Exodus 21



                        THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT (Con’t)


v. 1 – “Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.” - The term

judgment applies most properly to the decisions of courts and the laws founded

upon them. No doubt the laws contained in the “Book of the Covenant” were to a large

extent old laws, which had been often acted on; but we should do wrong to suppose that

there was nothing new in the legislation. The Hebrew mishphat is used with some vagueness.



regulations of this section concern —


Ø      Slavery (vs. 2-11);

Ø      Murder and other kinds of homicide (vs. 12-15 and 20-21);

Ø      Man-stealing (v. 16);

Ø      Striking or cursing of parents (vs. 15, 17);

Ø      Assaults and injuries to the person not resulting in death (vs. 18-19,

            and 22-27), both in the case of free men and of slaves; and

Ø      Injuries done by cattle both to free men and to slaves (vs. 28-32). The

            chief bodily injury whereto women are liable is not mentioned. A later

            enactment (Deuteronomy 22:25-29) made it expiable by marriage, or

            else a capital offence. There are no other remarkable omissions.



                                    LAWS DEALING WITH SLAVERY


Slave laws belong to all communities, and not to some only, slavery being really a universal

and not a partial institution.


vs. 2-11 – “If thou buy an Hebrew servant” - Slavery, it is clear, was an existing institution.

The law of Moses did not make it, but found it, and by not forbidding, allowed it. The Divine

legislator was content under the circumstances to introduce mitigations and alleviations into

the slave condition. Hebrews commonly became slaves through poverty (Leviticus 25:35, 39),

but sometimes through crime (ch. 22:3).six years he shall serve: and in the seventh

he shall go out free for nothing.”  Not in the Sabbatical year, but at the commencement

of the seventh year after he became a slave. If the jubilee year happened to occur, he might

be released sooner (Leviticus 25:40); but in any case his servitude must end when the sixth

year of it was completed. This was an enormous boon, and had nothing, so far as is known,

correspondent to it in the legislation of any other country. Nor was this all. When he

went out free, his late master was bound to furnish him with provisions out of his flock,

and out of his threshing floor, and out of his winepress (Deuteronomy 15:12-14), so

that he might have something wherewith to begin the world afresh. The humane spirit

of the legislation is strikingly marked in its very first enactment.  “If he came in by

himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out

with him.  If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or

daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by

himself.  And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and

my children; I will not go out free” - Masters are admonished to treat their slaves

not as bond-servants, but as hired servants or sojourners,” and again “not to rule

over them with rigour(Leviticus 25:39-40, 43).  Then his master shall bring him unto

the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master

shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.  And if a man

sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he

let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power,

seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.  And if he have betrothed her unto his

son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.  If he take him another

wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.”


·        EXTENT OF ANCIENT SLAVERY. The slaves in ancient states were

            almost always more numerous than the freemen. At Athens they amounted

            to more than four-fifths of the community. Every free person was a slave

            owner, and some owned hundreds of their fellow-creatures. Perpetual

            insecurity was felt in consequence of the danger of revolt; and this fear

            reacted on the treatment of slaves, since it was thought necessary to break

            their spirit by severities. The evil effects of the institution pervaded all

            classes of the community, fostering pride and selfishness in the masters,

            dissimulation, servility, and meanness in the slaves.





            slavery did not necessarily imply any mental or moral fault in the slave.

            Some reached it through mental defect, as our lunatics; some through

            crime, as our convicts (see <022203>Exodus 22:3). But the great majority were

            either born in the condition, or became slaves through the fortune of war.

            Thus slavery was not commonly a deserved punishment, but an undeserved

            misfortune. Men found themselves, without any fault of their own, the

            goods and chattels of another, with no political and few social rights,

            bound to one who might be in all respects inferior to themselves, but who

            was their lord and master. A sense of injustice consequently rankled in the

            bosom of the slave, and made him in most cases dangerous. Slave revolts

            were of frequent occurrence.



            considerable differences may be observed between the treatment of slaves

            in different communities; but there are certain features which seem to have

            been universal.


ü      Slaves were for the most part the property of individuals, and

      depended largely on the caprice of individuals, who might be harsh or   

      mild, brutally tyrannical, or foolishly indulgent.


ü      Slave families might at any time be broken up, the different members

                        being sold to different masters.


ü      Slaves might everywhere be beaten, and unless in case of serious injury,

                        there was no inquiry.


