Torah Pearls #18 – Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18)

Torah Pearls Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1-24:18, commandments, Torah Pearls, torah portion, Nehemia Gordon, torah pearls, mount sinaiIn this episode of The Original Torah Pearls, Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18), we tackle the Biblical issue of slavery and then move on to issues of debt, abortion, and end with a discussion about the process of the revelation of Scripture. I look forward to reading your comments!

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Torah Pearls #18 – Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18)

You are listening to The Original Torah Pearls with Nehemia Gordon, Keith Johnson, and Jono Vandor. Thank you for supporting Nehemia Gordon's Makor Hebrew Foundation. Learn more at NehemiasWall.com.

Jono: It is time for the Pearls from the Torah Portion with Keith Johnson in Charlotte, and the caffeinated Karaite Nehemia Gordon in Jerusalem. Welcome back, my friends.

Nehemia: Oh, welcome back! That's the energy drink speaking.

Keith: Yes.

Jono: Yes, it is, isn’t it? Oh, deary me. Well, I just want to say g'day to Jerry and Owen listening in British Columbia, Canada, Thomas in Ohio, Gale, sorry, Gayle in Georgia, and Rebecca in Washington, Deb in Israel and Morgan in Kansas, and everybody listening wherever you may be around the world. Fellows, who have we got to say g'day to?

Nehemia: Hey. I’m doing a shout-out to Carol the Wandering Jew on Facebook, who shared the program. Keep sharing!

Keith: I just want to say a shout-out to all of my friends generally, but specifically, I want to thank those in Tool, Texas and Big Sandy, Don and Carole that are listening, and other friends from Tool, Texas. You guys are awesome for listening to Torah Pearls and also sharing the information.

Jono: G'day to everyone in Tool, Texas, and thank you for your company. Today, we are in Mishpatim, Exodus 21, verse 1 to 24:18, and it begins like this, "These are the judgments which you shall set before them: If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then he shall go out with his wife. And if his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself." Now, I’ve got to stop there. I have to stop there because reading that seems to me like you can breed servants?

Nehemia: Well, we can't understand this particular passage unless we…there's actually two other passages in the Torah, one in Leviticus 25, verses 39 to 55, and the other Deuteronomy 16, verses 12 to 18. And then the whole issue is revisited in Jeremiah 34:8-22. So really we have three passages in the Torah, and this fourth one in Jeremiah. To get the full picture we need to read all of them together. This, I think, is an important principle in general in the Torah, that when we look at commandments, there’ll be a commandment that’s given in Exodus and then repeated in Deuteronomy, and sometimes it’ll be repeated twice, once in Leviticus and then a third time in Exodus, Leviticus, and then Deuteronomy, and sometimes also Numbers. So I think it's important for these commandments to look at all of the different passages that talk about them. It’s very often presented from different perspectives and different little pieces of information are given. So, are we really going to go into this topic of slavery?

Jono: Oh, my goodness. I mean, we -

Nehemia: Talk about slaves and talk about this? Because we could really spend the entire hour just talking about this.

Jono: We really could.

Nehemia: I want to briefly say, briefly, what we have here in Leviticus, and we should save this for when we get to Leviticus, but just very briefly, it talks about Leviticus 25, verses 39 to 55. There it very clearly talks about how you really can't mistreat your Hebrew servant. And let me just use the word, if I’m allowed to use this, because “servant” is a euphemism. Really, the word used in Hebrew is “eved,” which is “slave.”

Jono: Slave.

Nehemia: So you can't mistreat your Hebrew slave. Essentially, the Hebrew slave takes on the role of what we call in English, at least, the indentured servant. He works for six years and in the seventh year, he goes free. And then it says in verse 39 of Leviticus 25, “When your brother becomes poor with you and is sold to you, do not work him the work of a slave.” It actually says that. It says, “He should be like a hired worker or a foreign resident with you. And he shall serve you, he shall work for you, until the year of the Jubilee.” This is significant because, in this passage in Exodus, it talks about if he decides to stay with you, he’ll stay with you, it says forever, in verse 6.

Jono: True. Yeah.

Nehemia: I think, actually, the verse numbers are different in your English. I’m looking at the Hebrew, it might be verse 5 or 7. It says, “and he will serve you forever.” And then “forever” is defined in Leviticus 25 as up until the Jubilee year, which is a maximum of 49 years, and the 50th he goes free. You can understand why it says forever; you know, the average lifespan back then, probably, was 40 or 50 years. Actually, the average lifespan was much less, but people did live into their 40s and 50s.

Jono: So it’s certainly the majority of his lifespan, right?

Nehemia: So that is, for all intents and purposes, forever.

Jono: Yeah.

Nehemia: It's the bulk of his lifetime, unless you happen to be sold in the 45th year, or something, then it's only a few years. So, in any event, what it’s establishing is, normally he’ll work for 6 years then go out in the seventh. That, in itself, was revolutionary because, normally in the ancient world, and in some countries to this day, slavery is forever. Really, forever, for generation after generation.

And even this family that he’s given, this wife that he’s given by the master, who then breeds children, they only serve until the Jubilee year. So he has to, if he decides to leave the household of his master, then he leaves them behind until that 50th year. But really, this is a revolutionary system compared to what existed in the ancient world, and like I said, it still exists in some countries today in the Islamic world, where slavery is generation after generation. It’s based on what tribe you're from, and if you're from that tribe you're just a slave to the Arab-Muslims. And you know that's actually how it exists in some of the African countries.

So here it's saying that in Leviticus 25, he says, "The reason for this is that I took my people out of slavery and they're my servants, so they should not be slaves of any human being because they belong to me, and I don't want them to be treated like slaves.” So, I think, that in itself is revolutionary, and really, I think, is the focus of this passage, of saying that the system that existed, and still exists in some countries today, that's not going to be legitimate in the Torah world.

Now, one last point, and I’ll let Keith chime in here, which is that we look down on this passage, and a lot of people will look down on this passage and say, well, the Bible has slavery, it's so backward, it's so primitive. And it's interesting when we look at the passage in Genesis, where the Egyptians found out that they were going to have to pay 20% of their annual income to Pharaoh, and they said, "We're slaves to Pharaoh." And I read that and I say, Oh, the days of Pharaonic slavery where we only had to pay 20% to the sovereign.

In addition to that, here's another little point for the Americans to consider, and I guess it doesn't really apply to Australia, which is that, I believe it’s, and Keith can correct me, what is it - the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in the United States? And if you read that amendment to the US Constitution, it doesn't completely abolish slavery, it only abolishes slavery “except for as a punishment.” And so by American law, all of those men who are in prison are, by law, by the Constitution, are slaves. So I would challenge those in the United States, who, I believe, if I’m not mistaken, have, if not the highest, one of the highest populations of prison inmates in the world…

Jono: Yeah.

Nehemia: …what that means is slaves, so just think about that. And that's not for six years and you go out free on the seventh, it's often for life.

Keith: Well, it's interesting, Jono, I’m actually glad we slowed down too, because for me, when I read, you know, the Torah Pearls has just been a life-changing thing for me. Because it's finally a chance to share some of the private studies, some of the thoughts that I've had as I've read through the Bible, both reading in English as a Pastor, and then also now reading it as a student, and I’m trying to read it for myself, both in Hebrew and in English.

It's interesting, you know, oftentimes I can come to a passage and say, well, you know, in the Hebrew it says this or whatever. But as an African-American person, when I read this, it’s one of those deals where I kind of get a little uncomfortable. As Nehemia said, we could kind of tiptoe around the tulips and say ‘servant,” but it’s ‘slave’. And so when you say slave, I think American slavery, and you know, I don't think about this. What was so amazing to me, as I was reading this portion, is I started to read it based on the fact of what it is that we just read.

Now, this might sound really obvious. Nehemia’s like, “it’s obvious that that’s what you do,” but what would be obvious would be to set this in context. So be a person who's out in the desert, and you just came out of 400 years of slavery, legitimate slavery. It wasn't a matter of 7 years, it wasn't a matter of 49 years, it was a matter of legitimate slavery, where who knows how far the taskmasters went and what they did. So, when I read this passage for the first time in my life, reading this passage, really putting it in context, not wanting to rush through it, because I'll be honest with you, when I've done Torah reading before in personal study, I'd get to a passage like this and all I could think about is my own ancestry and want to rush through it.

