The interesting thing about the bible is that it has existed in some form or another as a guide for thousands of years. For instance that passage in Exodus 21 is actually quite interesting, and I will use this passage as hopefully a small teaching tool for those questioning how to critically read the written word. It is an invaluable tool when wishing to divine the true intent of those writing the words.
Before I begin I'd like to go explain something, these were written as laws, meaning their intents were to be taken literally. We'll get into why that's important later, but it is important to keep that it is literal in mind. And, for the most part, when laws are made the process that goes into making them is usually very thought out, meaning that if they made a law for it, their most probably was a reason.
There probably wouldn't be a law against theft if no one stole anything.
We'll go through this line by line.If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do.
This is fairly vague, it only ascertains that there is a difference between the ways that male and female slaves get released from service. But if you think about it, it has some fairly large implications, such as that even at the level of slaves, their is a difference and possibly a pecking order to how women and men are treated. This hints at a highly patriarchal society, however considering the time period and the area this is unremarkable. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed.
This is very interesting, suggesting that a master beforehand may have had the ability to cast out a slave girl who displeased him, or perhaps even execute her outright. But then that this right was revoked by the early Hebrews.He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her.
So a master cannot sell his slave girl to foreigners? Maybe the Hebrews felt the other cultures treated their slaves much to roughly. Or maybe this was a backwards way of ensuring that eventually the slave would be released in jubilee.If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter.
Many would believe that this would mean the servant girl would no longer be treated as a slave, however I think that it has a far more specific meaning. Early cultures in the Mideast considered the female uterus to be property, quite literally this meant they had sexual rights to women that they bought. The Babylonians and the Early Greeks shared this view as well. As examples of both I point to the Illiad and Hammurabi's code.
Although the Minoans appear to have treated women as equals.
But back to the topic, this passage means that a man cannot have sex with the future wife of his son just because she is currently his slave, I can only assume that the necessity of this law being written was that it must have been at least occasionally happening.
I know these are horrible, terrible things, but believe it or not, they are early advances in human rights. To them, they might have actually been seen as revolutionary.If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.
Again, this is treating women as something more than just tools for doing housework and making children. And also their is a suggestion of rights being ascribed to women, specifically wives. If she is not given these things she goes free, which those days meant back to her family, who would probably put her back on the market for a new husband.Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.
Interesting for many reasons, the Hebrews must have considered the family unit very important to enact this law. Also it says father or mother, meaning that women were ascribed status of some sort at motherhood that they weren't in other cultures. It also is an incredibly harsh sentence, meaning that the Hebrews believed in using punishment as a deterrent towards future crime.Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.
Fairly simple, but it leaves me wondering, what circumstances would lead to this exact wording? What person assumed that just because a perpetrator sold the kidnapped person they were no longer guilty of kidnapping? I will have to read more about the context of this law in particular in order to divine its reasoning.Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.
Wow, the family unit must have been central to early Hebrew culture. This is harsh even by the standards of the time. One must wonder why, it is possible considering the relatively small size of Hebrew culture at the time this was made to ensure that their were no dangerous divisions between families. It deserves study, but it might be because early Hebrew culture attitudes towards the family unit molded the laws around the protection of the family unit.
At the end considering that most of the laws are made to protect women, however horrifying their implications are they are made for the protection of women.
Most would wonder why these laws were necessary to have been made, it might have been for the prevention of violence, specifically vendetta. Think of the conflict that would be created in a relationship if your father was allowed by law to have sex with your future wife.
Laws are created by the government in order to do two things, appease the people, and to prevent the cyclical expanding nature of vendetta.
Your father sleeps with your future wife, you punch him, he kills you, your brothers kill him, your uncles kill your brothers, and on, and on.
Or, you steal your neighbors goat, he burns your barn down, so your sons rape his daughters.
These are horrible things to say, all the more horrible because in certain cultures which are considerably more lawless, they still happen.http://www.iheu.org/iheu-condemns-sudan-iran-using-rape-political-weapon
If allowed, think of the consequences for a government, the cycle can become so large that it can lead to the weakening of government, leading to possibilities of insurrection, invasion, and revolution. As such allowing these things is foolish, and will only lead to more and more horrors.
sorry for the dark thoughts, but it is important while reading these passages to always seek the truth, unvarnished and bare. Like an ingrown toenail, it is disgusting, sometimes bloody and almost always painful. But left alone it will grow worse and worse.
These are observations, and not meant to be taken as proven facts, only as thoughts espoused from a barely conscious mind at 3AM.