“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do.”
Just when I think I’m making headway through the dense fog of this winding, biblical road, verse seven hits my windshield like an unsuspected buck and sends me reeling toward the guard rail. When a man sells his daughter as a slave is a line I never hoped to read when I opened the Good Book in search of wisdom this morning, and it might take a while for my tires to stop spinning before I can make sense of them.
Even if this form of slavery is more like indentured servitude than the horrific sort that immediately comes to our mind nowadays, what sort of predicament would a father have to find himself in to decide that a little bit of money is better than keeping his daughter free and giving her a better economic prospect? Well, as clichéd and dissatisfying as the answer sounds, this is the ancient world. It’s a shock to us, but it’s nothing new to Moses’ Jewish audience. In fact, let’s not forget that they’ve just been delivered from their own generation-long enslavement in Egypt. So let’s hope they’ve learned civility through their suffering. Let’s hope they’ll at least be more benevolent to their own servants than their tyrannical overlords were to them. And even though liberty for all won’t be the law of the land here in civic terms, love and justice for all will be. Which is far more than most societies can say.
Think of it, friend: never in all the world has any society seen God’s ideal for a nation fully realized. We’ve yet to witness lions and lambs lying down together and men turning their weapons into plow shares. Even our own nation, which is often touted as the greatest, freest nation of all, is still a far cry from Isaiah 11. So remember that as you wrestle through these civil laws. Exodus 21 is not God’s blueprint for the coming Kingdom; it’s only the first sketch. And it’s a sketch that will find luminous color in the incarnate life of Jesus Christ, the Master of the universe Who willingly becomes the bond slave of all! He’s the silver lining through this Sinai cloud—the shimmer of freedom behind this Old Testament veil!