Now, I slowed down and actually read it from the context of these people that had just been in slavery. They come out and he says "Look, I know where your mindset is. I know what your thoughts are. I know you're already dealing with this. So let's set it up." And the first thing he says is, "If you buy." Now, that might seem like a really obvious thing, but to me, when I read that, I say, OK, let me not think of it the way that I have always heard of it, let me think of it in terms of, someone is in the context of having been in slavery for 400 years, this is what they've done, they come out and they hear the voice of God, and this God, now, is going to tell you, "Here's how I deal with my people."

Nehemia did a great job of bringing these other passages, which have always helped in terms of bringing balance. But there's nothing easy about this thought that there are going to be these people that are going to give themselves over through the purchase of another brother of their services. And in having those services, the fact that God doesn't tiptoe around the tulips, he says, “Now, if this happens, here's how you have to treat them.” It just kind of changed my view. And I want to say, now that I put it in context, it really changes things for me. So I appreciate those other passages, but if I just read this, just in context, it really sends a different message to me now.

Nehemia: I want to say something extremely controversial that may need to be edited out, which is, and here I actually looked up on the internet, and I found the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which says, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

And my challenge and thought to consider is, and I don't actually know the answer here, but I really wonder if there are more black men today enslaved in the United States under this rule of the Constitution than there were in 1864 when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Jono: That’s interesting.

Nehemia: And even if it's not more. I happen to know it's in the millions.

Jono: Really?

Nehemia: Which is a staggering number - that there are millions who are, as a punishment, have been oppressed into slavery. And you might say, oh, well, they deserve it, but we all know, maybe some people will say they don't know, but if you look at the conviction rates of white people in the United States versus African-Americans, you’ll see that this is slavery through the backdoor.

There, I said that. You may need to edit that out, I know it's controversial, but I've said it. Two real quick points are that, in the Torah there's two ways to get sold into slavery. One is if you are a criminal who can't pay restitution, specifically from theft, and we're going to read that later in the chapter, or in the Torah portion. And the second way to get sold into slavery, and this was probably the primary way, is you voluntarily sell yourself into slavery.

Keith: Right.

Jono: Yeah.

Keith: Right.

Nehemia: Now, there is no system in the Torah where people wait out hiding in the forest and kidnap people and sell them into slavery. That does not exist. Keith mentioned to me how, when he was in some African country, maybe Ghana, he went to the place where they used to bring the slaves before shipping them off to the United States, or the Colonies at the time, and that was the Castle, I believe, in Ghana, is that right Keith? Maybe you can tell people about that.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: I compare that to the system in the Torah where people said, “Look, I’m not making it, times are tough. I’m going to sell myself for six years. I’m going to sign a contract of indentured servitude,” which used to exist also in the American Colonies under that title and rubric. But this idea of going and forcing people into slavery, who did absolutely nothing wrong and are completely innocent, that is actually against the Torah. That’s not permissible whatsoever.

Keith: Right. And again, I think the point, Jono, and I’m glad we took the time to slow down a little bit, I think the point is that it's so easy to hear a word or a concept and sort of take it out of context. And putting it in context, I would say certainly, I’m sure for those people that did have to sell themselves into slavery, they wish they hadn't. Who knows, maybe many of them would have wished they could have been the one that could have bought instead of sold.

But what I appreciate about the passage is that Yehovah doesn't say, "Let's just act like slavery never happened, let's just only deal with the nice things, let's just deal with the easy things." And we're going to find, as we go through the Torah, one of the things I so much appreciate about it, slowing down and going through it, is that we can lean into this. This is the creator of the universe, this is our Heavenly Father who's looking at human affairs and saying, “Within the context of human affairs, here's how you deal with one another." I think it's really important that we approach it that way. That we not say, "OK, these are the tough parts, let's rush over them”. Let's go ahead and have the discussion about slavery.

Jono: Yep.

Keith: We got a guy in Australia, and I think your whole island there, at one point, some people think that people were sent there as prisoners, in some parts of Australia, isn't that right?

Jono: Absolutely correct, it was a penal colony for many years when the British settlers first came here. That’s right.

Keith: Absolutely. And then here I am-

Nehemiah: Do you realize what that means? That, it means -

Keith: Nehemia I’m in the middle of my -

Nehemiah: Bevakasha. Alright.

Keith: Ma zeh? Ani lo mevin. No, but my point is, it would be easy for us with a topic like this, let's not talk about this, you know, Jono’s got a history in Australia regarding that. And let's not talk about this, Keith has his generations, he can't shake the family tree, the only folks that fall out for him are people who he has no idea what their connection is because they were forcibly brought over from Africa into the United States, and it wasn’t that many years ago, in context, where he would have been born into a house where there was a slave master and he had no rights, no abilities, no discussions.

People would use the Bible to say, “See, look at God…God approves this as far as me having you in slavery”. We could have stayed away from that. And Nehemiah's background, guess what, ladies and gentlemen, if it's true that Nehemia’s got a bloodline that goes all the way back to, whenever it might have been, that would include bloodlines into groups of people who were slaves.

So here we are together, the three of us, with this sort of a hot topic. It's a difficult one, in fact, for me. But I think the Torah brings that into a different context. So I just want to say, again, it's important that we go ahead and have these conversations. We’re going to talk about women, how women are dealt with, and men, and marriage, and it's all very powerful stuff.

Nehemiah: I do think it’s interesting that you're saying that all three of us are descended, at one point of history, some of us more recently than others, but we’re all descended from people in slavery.

Keith: Look, we’ve all come from a slave, yes.

Nehemia: Anyway, so I just want to bring one more passage, which, I know I said one last thing, but Jeremiah 34. One last thing, Jeremiah 34. The entire chapter really focuses the destruction of the Temple, and then the reason the Temple would be destroyed. And the reason the Temple would be destroyed is that the people of the Kingdom of Judah under King Zedekiah, who was the last king, made a covenant, and they swore that they would free their slaves and end slavery, once and for all.

Then they reneged on that covenant. They went back on it and took the slaves back into bondage. Jeremiah says, "because of that, the Temple is to be destroyed." Which is amazing because one of the two most significant, pivotal events in history for me as a Jew is the destruction of the First Temple, which is related to the first exile, and the destruction of the Second Temple, which led to the second exile. And the reason the prophet gives for the destruction of the First Temple is the slavery of a Jew enslaving his fellow Jew.

Verse 15 is a really powerful verse. It says, “And you returned this day, and you did that which was right in my eyes, calling freedom,” or liberty, “each man and his fellow and you made a covenant before me in the house which my name is called upon it." So they went to the house of the Temple, the house of Yehovah, and they made a covenant there saying they would free their slaves once and for all, and they swore.

In previous sessions, we've been talking about swearing. So they swore in the name of Yehovah, making a covenant in the place Yehovah's name is called upon. They said they would free their slaves, and then they went and took the slaves back. Because of that, the Temple was destroyed. And we asked the question, "Well, how does this apply today? We just had this whole long discussion about slavery; does this really apply today?"

And I think Jeremiah is giving us the application for today, that the people of Israel made this covenant with Yehovah that they would henceforth free the slaves, and we really can't go back on that. That's something that I believe is even binding today. Later in the chapter it says, “the covenant where they walked between the pieces,” that’s the animals that they split in half, it’s the same thing that Abraham did when he made a covenant with the creator of the universe. That's what the Jews, the Israelites, did in the time of King Zedekiah, and I think we need to stand by that covenant even today.

So, I’d say when the Messiah comes, I don't believe we’re going to have slavery. I think we are going to be calling freedom, proclaiming freedom, each man with his fellow, and we will all be the servants of the living God, and not enslaving each other.

Jono: Brilliant.

Nehemia: And thus ends our time. No. [laughter]

Jono: Yeah, you’ve been listening to Truth2U. And I just want to take the opportunity to say that may Jonathan Pollard be returned to Israel soon.

Nehemia: Amen.

Jono: So verse 5, speaking of cutting covenants, “But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. And he shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.” As you mentioned, Nehemia. Now, let me just clarify, is he just piercing his ear or is he nailing the poor guy to a door?

