Today we begin Exodus Chapter 21.
For the Complete Jewish Bible, click here.
For the King James version, click here.
“Now these are the ordinances which thou shalt set before them”
Before I even begin to touch the myriad of details contained in Exodus chapter 21, there is one vital issue I need to expose to the light of day concerning this chapter and it concerns the very first word of the very first sentence.
For most translations, the first word of the first sentence of Exodus 21 will be the word “Now” and other translations like the NIV will omit the first word altogether.
The original Hebrew is VE-ELLEH and it does NOT mean “now”.
It means “and“.
So any proper English translation should be rendered “And these are the ordinances which thou shalt set before them”.
Why is this such an important distinction to make?
Why is it of such important to replace the word “now” with “and” or add “and” back in to the versions where it’s missing?
Well according to the MEKHILTA (a halakhic commentary of the Book of Exodus) of Rabbi Ishmael, VE-ELLEH is without exception ALWAYS a connecting word in Hebrew.
In other words, VE-ELLEH indicates not only what is about to be said but is also a continuation of what just came before.
Or to put it another way, in any given Hebrew text, VE-ELLEH indicates that the content of what came before it is setting the stage for what is follow after it.
I’ve mentioned this before and it’s no secret that BOTH the Old Testament and the New Testament were written straight through minus any chapter divisions and verse markings.
It wasn’t only until the 13th century that Stephen Langton, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, took the time to break up the Bible into easy-study and easy-to-absorb bite-size chunks.
It’s his system of chapter and verse divisions that we use today.
About 200 years later, one Rabbi who felt like Langton ruined the flow of the Hebrew did the same thing for the Old Testament only.
So actually depending on the which Bible translation you read, some chapters that you read in the TANACH (Old Testament) may be shorter or longer and some of the verse markings may be different.
The whole point in sharing this information is to bring home the point that chapter and verse divisions are completely manmade and arbitrary.
However, there is another more important point I want to make.
The gentile Christian church operates under the false notion that the content of Exodus 20 (the 10 commandments) are completely disconnected from the content of what begins in chapter 21 (the laws and rulings of the Jewish Law).
And it all has to do with the first word of the first sentence of what we know today to be Exodus chapter 21.
The church for too long now has operated under the assumption that the context of Exodus 20 finishes and an entirely new content begins from Exodus 21.
It is this mistaken viewpoint (a viewpoint that is about to end) that has enabled the church for centuries to think that the Torah and the Law was abolished but the 10 commandments (except the Sabbath commandment) were still valid for their lives.
The truth is the 10 WORDS of God are JUST THE BEGINNING!
They are like the preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America?
Is the Preamble a separate document?
The Preamble are the opening words of the US Constitution that establishes the basic context and principles for everything that is to come afterwards.
And this is exactly what the relationship of the 10 Words of God are to the Laws and Rulings.
You cannot sever the 10 Words of God from the rest of God’s Law.