The Bible in 90 Days
Day 7: Exodus 29:1-40:38 || Read the CEB online.
Oh, the dreaded legal codes of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy. These are the rocks upon which many well-intentioned readers of the entire Bible are wrecked. Don’t despair here. These are laws and commands given to a people that lived 3500 years ago in the Ancient Near East. Their laws are bound to sound strange to our ears, for they were not intended for us! We are overhearing God speaking to another people…and yet there still is wisdom and guidance mysteriously available thanks to the Holy Spirit.
So what does this all mean? 2 pieces of information might help. First, there are different types of laws presented here. Casuistic or case laws consist of those that follow the “If…then…” pattern. These cover situations which might occur reasonably often. Cattle rustling was a problem in frontier Mesopotamia as well as Texas! Also, you’ll see apodictic laws which are of the “you shall/shall not” variety. They are often presented without rationale, and are specific commands. The Ten Commandments (or Decalogue) are the most well-known of these.
Second, let’s look at the lex talionis or Law of Retaliation. These are the infamous “eye for an eye” laws, found in Exodus 21:12-27. While they sound quite brutal to our ears, they were intended to be a grace-filled response to situations that could not be compensated in other ways–typically the result of human violence. Retaliation was intended to limit the spiraling cycle of mafia-style violence which Lamech threatened in Genesis 4:17-26 and which could pose a real problem for a small nation such as Israel. Sin has far-reaching effects, and the law was intended to place boundaries on how far our human disobedience could extend.
What laws do you not understand?
How has God’s instruction kept you out of trouble before?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!