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Exodus 21:1-11, The Law concerning Slaves

Monday, June 11

The Good, the Bad, The Ugly

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

 slavery in the Bible

Somebody remind me why I chose to include this text in the daily readings?! Probably because it's biblical, and if we want to make the Bible our story, we have to take the good, the bad, and the ugly. This one is all three -- good, bad and ugly.

For the good news. If slavery was an acceptable form of servitude in Israel's day, then it's good that God set some limits so that the slaves couldn't be abused. God made provisions, first that there was a mechanism for the end of a slavery term, and second, that the slaves be treated fairly (as fairly as a slave could be treated).

The bad news. People could still be enslaved.

The ugly. There were ways an owner could entrap a slave. For example, an owner can give the slave a wife. Once the slave's term of service ends, he is free to leave -- without his family. If he wants to stay with his family, he can stay on indefinitely. Ugly.

Female slaves can be bought and sold, but they can't be sold to foreign lands if the owner just doesn't like her. Good and ugly. 

So what does this mean for us today? It means that God deals with people where they are. And when the people are good and ugly, God works with the good and the ugly. Regardless, God has a say, and God's intention is to protect, care for, and love God's people.


Narrative Lectionary Text: Exodus 21:1-11

These are the ordinances that you shall set before them: When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in 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 alone. But if the slave declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person,” then his master shall bring him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life. When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out without debt, without payment of money.