Mishpatim and Slavery

 

“‘In that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will break the yoke off their necks and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them” (Jeremiah 30:8).

One would think that a people freed from Egypt and Babylon would do away and want no part of slavery, but sometimes it takes a little longer than we would believe in freeing our minds from ignorance.

In 2015, my husband and I lived in a small town for about a year. Almost everything in the town seemed frozen in time, from the town square, to mostly the same staple eateries. A change had to occur gradually for folks there. If too abrupt, people can’t seem to swallow it. A dear friend reminded me of this today by sending out a quote from Mary Shelly, who once said, “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” The small town was pushing to let go of a law that’s been in effect since the 1920’s. They’ve been prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol for decades. Of course, you can get alcohol here. You just have to go through the drive-thru of the local bootlegger who is well known by most folks in the town, including the police. As a matter of fact, I hear in some places the police call and warn the bootlegger before they head in for a raid. I read an article about one woman who was able to purchase wine at 14 from the bootlegger in this town. No I.D required. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it, alcohol is not the problem, neither is food, or sex, its men who are over-indulgent.

To get towns like this one prepared, they came up up with something in-between called “moist.” This is when the people are allowed to have a glass of wine or an alcoholic drink with dinner, but not on Sunday and not without food involved. Many towns like this one try and ease into the new mindset so the people can adapt, which brings me to our Torah portion–Mishpatim.

This Torah portion can be touchy and often misconstrued through ignorance. When we start chapter 21 of Exodus, we see slavery mentioned and rules for slaves. They were not slaves in the sense that you may envision. What is going on here is indentured servitude. Of course, that was only for fellow Hebrews. Ownership did exist, and I am not condoning it. Due to the times and culture, the topic of slavery had to be addressed in the Torah, and it had to be eased into. We found that out the hard way in our own nation. Men in Lincoln’s day found verses in favor of slavery, and they found verses against it. One God, one Book, and many different doctrines.

Let’s take a look at the verses closely.

“If you purchase a Hebrew slave, he is to work six years; but in the seventh, he is to be given his freedom without having to pay anything. If he came single, he is to leave single; if he was married when he came, his wife is to go with him when he leaves. But if his master gave him a wife, and she bore him sons or daughters, then the wife and her children will belong to her master, and he will leave by himself. Nevertheless, if the slave declares, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children, so I don’t want to go free,’ then his master is to bring him before God; and there at the door or doorpost, his master is to pierce his ear with an awl; and the man will be his slave for life.” Exodus 21:2-6 CJB.

Benei Avraham explains more in his blog Mishpatim:

“This passage alludes to the Messiah, to the Messiah’s devotion to God, and our devotion to the Messiah. The numerical value of the words “Hebrew slave” in Hebrew have the same numerical value of the Hebrew word, “Messiah.” It is as if the Messiah said, in Psalms 40:6, “My ears you have pierced.”

The case of the permanent slave also speaks to our own servitude to the Messiah, and the Torah.

If we are to love our families, our children, and our spouses in the proper way, we must first love our master. This is why the servant says, “I love my master, my wife, and my children,” in that order. Yeshua alludes to this idea in Matthew 10:37, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” 

“If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do. If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed” (Exodus 21:7-8, NASB).

According to myjewishlearning.com, “She is not the amah ivriyah (Hebrew indentured servant) the text speaks about in 21:7-12. In that case, a girl has been sold by a presumably impoverished Israelite parent into a wealthier family on the understanding that she will eventually be married to the master or one of his sons as a free woman. This practice is well attested in other ancient Near Eastern documents. Should the man take another wife, he must continue to support her. An Israelite woman may not be resold if her owner is displeased with her; instead, she must go free without any compensation to the master. Her servitude, too, is time limited.”

Hebrew slaves were given rest on Shabbat, Feast days, and ate the same food as their masters. When we study more verses on “slavery,” we get a much more humane picture of what was happening here for the Hebrew slaves, as they were given parting gifts. Here is a passage from Deuteronomy 15:13-18:

“If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, he is to serve you for six years; but in the seventh year, you are to set him free. Moreover, when you set him free, don’t let him leave empty-handed; but supply him generously from your flock, threshing-floor and winepress; from what Adonai your God has blessed you with, you are to give to him. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Adonai your God redeemed you; that is why I am giving you this order today. But if he says to you, ‘I don’t want to leave you,’ because he loves you and your household, and because his life with you is a good one; then take an awl, and pierce his ear through, right into the door; and he will be your slave forever. Do the same with your female slave. Don’t resent it when you set him free, since during his six years of service he has been worth twice as much as a hired employee. Then Adonai your God will bless you in everything you do.”

 

In Jeremiah 34, HaShem clarifies that the people have sinned by not releasing the male and female bondservants in the 7th year, and He again reiterates that they once were slaves in Egypt until He set them free.

