So you may recall, if you are a regular reader, that I am writing a sort of “The Bible Abridged” kind of thing (I plan to vastly expand this project, as I’ve mentioned) and that means I am rereading the Bible so I can do it right. Well, I just came upon the Ten Commandments section, which contains far more than just the Ten Commandments; it contains the rules for all people in being just and moral. What does it take to be just and moral in the eyes of God? Let’s start in Exodus 21.
First, male slaves (if they are Hebrew, of course) are to be set free after 6 years of slavery. If you give him a wife from among your slaves, though, the wife is yours forever to do with as you please, and the only way he get to stay with his wife (and any children he had, which are also the lifelong property of you, his owner) is for the slave to dedicate himself as a slave for life, serving one master until he dies (or you force him to leave, and keep his wife and kids, which you can totally do).
Alright, dickish and kind of sexist, but as far as rules for slaves, it could get worse. Right? Well, hold on to your belt, suspenders, or waist band, friends. It does.
Let’s go over the good news, first, though. If you kill someone on purpose? Death penalty. If you kill one of your slaves by accident (and we are talking beating them to death here), you are exiled but are to face no other punishment.
Now, here’s the fun part; if you beat your slave with a rod but the slave recovers from their injuries, there will be no punishment. It goes on more explicitly to say “Because they are your property.” (Exodus 21:20-21)
It is also in Exodus 21 that we find the extended version of “An Eye for an Eye,” which reads, in full: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (Exodus 21:24-25) But don’t worry, this doesn’t apply in full for slaves; the above caveat (if they recover) still applies. Go nuts! But things like knocking out their tooth, or blinding them? Well, you don’t get punished, but you have to let the slave go free. JUSTICE! Thank God for such merciful justice and strong moral leadership, right?
Also, if your slave is killed not by you, but by say… Your livestock? You have to pay the owner of the bull (you) 30 pieces of silver. LOOPHOLES ARE THE BEST HOLES, AM I RIGHT?! Now, if your bull gores another owner’s property (slave), you have to pay that person 30 pieces of silver, and your bull is put to death, and that is way less fun that putting disobedient slaves in a bull pen for sport, right?
For some reason, though, Exodus 21 focuses as much on cattle (Bulls and Oxen, mostly) as on slaves (logic: they are both livestock). Now, I am not sure how often this kind of thing happens, but apparently bulls killed so many people that verses 28-36 (more than one fifth of the chapter) are completely dedicated to how one handles bull-related violence. Huh. Weird.
Exodus chapter 22 has some weird rules, too. If someone breaks into your house at night, you can kill them, no questions asked. If he breaks in during the day and you kill him, you are to be put to death. One would imagine that hiding bodies would make good sport back in the day. Then, when night rolls round, you throw them in the kitchen and cry bloody murder and call the watch! For this body, stiff with rigor mortis, clearly JUST BROKE IN! MORALITY!
The legendary point of contention, if a man sleeps with a virgin who is not married, he must pay the father restitution and marry the woman. What say does the woman have in all of this? SHUT UP AND DON’T ASK QUESTIONS! You’re married now. Go make some babies and a sandwich! (At least, one presumes that was the thought process that went into Exodus 22:16-17)
We go through a few of the more mundane rules; kill witches, kill people who have sex with animals, kill anyone who offers any sacrifice to any gods but God) but then we get to what I am going to call the “Insurance Salesman Clause”. It reads, as per Exodus 22:22-24, “Do not take advantage of a widow or the elderly. If you do, and they tell me you took advantage of them, I will kill you myself!”
There are some basic rules about banking (you are to charge no interest on money you have lent, but you are allowed to take collateral, except their coat. You can have anything except their coat. It expands this thought: If you take their coat, what will they sleep in? So leave them your coat, for I am a God of compassion. Wat. (Exodus 22:25-27)), then the basic rules of religion (kill blasphemers instantly), etc, etc.
