In Exodus 20 we have the giving of the Ten Commandments and in chapters 21-23 we have the practical application of those commandments in a series of laws dealing with everyday life. Our chapter has two main divisions:

  • Laws regarding servants in verses 1-11.
  • Laws regarding personal injury in verses 12-36.

In the first section, we will consider verses 2-6: “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 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. But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.” These words are simple and clear, and need no explanation. But they give to us a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus Christ who came to this earth to serve His Master (God the Father) by giving His life on the cross for sinners. Through His death, he has obtained a wife (the church) and because He loves His Father and His wife He has chosen to remain a Servant forever.In the second section, there are three key verses that give the general rule for any personal injury. Verses 23-25 read, “But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Today we would put it this way: “The penalty should suit the crime.” In many of the cases cited the penalty was “life for life.”

  • Verse 12: “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.”
  • Verse 14: “But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.”
  • Verse 15: “And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.”
  • Verse 16: “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall be put to death.”
  • Verse 17: “And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.”

Many today are against “capital punishment,” but God specifically instituted the death penalty if the crime warranted it. In most cases it was indeed “life for life,” but in verses 15 & 17 we see that hitting or cursing one’s parents was also worthy of death. This shows the value God places on the parents, which is also borne out in the 5th commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). It is a most serious offense to dishonor your father and mother.

As we consider the rest of the chapter we see that the punishment for injuring a person was often met with a fine or some other kind of restitution (verses 18-27). There were even laws concerning injuries done by an animal (verses 28-32, 35-36) and a law regarding the loss of an animal by a man being negligent (verses 33-34).

All of these laws show that God is not only holy and righteous, but that He has compassion towards both man and beast. He loves all of His creation and He has only their best interests at heart. (235.9) (DO)