Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Mishpatim, Slaves to Righteousness

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This weeks reading is from Parashat Mishpatim (Shemot / Exodus 21:1-24:18), is titled “Mishpatim” meaning ordinances (הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים).  The Hebrew text states what one is to do if they have a Hebrew slave (21:2), if a man is forced to sell his daughter because of debt, what is he to do (21:7-9), if a man has a wife he is not allowed to reduce her food, clothing, or conjugal rights (21:10-11).  Stipulations on murder are made, whether premeditated or accidental (21:12-16).  Rulings are made on whether two men are fighting and one is injured, how one’s loss of work is to be compensated.  When two men are fighting and strike a woman and she miscarriages, the offending person is to pay compensation for the loss (21:22), and any other injury, the ruling is to be fair and described as eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth (21:23-22:2).  The Scriptures go on to discuss things regarding a man’s property, cattle, and fields (22:3-14).  Sorcerers and Witches are not permitted to live (22:18), bestiality is forbidden (22:19), and one is not to sacrifice to any other gods (22:20).  Be good to the stranger (22:21), and do not oppress the widow or orphan (22:24).  No interest is to be charged on loans made to a brother (22:25).  The law of the first born is given (22:29-30).  The seventh year rest for harvesting (23:10-11) and the seventh day rest from working (23:12).  The command to celebrate three yearly festivals is given, (i) the Feast of Unleavened Bread (23:14), (ii) the Feast of Harvest of First Fruits (23:16), and (iii) the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year (23:16).
Studying these verses, there appears to be a very significant aspect of these ordinances that apply to our lives today.  Can you guess what that is in Shemot / Exodus 21:1-6?

ספר שמות פרק כא
א   וְאֵלֶּה הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר תָּשִֹים לִפְנֵיהֶם: ב   כִּי תִקְנֶה עֶבֶד עִבְרִי שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים יַעֲבֹד וּבַשְּׁבִעִת יֵצֵא לַחָפְשִׁי חִנָּם: ג   אִם-בְּגַפּוֹ יָבֹא בְּגַפּוֹ יֵצֵא אִם-בַּעַל אִשָּׁה הוּא וְיָצְאָה אִשְׁתּוֹ עִמּוֹ: ד   אִם-אֲדֹנָיו יִתֶּן-לוֹ אִשָּׁה וְיָלְדָה-לּוֹ בָנִים אוֹ בָנוֹת הָאִשָּׁה וִילָדֶיהָ תִּהְיֶה לַאדֹנֶיהָ וְהוּא יֵצֵא בְגַפּוֹ: ה   וְאִם-אָמֹר יֹאמַר הָעֶבֶד אָהַבְתִּי אֶת-אֲדֹנִי אֶת-אִשְׁתִּי וְאֶת-בָּנָי לֹא אֵצֵא חָפְשִׁי: ו   וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֲדֹנָיו אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֶל-הַדֶּלֶת אוֹ אֶל-הַמְּזוּזָה וְרָצַע אֲדֹנָיו אֶת-אָזְנוֹ בַּמַּרְצֵעַ וַעֲבָדוֹ לְעֹלָם:

Shemot / Exodus 21:1-6
21:1 ‘Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them: 21:2 ‘If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.  21:3 ‘If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him.  21:4 ‘If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone.  21:5 ‘But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ 21:6 then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently. (NASB)

