Today begins a list of what are often thought of as additional commandments other than the Ten Commandments. If we note God’s paragraph divisions in these chapters, something interesting comes to light, however:
Strong paragraph from Exo 21:1-27:
Exo 21:1-6 s Conditions for a Hebrew male slave to go out free
Exo 21:7-11 s Conditions for a Hebrew female slave to go out free
Exo 21:12-13 s Manslaughter is not murder
Exo 21:14 s Murder receives the death penalty
Exo 21:15 s Striking father or mother receives the death penalty
Exo 21:16 s Kidnapping receives the death penalty
Exo 21:17 s Cursing father or mother receives the death penalty
Exo 21:18-19 s Assault of a neighbor when he does not die
Exo 21:20-21 s Assault of a male or female slave when he does or does not die
Exo 21: 22-25 s Assault of a woman with child when the child does or does not die
Exo 21:26-27 p Conditions for male or female slaves to go out free
The vast majority of these commands explain either assaults that may or may not lead to death, or, when the death penalty is to be applied. Death is the common theme. There is a commandment in the Ten Commandments that deals with death: You shall not commit murder.
This series of commandments, therefore, teaches both the people and the judges, what is or is not murder. Manslaughter, or non-premeditated killing, is not murder. Pre-meditated killing is murder. Capital punishment is not murder. Causing the death of an unborn child is murder (Scriptural proof that God considers the unborn persons in the legal sense with all its associated rights and privileges).
Likewise, the next strong paragraph from Exo 21:28-22:13:
Exo 21:28-32 s Restitution when an ox causes the death of a person
Exo 21:33-34 s Restitution when a pit causes the death of an animal
Exo 21:35-36 s Restitution when an ox causes the death of an animal
Exo 22:1-4 s Restitution when a theft is discovered
Exo 22:5 s Restitution when an animal feeds in another man’s field
Exo 22:6 s Restitution when fire destroys a harvest
Exo 22:7-9 s Restitution when goods are lost from a neighbor’s safe- keeping
Exo 22:10-13 p Restitution when goods are destroyed from a neighbor’s safe- keeping
The vast majority of these commandments explain what is to be done when a loss of property occurs. There is a commandment in the Ten Commandments that deals with property: You shall not steal. This series of commandments teaches both the people and the judges, what is or is not theft.
So these judgments are not separate commandments in the sense that the Ten Commandments (which, we tend to think, are binding) are separate from these ‘extra’ commandments (which, we tend to think, are superfluous). These commandments explain what keeping the Ten Commandments mean.
For further study: Today and into tomorrow’ reading, outline these ‘extra’ commandments, looking for how they explain the Ten Commandments. God’s paragraph divisions will help.
Finding Messiah: I could not get over the fact, that in our first strong paragraph mentioned above, from Exo 21:1-27, that while the majority of the paragraph has to do with what constitutes murder, the paragraph opens and closes with conditions in which a slave goes free. (Yes, there is a chiastic structure there!) But why include something that obviously does not have to do with death, within a paragraph which obviously has to do with death? These puzzles that Scripture sets up stay nagging in my brain, begging to be solved!
And then I realized: we have already seen in Torah, that slavery is a metaphor for death. When Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, he was a type of Messiah going to his death, only to be raised up to life (freedom) again, providing life for everyone else through it. This single strong paragraph which explains death, and imposes death, is “swallowed up” by its opening and closing weak paragraphs of slaves going out free. Death swallowed up in freedom, that is to say, life!
For further reading:
Exo 21:1-24:18, These are the judgments (Restoration of Torah pdf)