Exodus 21:5
But if the servant declares, 'I love my master and my wife and children; I do not want to go free,'
Regulations for the Treatment of SlavesD. Young Exodus 21:1-11
Attachment to a MasterGreat ThoughtsExodus 21:2-6
Love for a MasterH. O. Mackey.Exodus 21:2-6
Slavery and SovereigntyW. Burrows, B. A.Exodus 21:2-6
The Ear Bored with an AulSpurgeon, Charles HaddonExodus 21:2-6
Hebrew Bond-ServiceJ. Orr Exodus 21:2-12
Mine Ears Hast Thou OpenedG.A. Goodhart Exodus 21:5, 6

= - Slavery not usually Considered a desirable condition. the Israelites as a people were Just casting the slough of it, and God helps them in their social ordinances by emphasising the value of freedom. None the less, even here, a higher State than I. THE PREFERENCE. Naturally, to a slave freedom is an object. Slavery was a misfortune or a punishment resulting from debt or misconduct (cf. Leviticus 25:39; Exodus 22:3). Thus viewed God only permitted it to continue at most for six years. Every Hebrew had been redeemed by him; and therefore permanent slavery to man would have been an infringement of his rights of ownership. Temporary serfdom under the conditions which he imposed secured his rights and the privileges of those whom he had redeemed [cf. the right of a tenant to sublet a house by arrangement with the actual owner]. The relation between a serf and his employer was thus carefully defined and limited; in so far as they were linked together by a purely external bond, that bond ceased to exist at the close of six years' servitude. During six years, however, a firmer bond might have been formed and strengthened. Possession of the slave''s body does not carry with it the possession of his affections; they cannot be bought and sold, but they may be won. If the owner during six years could find bands to bind the heart (Hosea 11:4); in such case, the serf desiring it, a permanent relation might be established. It is not the abnegation of freedom, it is the exercise of freedom to choose for oneself; if a man was so bound to his employer that he preferred continuing in his service, God was willing to endorse such a preference with his consent. Nowadays, the relation of servant and employer is still more temporary than of old. At the same time, now as ever, love can prevail to win the affections and so weave by means of them a permanent and enduring bond. Love transmutes the conditions of servitude. It changes them into something which is preferable to freedom. The cords of a man bind more firmly than any other cords; but they do not confine or fetter.

II. THE SIGN OF THE PREFERENCE. The servant who wished to remain a servant was to be brought before the judges (Elohim), the representatives of God. As God''s ministers they were empowered to permit the satisfaction of his desire. The ear pierced against the door post was the outward sign of this sacrament of servitude. Henceforth the man by his own desire was permanently united to the family of his employer. The pierced ear testified to the pierced heart. The sign of slavery was the badge of love.

III. SERVANTS OF GOD. The relation of the slave to his employer is analogous to the relation between the natural man and God. All men are his servants - debtors who cannot pay their debts. The relation however may be of a temporary character; God seeks to make it permanent by winning our hearts and our affections. Work for him in this world we must, willingly or unwillingly. He would have us willing servants; compulsory service has no moral value. "The ears opened" (Psalm 40:6), in token of the heart won, are of more value than sacrifice and offering. Are we such willing servants? (Isaiah 1:5). He is willing to "open our ears," to take us as his own for ever, but we must also ourselves be willing: - "He hath opened mine ears and I was not rebellious." Slavery is a state of imperfection; but so also is the miscalled liberty of independence; the only perfect state for man is that "service which is perfect freedom." - G.

If an ox gore.

1. If an ox injured a man for the first time, the life of the ox only was forfeited (ver. 28). But —

2. If the owner of the ox, acquainted with the proved vicious character of his beast, neglected to put him under restraint, and the ox killed his victim — as culpably negligent, —

(1)the owner was put to death; or —

(2)his life commuted for a fine.

II. GOD CARES FOR THE SAFETY OF THE BEAST. Other Scriptures demonstrate this (Matthew 6:26, etc.).


1. This provision should be made promptly.

2. This provision should be permanent.Application:

1. Beware of injuring your neighbour's soul by an unguarded inconsistency.

2. Beware of injuring your neighbour's friendship by any unguarded passion.

3. Beware of injuring your neighbour's character by any unguarded word.

4. Beware of injuring your neighbour's peace by any unguarded look or action.

5. In all matters concerning your neighbour, remember that "Whatsoever ye would," etc.

(J. W. Burn.)

I. LIFE IS SUPERIOR TO PROPERTY. The ox that had gored a man to death was to be killed, and put out of the way. The ox is stoned to death; and, legally, it would involve physical uncleanness to eat of the flesh.

