Archive for the ‘Exodus 21’ Tag

Devotion for the Ninth Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  A Migrant Worker in California, 1935

Image Source = Library of Congress

Exodus and Luke, Part II: Together in Society

APRIL 17, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 22:20-23:13

Psalm 97 (Morning)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening)

Luke 4:16-30


I began my preparations for this post by reading Exodus 21:1-23:13 closely.  The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod lectionary skips Exodus 21:1-22:19.  This statement does not constitute a criticism, for one must skip around sometimes when creating a lectionary.  Yet I thought that the skipped-over verses might pertain to the assigned material.  I was correct.

Exodus 22:20 forward commands the Israelites to show kindness, mercy, and respect to strangers, widows, and orphans, to refrain from usury (a rule which credit card companies violate daily), to make good sacrifices to God, to return wandering livestock to its owner, to grant justice to the poor, to leave food in the fields for the hungry, and to honor the Sabbath.  The guiding principle is that what one person does affects others.  There is no room for careless individualism which harms the society.

But what does one find in Exodus 21:1-22:19?  Slaves (more like indentured servants in the U.S. historical context) have rights.  Women have many of the same rights as men.  One dies for a variety of offenses, from cursing or insulting one’s parents to committing murder.  One can sell one’ s daughter into slavery.  Retribution is in proportion to the offense.  For  many offenses restitution–not death–is the penalty.  An Israelite who offers a sacrifice to a deity other than Yahweh must die.  A reader can find other laws there; this is just a sampling.

Historical and cultural contexts matter.  There were traditional Semitic notions of family honor and parental authority.  Any offense which carried the death penalty was one deemed especially dangerous to society.  And the people were nomads in the desert.  Resources were precious, and there was no jail or prison.

I, of course, live in a settled society which draws influences from the Enlightenment.  Despite poverty not far from my front door (a few miles away, elsewhere in Athens, Georgia, a street separates university dormitories from public housing projects), there is an abundance of food and drink.   And the local jail is frequently overcrowded.  I wonder how a modern version of the Law of Moses would compare the biblical one.

In Luke 4:16-30 we read an account of our Lord’s rejection at Nazareth, his hometown.  Plotting to overthrow someone off a cliff, as some residents of Nazareth meant to do Jesus, was not nice.  Perhaps some people thought that it was consistent with the death penalty for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16).  Or maybe it was just a case of homicidal rage.  If they had succeeded that day, would they not have been subject to death themselves (Exodus 21:14)?

One must, if one is to understand the Bible properly, consider it intelligently, taking into account all the germane contexts, avoiding the error of prooftexting, and not transforming the Bible into an idol.  May we use the Bible as an icon–through which we see God–not as an idol–which we see in lieu of God.  And may we remember that we are here on the planet together, so what one person does affects others.  And God expects us to avoid wronging or oppressing one another.  After all, we all bear the image of God; may we treat each other accordingly.









Third Sunday in Lent, Year B   23 comments

Above:  Moses with the Ten Commandments, by Rembrandt van Rijn


MARCH 7, 2021


Exodus 20:1-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work– you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

John 2:13-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves,

Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!

His disciples remembered that it was written,

Zeal for your house will consume me.

The Jews then said to him,

What sign can you show us for doing this?

Jesus answered them,

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

The Jews then said,

This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?

But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 


Some Related Posts

Third Sunday in Lent, Year A

Exodus 20:

1 Corinthians 1:


I grew up in the Bible Belt of southern Georgia U.S.A.  My parents taught me to engage my brain fully when considering the Bible, a fact for which I bless them.  That training continues to serve me well.  To this day, if I had to live in certain counties in Georgia–for example, those without an Episcopal congregation–I would not attend church, for I doubt that I could find a place to worship and to engage mind within the same walls without incurring scornful looks.  I am about to demonstrate why this is true.

One feature of Jewish law is that it is supposedly revealed–not subject to human reason–but revealed.  Yet I propose that there is great moral and intellectual danger in going on autopilot with regard to the Law of Moses.  For example, some of the Ten Commandments, printed above in English translation, classify women along with livestock and property.  Others do not question the moral legitimacy of slavery.  And other parts of the Law of Moses are quick to condemn people to death.  Just flip over to Exodus 21.

One can cherry pick the parts of the Law of Moses which confirm one’s opinions concerning a variety of issues, but this constitutes intellectual dishonesty if one claims to take the Bible literally and to consider the Book inerrant and infallible.  The truth is that we who read the book must pick and choose, for we cannot keep all of it, due to contradictions.  This is especially true if we are Christians.

So, as one does not accept biblical inerrancy or infallibility, but who takes the Bible quite seriously, I choose to follow the Law of Love:  What does love require?  I can ignore Exodus 21:7f, which begins with selling one’s daughter into slavery, for the Law of Love proscribes that such an act is never appropriate.  And, like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), I can overlook the commandment to put to death a child who curses his mother or father (Exodus 21:17).

The Johannine Gospel, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, places our Lord’s cleansing of the Temple at the inaugural phase of his ministry.  (The Synoptics place this event just a few days before his crucifixion.)  Thus the author of the Gospel of John has Jesus begin his ministry by questioning and protesting publicly the Temple system of animal sacrifices, one which many people could not afford.  It was also true that the conversion of Roman currency (technically idolatrous, for it bore the allegedly divine Emperor’s image) into money religiously appropriate for the purchase of a sacrificial animal benefited not only the money changers but also the Temple authorities financially.  This economic exploitation galled Jesus.  For Jesus, love trumped all else.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 speaks of Christ as being a stumbling block and a portal simultaneously.  The purpose of the Incarnation was not to erect a stumbling block but, if that is what one makes Jesus, that is what he is for that person.  Jesus is love incarnate.  For many of us (in the general sense) pure love and compassion are terrifying, for they break down the barriers we use to define our reality.  Who is an insider?  Who is an outsider?  Who is pure?  Who is impure?  Who is saved?  Who is damned?  We have our own answers, as does God.  These answers conflict quite often.  God, I suspect, is generally more merciful than we are.