Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thursday - Exodus 22 - An Assortment of Rules

Talk about a varied selection of regulations! In this chapter it is recorded that God issued decrees regarding stealing, manslaughter (in defense of personal property), slavery, retribution (for stolen or damaged goods), trespassing, arson, borrowing, renting, the loss of virginity, witchcraft, bestiality, idolatry, hospitality, bullying, charging interest, disrespecting authorities, tithing and what to do with road-kill.  Quite a conundrum of items, eh?

If you want to look for a phrase to sum the chapter up, check out verse 31a, "You shall be holy men unto me..." God was trying to promote holiness, righteousness, separation, sanctification, etc. And, actually we've already covered the purpose for all of these detailed rules. So, allow me to pick several of the most interesting dictates from this list.

1.         It's remarkable that God allowed deadly force to be used in the defense of personal property, but did not allow capital punishment in the same cases if the crime was over (Exodus 22:2-3).
2.         While we know from other passages that the punishment for adultery or rape was death, there was really no punishment at all for consensual sex with a female virgin... unless the girl's father refused to allow marriage after the fact. A "shotgun wedding" was the first option... but so was payment of damages if there was no wedding. So, whether or not a man was punished for seducing a single lady depended on the attitude of the girl's father (Exodus 22:16- 17). That seems to be more lenient than perhaps we would have expected.
3.         Bestiality was a capital crime (Exodus 22:19) ... as well it should have been (and should still be). The shocking thing about this is that the rule was even present in the first place. If God made the rule, then obviously it was a problem in those days... or at least the potential was there.
4.         Kindness, congeniality, generosity, philanthropy, benevolence, hospitality... whatever angle one prefers; strangers, widows and orphans were to be treated well (Exodus 22:21-23). Through neglect or malevolent opportunism, the disadvantaged can end up being oppressed (Deuteronomy 10:18 & 24:17; Zechariah 7:10)!
5.         God was not altogether opposed to the charging of interest, but He was against anyone charging their own family members interest for a loan (Exodus 22:25, Deuteronomy 23:19-20 & Matthew 25:27). However, He was (and is) opposed to excessive and oppressive interest rates in any situation (Proverbs 28:8).
6.         Respect for authority is high on God's list of important things (Exodus 22:28). And why not? All authority is ultimately His authority (Romans 13:1-2). We conservative Christians need to remember God's standpoint about this when we discuss our least favorite political leaders (Acts 23:5, II Peter 2:10 & Jude 1:8). Jesus, Paul and David all set glowing examples for all of us in this regard.

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