ü      Very severe labor might be required of them; they might be confined in

                        workshops, which were little better than prisons, made to toil in mines,

                        or chained to the oar as galley slaves.


ü      They might be badly lodged, badly clothed, and badly fed, without the

                        law taking any notice.


ü      In most places there was no redress for any injury that a slave might

                        suffer short of death; and in some the law took no cognisance even of

                        his murder. The Mosaic legislation, finding slavery established under                              

                        these conditions, set itself to introduce ameliorations, without

                        condemning the institution altogether. It divided slaves into two

                        classes, Hebrew and foreign, changing the slavery of the former into a                           

                        species of apprenticeship for six years, and guarding, not merely the life,

                        but the members and organs of the latter. It acknowledged the family tie

                        in the case of the slave, and laid down rules tending to check the                                               

                        separation of wives from husbands. It protected slave concubines from

                        the caprice of a sated husband. It absolutely forbade the practice of                              

                        kidnapping, whereby the slave-market was largely recruited in most                              

                        countries, putting men-stealers on a par with murderers, and requiring

                        that they should suffer death. We may gather from the Mosaic legislation                                   

                        on the subject —




            SHOULD BE INTRODUCED WITHOUT DELAY. The slave is entitled

            to be protected in life and limb, to be decently lodged, fed, and clothed, to

            have the enjoyment of the Sunday rest, to be undisturbed in his family

            relations, to have the honor of his wife and daughters respected, to have an

            appeal from his master if he regards himself as in any way wronged. The

            efforts of missionaries and other humane men in uncivilized communities,

            should be directed primarily to the introduction of such reforms as these

            into the systems which they find established there.




            CONDITIONS OF SERVICE. It is not the masters of slaves only who are

            hard and tyrannical. In all service there is room for the exhibition on the

            part of the master, of indulgence on the one hand, or strictness and severity

            on the other. We at the present day may either oppress our servants, or

            deal kindly with them. True, they may leave us if we oppress them; but a

            good servant will not readily leave a respectable place, and a good deal of

            tyranny is often borne before warning is given. It is the duty of masters, not

            only to “give to their servants that which is just and equal” (Colossians

            4:1), but to show them sympathy and kindness, to treat them with

            consideration, and avoid hurting their feelings. More warmth and

            friendliness than are at all usual in the present treatment of servants, seem

            to be required by the fact that they are our brethren in the Lord, joint-heirs

            of salvation with us, and perhaps to be preferred above us in another

            world.  Compare Paul’s conduct when he sent Onesimus back to Philemon

            (Philemon 1:12,16)



                                    LAWS AGAINST HOMICIDE


vs. 12-14 – “He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

This reiterates the Sixth Commandment, and adds to it a temporal penalty — “he shall

surely be put to death.”  The substance of this law had already been given to Noah in

the words,  “Whoso sheddeth man’ s blood, by man shall his blood be shed

(Genesis 9:6). “And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand;

then I will  appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.” - Places were appointed,

whither the shedder of blood might flee, and where he might be safe until his cause

was tried before the men of his own city (Numbers 35:22-25), and afterwards, if the

judgment were in his favor. Some particular part of the camp was probably made an

asylum in the wilderness.  When we first hear of the actual appointment, the number

of the places was six — three on either side of Jordan. (See Joshua 20:7-8; and

compare Numbers 35:10-15, and Deuteronomy 19:2.) Thus there was always a city

of refuge at a reasonable distance But, if a man happened suddenly upon his enemy,

without having sought the opportunity, and slew him (v. 13), then the case was one not of

murder, but at most of manslaughter, or possibly of justifiable homicide. No legal

penalty was assigned to such offenses. They were left to the rude justice of established

custom, which required “the avenger of blood” to visit them with due retribution.

According to the general practice of the Eastern nations, he might either insist on life

for life or take a money compensation. With this custom, deeply ingrained into the

minds of the Oriental people, the law did not meddle. It was content to interpose

between the avenger of blood and his victim the chance of reaching an asylum.

“But if a man come presumptuously  (or “proudly,” “arrogantly.”)  upon his

neighbor, to slay him with guile;  thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he

may die.” - Real murder, with deliberate intent, was under no circumstances to be

pardoned. The murderer was even to be torn from the altar, if he took refuge there,

and relentlessly punished (ver. 14).  See the case of Joab (I Kings 2:28-34).