Nehemia: Well, no, the word is “to drill,” he’s drilling in his ear, he's, you know, piercing his ear, essentially, drilling it. What I think is really interesting here is you read, "He shall bring him to the judges." Is that what you have in your Bible, Keith, “He shall bring him to the judges”?

Keith: Yes. “Bring him before the judges,” yes.

Nehemiah: And what is the word in Hebrew, the word in Hebrew that they translate here as “judges.”? And I think that's a correct translation in the context, but the word literally in Hebrew is 'Ha-Elohim,' like literally…

Jono: Oh, the gods.

Nehemia: You could translate it as “the gods,” and that's a significant point; that the word “Elohim,” which we translate correctly as “God,” sometimes it means “judges.” The New Revised Standard version, by the way, has “then his master shall bring him before God.” They translate it using the more common translation of that word.

Jono: Yeah.

Nehemia: But there's a verse later in the passage where it talks about not cursing Elohim, and in the context, it's very clearly talking about judges, not about God. And there's another passage, I believe it's maybe in chapter 22, where it talks about the Elohim convicting, and it says, “they will convict,” or they will rule to be guilty. It’s in chapter 22, in the Hebrew it’s verse 8, I believe in English it's verse 9, it says, "That which the judges convict," and the Hebrew is, "That which they convict."

Keith: Right.

Nehemia: And there, obviously, where Elohim is plural, it is referring to judges, because every time it talks about the God of Israel, Elohim is always singular. When the Philistines speak about the God of Israel, like in the book of Samuel, all of a sudden they start speaking about “they.” But whenever Israelites speak about the God of Israel, it's always “He.”

Jono: Now, if I remember correctly…

Nehemia: And so when it says “they,” it’s speaking about judges.

Jono: We see a similar usage in Psalm 82, is that correct?

Nehemia: I would need to look that up, which verse are we looking at there?

Jono: Pretty much the chapter, it's very short, “God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods.” Now, Keith, look there's an asterisk. I've got an asterisk there, let me go down and see what it says. Oh, look, it says, "Hebrew, ‘Elohim,’ mighty ones; that is, the judges." It also has the same asterisk in verse 6, “I said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.’” Again, it has a little asterisk, it says “In Hebrew, ‘Elohim,’ mighty ones; that is, the judges.”

Nehemia: Yeah. There, obviously, it has the sense of judges, or possibly even angels, which are also sometimes called Elohim.

Jono: OK. There’s some food for thought. But they're not nailing the poor guy to the door, they're just piercing his ear at the door, is that it?

Nehemia: Right.

Jono: OK. Does that have any sort of significance in regards to the doorpost of Passover, or anything like that?

Nehemia: No.

Jono: OK. There you go. “And if a man…”

Keith: I used this verse in my early stages of coming back from Israel, my sons wanted to get their ears pierced. I was like, "OK, look, you want to get your ears pierced, here's the age you can do it. If you get your ears pierced at the age that you can do it, I just want you to know you're a slave.”

Jono: That’s what it means.

Nehemia: Slave to fashion.

Keith: So, I was able to have two of them not do it, and one of them that did it. In the end, he had to wait till he was 18 years old, and now, he doesn't have it at all. But I always had a problem with that kind of misinterpretation.

Jono: Personally, I never have and I’m not a fan, but each to their own. “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave.”

Nehemia: It doesn't say in Hebrew “female slave,” I got to stop you there.

Jono: Oh. OK.

Nehemia: So, it says “ammah,” and “ammah” isn’t exactly a female slave. They’ll sometimes translate that as “servant,” but in this context, it’s a sort of a wife who doesn't have the full rights of a wife, and more specifically, if you look at how an ammah is described throughout the Torah, throughout Scripture, you’ll find out that her children don't inherit along with the children of the other wives.

Jono: Are we talking like a concubine here?

Nehemia: Some people would translate it as a concubine, yeah, but it's a type of marriage, it's not just a one-night stand with the woman. And it defines her rights here, actually. In verse 10, it says, "If he takes another for him, three things he will not diminish." And maybe you can read it in your translation?

Jono: Oh, well, I’ve got, let's see here, “If he takes another wife,” wife in italics, so there’s a recognition of some sort of covenant there, “he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marital rights.” There it is.

Nehemiah: Right. And look, I understand there’s some children listening to this and so that's why your English translator said “marital rights,” but in the Hebrew, it doesn't say “marital rights.” It's actually, and this is interesting, in the western Pagan culture, it's the woman's duty to a man, those particular rights, whereas in the Torah, it's his obligation, it’s his duty, towards her. And by the way, bear in mind this is speaking about the ammah, who is, essentially, like you said, a concubine. She’s a sort of wife, without the full rights. And the way that the Jewish sages have looked at this, and I think correctly so, is to say, well, if this is the right of a concubine, who has less rights than a full wife, then a full wife definitely has these rights as well, along with the right of inheritance for her children.

Jono: Sure. Of course.

Nehemia: And so these are actually the three duties of marriage as Jews see it, the husband is required to provide for her food, clothing, and his marital duty towards her.

Jono: Right.

Keith: OK.

Jono: There it is. “And if he does not do these, then she shall go out free, without paying money.” There we go. “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand,” that’s interesting, isn’t it? So the chap’s not hiding in the bushes, waiting to knock him off, God has delivered him into his hand, “then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.” So I guess if it's an accident, I guess, we read about somewhere in the Torah, chopping wood with an ax…

Nehemia: Right, in Leviticus.

Jono: And that the head flies off and kills someone and so that it’s an accident, in Leviticus, so he has a place to flee.

Nehemia: So here we’ve got to ask for Keith's translation of verse 13.

Jono: What do you have, Keith?

Keith: OK.

Nehemia: It doesn’t say that in Hebrew, exactly.

Keith: In 13 it says, "However, if he does not do it intentionally, but God lets it happen, he is to flee to a place I will designate." Verse 13?

Nehemia: Yeah. So you got “lets it happen,” “delivered into his hand”. What it literally says is, “He caused his hand.” It literally says, “And he that did not hunt, and God caused his hand,” meaning God did something to cause his hand to kill this other person accidentally, unintentionally without malice, without premeditation. So that person isn't to be executed, but he goes to the city of refuge.

Jono: So that person is a tool of Elohim. It was Jimmy’s time, according to God.

Keith: Right.

Jono: And so that’s what happened, right? “But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die. And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.” Someone who kidnaps, right?

Nehemia: Can we stop there for a second?

Jono: Yeah.

Nehemia: I think that's a really significant commandment. We were just talking about slavery, and how, what they used to do in Africa is, they would go and kidnap people. In the Torah, kidnapping someone is punishable by death. This isn't some minor crime, this is a capital offense. There are crimes that we have in the western world, and because I guess there are children listening, and I've been told it's going to be rated PG, I’m not going to give details, but there are crimes where one person will hold another person against their will and do things to them and essentially kidnap them for that period of time. In the Torah, that's punishable by death. That's how serious that crime is considered. Anything where you’re holding someone against their will, and literally the word here is “he who steals a person and sells him or his found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.”

Keith: So, it's interesting, again, referring back to this statement that’s sometimes made, you know, "Do you believe in the Torah? Do you believe in the Tanach?" Well, if so, you agree with our present understanding of what slavery is or what this is or what that is. And again, here is just an example, where we’re not talking about the same thing; we're talking about something different.

Jono: Sure. And in the same list as those things, once again, I mean verse 15, “strikes his mother or his father shall be put to death. And he who curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.” It goes on to say, “If men contend with each other, and one strikes another with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die, but is confined to his bed, if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted. He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed. And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two,” now, oh man. “Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.” Keith, thoughts?

Keith: Yeah, I’m not sure.

Jono: That’s hard, yeah.

Keith: Yeah.

Nehemia: I think if we look at the passage in Leviticus, not that this helps, really..

Jono: No.

Keith: No, no, I don’t think there’s any…come on, now, come on, guys, this is…

Nehemia: What?

Keith: Go ahead.

Nehemia: Well, in Leviticus 25, we had read the passage that you can't treat a Hebrew servant like a slave. And certainly, the traditional Jewish understanding of this particular commandment is that this refers to the non-Hebrew servants, the non-Hebrew slaves.

Jono: Oh, truly?

