Reading 21/341, Exodus 19-22

Today the Law begins. It will last from now until the end of February. It is usually in this part that people who try to read the Bible give up. If you give up, stop back on March 1st and join us then. The reason that the Law is so difficult is that it no longer applies. To read rule after rule would be hard, but when the rules no longer apply it is very hard. So why do we continue to read this? 1) How can we understand our new covenant if we do not understand the old one? Much of the New Testament is foreshadowed in the laws. 2) Interspersed with the laws the plot does move forward. I am going to prepare a summary of the next month that includes only the plot and none of the laws, for those who want to catch up in October. 3) Because it's there. God said it. Even if it no longer applies, he still said it. Even if the laws seem so insufficiently just, for God is meeting the people halfway to some extent, this was how he met them halfway.


In the third month after the children of Israel had gone forth out of the land of Egypt, on that same day they came into the desert of Sinai. When they had departed from Rephidim, and had come to the desert of Sinai, they encamped in the desert, and there Israel encamped before the mountain. Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, "This is what you shall tell the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."

Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the Lord commanded him. All the people answered together, and said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do." Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. The Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever." Moses told the words of the people to the Lord. The Lord said to Moses, "Go to the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments, and be ready for the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people on Mount Sinai. You shall set bounds to the people round about, saying, 'Be careful that you do not go up on the mountain, or touch its border. Whoever touches the mountain shall be surely put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether it is animal or man, he shall not live.' When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come up to the mountain."

Moses went down from the mountain to the people, and sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes. He said to the people, "Be ready by the third day. Do not have sexual relations with a woman." It happened on the third day, when it was morning, that there was thunder and lightning and a thick cloud on the mountain and the sound of an exceedingly loud trumpet, and all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the lower part of the mountain. Mount Sinai, the whole of it, smoked, because the Lord descended on it in fire, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice. The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. The Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. The Lord said to Moses, "Go down, warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. Let the priests also, who come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth on them." Moses said to the Lord, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you charged us, saying, 'Set bounds around the mountain, and sanctify it.'" The Lord said to him, "Go down and you shall bring Aaron up with you, but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break forth on them." So Moses went down to the people, and told them.

God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, and showing loving kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. You shall labor six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You shall not do any work on it, you, not your son nor your daughter, your male servant nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your alien who is within your gates, for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day, therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.

All the people perceived the thunder, the lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking. When the people saw it, they trembled and stayed at a distance. They said to Moses, "Speak with us yourself, and we will listen, but do not let God speak with us, lest we die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid, for God has come to test you, that his fear may be before you, so that you will not sin." The people stayed at a distance, and Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. The Lord said to Moses, "This is what you shall tell the children of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall most certainly not make alongside of me gods of silver, or gods of gold for yourselves. You shall make an altar of earth for me and shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record my name I will come to you and I will bless you. If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you lift up your tool on it, you have polluted it. Nor shall you go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed to it.'

“Now these are the ordinances which you shall set before them. If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years and in the seventh he shall go out free without paying anything. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself. If he is married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. But if the servant shall plainly say, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children. I will not go out free', then his master shall bring him to God and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever.

If a man sells his daughter to be a female servant, she shall not go out as the male servants do. If she does not please her master, who has married her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, seeing as he has dealt deceitfully with her. If he marries her to his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marital rights. If he does not do these three things for her, she may go free without paying any money.

"One who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death, but not if it is unintentional, and God allows it to happen: in that case I will appoint you a place where he shall flee. If a man schemes and comes presumptuously on his neighbor to kill him, you shall take him from my altar, so that he may die. Anyone who attacks his father or his mother shall be surely put to death. Anyone who kidnaps someone and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. Anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. If men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to bed, if he rises again and walks around with his staff, then he who struck him shall be cleared, but he shall pay for the loss of his time and shall provide for his healing until he is thoroughly healed. If a man strikes his servant or his maid with a rod, and they die under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if they get up after a day or two, he shall not be punished, for they are his money. If men fight and hurt a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall be surely fined as much as the woman's husband demands and the judges allow. But if any harm follows, then you must take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, and bruise for bruise. If a man strikes his servant's eye, or his maid's eye, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. If he strikes out his male servant's tooth, or his female servant's tooth, he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake."

If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the bull shall not be held responsible. But if the bull had a habit of goring in the past, and this has been testified to its owner, and he has not kept it in, but it has killed a man or a woman, the bull shall be stoned, and its owner shall also be put to death. If a ransom is laid on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is laid on him. Whether it has gored a son or has gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him. If the bull gores a male servant or a female servant, thirty shekels of silver shall be given to their master, and the ox shall be stoned. If a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and a bull or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make it good. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall be his. If one man's bull injures another's, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live bull, and divide its price, and they shall also divide the dead animal. Or if it is known that the bull was in the habit of goring in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall surely pay, bull for bull, and the dead animal shall be his own.

"If a man steals an ox or a sheep and kills it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. If the thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt of bloodshed for him. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt of bloodshed for him; he shall make restitution. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the stolen property is found in his hand alive, whether it is ox, donkey, or sheep, he shall pay double. If a man causes a field or vineyard to be eaten, and lets his animal loose, and it grazes in another man's field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and from the best of his own vineyard. If fire breaks out, and catches in thorns so that the shocks of grain or the standing grain or the field are consumed, he who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution. If a man delivers to his neighbor money or items to keep, and it is stolen out of the man's house; if the thief is found, he shall pay double. If the thief is not found, then the master of the house shall come near to God, to show whether or not he has not put his hand to his neighbor's goods. For every matter of trespass, whether it be for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any kind of lost thing, about which one says, 'This is mine,' the cause of both parties shall come before God. He whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor. If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies or is injured, or driven away, no man seeing it; the oath of the Lord shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand to his neighbor's goods, and the owner of it shall accept it, and he shall not make restitution. But if it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to the owner of it. If it is torn in pieces, let him bring it for evidence. He shall not make good what was torn. If a man borrows anything of his neighbor's, and it is injured, or dies, the owner of it not being with it, he shall surely make restitution. If the owner of it is with it, he shall not make it good. If it is a leased thing, it came for its lease."

"If a man entices a virgin who is not pledged to be married and lies with her, he shall surely pay a dowry for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins. You shall not allow a sorceress to live. Whoever has sex with an animal shall surely be put to death. He who sacrifices to any god, except to the Lord alone, shall be utterly destroyed. You shall not wrong an alien, nor shall you oppress him, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not take advantage of any widow or fatherless child. If you take advantage of them at all, and they cry at all to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will grow hot, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor, nor shall you charge him interest. If you take your neighbor's garment as collateral, you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin: what would he sleep in? It will happen, when he cries to me, that I will hear, for I am gracious. You shall not blaspheme God, nor curse a ruler of your people. You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. You shall give the firstborn of your sons to me. You shall do likewise with your oxen and with your sheep. Seven days it shall be with its mother, then on the eighth day you shall give it me. You shall be holy men to me, therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by animals in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.

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