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, In Rabbinical Literature:

The following account is drawn mainly from Maimonides’ Yad ha-Ḥazaḳah:

The Hebrew servant referred to in the Torah is of two classes: (1) he whom the court has sold without his consent; and (2) he who has willingly sold himself. The court may sell a man for theft only, as noted above. A man may sell himself (Lev. xxv. 39) because of extreme poverty; after all, his means are exhausted; he should not sell himself as long as any means are left to him. He should not sell himself to a woman, nor to a convert, nor to a Gentile. Should he do so, however, even if he sells himself to a heathen temple, the sale is valid; but it then becomes the duty not only of his kinsmen, but of all Israelites, to redeem him, lest he becomes “swallowed up” in heathendom. The sale of a Hebrew into bondage should be made privately, not from an auction block, nor even from the sidewalk, where other slaves are sold.”

 

Enslaved people were treated horribly, and to put a stop to these practices, the Torah went into detail. You may remember that Samson’s eyes were gouged out. Nebuchadnezzar gouged out king Zedekiah’s eyes. They would pull out their teeth so they could not eat much, and they would beat them to death. If they broke something, they lost a hand. They were castrated and treated horribly. The Romans would even cut out their tongues to bring unwanted information among leaders that they may have overheard. The Torah’s instruction was to save, free, and bring better treatment to those in servitude positions. But like all progress, at times, we must ease into it.

 

Job is thought to be the oldest book recorded. He had this to say:

“If I have despised the claim of my male or female slaves when they filed a complaint against me, what then could I do when God arises? And when He calls me to account, what will I answer Him? “Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb?” (Job 31:13-15, NASB).

All the other nations owned their slaves, but in the Torah, Hebrew slaves would go free in the 7th year and not leave empty-handed but with livestock and abundance just as Israel’s children left Egypt. Ultimately, when you read about slavery, it comes back to loving your neighbor as yourself, and that includes everyone:

“Never deprive foreigners and orphans of justice. And never take widows’ clothes to guarantee a loan. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and the Lord, your God, freed you from slavery. So I’m commanding you to do this. This is what you must do when you’re harvesting wheat in your field. If you forget to bring in one of the bundles of wheat, don’t go back to get it. Leave it there for foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. When you harvest olives from your trees, never knock down all of them. Leave some for foreigners, orphans, and widows. When you pick the grapes in your vineyard, don’t pick all of them. Leave some for foreigners, orphans, and widows. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. So I’m commanding you to do this” (Deuteronomy 24:17-22).

Even the slaves that were beaten and were under ownership, were gradually given more and more freedom. Even in Deuteronomy, we read, “If a slave escapes from his master and comes to you, don’t return him to his master. Let him stay with you and live among your people wherever he chooses, in any of your cities that seems best to him. Never mistreat him” (Deuteronomy 23:15-16).

This goes against the laws in place at that time among other nations. If an enslaved person ran off, they would kill him, and if you took in a runaway slave, they would kill you as well. Some people treat their dogs in a manner that’s just unbearable—beating and chaining an animal outside in the cold, feeding them unhealthy food, and never speaking kind words to them. I see this gradually changing too. I’ve come to look at it like the dry, wet, and moist counties, it was a gradual change, and we are still changing now. If we could only rid sex slavery and trafficking! Going over some Torah portions is more inspirational than others, but I also believe we need to dig in and learn all we can about our faith.

I pray this has helped you with some difficult passages.

Blessings,

Tekoa Manning

Sources: Benei Avraham, My Jewish Learning, Maimonides’ Yad ha-Ḥazaḳah:

Photo by Hussain Badshaw

 

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The Journey of the Prophet Part II

Part I HERE

 

The prophet is in high regard when someone requires keen vision, hearing, and unraveling riddles then quickly forgotten until the loss of a donkey, or when the results or outcome of a battle is needed. The prophet wrestles at night and walks with a limp during the day. The Prophet dies in his disease, although he raised the dead during his life.

“Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he was to die” (II Kings 13:14). His disease is from years of battling, boxing, and fleeing afterward. PTSD is a standard way of life, but even his bones hold the power of resurrection.

“And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen, and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. (II Kings 13:21).  Even in the bowels of Sheol, witches try to disturb the prophet from rest.

“And the woman said to Shaul: “I have seen gods coming up from the Earth!” And he said to her, “What is his appearance?” She said to him: “An old man came up, and he was clothed with a cloak.” And Shaul knew that it was Samuel, and he fell on his face on the ground, and he worshiped. And Shemueil said to Shaul: “Why have you disturbed me to bring me up?” (I Samuel 28:13-15).

The prophet is endowed with wisdom from on high and yet unable to express it adequately. He is often left stuttering and unable to articulate what he hears, sees, or reads. When the prophet must release the fire shut up in his bones, even he is terrorized by the words uttered from his own stale breath. Once he realizes the words he has spoken and the force and harshness of them, he again retreats to his cave, knowing he too is a man of flesh and not holy enough to speak just oracles. “I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

“Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6).

Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will” (Exodus 4:1, 13).

