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So begins a section known as the Book of the Covenant. It contains 42 judgments.
The first section of the Book of the Covenant concerns how male and female servants (or slaves) were to be treated.
Violent acts perpetuated against another person require capital punishment. The persons in view here are free and not servants.
Here are the judgements for violence between free people, violence done to servants, violence done to a pregnant woman which causes the loss of her baby, and bodily injury to a servant.
This passage is concerned with other things that could cause injury to a person and their livelihood. A violent ox, the loss of livestock by negligence, or one ox killing another.
The book of Exodus is the second book of the Torah (“law”). It continues the story of Genesis concerning the migration of the family of Jacob (the Israelites) to Egypt (Genesis 50). It describes the commissioning of Moses and Aaron as God’s representatives on earth to accomplish God’s deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land (the land of Canaan). It also relates the miraculous deliverance from Egypt beginning with the plagues on Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. It then describes the journey to Mount Sinai and the establishment of the Mosaic covenant with the Israelites. The last part of the book involves the specifications and building of the tabernacle – the place where the Lord Himself dwelt amongst His people.
In the book of Exodus, the focus shifts to the deliverance of God’s people.
This is the first chapter of what is called “the Book of the Covenant” (Exo. 24:7), which is contained in Exo. 20:22 – 23:33. It contains statutes (not “commandments”) designed to govern life in Israelite society. It is comprised of 42 “judgments” (Exo. 21:1 – 23:12) and, as was stated in the summary of Exo. 20:22 – 26, it ends just like it begins—with a prohibition against idolatry (Exo. 23:13).
Chapter 21 can be outlined as follows:
• Title (21:1)
• Judgments Concerning Hebrew Servants (21:2 – 11)
• Judgments Concerning Capital Offenses (21:12 – 17)
• Judgments Concerning Physical Injury (21:18 – 27)
• Judgments Concerning Injury Through Neglect (21:28 – 36)