Here again, in the time of Moses, a custom, regarded as of absolute obligation upon all,

held possession of the ground; and nothing was practicable but some modification of it.

The next-of-kin was “avenger of blood,” and was bound to pursue every homicide to

the bitter end, whether it was intentional and premeditated (i.e., murder), or done

hastily in a quarrel (i.e., manslaughter), or wholly unintentional (i.e., death by

misadventure). Moses distinguished between deliberate murder, which the state was

to punish capitally (vs. 12-14) and any other sort of homicide, which was left to the

avenger of blood. In mitigation of the blood-feud, he interposed the city of refuge,

whereto the man who had slain another might flee and be safe until his cause was

tried. And in the trial of such persons he introduced the distinction between

manslaughter and death by misadventure, allowing the avenger of blood to put the

offender to death in the former case, but not in the latter. (Numbers 35:16-25.)

Mercy and truth thus went together in the legislation.


·        TRUTH The primary truth is the sacredness of man’s life. In rude times,

            where it is everywhere “a word and a blow,” very severe laws were

            necessary, if human life was not to be continually sacrificed; and so

            manslaughter was placed on a par with murder, made a capital offense; the

            sudden angry blow which caused death, though death might not have been

            intended, was to receive as its due punishment death at the hands of the

            avenger of blood.”


·        MERCY. The “avenger of blood” was not allowed to be judge in his

            own cause. Cases of unpremeditated homicide were to go before the

            judges, who were to decide whether the death was intentional or by

            mischance. Mercy was to be shown to the man who had blood on his hands

            through accident. He was to be safe within the walls of the “city of refuge.”

            Cities of refuge were multiplied, that one might be always within easy

            reach. Legislation should always seek to combine mercy with justice.

            Draconian enactments defeat their own purpose, since over-severe laws are

            sure not to be carried out. The moral sense revolts against them. Thus,

            when in our own country forgery was a capital offense, juries could not be

            got to convict of forgery. Laws should be in accordance with the

            conscience of the community, or they will cease to command respect.

            Good men will infringe them; and even courts will be slow to enforce

            obedience when they are infringed. Wise legislators will ever aim at

            embodying in the law the judgments of the more advanced conscience, and

            making it thus an instrument’ for elevating the moral sentiments of the




                                    OTHER CAPITAL OFFENSES


The unsystematic character of the arrangement in this chapter is remarkably shown by this

interruption of the consideration of different sorts of homicide, in order to introduce offenses

of quite a different character, and those not very closely allied to each other — e.g.,


Ø      Striking a parent;

Ø      Kidnapping;

Ø       Cursing a parent.




vs. 15-17 – “And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to

death.” - To “smite” here is simply to “strike” — to offer the indignity of a blow —

not to kill, which had already been made capital (v.12), not in the case of parents only,

but in every case. The severity of the law is very remarkable, and strongly emphasizes

the dignity and authority of parents.  And he that stealeth a man, (kidnapping) We

may gather from Deuteronomy 24:7, that the Mosaic law was especially leveled against

this form of the crime, though the words of the present passage are general, and forbid

the crime altogether – “and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely

be put to death.  And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put

to death.”  Blasphemy against God, and imprecations upon parents, were the only two

sins of the tongue which the law expressly required to be punished with death

(Leviticus 24:16). In later times analogy was held to require that “cursing the ruler of

the people” (ch. 22:28) should be visited with the same penalty (II Samuel 19:22;

I Kings 2:8-9, 46). The severity of the sentence indicates that in God’ s sight such sins

are of the deepest dye.  The command to honor father and mother (ch. 20:12), which is

enough for the conscience, and which, if obeyed, would render all further laws upon the

subject unnecessary, is here reinforced by two important enactments, intended to restrain

those who do not scruple to disobey mere moral laws. The penalty of death is affixed to

two crimes:


  • SMITING A PARENT. When it is considered that our parents represent

            God to us, that they are in a real sense authors of our being, that they

            protect and sustain us for years during which we could do nothing for

            ourselves, and that nature has implanted in our minds an instinctive

            reverence for them, the punishment of parent-strikers by death will not

            seem strange or excessive. A son must have become very hardened in guilt,

            very reckless, very heartless, very brutal, who can bring himself to lift a

            hand against a father, not to say a mother. There is as much moral guilt in a

            light blow dealt to one whom we are bound to love, honor, and protect

            from hurt, as in the utmost violence done to a stranger. However,

            according to the Talmud, it was not every light blow that was actually

            punished with death, but only a blow which caused a wound; and, of

            course, the punishment was only inflicted upon the complaint of the party

            aggrieved, who would be unlikely to take proceedings, unless the assault

            was of grave character. Probably the law had very seldom to be enforced.

