain slavery.
  • Only as a concession similar to divorce law.
  • No need to set laws to limit or restrain good things; but laws about slavery are to limit its damage and exploitation.

 

Voluntary permanent servitude.

  • Why would anyone choose that?
  • <Ex 21>5 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 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.
  • Do we love our Master and Lord Jesus so much that we are willing to be His permanent servants?
Preacher Huijun
Preacher Huijun
huijun@lifechurchmissions.com

Huijun joined The Life Church and Missions (Singapore) as a preacher in 2012. She is effectively bilingual and preaches occasionally at the Chinese service. She graduated from Singapore Bible College and currently lives in Singapore with her husband, Chengji.

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