Studying these verse, God is not establishing, validating, or instituting slavery. These laws that He’s giving are merely regulating the practice, which was already a part of the culture and their world. A person could end up a slave as a result of poverty, debt, or maybe even as a result of a crime.  What is interesting though, while studying the Hebrew text, the Scriptures say in Shemot / Exodus 21:3, ג  אִם-בְּגַפּוֹ יָבֹא בְּגַפּוֹ יֵצֵא אִם-בַּעַל אִשָּׁה הוּא וְיָצְאָה אִשְׁתּוֹ עִמּוֹ: 21:3 ‘If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. (NASB)  The English translation states “if he comes alone” using the Hebrew word בְּגַפּוֹ.  Generally, the Hebrew word לבד meaning “alone, by himself, unaccompanied” or the word יחידי “single, individual, alone” are used to describe one who is alone, however, Moshe writes בְּגַפּוֹ from the root word גוף meaning “body.”  The idea is that the man who becomes a slave, comes with nothing but himself (his body).  The Scriptures say that if he has a wife, she will go out with him when he is set free.  If he finds a wife in his masters household she is to remain when he goes free. And if the servant decides to dedicate his life to his master, they are to go before God and to the door or door post using an awe to put a ring in his ear to indicate that he has dedicated his life to his master as a “bond-servant” for the remainder of his life.  Note also how the Hebrew text is written ו  וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֲדֹנָיו אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֶל-הַדֶּלֶת אוֹ אֶל-הַמְּזוּזָה וְרָצַע אֲדֹנָיו אֶת-אָזְנוֹ בַּמַּרְצֵעַ וַעֲבָדוֹ לְעֹלָם: 21:6 then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently. (NASB)  Moshe writes saying וְהִגִּישׁוֹ “and he brought him near” unto God, and he brought him near to “the door” (הַדֶּלֶת) or to “the mezuzah” (הַמְּזוּזָה, door post).  This is interesting because of the mezuzah that is hung on the door post also contains a small Torah scroll.  The master would force an awe on the servants ear fixing a hole in the ear against the mezuzah, against the Torah, and blood is shed.  This typifies making a covenant before God.  Can you see the parallels here to Pesach (Passover), the mezuzah (door post), the Torah, drawing near to the Lord, becoming a part of a righteous family and dedicating ones life to the master?  What did the Apostles teach regarding these Scriptures from Parashat Mishpatim in the Apostolic Writings?  The Apostle Paul wrote the following, Romans 6:16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 6:17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 6:18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (NASB)  Is it surprising that we read many of the authors of the New Testament said something similar?  Romans 1:1 “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus…,” Philippians 1:1 “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus…,” Colossians 1:7 “…Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant,” Colossians 4:7 “…Tychicus, {our} beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord,” James 1:1 “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 1:1 “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ…,” and Jude 1:1 “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ…”  They all proclaimed themselves to be “bond-servants,” willingly committing to serve their Master for life.  According to Romans 6:16-18, we are always slaves to something, why not be slaves to righteousness and bond-servants of Christ? BTT_Parashat Mishpatim-2014

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Duane D. Miller received his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering from The University of Akron Ohio. He is currently a Chemical Engineering Researcher. Duane’s research expertise has focused upon functional materials development for the control, conversion, and release of process gases in Energy production technologies. His R&D interests include computational chemistry, developing novel technologies for converting biomass to fuels and studying their fundamental interactions during the chemical conversion process. His past experience includes sorbent development for pre- and post-combustion CO2 and SO2 capture, selective absorption of H2S from methane streams, O2 capture for oxy-fuel combustion, photocatalytic reduction of alcohols, NOx reduction catalysis, the development of oxygen carriers to combust fossil fuels (CH4 and coal) for the chemical looping combustion processes, and the extraction of rare earth elements using patent pending sorbents. His research expertise has focused on operando-characterization using Infrared, Raman, and UV-Vis spectroscopy to observe the nature of the catalytic active sites and reaction intermediates under realistic reaction conditions, allowing direct correlation of molecular/electronic structures with catalyst performance during Gas-Solid / Liquid-Solid Adsorption and Photocatalytic Processes with real time online analysis of reaction products using ICP-MS and mass spectrometry. His current work involves a multi-disciplinary approach to developing, understanding, and improving the catalytic gasification of coal and methane, high temperature chemical looping combustion, and the catalytic decomposition and gasification of biomass and coal using novel microwave reactor.​ He has been studying the Hebrew Scriptures and the Torah for 20+ years and sharing what he has learned. The studies developed for MATSATI.COM are freely to be used by everyone, to God be the Glory!