The first group of laws given to Israel are to be found in Exodus 21, 22, and 23 and they are divided into two basic categories.
The first category (Exodus 21:2-Exodus 23:12) deals with Israelite-to-Israelite or human-to-human interaction.
The second category (Exodus 23:13-19) deals with how Israel is to relate to the Lord.
The Lord, by handing down specific rules and regulations to Moses, has now begun the process of creating a new Hebrew society.
One maybe obvious point I should mention is that the many laws contained in this and the next couple of chapters to come are far from a comprehensive legal code covering every area of life.
For example, matters of marriage, commerce, inheritance and property transfer are NOT covered.
The truth is many of these regulations were simply the adjusting or amending of already existing practices and customs of the Hebrews.
Of course, some totally new and revolutionary concepts were also introduced.
And ALL of these rules are extensions of the 10 Words of God introduced in Exodus chapter 20.
Keep in mind that as we move forward, on occasion I am going to go deep and explore some individual rules in excruciating detail.
However, more important is to understand the principle behind the commandments.
God’s principles are eternal and can be applied to any culture.
We don’t necessarily have to follow certain Jewish or Rabbinic cultural traditions, but it is our duty to UNDERSTAND AND OBEY their underlying principles.
We are also duty-bound to obey those Torah commandments that are plainly written.
One fascinating way to view these instructions is to realize we are witnessing what happens when the One true God, the Almighty Creator of the universe meets a broken and fallen mankind and then see how through his unmatchable wisdom and love He slowly but surely begins to fix all of the ugly realities of society He confronts head on.
And He starts by taking on a practice my country (America) abhors: slavery.
The first thing we should take immediate notice of is through these initial rules and regulations, the Lord has just turned the existing social ladder upside down.
God’s justice system BEGAN with His concern for those who were at the very bottom of the social scale.
This was revolutionary and unlike any civil or social system ever devised by another nation.
God establishes rights for the slave, a people group whose very existence were at the mercy of their masters.
Slaves were considered as property in the ancient world.
They were just beasts of burden.
But by ordaining sacred personal rights for this lowest social class, everything changed.
Slaves would now fall under the category of people….NOT Property (animals or possessions).