"Nevertheless in Your great mercy, You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; for You are God, gracious and merciful." Nehemiah 9:31
Text: Exodus 21 : 20-21
VIOLENCE TOWARDS SLAVES
Once again, the question of slaves came up! Crimes involving violence was punishable, but did that law apply to slaves as well?
“And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod,
so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished.”
1. Slaves have rights too
In other nations, slaves had no rights. Even if they were beaten to death, their owners could not be brought to justice! But in Israel, slaves had rights! The judicial system that God gave to the nation ensured that slaves are not ill-treated!
2. Owners of slaves may be brought to justice
The death penalty may be imposed against any master who beats his servants to death! He may be rich enough to own servants, but he is still not above the law! If he beats his slaves so excessively that they die, he would be treated as a murderer! He would be punished to the full extent of the law!
VIOLENT DISCIPLINE OF SLAVES NOT AMOUNTING TO DEATH
Many masters discipline their servants. The law provided for the discipline of slaves! If there was no provision for discipline, how would the master make sure that his slaves serve out their six-year stints faithfully? What did the law say to a situation where punishment is meted out, but death did not occur as a result of beating?
“Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two,
he shall not be punished; for he is his property.”
1. The slave is regarded as the “property” of his master
The word “property” may sound demeaning, but this was not meant to be! This was a legal word that defined the relationship between the owner and the person he bought as a slave. The slave becomes “the property” of the owner. Rights and privileges still apply to the slave, but essentially, he is the “property” of his owner!
2. The slave may be disciplined by his master
The slave, being his property, must obey the orders given to him by his master. If he chooses to be lazy, careless and irresponsible, his master has every right to discipline him.
3. The owner cannot be punished for disciplining his slave
As long as the owner does not cause the death of his slave, he would not be punished according to the laws of Israel! These laws reflected justice indeed!