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?
If things weren’t deep and passionate before, there is a whole lot of that going on now! The plagues keep getting more and more intense and powerful, and Pharaoh’s frustration and anger are getting worse and worse.
Pharaoh is doing everything he can to attempt to delay or stop the inevitable, but he just can’t stop YHWH. I kind of feel bad for the guy. But at the same time, i know why this is happening, and his involvement / responsibility in it. It’s kind of like working with troubled youth. Sometimes the only way they learn is to allow them to learn and understand the consequences of their actions. Explaining it to them, processing it with them and protecting them from it can only get you so far. Sometimes you just need to let them see, and until they see they will not understand.
You can see Pharaoh’s will / resolve start to soften in this chapter, but Pharaoh is not a man to change easily or lightly. Nor is he a man likely to accept defeat. God continues to harden an already hard heart. Pharaoh continues to attempt to compromise with God, but the cost of that compromise is much higher than the cost of the original price.
How do you help a man who is so insistent that he wins, that he is willing to destroy himself and everything around him in order to do so? How do you open the eyes of a man so blinded by his own pride and rebellion that he thinks he can stand against God? What drives a man to become what you see before you? Yes, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and yes, God had every right to do that! But the truth is, He didn’t need to. Pharaoh was so intent on doing it to himself that he did not need any real help from God.
How do help a man like that?
I am so glad that I do not have to do God’s work for Him. I am so glad that all He requires of me is obedience. I don’t think that i could handle the stress of the work that God does… that certainly is a silly statement isn’t it. The point is, God was the one who did the work of hardening and softening Pharaoh’s heart. God is the one who did the miracles in Pharaoh’s presence. God is the one who fulfilled His promises to the people of Israel. It wasn’t Moses, it had to be God, Himself.
There have been times in my life where God has told me what He was going to do in my life, and then i have attempted to make it happen on my own. One guess as to the result… yup! I failed miserably! Months later, God did it. You would think that after that i would learn my lesson. Nope, i continue trying to do YHWH’s work for Him.
One thing i did want to make sure that i touch on is vs. 2-3 “God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.” The word LORD is the Hebrew word יהוה which is JHWH / YHWH / JHVH / YHVH. This includes only consonants. Traditionally, with vowels this word has been pronounced as Jehovah. However, as time has gone by, there has been mounting evidence that there is a mix of words here. It is believed that while the consonants are natural to the word, the vowels are not. The vowels come from Adonai (אֲדֹנָי) meaning “my lord” making יהוה (YHVH) into יְהֹוָה (Yehovah). The concept here is that in the 10 commandments YHWH says not to use His name in vain. As such the priests who would read the law to the people would protect them from using His name in vain by not even saying the revered name of God out loud to them. So whenever they came to the word YHWH, the priests would say Adonai instead. As a result, over the millennia the true vowels to the name YHWH were lost.
Some would say that that is not the case, that those vowels are actually the correct vowels for the name, but even with a very limited understanding of the history and tendencies of the Israelite people and the legalism of the Pharisees of Jesus time, i’m much more inclined to go with the vast majority of scholars and say YHWH.
Either way, i find it interesting that YHWH first tells His true name not to Abraham, Isaac, & Israel, but rather to Moses and His people in Egypt.