Nehemia: And those would have been people who attacked Israel and, in a war of self-defense, were then captured and taken as slaves. So those would be the people that this would apply to, and their children, I guess. So, I don’t know if that necessarily diminishes it from the liberal western point-of-view, but it definitely puts it within a context.

Jono: Well, it certainly helps to understand the verses that follow in 26 and 27. We'll get there in a second. But, “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

Nehemia: We can’t glaze over that.

Keith: No, we got to slow.

Nehemia: Verses 22 to 25.

Keith: No, we got to slow down.

Jono: Alright, now.

Nehemia: It’s a Torah Pearl.

Keith: Nehemia, just before you do that.

Keith: Just before you do that, I think the other issue here that is interesting, and we’ve now talked about it twice, is bringing before the judges. Again, one of the major differences between, as I’m reading this and my understanding historically of slavery here in the United States, there wasn't any bringing them before the judges. You were a judge unto yourself, so how I treated the slave, I just did. There wasn't anyone looking in saying, you know, the idea being, here’s how you have to treat these particular people. First of all, they didn't even consider them human. But the idea that there is someone, or some group of people, that are also looking in on the situation, I think is significant.

Nehemia: Can I read two different translations of verse 22? This is talking about two people fighting and one of them accidentally hits a pregnant woman. And then it says, this is the New King James Version, “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.” So, the New King James Version translation is, assuming that she gives birth prematurely, and the child survives, there's no harm.

Jono: That’s how I understand it, yeah.

Nehemia: Now, let's look at the NRSV, the New Revised Standard Version. “When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows…”

Jono: Interesting.

Nehemia: “…the one responsible shall be fined what the woman's husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.” So, in the New Revised Standard Version, the child died, yet there's no further damage to the mother. And, for example, the JPS, the Jewish Publication Society, has the same exact thing. It says, "One of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues." So, the baby is dead and he just has to pay, or excuse me, the unborn fetus is dead, not born, I guess, and he just has to pay a fine.

Now, which one is it? And that’s extremely significant. The way I read it in Hebrew, is that it literally says, "And if men strive, and they shall smite a pregnant woman,” and literally it says, “and her child shall go forth and there shall not be damage,” or there shall not be, and the word here, “asson,” is usually translated as “harm,” or it could even be translated as “tragedy”.

For example, when Jacob talks about them taking Benjamin down to Egypt, he says, "What if "asson" happens to him? And I go down to my grave all upset?" Clearly, in that context, it's talking about Benjamin dying. So the way I’m reading this, if you take it quite literally, the child comes out and there's no harm, the way that the New King James and other translators translated it. This is actually an ancient dispute. But the rabbis are the ones behind the JPS and those other translations that say it's a miscarriage. But if you read just what it says in the context, it doesn't say anything about a miscarriage. It's talking about the child being born without harm, and then he just pays a fine. In verse 23, "But if there will be asson,” if there will be this tragedy, if there will be this harm, "then he will give life for life.” The way I’m reading this, it's talking about the baby dying or coming out malformed in some way because of this fight these two guys are having.

Jono: Yes.

Nehemia: So the principal here, I think, is that there's this gross negligence in the presence of a pregnant woman, and there's actually a higher standard for harming a pregnant woman than for harming a regular person. Because if you accidentally harm or kill, we just read it, if you accidentally kill someone who, you didn’t lay in wait for him and it wasn't intentional, then you go to the city of refuge.

Jono: Yeah.

Nehemia: But if you accidentally kill a fetus, you're put to death. There’s life for life. So, there's actually a higher standard of responsibility for an unborn child than there is even for a born human, and that's because the unborn child has nobody to defend it. You need to be more careful in that context.

Jono: I’m really glad that you brought that up. Keith?

Keith: No, I appreciate that. Again, this whole issue of translations is so important. On the NIV, one of the things it does is give me an asterisk, and it says, "If men who are fighting hurt a pregnant woman and she give birth prematurely.” And then it goes down to B and says, “or she has a miscarriage." It really is…huh? Say that again.

Nehemia: It's a big difference, and you know, politically -

Jono: It's a huge difference, yeah.

Nehemia: Politically motivated translations...

Keith: Exactly.

Nehemia: Obviously the asterisk is there because they were afraid they would offend somebody who had a certain political agenda, and so they had to put that in the margin, even though that's not what it says in the Hebrew.

Jono: So, the implications are enormous in either direction. I’m really glad, Nehemia, that you brought that up, and I agree with you, wholeheartedly. It reminds me just today, I was looking through Facebook and someone had posted a picture of a baby, and it said, “Think of me as a tree. Pretend I’m a tree and save me." And isn’t that what it’s almost come, well, not almost, that’s what it has come down to today, and so it’s certainly sad. So, I’m glad you brought that up.

Verse 26, “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye. And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.” So going back to verse 21, it would make sense that we're talking about slaves that aren't Hebrews, because if they die it’s almost as if it’s not a big deal. But down here in 26 and 27, it says, "If you destroy their eye, you let them go free. If you knocked out a tooth, you let them go free.” This seems to be a higher level of care that’s difficult to reconcile otherwise. Is that fair?

Nehemia: Yeah, I would agree with that.

Jono: OK. Now, animals. Here we go, an ox, verse 28, “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted. But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and this has been known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner shall be put to death. If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem,” and so on and so forth.

Keith: Well, I wanted to say something. It's interesting. I used to work with State Farm Insurance as Property and Casualty Adjuster.

Jono: Oh, yeah?

Keith: We would deal with homes that were burned, stealing, theft, legal issues, animal issues, dogs that bite people. And I just think it's interesting because, in your homeowners’ policy, there's the small print, and it was always my job to find the small print so I wouldn't have to pay you. What was so interesting, when I read through this as an adjuster for an insurance company, it's really interesting because what he’s saying is, look, now, if this happens accidentally, you know, that the animal goes out and gores someone the first time it happens, but you've known that your dog has lunged at people. There are reports of your dog lunging at people. Then not only do you pay, but you're responsible for that.

I think this is amazing that he's giving these boundaries around what's happening to the very detail. If you know that your ox gores, and your ox gores, you're responsible. Now if there really was an accident, then we’ll kill the ox. But I mean, I read this as an insurance guy, and it really just covered the bases, I just have to say.

Jono: It really does. There’s not a lot of fine print here either, is there Keith?

Keith: No, it clearly covers the bases here.

Jono: Yeah. I was going to say, here in Australia there’s been a lot of talk lately about dogs that bite, dogs that maul, dogs that kill. It's the owner's responsibility that if they know that their dog is dangerous, they have to keep him on a leash, keep them chained, keep them enclosed, or whatever it may be. Otherwise, they are responsible; they go to jail.

Keith: Absolutely.

Jono: And it’s very, very similar. Nehemia?

Nehemia: I think the principle here is very clear that you are responsible for your property. If we think about the common thread here between the goring ox and the open pit, the principle here is, even if something happens passively, and it's something you haven't actively done, you are responsible for your property. Negligence is not an excuse; you're going to have to pay for it if you're negligent and don’t take precautions to prevent any kind of harm.

Think about what the application of this would be today. If you live in a city and you have a swimming pool, and you know there's children running around that swimming pool, you know, it talks here about a pit, well, if somebody falls in and is killed from that swimming pool, you're responsible for that. That's a heavy responsibility.

Jono: Yeah. I mean I don’t about the States or in Israel, but it's law here to have a perimeter fence around your pool, with childproof locks and gates.

Keith: Right.

Jono: That reminds me, of course, in Leviticus, I think it is, the commandment to have a fence or a perimeter around the roof of your house.

Nehemia: Right.

Jono: Very similar to -

Nehemia: In Deuteronomy, exactly.

Jono: Deuteronomy.

Nehemia: Yeah. And the same principle there is that, you are responsible for being proactive and preventing people from getting harmed from your property in a way that you can reasonably predict that they're going to get harmed. If you want to apply that to all kinds of other situations, for example, the heavy industries that dump poisons into our rivers and our streams, in the Torah sense they're responsible for being proactive and taking measures to prevent that damage from happening. They can't just say, "Well, you know, I didn't know somebody was going to drink the water from the river. Or eat the fish that came out of the river that I poisoned." They are responsible, Torah-wise, morally, to be proactive and prevent that damage from happening.