            What it did was to invest parents with a sacred and awful character in their

            children’ s eyes, and to induce them to submit to chastisement without



  • CURSING A PARENT. To curse a parent is almost as unnatural as to

            strike one. All cursing is unsuitable to such a being as man so full of

            faults himself, so liable to misjudge the character and conduct of others;

            but to curse those to whom we owe our existence is simply horrible. The

            sin is akin to blasphemy, and is awarded the same punishment. At the

            present day, when the Mosaic law is no longer in force, and when on this

            point no echoes of the Mosaic legislation are to be traced in existing codes,

            it is specially incumbent on conscientious persons to observe the spirit of

            the Mosaic enactments, and (as it were) make a Christian use of them.


ü      “Smite not a parent,” said the law, “or die the death.” “Grieve not a

            parent” is the Christian paraphrase. “Grieve him not by disobedience, by

            idleness, by extravagance, by misconduct of any kind. Do not discredit his

            bringing up by misbehaviour. Do not stab his heart by ingratitude. Do not

            wither up his nature by unkindness.” A child may easily, without lifting a

            finger, “bring down the grey hairs” of his father “with sorrow to the

            grave.” (Genesis 42:38) - He may “smite” him in half-a-dozen ways

            without touching him. Let Christian men beware of such “smiting” of their        

            parents, and dread the “eternal death” which may follow in the place of

            Moses’ temporal death.


ü      “Curse not a parent,” said the law again. We do not now, unless we

                        part with religion altogether, curse any one. But we too often break

                        the spirit of this law, notwithstanding. We speak slightingly of our

                        parents; we join in disrespectful comments on their manners or

                        behavior; we use language to them, face to face, which is wanting in                              

                        reverence and unsuitable. If we would act in the spirit of the law,

                        curse not a parent,” we must avoid all disrespectful words, all                                              

                        disrespectful thoughts towards them or concerning them; we must

                        give them the honor due to parents; we must seriously consider their                             

                        counsels, and as a general rule follow their advice. As temporal death

                        was awarded to those who “cursed” parents by the Jewish law                                               

                        (v.17), so eternal death will be the portion of such as are

                        determinately “disobedient to parents” under the Christian



  • KIDNAPPING.  To steal the purse of a man is a trivial crime; to filch his

      good name is a serious one; but the worst robbery of all is to steal his person.   

      Civilized, refined, polished, intellectual men, happy in the enjoyment of

      freedom, wealth, honor, domestic happiness, have gone to sleep in comfort,      

      peace, and fancied security, to wake up in the grip of lawless man-stealers, who

            have bound them and carried them into a hopeless captivity, far from any

            relative or friend, to become familiar with every sort of ill-usage and

            indignity.  Death was certainly a punishment not one whit too severe for this                  

            atrocious crime, by which the happiest of the human race might become

            suddenly one of the most wretched.



                                                SEVERE ASSAULT


Assault was punishable by the law in two ways. Ordinarily, the rule was that of strict

retaliation‘ Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for

burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (vs. 24-25; compare Leviticus 24:20,

and Deuteronomy 19:21). But where the assault was severe, causing a man to take to

his bed, and call in the physician’s aid, something more was needed. The Rabbinical

commentators tell us that in this case he was arrested, and sent to prison until it was

ascertained whether the person hurt would die or no. If he died, the man was tried

for murder; if he recovered, a fine was imposed. This was fixed at such a sum as

would at once compensate the injured man for his loss of time and defray the

expense of his cure. A similar principle is adopted under our own law in many cases

of civil action.


vs. 18-19 – “And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or

with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed:  If he rise again, and walk

abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for

the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.”  One way of

atoning for wrong is to seek in every way in our power to undo the mischief we have

caused. This, alas! cannot always be accomplished. Not always is “thorough healing”

whether bodily, mental, or moral — possible. So far as it is possible we are bound

to attempt it.



