Old Testament Slavery

Daily Scripture readings for July, set #8:

– Exodus, chapters 21-23
– Psalm, chapter 31
– Matthew 13:24-43
– Acts 19:1-22

I want to make two observations about the many rules/regulations in the Exodus reading for today. First, the beginning of chap 21 is a great text to study with regard to the common accusation that the Bible condones “slavery.” Slavery, as it pertains to American history and the idea that certain people groups are intrinsically less valuable than other people groups, is clearly NOT being discussed or permitted in Exodus 21. The term “slavery” is used, but the definition is obviously different than the common usage of the word in our culture. Secondly, chapters 22-23 contains a long list of legal technicalities, and it’s noteworthy to me how often the poor are mentioned, and it what way. Consider how these two verses fit together: “(do not) be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit” (23:3), “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit” (23:6). It seems that, regarding legal issues, a person’s economic status is to be ignored entirely.

In reading Psalm 31 today, I’m noticing verse 3’s emphasis: “For you are my rock and my fortress, and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me.” God’s leading/guidance is for David’s happiness, or for the people of Israel’s benefit, but for God’s name. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus, the only human being to have ever lived WHOLLY for God’s name, quotes from this chapter as he breathes his last (vs 5).

The parable of the wheat and the weeds in Matthew 13 is an important one, because it’s one of the rare examples where Jesus himself explains the parable’s meaning. Verses 38-39: “The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.” Question: does this verse work with the idea that we are all God’s children? If so, how?

The Sons of Sceva’s butt-wooping at the hands of the demon-possessed man in Acts 19 is an interesting case study of the wheat/weeds parable in Matthew. It seems safe to say that these guys were not “wheat,” in the sense that they had no real authority or power over the evil spirit. But, they named the name of Jesus, and for that reason would have at least appeared to be Christians.


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