The prophet warns year after year. Amid mocking and scorn, he rises in rough garments, knowing he can do nothing but what he was fashioned to do, and even if he tries to hide, he cannot for long. The sea will spit him up, or the very ones who wished to murder him will arise and beg for bread.

The prophet is alone in a room full of ppl, but never alone. Even if he mingles about, no one speaks his language, and he is often daydreaming. He has few things in common with most, yet he does try and appear normal. Although he may be laughing and full of mirth on occasion, his soul is usually screaming about an injustice.

The prophet has few friends, and if they do find a confidant, they too are marked and just as disfigured, and even in these friendships, there is a cost. Other friendships are strange bedfellows. People coming to inquire of things too lofty to dissect, then leaving for weeks or months until they need to seek him out again for counsel, dreams, or visions he may not have the correct answers for. A prophet May applaud you or embrace you. They may even love you from a distance but never with certainty. Knowing that some will betray them. They see both the holiness in others and the sin, but they see it in themselves first and they grieve over it. When the prophet detects and hears the specific name for the condition of some wounded soul, he is shown his past condition and punched in the gut at his past reflection. The prophet is a liar, a thief, a trickster, a botanist and herbal specialist. He blurts out correct answers to fields and means so high above his pay grade or knowledge he knows it is not of him.

 

The prophet dies continually. He dies to relationships, love, material possessions, honor, respect, or accolades. He dies of being picked first for the team. He dies to assignments and circumstances that leave him looking like he is cursed by Adonai or, worse, a person who breaks Torah. His wife is barren or struck dead, or he’s told to marry a harlot, walk naked, lay on his side and take the sins of Israel and Judah, cook his food over human dung or that of a cow.  He is told to prophesy destruction in 40 days, knowing his words will fall to the ground, and he will appear once again as false. He sits with lepers and women who have colorful past, drunkards, or tax collectors. He lives by brooks for years and allows unclean birds to feed him until the Holy One says it’s time for his next assignment. He tells parables to kings who take the head off, giants, without fear. Parables about their sins and proclaim, “You are the Man” when they vow to kill the main character of the parable.

The prophet is seen as a worm, a maggot, spit, the lowliest of all men, yet they are honored in death.

A prophet lives in solitude and occasionally exits from his cave, brook, or desert place and only long enough to do the assignment given by the Holy One or to attend schools of higher learning and work on hearing and obeying quicker. After each assignment, or dust settling, the prophet retreats back to a place of solitude. It is here that he is most content. At other times the prophet is a nomad. Transported on mountains, wandering in deserts, escaping death by an inch of his life.

The prophet is bitten by snakes, surrounded by lions, kissed on the cheek, swallowed by fish, chased by an army of 1,000’s and often charged with crimes his adversary committed. And even while sinking in cisterns of muck without bread or water, the prophet knows there is no one who can offer comfort or prayer. Even when the prophet requests prayer, he knows he may lose his head, be sawn in half, boiled in a pot, or shipped off to an island to finish the assignment left him.

To be a prophet means skin thick and calloused. The prophet has no fear of man, kings, or judges. He speaks all the words commanded for him to say, for if he doesn’t, he is warned, “Do not be intimidated by them, or I will terrify you before them.” Jeremiah 1:17.

After testing this, he never forgets the terror, and although he at times would like to be normal, even in trying to do secular occupations, the prophet is far away, and there is no desire in the task no matter the pay. Even with all his callousness, the prophet weeps over the widows, the orphans, and the poor. The prophet would give all his possessions to help the lowly but usually has none to give. The prophet cannot stand injustice or wrongdoing, nor can they tolerate falseness. Their message is repeated over and over again. It is the same message of Elijah, John, and Yeshua, a boisterous repent. Choose this day whom you will serve. Make straight your paths, and while the prophet is screaming this from his insides to everyone around him, he is a madman—a rough-mannered, sharp-edged, hairy garment sort of man. At other times, he is feeding widows, comforting broken women at wells, delivering demonized men from torment or tending sheep alone for so long, he wonders if he has failed in such a manner that the Holy One has left him.

Occasionally he is haunted by those who proclaim to wear rough garments, but he knows they speak peace when there is no peace. He knows they prophesy out of their own hearts, and due to their falseness, they will inherit leprosy.

A few passages below speak more of the life of a prophet. I hope you are enjoying this Journey of a Prophet. If this has ministered to you and you know some lonely prophets in need of understanding their role better in the body of Messiah, please feel free to share.

Blessings,

Tekoa Manning

Ps. The woman in the fire stacking up wood appeared in an old photo I took of a fire in my fire pit. The Father said “ look closer.” She was holding an anvil or sword. How does He speak to you, dear prophet?

“Yeshua began speaking to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind. But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing. Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet?”

(Matthew 23:35) “so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous bloodshed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

(Matthew 23:37) “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”

(Mark 12:3-8) “They took him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some and killing others.”

(Matthew 23:30) “and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.”

(1 Thessalonians 2:15) “who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men.”

(Luke 13:34) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!”

(Acts 7:52) “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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