                                    HOMICIDE OF SLAVES


The Mosaic legislation must be regarded as having greatly ameliorated the condition

of the native slave population. Hebrew bondmen it placed nearly upon a par with hired

servants (Leviticus 25:40); foreign slaves, whether prisoners taken in war, or persons

bought in the market, it protected to a very great extent.  By the law given in vs. 26-27,

it largely controlled the brutality of masters, who had to emancipate their slaves if they

did them any serious injury. By the law laid down in v. 20, it gave their lives the same

protection, or nearly the same, as the lives of freemen. “Smiting” was allowed as a

discipline, without which slavery cannot exist; but such smiting as resulted in death

was, as a general rule, punishable like any other homicide. The only exception was,

if the slave did not die for some days (v. 21). In that case the master was considered

not to have intended the slave’s death, and to be sufficiently punished by the loss of

his property.


vs. 20-21 – “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die

under his hand; he shall be surely punished.  Notwithstanding, if he continue a

day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.”





Women in all countries are apt to interfere in quarrels of men, and run the risk of

suffering injuries which proceed from accident rather than design, one such

injury being of a peculiar character, to which there is nothing correspondent among

the injuries which may be done to man. This is abortion, or miscarriage. The Mosaic

legislation sought to protect pregnant women from suffering this injury by providing,

first, that if death resulted the offender should suffer death (v. 23); and, secondly, that

if there were no further ill-result than the miscarriage itself, still a fine should be paid,

to be assessed by the husband of the injured woman with the consent of the judges

(v. 22). The mention of “life for life,” in v. 23, is followed by an enunciation of the

general “law of retaliation,” applied here (it would seem) to the special case in hand,

but elsewhere (Leviticus 24:19-20) extended so as to be a fundamental law, applicable

to all cases of personal injury.


vs. 22-25 – “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child” – a chance hurt is clearly

intended, not one done on purpose – “so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no

mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband

will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.  And if any mischief

follow, then thou shalt give life for life,  Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for

hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

At an early age, in every society, the law of retaliation has given way to the law

of pecuniary compensation, even among the Hebrews.  (Compare Christ’s

teaching – Matthew 5:38-43). The principle here enunciated is that of the jus talionis.

Stripped of its concrete form, it is simply the assertion of the dictate of justice, that

when a wrong has been done to anyone, and through him to society, an adequate

compensation ought to be rendered. So rendered, it is the principle underlying every

system of criminal jurisprudence. We need not suppose that (in Jewish society) it

was ever literally acted upon. Commutations of various kinds would be admitted

(cf. v. 30). As a rule for courts of justice, therefore, this principle must remain. But

error arises when this rule, intended for the regulation of public justice, is transferred

into private life, and is applied there to sanction the spirit of revenge. This is to pervert

it from its proper purpose. So far from sanctioning private retaliation, the object of this

aw is to set limits to the passion for revenge, by taking the right to avenge out of the

hands of private individuals altogether, and committing it to public officers. In

contrast with the retaliatory disposition, our Lord inculcates on His disciples a

forbearing and forgiving spirit; a spirit which seeks to overcome by love; a spirit,

even, which is willing to forego legal rights, whenever by doing so, it can promote

the good of a fellow man.



                                    ASSAULTS ON SLAVES


The general law of retaliation was not made to extend to slaves. For ordinary blows

the slave was not thought entitled to compensation, any more than the child. They

were natural incidents of his condition. In extremer cases, where he was permanently

injured in an organ or a member, he was, however, considered to have ground of

complaint and to deserve a recompense. But for him to revenge himself upon his

master by inflicting the same on him was not to be thought of. It would have put the

slave into a false position, have led to his prolonged ill-treatment, and have been an

undue degradation of the master.  Therefore, compulsory emancipation was made

the penalty of all such aggravated assaults, even the slightest (v. 27).


vs. 26-27 – “And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid,

that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.  And if he smite out

his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for

his tooth’s sake.”  The “eye” seems to be selected as the most precious of our

organs, the “tooth” as that the loss of which is of least consequence. The principle

was that any permanent loss of any part of his frame entitled the slave to his liberty.

A very considerable check must have been put on the brutality of masters by this






For the purpose of inculcating as strongly as possible the principle of the sanctity

of human life, the legislator notices the case where mortal injury is done to a person

by a domesticated animal. The ox is taken as the example, being the animal most likely

to inflict such an injury. In accordance with the declaration already made to Noah (Genesis

9:6), it is laid down that the destructive beast must be killed. Further, to mark the abhorrence

in which murder ought to be held, the provision is made, that none of the creature’s flesh

must be eaten. The question then arises, is the owner to suffer any punishment? This is

answered in the way that natural equity points out — “If he had reason to know the

savage temper of the animal, he is to he held responsible; if otherwise, he is to go

 free.”   In the former case, the Hebrew law assigned a higher degree of responsibility

than accords with modern notions; but practically the result was not very different.

