The passage before us this morning is in the middle of what Ex 21:1 calls the rules of God’s covenant with Israel. After God spoke the Decalogue to Israel from Sinai, Israel pleaded with Moses that he be their mediator so that they no longer had to listen to God. Following laws about altars, Ex 21:1 introduces the long section we are now in.This morning, we consider more of these rules. In particular, we will look at God’s laws concerning restitution
Given how lowly people viewed slaves, it’s remarkable how God’s Law begins speaking to this issue. By introducing his Law with remarks about slaves, God reminds his people that he is a God who hears the cry of those oppressed by slavery. He rescued them from slavery. He begins with laws about slavery to bring glory to himself before Israel in reminding them of his great act of redemption. And he begins with slavery so that Israel’s own treatment of slaves will be Yahweh-like rather than Egypt like. Similarly, with the laws about murder, we recall Egypt’s blood-thirsty murder of the Hebrews.The point of ch 21 is this: God’s people must preserve dignity and life as God does.