Another slightly weird rule is that you are never to eat meat if the animal was killed by any wild animal, no matter how fresh it was (there are, listed I believe in Leviticus, extensive rules for kosher slaughter, but I can’t recall the exact chapter because I try to avoid reading Leviticus as the rules in it are so… Ugh… Well, I am working on a project that involves rereading the whole Bible, so I’m sure I will talk about the weird rules there eventually on this blog). Why does slaughter have to be done in a very specific (and, frankly, no more humane than many other methods of slaughter) way? BECAUSE SHUT UP, GOD SAID SO.
I like the opening parts of Exodus 23, this one is the lawyer cause. You shall never help a guilty person by lying on their behalf. Welp, there goes the entire idea of law as we understand it today (take that, lawyers). Also, if you are the prosecutor and you get a false conviction, and the person is put to death as a result of your prosecution, even if no one knows, and you didn’t know he was innocent, God does. And better know he will judge the everliving shit out of you. Again, take that, lawyers (in Texas)!
Now, these are quick mentions, but again go to how odd the rules in the Bible are… Exoodus 23:18-19. If you are making a sacrifice to me, it must not be made with, in, around, containing, or generally mentioned in the same sentence as, yeast. NO YEAST. This is said at least 15 times in Exodus, NO YEAST. God hates, hates, hates, hates, hates, hates anything to do with yeast, or yeast byproducts. When it rained bread from heaven (manna), it was flat bread, because even God can’t leaven bread without yeast, and NO YEAST! Mentioned in the same breath as that yeasty tirade (hehehe. That sounds gross) is “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” One presumes other milk is ok, but how common was it to cook it in its mother’s milk that God put a rule in there, the penalty for breaking being… Well, that isn’t spelled out, but generally smiting is the go-to punishment.
Now, things start to get a little darker. Go to the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and kill them. This commandment is not optional. And as long as I am happy enough with how dead they are, I will make sure no one among you gets sick, hungry, thirsty, or even has a miscarriage, because I want to see those people dead SO BAD. (Exodus 23:20-30) In fact, there are three he wants dead worse than others; I will send swarms of hornets ahead of the Jews (who, you must remember, are marching to kill these nations anyway) to just… Ruin their day. Before they die. Seriously! “OH GOD! PLAGUE OF HORNETS! THERE IS NO GOD!” Then you get stabbed in the face by someone on the orders of the same God who just plagued you with hornets? Shiiiiiiiiiiiit, that’s not right, bro…
And the common rebuttal of the harsh laws of the Bible (mostly contained in Deuteronomy and Leviticus) is that “Well, those laws were for the priests.” But this is Exodus. You can’t have “The Ten Commandments”, because God never said “Here are ten specific things.” The Ten Commandments are lumped in with all of these others rules, the rules about beating the everliving hell out of your slaves, but only bad enough that they can still walk.(The actual provision is that they have to be able to walk with the aid of a walking stick within two days of the beating, WHICH ACTUALLY MAKES IT WORSE TO ME!) Also, the killing thing being not optional? Yeah, that gets reiterated over and over in Exodus 23, just make sure NONE OF THEM ARE LEFT ALIVE, NOT EVEN ONCE.
Well there you go, friends. There are your rules for morality, and these are mentioned in chapters shared by the so called ten commandments. (And, it should be said, there are numerous caveats to the commandments, like “You can kill at night, if the person was breaking into your house. But not at day.”)
Boy, I sure am glad the rules for being a good person are so clear in the Bible, and it’s no wonder Southern Christians think people without belief in God are the worst people (even worse than rapists according to Pew and Gallup)! Why, all of us who have alternate laws for morality? We might want to have mercy on those around us, but it’s a good thing God was there in Exodus to tell us that MERCY IS FOR SUCKERS. In fact, the Stand Your Ground law that was at the very forefront of public discourse in the Trayvon Martin case? Justified by God Almighty, and reiterated by Jesus, for as is stated in Matthew chapter 5: “17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.””
Time to go buy some slaves and make them marry each other. For science.