Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.
Exodus 21:2-6 (NIV)
“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free. “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
Exodus 21:2-6 (MSG)
“When you buy a Hebrew slave, he will serve six years. The
seventh year he goes free, for nothing. If he came in single he leaves single. If he came in married he leaves with his wife. If the master gives him a wife and she gave him sons and daughters, the wife and children stay with the master and he leaves by himself. But suppose the slave should say, ‘I love my master and my wife and children—I don’t want my freedom,’ then his master is to bring him before God and to a door or doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl, a sign that he is a slave for life.
““If you purchase a Hebrew servant [because of his debt or poverty], he shall serve six years, and in the seventh [year] he shall leave as a free man, paying nothing. If he came [to you] alone, he shall leave alone; if he came married, then his wife shall leave with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she gives birth to sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall leave [your service] alone. But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not leave as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God [that is, to the judges who act in God’s name], then he shall bring him to the door or doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl (strong needle); and he shall serve him for life.” -AMPLIFIED
As we begin to look into chapter 21 of Exodus, part of the Book of the Covenant, we see the very first verse stating these words; ““These are the laws that you are to place before them.” We then find over the next three chapters laws concerning various items listed. Laws for servants, personal injury, protection of property, social responsibilities, Sabbath Day laws, laws on annual festivals and even laws concerning justice and mercy.
The very first law addressed was one concerning slavery and servitude. I find it interesting that God gives priority to something that was so crisp in their minds. Remember, the Jews had spent over 400 years as slaves in Egypt; that time was still quite painful in their memories. It was important to address the treatment of slaves and servants while the people early enough, while the memories were still fresh, before the remembrance of their time in Egypt started to fade.
In ancient society slavery was the norm. Some people were slaves because of conquering and captivity; the Jews would experience this later in time. Some were slaves because they were unable to pay their debts; this group in particular was the group that God was addressing. This could be someone sold by a family member or even selling themselves to pay off a debt.
God set a time limit on how long a slave would serve; six years. No longer would there be generations of families living as slaves. God had put a limit on the time of servitude.
There was the instance though where a slave could choose to stay with his master; especially if his wife and children were not to go free, but also if he loved his master. In this instance if the slave who was to be freed chose to stay, he would become a bond-servant. This would mean that he would still serve his master, but be paid for his services.
To become a bond-servant the slave would inform his master of his choice, “then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.”
This choice and pledge to remain with a beloved master brought with it a feeling of protection, provision, and peace. The master would take care of the servant. This is an excellent image of our relationship with God; He is our master, we are His servants. We have chosen to put ourselves in servitude to Him, because we love Him. Since we have chosen to put ourselves under His authority it is our job to serve Him with all of our heart and make Him proud.
Lord, my Master, may I be a good servant for you. I have chosen to place myself under your protection, provision and care. My desire is to serve you faithfully every day of my life; until you take me home to be in Heaven with you and there I will serve you faithfully for all of Eternity. I want you to be proud of me, God. Help me always to be conscious of living in such a way that I am pleasing to you.