The neglectful Hebrew owner was held to have been guilty of a capital offence, but

was allowed to “redeem his life” by a fine. His modern counterpart would be held

to have been guilty simply of laches or neglect of duty, and would be punished by fine

or imprisonment


vs. 28-32 – “If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be

surely stoned” - He shall suffer the same death that would have been the portion of a

human murderer –  “and his flesh shall not be eaten” - The animal was regarded as

accursed, and therefore, as a matter of course, no Hebrew might eat of it. According to

the Rabbinical commentators, it was not even lawful to sell the carcass to Gentiles.

 but the owner of the ox shall be quit.  But if the ox were wont to push with his

horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept

him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and

his owner also shall be put to death.  If there be laid on him a sum of money, then

he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.  Whether he

have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it

be done unto him.  If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant” – (the

same sacredness was made to attach to tthe life of the slave as of the freeman) - he

shall  give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.”





From the consideration of injuries to the person, the legislator proceeds to treat of

injuries to property, and, as he has been speaking of cattle under the one head,

places cattle in the fore-front of the other. In this chapter two enactments only are

made — one providing compensation in the case of a man’s cattle being killed by

falling into the pit, or well, of a neighbor (vs. 33-34); and the other making provision

for the case of one man’s cattle killing the cattle of another (vs. 35-36)


vs. 33-36 – “And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not

cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good,

and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.  And if

one man’s ox hurt another’s, that he die; then they shall sell the live ox, and

divide the money of it; and the dead ox also they shall divide.  Or if it be known

that the ox hath used to push in time past, and his owner hath not kept him in;

he shall surely pay ox for ox; and the dead shall be his own.”   Sins of omission

are thought lightly of by most men; but God holds us answerable for them, as much as

for sins of commission. The Psalmist defines the wicked man as one who neglects to

set himself in any good way.” (Psalm 36:4) - The neglect of the Israelites to cover

their wells, or keep their cattle from goring others was to be heavily punished. Neglect

and carelessness are culpable:



            MALICE AND EVIL INTENT. Carelessness and neglect of precautions

            may set a town on fire and burn hundreds in their beds. Or it may spread a

            loathsome and dangerous disease through a whole district. Or it may

            destroy the cattle of a whole county. Or it may allow moral evil to have

            free course, until an entire nation is sunk in corruption.   (Is this not

            what is happening in the USA today – CY – 2010)  - Or, again, it may

            endanger our own lives, or destroy our souls. It is a question whether more

            evil does not actually result from carelessness than from deliberate intent.

            Youth is naturally careless. Desultory habits intensify carelessness. A

            deficient sense of the seriousness of life encourages and fosters it.

            Advanced civilization, with its foppishness and superciliousness, develops

            its growth. The present age asks, “Is anything worth caring about?”and

            is deaf to the Prophet’ s words, “Tremble and be troubled, ye careless

            ones (Isaiah 32:11).





      from the lower animals chiefly in the possession of reason; and it is an essential  

      part of human reason to look to the future, to forecast results, and calculate the

      balance of ultimate advantage and disadvantage. We know instinctively that our            

      happiness depends on our actions; and it is therefore wholly unreasonable to be            

      careless about how we act. If we have faculties which we might use and refuse to          

      use them, God will be righteous to punish us for despising His gifts.




      “I will send a fire among them that dwell carelessly,….and they shall know

      that I am the Lord” –  said the Lord by Ezekiel (ch. 39:6). “Rise up, ye

      women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto      

      my speech; many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women,”       

      are God’ s words by Isaiah – (ch. 32:9-10). “Go to the ant, thou sluggard,”            

      exclaims the wise man, “consider her ways and be wise.” (Proverbs 6:6)

      And again “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established –

      (– “keep thy heart with diligence — remove thy feet from evil.” (Proverbs           

      4:23,26-27) A careful cautious walk through the dangers and difficulties of

            life is everywhere enjoined upon us in the Scriptures; and we are plainly

            disobedient if we are careless.




"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."


This material can be found at: