Exodus, chapters 23-26

If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has fallen under its load, you must not ignore it and leave. You must help him release the animal.
~Exodus 23:5

But the seventh year you should leave [the field] uncultivated and let it lie fallow, and the poor among your people will eat of it, and what they leave, the wild animals of the field will eat.
~Exodus 23:11

Six days you are to do your work; but on the seventh day, you are to cease from your labor, in order that your bull and your donkey may rest […]
~Exodus 23:12

You must not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
~Exodus 23:19

These verses are particularly moving as they highlight how Jehovah’s compassion extends to all living creatures.
His law protected even those who have no voice: animals.
Thus we humans are provided with some insight as to what he considers to be the ethical treatment of animals.
Though it is true that God put every living thing under the authority of humankind, he did not authorize us to abuse animals or expose them to cruel, anti-natural conditions, (Gen. 9:2,3).
This is why he prohibited the Israelites from boiling a goat in its own mother’s milk, for that milk was originally intended to nurture the goat, not kill it.
Truly, “the righteous one takes care of his domestic animals, even the mercy of the wicked is cruel,” (Prov. 12:10).

Exodus, chapters 19-22

Exodus 21:21~
“However, if he survives for one or two days, he is not to be avenged, because he is someone bought with his owner’s money.”

From a modern perspective, it makes no sense that the law God handed down to the Israelites through the hand of Moses would regulate slavery rather than abolish it.
After all, hadn’t God just finished a series of spectacular miracles, some at a great cost to human life, with the purpose of freeing them from slavery?
Although that was part of the reason, the main reason God had freed them was to fulfill the promises he had made to Abraham, their ancestor, (Exo. 2:23-25).
The readings from the last two weeks have highlighted the lack of faith the Israelites demonstrated as a whole during the exodus process.
Therefor it is not surprising that a practice common to their times, unfair as it was, would be engrained into their culture; similar to the practice of having more than one wife, which most people in modern Western civilization find objectionable.
God’s purpose never was for slavery to exist, for 1,500 years later Peter arrived at the correct conclusion when he stated: “Now I truly understand that God is not partial, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him,” (Acts 10:34,35).
It would take a very long time to adjust the erroneous thinking of the people of ancient Israel, and most Jews never accepted the new law as prescribed by Christ (Matt. 22:37-40).
In the mean time, God did set forth a set of rules to regulate forced labor.
The Hebrew word e′vedh can mean slave or servant, depending on the context,(Insight on the Scriptures, volume 2).
Hebrews sold into slavery were freed in the seventh year of their servitude, or in the year of the Jubilee, which occurred every 50 years, depending on which came first, and their master had to give them a parting gift for them to start a new life (Exo. 21:2; Deut. 15:13-15).
Female Hebrew slaves were to either become concubines to their masters or legal wives to their sons with all the inheritance rights therein, otherwise they were to be set free. They could not be sold to foreigners (Exo. 21:7-11).
Adult human trafficking of others was illegal and punishable by death (Exo. 21:16).
With that in mind, I will return to the text I cited at the beginning.
Did the law give less value to the life of a slave than to the life of a free person?
If a master injured his/her slave with a non-lethal instrument and the person took more than two days to die, that would indicate the master did not have murder as an intention.
Furthermore, the master would be at an economic loss if the slave did die.
That is why the law protected the master from being avenged if the slave died under these circumstances.
However, if the slave was maimed, he was to be set free (Exo. 21:26,27).
If the slave did die within two days, the master was to be put to death without fail, (Lev. 24:17).
It is not my intention to justify slavery under Mosaic Law. I believe the law came from Jehovah and it was applicable to that culture and time. If they heeded God’s law, their community would benefit and behave more justly than other nations were behaving at that particular point in time.
After all, Jehovah’s wisdom is unquestionable, having “made out of one man every nation of men to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he decreed the appointed times and the set limits of where men would dwell, so that they would seek God,” (Acts 17:26).

