When we read the Ten Commandments in original context we find that they are followed immediately by what we should recognize as the first statute or judgment in the Torah an entry about slaves and ownership or to put it mildly how to treat a servant. This is not a coincidence or disjointed alert. Exodus 21:2 is the slice that complements Exodus 20;2, the preamble to the Ten Words; a deliberate attempt by the Lord’s servant Moses to raise Israel’s morality at least to golden rule level.
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.(Exodus 21:2, NASB)
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”(Exodus 20:2, NASB)
The privilege of having servants was as destructive for ancient Israel as it is for European kingdoms, the United States of America and the British Empire. It is difficult to recover from centuries of pursuing dominion over our fellows.
Imagine connecting your head to your torso without your neck
The corrupting of love into a loyalty trip has caused untold misery and confusion with the onslaught of misogyny and racial discrimination. Even at the level of golden rule love we have been misled. Messianic love surpasses “do to others as you’d like done to you”. People and nations that like to think of themselves as Christian had better start looking for a makeover. The ten commandments without statutes and judgments are a monster of Frankenstein proportions. There is no practical good to “You shall not steal” without the judgments of reconciliation and repayment.
The surprising test for governments
Treating workers with the deference due is the benchmark. After all, if a man needs servants, he is indebted to them. His status is tied to their wellbeing and labour. Having to give them leave every 24 hours, for one day per week, for one year every 7 years and for one year in every 50 years was more than most employers could stand.
“You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.” (Leviticus 25:10, NASB)Leviticus 25:10
Land abuse and perversion
There are few public policies that defy God’s intentions for every human than the real estate confusion. Governments and influential entities affirm the right of each individual to life but not the space to live. The search for space to live outside of earth’s boundaries a denial of mankind’s basic need. Remember the founding of Australia! The export of unsavoury types is still a plank in misanthropic circles. Think again about how every good thing gets corrupted when there are avowed rebels around.
The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. (Leviticus 25:23, NASB)Leviticus 25:23
Resisting the call to treat employees with respect ends badly for the employer, and whether the employer is a nation, a corporation, family or individual. Ends quite badly. Time to pay and send away cannot be ignored.
The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people who were in Jerusalem to proclaim release to them:Jeremiah 34:8, NASB
Making a covenant means cutting a deal, karat berit. The infinitive steers us towards the material deal and not the features of the action.
Freedom for workers is supposed to be cyclical and most people actually cherish having the same employer for life. Capitalism is the love of money authorized and celebrated and subjected to daily speculation (stock trading etc).
This agreement could have saved Judah from exile and destruction of the temple and city. Its failure demonstrated that people who are capitalist will chose God’s anger over doing the right thing.