Jono: So similar laws apply when it comes to property and theft and things like that. I want to jump to chapter 22 verse 10. “If a man delivers…”

Nehemia: Verse?

Jono: Now, we’re in 22 verse 1.

Nehemia: No, verse 1 is really important. We can't skip verse 1.

Jono: OK. So.

Nehemia: This might be a Christian program, but we can’t…

Jono: My question about verse 1 is, why does he restore five oxen for an ox, but only four sheep for a sheep?

Nehemia: Well, so I would answer that with “kacha,” which is just "because that’s what the Torah says". But actually, in Hebrew, verse 1 is actually, I guess verse 2 in English, and that’s actually what I wanted to focus on, is verse 2, which I guess then would be through verse 4 in your English.

Jono: “If a thief is found breaking in…”

Nehemia: Which is verse 1 in the Hebrew. Yeah?

Jono: “…and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him,” that must be the thief, right? “If the sun has risen on him there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restoration; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.” Now this reminds me, and I don’t know if you guys heard about this, but I heard about it. I’m not sure where it was in the States, but a mother whose husband had very recently died, she’s in her house, she’s armed, she's got a couple of firearms.

She's on the phone with the police because there are two men wanting to break into her house, trying to find their way to get in. She's on the phone saying, "If they come in, can I shoot them?" And 911 is saying to her, "Look, you got to do what you have to do to protect your baby." They did come in and she shot the first one dead, and the second one, who was behind him got charged with manslaughter for putting themselves in that situation. I thought that was just absolutely grand.

Nehemia: Wow. Whereas in the United Kingdom, people actually go to prison, go to jail, for doing exactly what you described; defending their homes. And the principle here in the Torah, which I think is a key principle, is that the Torah is presuming that in the dark, you can't sort out if this guy is harmful or not harmful. If there's any doubt you have to defend yourself. First of all, you have to defend your property. The assumption is that this person is going to use deadly force to respond, otherwise, he wouldn't be breaking into your house. You have the right to kill him, and there are no consequences for killing him.

Now, look, if you can stop him, if you can see what's going on and you have some way of stopping him, reasonably stopping him, then you should stop him and not kill him. But if you're not sure, if you're in a situation where your life could be at risk, then you have to use deadly force and you're allowed to use deadly force to defend your property and to defend your life. I think that's a really important principle. It's a principle that, in a lot of countries in the world, is no longer the case, and you're no longer allowed to defend your person and property using deadly force. There was actually a case in Israel, where someone did that - defended his property - and he was convicted for murder. They actually passed a law after that, saying that you are allowed to use deadly force to defend your property, which is clearly the Torah principle here.

Jono: Of course.

Keith: Wow.

Jono: Good heavens. Well, what it was going to bring up was just verses 10 and 11, "If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, an animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or is driven away, no one seeing it, then an oath to Yehovah shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand to his neighbor’s goods; and the owner of it,” of the animals, of whatever it is, “shall accept that, and he shall not make it good.” How about that? So, it's questionable, it’s obviously…Keith what do you make of that?

Keith: Well, no, I think it's really interesting when we're reading and these lines come up regarding taking an oath, or coming before Yehovah Himself and bringing the matter before Him. When something like that happens, I always love to slow down and ask that question. The issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before Yehovah. In other words, it’s put to rest right there. That's how serious it is to come before Yehovah and to swear, or to make an oath. I would love to do a study just on every single time that that concept is brought up and the circumstances by which it's brought up. If we could only learn to take oaths in His name, there’d be a whole lot less sleight of hand taking place. Because in those days they understood that as He was there, and I took an oath before Him, then that was a life or death issue.

Jono: Yeah.

Keith: It wasn't something that I was just, raise your right hand and swear that you’ll lie in the court of law.

Jono: Yeah, so it's serious stuff.

Keith: Yeah.

Jono: And it says, “he shall accept it.”

Keith: Yeah, "he shall accept it.” In other words, that came before me…

Nehemia: So-

Keith: That’s it. Go ahead

Jono: Nehemia?

Nehemia: So, this is, and we probably can't spend too much time here, but I just want to really quickly point out that verses 7 through 15 in the English verse numbering system; it’s 6 to 14 in the Hebrew. This has traditionally been looked at as speaking about 4 different types of what they call watchmen.

There is the unpaid watchman, and the rabbis specifically say that’s verses 7 to 9. And there's the paid watchman, which they say is verses 10 to 13. The difference is, the unpaid watchman is, you say, "Hey, can you watch my dog for me?" "Sure, no problem." That's the unpaid watchman, verses 7 to 9. Verses 10 to 13 is the paid watchman, according to the rabbinical understanding, and that is where you say, "Hey, can you watch my dog? Here's $10 for your trouble." The thinking is that the paid watchman has a higher level of responsibility than the unpaid watchman.

Without going into too much detail, the reason they make that distinction is specifically that verse 12 seems to be talking about a different scenario than verse 8. Verse 12, and 11 in the Hebrew, says, "And if it is surely stolen from him, he shall pay the owner." But verse 8 says, so it’s verse 7 in the Hebrew which is verse 8 in English, “If the thief is not found, the owner shall approach God,” or the judges depending on how you translate it, “that he did not send his hand against the property of his fellow.” And so that's all he has to do. He has to take an oath and he's clear of it.

The assumption is that somebody stole it. We don't know who stole it, we can't prove who stole it, and he swears that he didn't steal it, and he's free of our guilt. That’s in verse 8 in the English, but verse 12 in the English says he does have to pay if somebody stole it. So there seems to be in verse 12 a higher level of responsibility, and the explanation that’s been given historically, by the rabbis at least, is that in verse 12 we're dealing with somebody who's been paid to watch it, whereas in verse 8 he's just doing a favor.

Now, is that really the explanation of why there's a difference? I’m not so sure, there are other ways of explaining it. Like I said, I won't go into too much detail, but one possible way of explaining it has to do with whether they know for sure that it was stolen, or that’s just conjecture because in verse 10 in the English, it talks about, “or if the animal was captured with no one seeing.” So, if this animal is stolen by raiders, and we don't know that it’s really stolen, but we believe it’s been stolen by raiders, then that is different than if we actually saw somebody stealing it and didn't stop it or weren't able to stop it.

So there might be different things going on here. The rabbinical explanation, like I said, is the paid versus the unpaid watchman. And then in the beginning of verse 14, it’s very clear in the verse, is the “borrower.” So, there's a difference between the watchman - it's his job to watch the animal for you - versus the person who said, "Hey, can I borrow your ox?” Or, “Can I borrow your dog?"

Then the end of verse 14, the second half, which in English is the second half of verse 15, is the renter. So, we have the watchman, paid or unpaid possibly, not clear. But then we clearly have, in verses 13 to 14, the borrower and the renter. And there's a different law, a different standard for the borrower and the renter versus the watchman, whether he's paid or unpaid.

So those are some things…there's actually an entire section in the Talmud, in the Gemara, which deals with this, which I had to study when I was a child. Bava Metzia, which goes on and on and on, in great detail, about the paid watchman and the unpaid watchman, and the borrower and the renter, and all these different scenarios. You could literally spend years studying just this one topic, but since we're running out of time, we won't do that.

Jono: We better not go years, no.

Keith: Yeah, that’s right.

Nehemia: Alright.

Keith: And that was a Torah Pearl, ladies and gentlemen.

Jono: It was a Torah pearl! Verse 16, “If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay the money according to the bride-price of virgins.” Now, that's one issue, and that's interesting, and it's followed by what seems to be a totally unrelated verse that comes out of nowhere, verse 18, “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.”

Keith: It's interesting…when I was reading through this again, it's funny because I just have this practice where I’ll read through the Torah, sometimes over short periods of time and sometimes over longer periods of time. And in light of what we're doing right now with this program, it’s just so interesting to me. Like you said, Jono, “and the next verse seems to be completely unrelated.” But when you're reading it, it's almost as if now, and we can talk a little bit about the context of these commands, these judgments, these ordinances being given, it's like the timing of when all these ordinances are given in this section, versus what we see later, I think is really interesting.

Because, in the Ten Commandments, you shall not, you shall not, you shall not. What's the connection between them? These are the important things I’m telling you right now. And then here, it's like Moses is being given these things, "Now, listen, while you’re about to go up on the mountain, and we’re going to talk about this in a second, real quick let them know, you shall not, you shall not. Now, as it pertains to this, this will happen, and this will happen." And there isn't necessarily an automatic connection between the two. But these are things that are being brought in the context now versus that which is going to be brought a little bit later. When I’m reading it, I’m reading it with a different level of urgency.

Not that these are not important commands, but the timing of these commands - it’s like the ten words - why were those ten words, those ten commandments given there? And then, what are these commands connected to those? And what are the commands that come later connected? And, what’s the entire Torah, and how is that connected to all of it? So I know that we'll talk about this more, but it's just reading it in context is kind of an interesting journey.

Jono: Indeed. Nehemia?

Nehemiah: So, often when you have a string of commandments like this, and there are a few sections like that in the Torah, very often they're connected by a principle of association, but sometimes that principle is obvious to us and sometimes it's not. To be honest, why a witch comes after a man who, what’s the peachy way of saying it?

Jono: Takes advantage of a young girl.

Nehemia: Who takes advantage of a young girl, and then is forced to marry her. So, the principle there is not entirely clear to me, that has to do with a witch. And there may just be something entirely associated, not necessarily related to the actual content.

An example of that that I absolutely love, and maybe we brought this up before, I don't remember, it’s in Deuteronomy 23, where it says "You must not bring the price of a prostitute, or the hire of a prostitute, or the price of a dog to the house of Yehovah your God for any vow." What they used to do in the Pagan world is, they would go to the male and female prostitutes, and they would pay that money to the temple, and that was their way of justifying prostitution. The Torah is saying, you must not do that, you must not bring the hire of a prostitute or the price of a dog. And “dog,” in the ancient Hebrew world, often referred to a male prostitute. So it isn’t meant to be taken literally. This does not refer to Georgia.

Then the very next verse, it says, “you must not lend to your brother on interest.” The interest of money, or literally, silver, or the interest of food, or the interest of any matter which you lend on interest, which is actually related to our passage, which mentions not lending on interest to the poor.

Now, how is lending on interest related to bringing the hire of a prostitute and the price of a dog? Well, the Hebrew word for interest is “neshech,” which means biting, literally “biting interest.” So this isn’t talking about, you know, and this is arguable, but presumably, this is not talking about if somebody in the middle-class takes out a 30-year mortgage to pay for his home. What this is talking about is somebody who is desperately poor and needs money, and you get a credit card on them and charge them interest…

Keith: 23%.

Nehemia: …that is exploitative.

Keith: No. That's what's happening right now.

Nehemia: That's neshech, that's biting interest. And so, the connection here is entirely associative between the word neshech, biting interest, and the word “kelev,” literally “dog,” but in this context, it’s referring to a male prostitute. Content-wise, they don't really have anything to do with each other, but if you were an Israelite that would be your way of remembering it. “Oh, we talked about the dog, the male prostitute, now we're talking about the biting interest because dogs bite.” So, there is the principle of association - what is the association between the man taking advantage of the woman and the…

Jono: Sorceress.

Nehemia: …and, you know, the witch? I don't know, we could come up with theories, but I don't know for sure. It's very possible that the association is maybe that sorceresses tended to be virgins, and so in somebody’s mind that then connected. I don't know, it’s possible.

Jono: Possibly, another one out of the left field in verse 19, “Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death. He who sacrifices to any god, except to Yehovah only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” It’s interesting that we read “put to death,” “stoned,” and so on and so forth, but here I've got, “utterly destroyed.”

Nehemia: Right. And the word there is “herem” in Hebrew, and “herem” doesn’t just mean he’s put to death; it means he is put to death and all of his property is burned and destroyed.

Jono: Wow.

Keith: Right.

Nehemia: So he's not just executed, his memory is obliterated from the face of the earth, essentially.

Keith: Yes, removed from our midst. Yes.

Jono: There it is. Here’s a thing that appears later in the Torah portion, “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you do afflict them in any way, and they cry to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.” That's pretty heavy, isn’t it?

Nehemia: Yeah. That's actually a key principle in the Torah, which we call in Hebrew “midda k'negged midda,” which literally means, “measure for measure.” It's the principle of reciprocal justice, that God will punish you in the way that you have sinned, or in a way that’s connected to the way you have sinned. And here, you've oppressed the poor, the widows and the orphans, those who don’t have someone to look out for them. Your children will end up being like that, as well. That's the reciprocal gesture.

Jono: Keith?

Keith: I just wanted to say that another one of these things that jumps off the page is just this idea where he says, “If you do, and they cry to me, I will hear their cry.” And again, this big, huge, amazing, and magnificent creator of the universe that hears the cry of the oppressed, that hears the cry of the widows. Again, the level of accountability in that is just mind-boggling to me.

Jono: Yeah.

Keith: You know, here's this “person” who, they would say, "We can oppress them, we don't have to worry about them. They're not important." Yet he says, “That's the cry that I will hear." So the level of accountability is pretty serious.

Jono: It's not “I might hear,” it says, “I will hear and I will act.” You were saying 23%, man, oh, man. “If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge,” and this is a similar thing to what we just read, “you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in?” I find it interesting that there’s a question there, “What will he sleep in?” He’s reasoning, it seems, with us.

Keith: Yeah.

Jono: It says, “And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.”

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: So, this is one of the most interesting passages to me in the Torah, and that's because archeologists actually uncovered this inscription. It’s on display at the Israel Museum. They uncovered it on the coast of Israel at a place called Mesad Hashavyahu. It's actually a letter, written, scribbled onto a piece of pottery by a field worker. The field worker is writing to the judge, to the magistrate, and he's saying how he owed somebody money and the guy showed up and took his garment. And he says, "Please, return my garment, I have nothing else. I don't have anything to sleep with." What's so interesting is, you can tell from the way he writes that he's obviously, you know, you compare it to, like, letters written by kings and their scribes, which have a very formal style. And this guy is kind of just rambling; he's not trained as a writer, he's not trained as somebody who speaks and writes a high level of Hebrew. He's writing from his heart. What's interesting is that he's literate, he can actually write, but he doesn't even have a piece of parchment. All he’s got is a scrap of pottery that he's writing his letter on, and he's actually somebody who is a living example of this passage, whose garment was taken away because he owed money. And he's saying, "Please, just return it to me. I have nothing else. I didn't do anything wrong. I need my garment back. It's true I owe the guy the money, but I can't pay it now."

Jono: And so, it says if he’s in a difficult circumstance that he cannot pay, don't make it worse by taking away his necessities, right?

Nehemia: Right. Exactly. And you know, you ask what the application of this would be today? To me, it's obvious, maybe it's not obvious to others, but here what it's talking about is, today most people in the western world at least, aren't limited to one garment, but most people that I know only have one house. If they owe you money and they can't pay, and you come and you take their house away, and you put them on the street, you know, what will he lay with?

Jono: What will he sleep in?

Nehemia: What will he sleep in?

Jono: Yeah.

Nehemia: I think that's the application. That there has to be some mercy, because God's merciful. And if you don't have mercy, God is going to take care of it.

Jono: Amen.

Keith: Oh, boy.

Jono: Yeah.

Jono: “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.” Now, they're kind of related, aren't they? “Revile God.” What does that mean to you, Keith?

Keith: Well, actually, I had to go to the second part. I just have to be honest, ladies and gentlemen, I have been one who has cursed rulers of the past, and I’ve called them by names. And I read this verse and I say, okay, so I would ask the question to Jono and to Nehemia, in our present context, does a ruler include those that we put in office?

Jono: That's a really good question, isn’t it, because…

Keith: No, I want to ask the question. And I want to ask Nehemia and I want to ask Jono, would this include those that we put in office? That's all I’m asking.

Jono: So, there’s two thoughts about this. Are we talking about those that Yehovah has put into office in Israel? Are we to understand that, those outside of Israel, that he is responsible for their authority, as well?

Nehemia: Well, look, I mean…

Jono: Nehemia?