II. THE CARELESS MAN IS CULPABLE. If the animal had been known to gore; if this fact had been testified to the owner, and proper precautions had not been taken, then the owner was in some measure participant in the evil doings of the vicious creature. Carelessness is culpable. He that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. To prevent evil by wise precaution is our bounden duty, and is an indirect method of doing good. All life is precious; but it seems to be indicated that some lives are more precious than others. Thirty shekels is a high price for some; but a hundred shekels would be a low price for others. After death has visited, then estimates nearer the truth of a man's worth will be formed.

III. MAN IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PREVENTABLE EVIL. If into the uncovered pit an ox or an ass fall, the owner of the pit shall make good the damage. Will the Almighty hold us responsible for the moral pits we have left uncovered? We have not placed precautionary signals in sufficient number along those highways where moral pits and quagmires abound.

(W. Burrows, B. A.)

If Moses had to regulate our legislation in reference to railway accidents, he would put it on altogether a new basis. If half-a-dozen people were killed and a score seriously injured through the mail running into a goods train, and Moses found that the engine driver who missed the signal had been on his engine twelve or fourteen hours, or that the pointsman who turned the mail into the goods siding had been kept at his post for, perhaps, a still longer period, I cannot help thinking that managers and directors would stand a chance of having a much, sharper punishment than they commonly receive now. And if criminal carelessness which might be fatal to life was punished by Moses with death, I think that fraudulent acts which are certain to injure the health and perhaps the life of the community, would have been punished by him not less severely. He would certainly have approved the sentence under which a few months ago a large farmer, greatly to his own astonishment and the astonishment of his friends, was put in prison for sending diseased meat to market; only I think that the old Jewish legislator would have inflicted a still heavier punishment — a few years' penal servitude instead of a month or two's imprisonment. Chemists, who adulterate the drugs on which the rescue of life depends — the rescue of the life not only of ordinary members of the community like ourselves, whom also Moses would have protected, but of men of science, poets, and statesmen, whose death would be a calamity to the nation, and to the world — would I think, have been made responsible by him for the death of those who perished through their fault; and if they were not stoned or hung for murder, which I think would have been possible, a criminal penalty so heavy would have been inflicted on them, and they would have been branded with such imfamy, that other evil-disposed persons would have feared to repeat the crime.

(R. W. Dale, D. D.)

We have this principle certainly in our law, but with what beneficial effect a much wider application of it might be made! Look at a few instances of carelessness. There is a block of crowded, unventilated, and badly-drained houses, into which necessity drives the poor to herd, and where they sicken and die. Think you this principle would not lay hands on the owner of such property? Would it spare a corporation if it neglected to deal with a pestilence breeding quarter? Neither would trifling carelessness escape. What is trifling? A traveller goes to a strange hotel, and retires to damp sheets, and ever afterwards suffers from ill-health, sometimes speedily loses life. Think of the thousands who travel, and follow even one stricken one into a sorrowful and bereaved family! Carelessness, when seen in its consummation, speaks for itself. But worse than carelessness is selfishness which pursues its ends regardless of others. In the sloppy winter of the Franco-German war, an army contractor furnished boots with paper soles to the French. In the Crimean war we heard of manufacturers who supplied blankets which, so to speak, rotted on the backs of our soldiers. How much death and disaster was due to this selfishness! Because we cannot count the victims is there no guilt? Moses would say, if life be lost and can be traced to a man, let him atone for it; results must be dealt with. Life is the one sacred thing. Nor is it difficult to see that such a principle applies itself to the selfishness of those who by their trickery and roguery in business ruin the commerce of their country. Alas! for the advice because it is utopian, and more because it is needed, but it is true that no tribunal would better serve England at this juncture than one which held the terror of moral justice over manufacturers who send out worthless goods and taint our honest name, and impair our credit the wide world over. They rob others, and they destroy their country. There are traitors to-day as real as those who in olden days took a bribe and sold their armies or their castles to the enemy.

(W. Senior, B. A.)

Christian Herald.
On a cold Sabbath morning in February, a gentleman was walking along, somewhat hastily, through the snow. He noticed a bright-looking little lad standing upon the pavement, with his cap in his hand and his eyes fixed upon one spot on the sidewalk. As he approached him he looked up to him, and pointing to the place, said, "Please don't step there, sir. I slipped there and fell down." What a different world this would be if all Christians were as particular as this lad to warn others against dangers, whether temporal or spiritual.

(Christian Herald.)

Christian Herald.
At Saltcoats, not very far from the shore, stands a beacon in the winter. If you were to ask any one who belongs to that place, why it is there, you would be told this story: — "A merchant from Glasgow, with his family, was residing there for the summer months. One morning the merchant went out to bathe before breakfast, and he thought he was quite safe as long as he kept near the shore. But there was a pit there which he did not know anything of, and into this pit he fell, and nothing more was seen or heard of him. After this accident a beacon was put up as a warning to all others to keep from the spot." What were the feelings that prompted this beacon to be put up? It must have been feelings of love to keep all others from danger.

(Christian Herald.).

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