G-d has just given the ten commandments. In this parsha, we get a more detailed list of the laws. G-d loves His people, including us, today, so much that He gave a set of civil laws to follow, establishing order and peace in the cities they would be building. As you read these, consider the modern applications.
I am going to summarize most of them but not all. Read the entire passage for the details and the completeness.
Exodus 21:1 “Now these are the ordinances which you will set before them."
If you have a Hebrew servant, free them after seven years. (think indentured servant or debtor rather than modern day slavery)
Anyone who murders intentionally shall be put to death however, without intention the murderer will be provided a place to flee. ( think prison / exile)
Honor your parents and do not curse or strike them. (good advice today and a seeming lost art)
In a quarrel where one hits another there must be a payment made for the one who suffers. (Think assault and penalty)
When someone strikes a slave and he dies, the striker is punished. (Slaves were people and had rights)
If someone steals a person (kidnapping) they must be put to death. (people matter to G-d and should matter to us)
If two men fight and a pregnant woman is struck and miscarries, the husband shall fine the one responsible and according to what the judge determines the punishment should be. (think accidental striking of someone). If she dies then the penalty increases to life for life and eye for eye.
(This has been used by some to justify abortion. The true understanding is that the eye for eye, life for life principle explains the crime and punishment should be equitable. The greater the injury the greater the punishment. A miscarriage is a death of a life however, in this case it is determined as accidental and thus carries a lesser fine. In Hebrew thought this death also is the death of all potential life, as the mother will never reproduce. The death of the mother carries a greater weight as it is the death of the two, the unborn and the mother and the death of the future potential unborn. This causes the penalty to be greater. Life matters to G-d, born and unborn, as He is the creator of all life. (Psalm 139). Never in the past or the present did G-d define the unborn as a non-life. Life begins at conception but in G-d, all life is already in existence as He is outside of our time realm...but that is another story.)
Striking of a slave eye or tooth will set the slave free.
An ox that gores someone shall be put to death and the meat not eaten. If the ox is a multiple offender and the owner has not dealt with it then the owner and the ox will be put to death. However a provision for ransom could be made. (Think animals, like dogs, who hurt someone and the justice that must be dealt.)
If a person leaves a pit uncovered and an animal is injured then the owner must pay compensation for the animal. (liability for not protecting your neighbor.)
If a thief dies in the act of stealing then he has paid the price for his crime. If he lives then he must make full restitution and be sold as a slave if he cannot. He is to pay double if the items are found in his hand.
If a man’s animal feeds on another man's field then the owner of the animal must make restitution. (think paying for your animals or children or yourself using someone else's stuff without permission)
When someone gives money or goods to another for safekeeping and they are stolen, then the thief shall pay double when caught. (Think penalty for stealing)
When a man gives another animals to guard and they go missing then an oath before G-d must be sworn as to whether the guardian is responsible. Guilt is then decided by the judge and fair payment will be decided.
If a man borrows anything from his neighbor he is responsible if anything goes wrong. It should be returned in the same condition it was borrowed. If no rent agreement was present then restitution is required.
If a man seduces a virgin who is unmarried then he must marry her and pay a dowry for her. If the father refuses to give her to the man then the man must pay the dowry anyway. (a system of protection of daughters and a call to men to show respect and honor to women. Other cultures of these times did not make provision for the respect of women as did the Israelite culture. These commands were a great advance for women. This also showed the value the father had in the family. He could stop the marriage to a bad person in order to protect his daughter.)
You shall kill those who practice sorcery. (think black arts, devil worship, brainwashing of people. These were not tolerated in any way as they would destroy the entire community like a bad apple destroys the entire barrel of apples.)
Sex with an animal was punished by death. (there is nothing new under the sun and extreme sexual sin is always a possibility in a permissible society. As our society grows more and more accepting of non-Biblical and non-traditional sexual relationships we face a crisis of immense proportion. G-d knew that if permitted these sexual types of behaviors would ruin the entire culture. Sin is never satisfied in one state. Sin wants to advance. This is why G-d knew that sins such as this were to be punished swiftly and severely.)
Sacrifices to any other gods would result in destruction.
You shall not oppress or do anything wrong to the outsider (the non-Israelite) because you were once an outsider. (G-d invites all the nations to the table of His grace and goodness. Those that have tasted of the goodness of the L-
rd must never hold it over those who have not. Those that are of the faith and have a relationship with G-d must never use that faith to hurt, wrong, oppress others.)
You shall not mistreat any widow or orphan. (G-d will become very angry when the victims become victimized further.)
If you lend money to any of My people and especially the poor, do not charge interest and do not act like a typical debt collector. Return to your neighbor what belongs to your neighbor. (What if the body of Messiah created a financial system with these principles?)
Do not despise G-d or curse a ruler of your people. (if you love G-d then you will know how to listen and bless the righteous ruler.)
Always give the first of your crops and vintage. Present the firstborn sons and the firstborn of the cattle and sheep. (Tithing is the single greatest money principle of the Bible.)
Be holy by not eating the flesh of beasts torn by other beasts. Give it to the dogs.
Do not spread lies and false reports. Do not be a witness that is malicious and untruthful. Do not follow a crowd to do evil. Do not pervert justice in testimony. Do not take sides. (this law alone, if followed would fundamentally change America from journalism, media, politics and business. Every area would be transformed if we followed this simple law from Torah.)
Return animals who are in need to their owners even if the owner is against you. (do the right thing even if others you are helping will not do the right thing.)
Keep far from any false matter and do not hurt the innocent and righteous, for the G-d will deal with the guilty. (I hope many in today’s elite world will look to this passage and be convicted of their sin and repent. Too many innocent and righteous are being harmed today. May G-d bring His justice to those that are hurt and those that harm.)
Let the land rest every seven years for the sake of natural repair. (G-d is an environmentalist, we should listen to Him.)
Do not work on the seventh day. It is to be a day of rest for all people and the animals that work.(G-d’s Shabbat is not just a Jewish tradition but a law of the Bible that began in Genesis and continues to this day. Try to Shabbat this week and truly rest from Friday evening till Saturday evening. Watch G-d change your life.)
The parsha goes on to speak about the festivals and the entering to the promised land.
It closes with this:
3 So Moses came and told the people all the words of Adonai as well as all the ordinances. All the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which Adonai has spoken, we will do.”
4 So Moses wrote down all the words of Adonai, then rose up early in the morning, and built an altar below the mountain, along with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He then sent out young men of Bnei-Yisrael, who sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings of oxen to Adonai. 6 Then Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins and the other half he poured out against the altar. 7 He took the Scroll of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. Again they said, “All that Adonai has spoken, we will do and obey.”
8 Then Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which Adonai has cut with you, in agreement with all these words.”
All the words that G-d gave to Moses were written down and given to the people. This written word is the law of Moses that became a covenant between the Israelites and G-d.
This law is good as it was made for G-d’s people as they were going to be entering into the promised land. This law would be a light to the other nations and teach the world how to live with each other and with G-d. Several other times in scripture we are told that Moses wrote down everything G-d told him and gave it to the people.