Nehemia: In the ancient world they, as a rule, didn't really choose their leaders, they were often imposed upon them, and it's saying not to curse those leaders. So, I think a leader that you, through your system of democracy, have put in place over you, I think you certainly shouldn't be cursing that person. Now, I should point out that the first half of verse 27 is interpreted in Jewish sources usually as, “you shall not curse the judges, and the prince among your people you shall not also curse.” So, for example, the Schocken Bible, which is a Jewish translation, also translates as, "God you will not have to curse". But some of the Jewish Bible commentators interpret this as referring not literally to God, because obviously you’re not supposed to curse God.

Jono: Come on, that’s a no-brainer, right?

Nehemia: There are other passages that deal with that, that say what happens when you do. In Leviticus 24, for example. So, the understanding here is, possibly, that this means don’t curse judges. But I don't know if that fundamentally changes it, because the second half is clearly talking about not cursing your leaders.

And I would say, yeah, unless you live in an oppressive society where your life is put in danger by your leaders, if you just happen to have bad leaders, well, you actually have a system in place to get them out of office. But you certainly shouldn't be cursing them, either way. You should have respect for your leaders.

Keith: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to slow down here because it sounds like Nehemia Gordon in Israel is saying, for those of us over here in the United States, and I’m guilty of this as far as some of the past leaders that we've had, that I would rush over this verse. I would look at the first half of it and say, "Do not deal with God," and then forget the second half. I would like to confess that in the past I have been one who would certainly be on the edge of breaking this command, and I think for the present situation that we're in, maybe we should reconsider how we speak about our leaders.

Jono: How we speak about…and let me press on this issue though. Are we saying to people in Iran and people in Syria, that they shouldn't be…?

Nehemia: No. See, those are examples where the leaders are killing their own people, and I don't think that the Torah is telling us to collaborate and cooperate with that. We could look to the example of the midwives in Egypt who didn't cooperate with Pharaoh. He gave them an order and they didn't cooperate. Even Moses resisted that system of persecution, killing the Egyptian who was beating the Hebrew slave. And I think that was the right thing to do.

I think the application here is if you have a leader who is maybe just a bad leader, maybe he just doesn't have a lot of experience, he doesn't have a lot of legislative experience or experience ruling, and I’m not talking about anyone specifically, ruling over, for example, the United States. I don't think a person like that should be cursed. I think that you need to be respectful of that person even though he's an amateur who’s running the most powerful country on earth. So there, I said that.

Keith: Well, regardless of the level of expertise, Nehemia is saying you guys need to stop cursing Barack Obama.

Nehemia: You need to have respect for the guy.

Jono: Okay. Alright. “You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. Likewise you shall do with your oxen and your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.” I think I’ve asked this before, Nehemia, but “You shall not delay the firstborn of your sons.” How do we do that today again?

Nehemia: It explains in a number of passages that, actually, your sons you have to redeem, and the way you redeem them is you, I believe it’s in Leviticus 27, if I’m not mistaken, you give 5 shekels of silver to the priest. And so, what will happen…

Jono: So we find a Kohen anywhere and give him 5 shekels?

Nehemia: You find a Kohen and not delay. You give him the 5 shekels, and that's not the modern Israeli shekel. That’s a weight of silver, because 5 shekels like that are $1.50 or something. Five shekels of silver, and you can look up what that is, the exact modern equivalent of that.

Jono: Okay and we're talking about the firstborn son, right? This is the object that’s…

Nehemia: Yeah.

Jono: Okay.

Nehemia: Absolutely.

Jono: Let me ask you, because this applies to me, I don't believe my parents did that. Can I redeem myself with 5 shekels of silver? Give it to a Kohen?

Nehemia: I think you can. Why not? Sure.

Jono: I better not delay.

Keith: I would like to offer myself up as a present-day Kohen, not officially as a pastor. You can send that to me, Keith Johnson, 1-2… I’m just kidding.

Jono: That would be Keith Ben Yochanan.

Keith: I actually bring this up for a reason. The reason that I did want to say this, and I know we're going to talk about this when we get to Leviticus, but I do think it is interesting that we have different groups of people that will then step into this role and say, "Well, now, I represent the one that you would give the silver to." I guess I’ll hold off on that until we talk about it later, because I think it’s pretty important.

Jono: Okay. I’ll make a mental note. I do want to get into that when we get the opportunity in the Torah. Verse 31, “And you shall be holy men to Me: you shall not eat meat torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.” Nehemia, doesn't it say somewhere else in Torah that you can give it to gentile Jimmy down the road? That you're not allowed to eat it?

Nehemia: That's in Deuteronomy, and let's hold off on talking about that until we get to Deuteronomy.

Jono: Okay.

Nehemia: There’s two more chapters and we’re already over-time.

Jono: I’m wired now, this is just going to be a marathon. “Justice for All,” is the subtitle in my New King James chapter 23. “You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow the crowd to do evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.”

Nehemia: Can I get an Amen? Whoo!

Jono: “You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.” Amen. Absolutely.

Nehemia: Yeah, I think those are two really important verses. Can we talk about them real quick?

Jono: Yes, we can.

Nehemia: Verse 1 is almost word for word identical to the Third Commandment, so it says, "You shall not take the name of Yehovah your God in vain." And that is, “lo tisa shem Yehovah Eloheha lashav,” so we have “shem,” and “shav,” name, vain. And then here we have “lo tisa shema shav,” almost the exact same phrase, “You shall not lift up,” literally, “you shall not take,” literally, “a vain rumor.” Obviously, this means, don't speak of false rumor. If you take that into consideration and then look at the third commandment, then you realize this is a figure of speech, an idiom, that means you shall not speak the name of Yehovah falsely.

That's actually the way it was interpreted in ancient Judaism and ancient Christianity, all the ancient sources of Greek, that's what it means, not to take the name of Yehovah falsely, that is, in a false vow. Here it's talking about not speaking a false rumor. But literally, it says “a vain rumor,” because to speak vanity, to lift up vanity, in ancient Hebrew, means to speak falsehood. It's not a coincidence that this has almost the identical wording to that Third Commandment. There's clearly a play on words here, an intention to allude back to that commandment.

Jono: Brilliant.

Nehemia: Even the fact that we have the word for rumor here, “shema,” which sounds very much like “shem,” which means, “name.” It's definitely not a coincidence here; it's alluding back to that commandment about speaking falsehood. Don't speak false rumor, and don’t speak falsely in the name of your creator.

Jono: Compelling connection. Keith, love your enemies as yourself, I've read that somewhere, haven't I?

Keith: Is that what it says?

Jono: I kind of think that's what it said. I thought that was some sort of New Testament concept, but here it says, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.” What do you make of that?

Keith: Yeah. Well, I think it's pretty clear. I think we're going to be getting to this radical verse once we get to Leviticus. There's this sort of idea about the respect for your fellow man and your fellow man's property. And that has got to be something that is, you know, I mean, again, there are some specific statements that are made in the Torah, but when you're reading it, you almost think to yourself, "Do I really have to look out for…?" Like, I got a neighbor, you guys, I don't mind telling you. I try to be nice to my neighbor, but he's not nice back to me. But he's got this dog that sometimes wanders, and there have been times that I've wanted to call the dog police to come and get the dog. And the dog ended up in my house.

Jono: Oh!

Keith: Came in my garage, for goodness sake.

Jono: Oh, wow!

Keith: And so, when I read something like this, I’m like, so I guess I probably shouldn't shoot the dog with my BB gun, is that…?

Nehemia: What? Are you kidding me?

Keith: No, I’ve tried to.

Nehemia: Now, here I’ve got to point out one of the principles in this commandment. I think there are two principles in these commandments that we just read about your enemy, the one who hates you. One is, don't just be nice to people who you love and are your friends. You've also got to be nice and generous to people who hate you and are your enemies.

In addition, we have a principle here of cruelty to animals. If you see the animal suffering, and it doesn't matter that you hate that guy, you still have to help him, even if he's not your friend. There's mercy here of the animal, in Hebrew we call that "tza'ar ba'alei chayim," which means the suffering of an animal. The Torah is teaching us here to take that into consideration and not be cruel to animals.

I want to also point out something in verse 2, which is talking about not going after the majority to do evil. Okay, that makes a lot of sense. Then it says, “don't testify in a matter of strife to incline after the majority to pervert justice.” What that means is, don't testify that a certain person is guilty just because everybody else says he's guilty. And the opposite is true, too. Don't testify that that guy is innocent just because everybody else says he's innocent. You must testify to the truth even if you're the only one speaking the truth.

