Pericope: Exodus 21:1
I remember that while I was in college, I would browse through different websites out of sheer boredom. This rarely happens anymore since I keep so busy. Most of us who have engaged in such mindless activity have stumbled across one of those websites which describes weird laws. They are humerus to read! Here is one of them if you don’t know what I am talking about. (Click here). Well, as it turns out, our country is not the only place in time that has had weird laws.
As I have continued my journey of reading through the Pentateuch for my Old Testament class, I have stumbled upon some passages that have been particularly bothersome and cumbersome for me to read through in the past: the laws. I have often wondered what in the world the deal was with all these weird Old Testament laws. Some are understandable while others are still quite mysterious.
I think that the key to unlocking portions of Scripture like this are found here in Exodus 21:1: “These are the decisions that you will set before them.” This was certainly not the first time Israel lived under the rule of law. For sure, they were under the laws of Egypt when they were in slavery. In this part of the Epic story, as God moves his people toward the Promised Land, God graciously provides continuity for his people. Before this point, there was no organized system to protect citizens of Israel from injustice that their sinful natures would cause them to commit against one another.
The Laws addressed in this portion of scripture may seem weird or unusual. But that is because they were addressing the issues of that culture. This part of Scripture is descriptive and not prescriptive. In the context of the history and the culture of God’s people at that time, this Scripture describes how God decides to deal with the sins of his people: how should injustice be dealt with. In the large scope of things, God is providing continuity between people. Such continuity would have been essential in order for God to get his people to do the things they would not necessarily want to do so that they might gain the freedom their hearts ultimately long for.
Sometimes laws seem tedious and irrelevant. But we must understand that they are put there for a reason. It is true that some laws become outdated and are no longer useful to the culture (i.e. they no longer address issues that are relevant or present), and in such cases the law is changed. But the grand idea to gain from passages such as this one is that God is bringing his people together as one body. Continuity, unity, must exist for progress to be made.