The State of the Bible 2018 report, commissioned by the American Bible Society and conducted by Barna Research, found that Americans could be divided into five categories: (1) Bible Centered daily readers (9%), (2) Bible Engaged weekly readers (17%), (3) Bible Friendly (15%); and (4) Bible Neutral (5%). The fifth category, Bible Disengaged, was by far the most populated at 54 percent, those who rarely interacted with Scripture at all.
Joshua commanded the Israelites: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it” (Josh. 1:8). With the core of the Law set in the Ten Commandments, the book of Exodus goes on to explain specific regulations for how to live out that core.
First, they defined limits to indentured servanthood, a form of slavery in that day often resulting from debt or war (vv. 2–11). This may have been addressed first due to the Israelites’ own history as slaves. While in some ways slaves were considered property, it’s clear here that they possessed rights and were considered persons within the justice system. A slave could even choose to stay with his master for life, a relationship which would provide food, shelter, and stability. Second, justice should be done in cases of personal injury (vv. 12–36). One factor was outcome, with human death being the most serious (see Gen. 9:6). Another was intention—only someone who had killed a person unintentionally could flee to a city of refuge. A third factor was relationship—the death penalty was invoked in cases of attacking one’s parents (the fifth commandment).
The Law describes justice in a manner known as lex talionis, that is, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (vv. 23–25).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus often said: “You have heard that it was said . . . But I tell you.” In doing so, Jesus set forth a higher law, one that goes beyond lex talionis, or retaliation. Instead Jesus taught “turning the other cheek” or the “law of love” (Matt. 5:38–42). We encourage you to read Matthew 5–7 alongside Exodus this week.