Yesterday was on the 10 commandments and the Israelite’s reaction to God, so i don’t know what i expected for chapter 21, but it certainly wasn’t this. To put things in perspective a little bit; there were originally no chapters and verse in the scriptures. They were added later on to help people study and reference the Bible better. As a result when the text was originally written, there was no real division between what was commanded in 20 and then in 21. So, God gave the people the 10 commandments / promises, then almost immediately we get into the topic that opens chapter 21: slavery!
Now i know that back in the day both supporters of and those opposed to slavery used the Bible to prove their point of view. Ultimately though, it was those who understood that God’s view of humanity being created in His image and his redemption bringing equality to all that overcame and was a driving force in especially Great Britain’s move to make slavery illegal. But when i started copying this chapter over it hit me. Almost immediately after giving the 10 commandments / promises God begins the rest of the law and legal instructions with rules about slavery? Isn’t that a huge piece of evidence that God is in SUPPORT of slavery? Doesn’t that justify that abominable practice?
I was really struggling through this idea and concept for a good chunk of my writing this morning. It was really bothering me. Then, as i was writing, struggling with this, and questioning God about it; He brought an answer to my mind. It’s not that He supported slavery. It’s that He knew slavery was going to occur no matter what. He set His 10 primary promises / commands then immediately He set the rules to protect those who would end up as slaves. It wasn’t an attempt to encourage the mistreatment of His creation. It was making it a priority to protect those least able to protect themselves.
The chapter continues by dealing with how to respond to murder / accidental deaths from other people as well as animals. Obviously this is a very important aspect of the law to deal with. This theme of protecting the innocent continues with the instruction that if two men are fighting and a pregnant woman is struck resulting in premature birth but no harm is done, then the husband may demand any fine he requests. If there is an injury it is an eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burn for burn, hand for hand, etc.
If we call ourselves Christians, are we protecting those less able to protect themselves? Do we live our lives taking responsibility for those around us?
Every time i read this i see the parallels throughout history; Pharaoh has the Israelite babies killed because the Israelites are becoming too numerous and they might hinder his prosperity. When the people of Israel entered the promised land and did not remove all of the inhabitants the worship of Molech continued. As a result, the Israelites began sacrificing their firstborn child to Molech so that they would be blessed with prosperity. King Herod had all of the newborns from the town of Bethlehem killed because one of them was to be a king which would affect him and his prosperity. Today it is acceptable for people the world over to kill off our own baby if it’s life is going to be an inconvenience to its mother. …if it’s life might hinder the mother’s chance for “prosperity”.
There are other instances of this in history as well. It really makes me wonder; are we fighting new battles, or are they the same old battles with the same old enemy just expressed in a new way? Ephesians 6:12 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
When we are fighting for the lives of our children, who is the battle really against? Is it against those people who would take the lives of our children for a profit? Is it against those who would choose to end their child’s lives because their child is an inconvenience to their own life? Or is the battle much more than that? Are we battling against flesh and blood, or are we battling against spiritual forces that have been waging this war for millennia? Is this a war about “choice” or is it much deeper than that? If it is a deeper level battle, then what?
Well, it seems the slower i write, the better i write. Since i ran out of ink in my Pilot Varsitys (disposable fountain style pens) i have had to switch back to ball point. As a result, my writing speed has increased. It is easier to write with ballpoint. The fountain pen is rougher and scratchier, and thereby requires a slower more careful pace. Also, the ink is is lighter in the ballpoint due to the nature of the ink and pen. As a result, i have been writing faster and much sloppier, and it has really been effecting the work. So today, i purposefully started slowing down and writing more carefully. As a result my writing definitely has improved, but by the end of the chapter i can definitely tell that it is slipping again. I really need to get myself another set of Varsitys or other fountain style.
The reality of the human condition and situation becomes darker in the face of this chapter. Here we begin to see the relationships between the siblings. We find that Joseph (Rachael’s older son) is clearly favored by his father and hated by his siblings. He tells his siblings about dreams he had that they and his father would bow down to him, and they become even more bitter and angry.
When they get a chance, a group of his brothers decide to gang up on him and kill him, but Reuben wants to protect him. So Reuben sets up a rescue plan. Unfortunately, at the last minute the other brothers change their mind and decide that money is worth more than blood on their hands, so they sell him as a slave, foiling Reuben’s plans.
Meanwhile; they kill a goat, put the blood on Joseph’s coat, bring it to their father, and allow their father to think that Joseph was killed by wild beasts. Thus their father mourns for Joseph, refuses to be comforted, and almost goes to his own grave. The brothers go on with their lives as if nothing had happened.
So who are the beasts?
Sorry i missed the day yesterday, in the coming days and weeks i may miss a day or two in a row due to other things going on, but i should be back on track fully after that.
As i went into this chapter, i began to realize that Isaac’s story is much shorter. It seems like i only just started with him, and already he is an old man and Jacob’s story is beginning. Jacob’s name means “supplanter”, and here is where he, with the help and encouragement of his mother, really sees the fruition of that name. The name given to him almost seems as if it becomes his life motto / purpose. It’s funny, because a couple of days ago my friend (and teacher) Fount Shults posted a note on facebook about Death and Life in the Tongue and how what we say has power / influence.
It’s interesting to see the dynamic here between Isaac and his wife Rebekah. Isaac loved Esau and wanted him to be blessed over everyone around him. Rebekah however, favored Jacob. Isaac’s plan was for Esau to gain the honor and blessing, but God had other plans that Isaac was either not aware of, or had ignored. Either way, his plans were not God’s. Back in chapter 25, before the children were born, Rebekah inquired of the LORD about them, and God told her that the younger would be greater, and the older would serve him. Isaac’s plan was the opposite of this. You can see from the chapter that Issac had planned to bless Esau so that Esau would be master over all. He had not planned to reserve any blessing for Jacob at all. That obviously backfired so Jacob got it all.
What about us? Do we fail to check in with God about the plans and blessings we make? Are we so set in what we want that we fail to recognize that that may not be what God is planning to do? I know that i have. I also know that that can lead to some very difficult situations down the road.
One last thing that i wanted to note from going through this chapter today. It’s something that i don’t think i realized before. Rebekah said that she was sending Jacob to her brother Laban’s, and that when Esau’s anger had subsided, she would send for him to come back. We never hear of this happening. As far as we know, Rebekah never sent word to Jacob to return. When he came back he was unsure of Esau’s intent towards him.