Thursday, April 29, 2010


I have never read the Bible through chronologically according to time, so I am starting that project. Found myself stuck on a passage in Exodus.

Ex. 21:20-21
"If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property."

This is in the same chapter where eye for eye, life for life is commanded, except, apparentely when it comes to slaves, since they are "property."

I understand that there are many injustices in the Bible that God did not necessarily endorse, yet still gave laws to keep order in that particular society. Just as in the New Testament it is clear he doesn't prefer divorce, but gives admissions for some.

I know God is a just God, that He has the whole picture and we only see a small quilt square from our limited earthly perspective. This passage doesn't make me doubt my faith or wonder if God is truly benevolent and personal, the Bible is full of compassionate examples. I have also experienced His grace and mercy and lovingkindness myself.

It is just hard to picture a female slave physically BEAT to the point she does not get UP for 2 days, and there being no repercussions for the master. Any thoughts on this?!


  1. these are my first thoughts...probly not my last though. First, what is a slave? we think of an innocent person who has been stolen from their family and forced into labor. More likely this is a person who needed money and sold themselves as full time servants for a set period of time. Second, what other punishments can you think of? financial punishment: they are there cause they don't have any. Prison: then they can't accomplish their reason for being there. While this amount of beating sounds excessive, I wonder if a young to middle age man decides he doesn't want to follow his commitment, or perhaps behaves indecently toward one of the young ladies, how severely do you think that he would have to be punished to decided that he would never do that again? this is a society that would beak the legs of lambs that had a tendancy to run away, so that would quit doing it. So, I guess my main thought is, when a man has no way to make restitution for a crime and he lives in your home, what other options to do you have?

  2. Good thought. I'll have to think/read about it; I have 'guesses', but they're not very educated ones.

  3. Chris I understand your point. But it still seems contrary to God's nature not to make a provision for that situation. For example, even in the OT people lived by faith. Maybe a command to treat slaves with respect, and trust vindication to God. Or if a slave raped one of his daughters he could be put to death for that crime. Even a lazy slave, it seems there would still be a call to not retaliate in conduct and thus be an example that the slaves want to follow. Breaking a lamb's leg is very different from physical abuse to a human.

  4. Hey Beth-
    So I'm taking a class called Old Testament: The Pentateuch and am currently studying for my final and we've talked about this passage in Exodus and why God gives these laws. . . From what I've been told this passage is known as the "Lex Talionis" which translated means "the law of retribution." It is not a perfect law but is a good law. What one must remember is that God's people have a fallen human nature and have just come out of a life of living in slavery and sin for 400 years in Egypt. Because the people are in a state of fallen grace the human nature is inclined to retaliate when wrong has been done. The point of the law is to give a max. amount of retribution to prevent the people from going over-board when wrong is done to them. This isn't perfect but it's a step in the gradual development to turn from sin and to God. Although it isn't as extreme of an example, Dt. 20:16-17 allows for no mercy in warfare when the people were to enter the Promised Land and Dt. 24:1-4 allows for divorce. This would also seem contradictory to God's nature but God is trying to get the people to turn from sin and adds these laws (613 laws) to the original 10 Commandments not because they are good, but because of the sin of the people. These laws are added after the Apostasy at Sinai and are in place as a punishment to the people for their sin. Which is why these laws are not longer followed after Christ comes because He is the fulfillment to these laws and rises above them since He is free of sin, but the original 10 Commandants are still to be followed because they were originally to be in place. I don't know if this helps and I realize this is like a novel but that's what my prof said in class.

  5. It is very helpful, Anna. Thanks! That is about the best explanation I can imagine, and it is true that it applies to other "problems" that seem to go against God's nature. Wow those Kansans are teachin ya somethin huh?

  6. You are very welcome Beth. I'm glad my theology notes can come in handy. It's actually really interesting and I really love learning about it. Plus, I love when something I learn in class pertains to other places in the Bible or even in my own life. And yeah it looks like I'm actually learning a thing or two in Kansas. How about that!