Exodus, chapters 1-6

When she was no longer able to conceal him, she took a papyrus basket and coated it with bitumen and pitch and put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile River.

~Exodus 2:3

Moses’ mother, Jochebed, had no idea what would happen to her baby once she placed him in the water.

The instructions given to the Egyptians were clear: “You are to throw every newborn son of the Hebrews into the Nile River […]” (Exo. 1:22).

To go against Pharaoh’s orders back then would be today’s equivalent of committing a federal felony. Only Pharaoh was considered to be a god and so he had the power to execute people at will.

Still, Jochebed took her chances and concealed her baby boy for three months.

When she had done all she could, she commended him to Jehovah God and sent his sister to watch and see what would happen to him.

I try to imagine what they must have felt. Was it resignation? Fear? Firm faith? Or a mixture of all three?

Nowadays, it may happen that we are asked by an authority figure to do something inappropriate or unethical.

In those cases, it will be wise to follow Jochebed’s example and do what is right.

What happens after that may be a matter of circumstance, or if God sees it fit, He will intervene.

As we all know, in Moses’ case, things worked out, for Pharaoh’s daughter found him, felt compassion for him, and then hired his own mother to nurse him until he was old enough to be adopted by her and live among royalty.

“She named him Moses [meaning: ‘Drawn Out,’ that is, saved out of the water] and said: ‘It is because I have drawn him out of the water,’” (Exo. 2:10).

Little did they know that 80 years later, God would use Moses to intervene and save in a much greater manner.

 

Baby Moses in Nile River found by Pharaoh's Daughter.

Baby Moses in Nile River found by Pharaoh’s Daughter.

Genesis, chapters 36-39

~Genesis 38:26

Then Judah examined them and said: “She is more righteous than I am…”

Judah was pretty set on executing his twice-widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar, when he found out she had prostituted herself (Gen. 38:24).

After her second husband died, he deceitfully promised her she could marry his third son once he was old enough (Gen. 38:11).

This was a common Hebrew practice, termed “brother-in-law marriage,” realized to preserve the first husband’s lineage (Gen. 38:8; Deut. 25:5,6). This arrangement also served to provide materially for women who otherwise might end up in dire poverty.

But when Judah’s son came of age, Judah was afraid he would also die so he did not keep his promise to Tamar.

When she realized she had been lied to, she disguised herself as a prostitute and had sexual relations with Judah, who by then was also a widow (Gen. 38:14-16).

Tamar was cunning enough to ask him for some of his personal belongings which she later used to hold him accountable for his actions (Gen. 38:18,25).

The lesson I wish to point out is that although Judah had acted shamefully, he readily admitted he had been wrong.

Judah was a prominent man, eventually receiving his father’s blessing. This was a privilege since only one of his father’s 12 sons could become an ancestor to the Messiah (Gen. 49:10).

Even so, he did not use his influence to hide his error or to crush the woman who brought it to light, thus setting an example for future leaders who likewise make grave mistakes.

Genesis, chapters 6-10

Genesis 9:3-6~

Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. Just as I gave you the green vegetation, I give them all to you. Only flesh with its life—its blood—you must not eat. Besides that, I will demand an accounting for your lifeblood. I will demand an accounting from every living creature; and from each man I will demand an accounting for the life of his brother. Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image He made man.

What I learned:

Here God clearly differentiates between the value of a human life vs. animal life.
That God should ‘demand an accounting from living creatures’ means that an animal who shed human blood should be put to death.
Though it is not immoral to eat bloodless meat as a means to survive, it is immoral to take the life of another person.
The only exception to this is if the person who is being killed is in turn guilty of having killed someone innocent.
In such a case the execution of the person who has blood on their hands serves to vindicate the innocent party and thus some level of justice is attained.
However, though true Christians recognize the authority governments have to exercise their right to execute capital punishment, they do not get involved with the political matters behind these cases, as is instructed by Jesus in John 17:16.