Look, this is spoken of in a judicial context as a witness, but I think this applies also as a witness in your life. That you must testify to the truth even if it's not popular, even if everybody else is saying the complete opposite. If you know it to be the truth, if you believe it to be the truth, you must testify to that truth.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: Can I get an Amen?

Jono: Amen.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: Whoo!

Jono: Amen. Absolutely. And also…

Nehemia: Now, only if you agree then give me an Amen. Don’t just say it because Keith and Jono said it.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: Verse 4 and 5, it's also an opportunity for you to kind of shine and see if you can put an end to the reason why you guys aren't getting on. You know you have an enemy or someone who hates you, here's an opportunity to do something for him and maybe you guys can at least, I don’t know, shake hands afterward and good come good.

It repeats itself in the point that you’ve just made, Nehemia, in verse 6 and 7 and 8. And again, we see the repetition of this verse in verse 9, “Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Keith: Amen.

Jono: Right. Here we are talking about the Sabbath. Now, this is the Shmita year, right? “Six years you shall sow the land and gather its produce, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove. Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed. And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth.” Now, that's always one people ask about, because we see the examples of prophets, for example, using the names of other gods. What does it mean to “not mention the names of other gods, nor let it heard from your lips”?

Nehemia: “al-picha,” on your mouth, literally.

Jono: Upon your mouth?

Nehemia: Yeah. I don’t know that this is necessarily meant to be taken completely literally. I think that in ancient Israel, for a name of another god to be heard upon your mouth, to be mentioned, meant to be praying to that god, to be calling out his name, to be proclaiming his name. And if you want to take it literally, and not say the names of other gods, even when rebuking them - we see that the prophets did do that. But if you want to do it that way, knock yourself out.

What I think is significant is, and there’s so many pearls in this section but we’ll get to them when these commandments are repeated, I guess. But this one I’ve just got to point out that there are people who, it's almost as if they take this verse and they say, “The name of the one true God, the God of Israel, you shall not mention it, and it shall not be heard upon your mouth.” That's the way that they behave as if we’re forbidden to speak the name of the one true God. And in fact, it doesn't say that. What it actually says is don't speak falsely in his name. “Don't take his name in vain,” meaning, speak falsely. What we're forbidden to speak is the names of the other gods.

Jono: The other gods. Amen.

Nehemia: And to mention their names and to call out their names, to proclaim their name. His name, we're supposed to proclaim. His name we're supposed to pray in and pray to. We're supposed to call upon His name, which is what we’re not supposed to do to those Pagan deities.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: Amen.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: “Three Annual Feasts,” here they are. “Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread,” there’s one. It goes on to say, the Feast of Harvest, of first fruits, and the Feast of Ingathering. “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before Yehovah,” oh, hang on, now, what does this say? I’ve got “Before the Lord your GOD,” in capitals. What does it mean when it does that, Keith?

Keith: Well, I mean, can we do this? Is it fair to say that when you read these three feasts, before we get to that, that they're named a little bit differently?

Nehemia: Yeah, oh, yeah. Each one has several names.

Keith: So, if I were to read in Leviticus 23 and Exodus 23… so if I were to say to you, Nehemia, "you’re to come to celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the first fruits," what would you understand that to mean?

Nehemia: That’s Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks.

Keith: But it's interesting, though, when it says it here, “Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops,” earlier it says to “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread,” and then the other one it says is –

Jono: Feast of Ingathering.

Keith: The Feast of Ingathering.

Nehemia: Chag HaAsif.

Keith: What's interesting is when we talk about these terms back and forth, and I remember the first time having this conversation. Okay, well, we’ve got Pessach, we’ve got Passover, this is the feast, but then we talked, no, no, that’s the Feast of Unleavened Bread, well, we’ve got Shavuot, or Pentecost, no, no the Feast of Harvest. And when I read it in this section, it sort of brought it to a different level of understanding. These three feasts, all three of these feasts - what is the commonality of these three feasts? What's common about them?

Nehemia: These are pilgrimage feasts.

Jono: They’re pilgrimage feasts; you’ve got to go there.

Keith: Yeah, you’ve got to actually go there. Well, we can talk more about this when we’re going a little bit further. Because I know we’re probably…

Nehemia: Yeah, and one thing worth pointing out is that this section of Exodus 23 that we're reading now is repeated almost verbatim, almost word for word, in Exodus 34. So, I suggest that when we get to Exodus 34 we take a little bit more time.

Keith: There we go.

Nehemia: And dwell upon this passage.

Jono: There it is. Okay. So is that, by the way, in verse 17, is that “Adonai Yehovah”?

Nehemia: It says “HaAdon Yehovah,” which is very unusual, but it does say that sometimes. So in other words, it’s not “Adonai,” it’s “HaAdon.” Adonai literally means “my great Lord,” and “HaAdon” is just “the Lord.”

Jono: “The Lord,” interesting.

Nehemia: The Lord Yehovah.

Jono: OK. “You shall not offer the blood of the sacrifices with unleavened bread; nor shall the fat of the sacrifice remain until morning. The first of the first fruits of your land you shall bring into the house of Yehovah your Elohim.” Nehemia, “You shall not boil a goat in its mother’s milk.” Oh, how do we fathom, possibly, what it means? What do you reckon?

Nehemia: I say we talk about that when we get to Exodus 34.

Jono: Alright.

Nehemia: Or even better Deuteronomy 14.

Jono: There it is.

Keith: Excellent, yeah.

Jono: “Behold, I send an angel before you and keep you in the way, to bring you,” now, angel, what about messenger? OK, “and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him and obey his voice; do not provoke him, because he will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in him.” Keith, come on.

Keith: I think, again, this is a situation that, when you're reading this, it does something really, really cool. It says, "Pay attention to him, listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say”.

So now, let's just stop one second, in verse 22. Nehemia, and you’re reading in your Hebrew Bible, and you're reading, do you also see this shift that takes place, is it something different?

Nehemia: No. It's clearly that he's speaking my word, so you have to do all that I say.

Keith: So who's saying it?

Jono: Yehovah.

Nehemia: Yehovah is saying it through his angel.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: His messenger.

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: And to state the obvious, certainly from the Jewish perspective, because I have heard other interpretations from some of my Christian friends. But obviously, in the Jewish understanding, and in the context I think, certainly, of the Tanach itself, this angel that he's referring to, this messenger, is the cloud that would appear before them and they would follow it, they would go after it.

What he’s saying is that when that cloud moves, you better follow the cloud. When the cloud stops, you better stop where the cloud stops. And that is this angel, this messenger that he’s talking about, certainly in this context.

Jono: Sure. “But if you indeed obey his voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off. You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down all their sacred pillars”.

“So you shall serve the Lord your Elohim, and He will bless your bread and your water. And He will take sickness away from the midst of you. No one shall suffer a miscarriage or be barren in your land; and I will fulfill the number of your days.” Man. “I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs." To you, Nehemia.

Nehemia: First of all, in verse 26, I've just got to point out that there is actually the word for miscarriage, which is “mishakela,” which is literally from the word “shikul,” which means to be bereaved, to lose the life of a child. In Exodus, I believe it’s 21, where we have the two men striving, and they punch the pregnant woman, in that one to say miscarriage is a perfectly good word for it, right here in verse 26 of Exodus 23, and it didn't use that word. It just said that her child went forth. And then the fear, is that what yours has Keith in verse 28 that “I will send the fear before you”?

Keith: “And I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites…”

Nehemia: Yeah.

Jono: It’s verse 27 in the English.

Nehemia: Oh, OK,

Keith: It’s “I will send my terror.”

Nehemia: Yeah. Okay, so I’m confusing verses, disregard that point. Because I’m looking at verse 28, where we have this hornet, which is really interesting - the thing with the hornet.

It then appears later on in the book of Joshua, where it actually says, "and he sent the hornet,” which I think is really, really cool. Joshua 24 verse 12, it says, “And I sent before you the hornet. And it drove them from before you,” the two kings of the Amorites, etc. That’s pretty cool.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: What is this hornet?

Jono: It’s out from before you, but hornets? Man, oh, man.

Nehemia: Yeah.

Jono: “I will not drive them out…”

Nehemia: Maybe it’s the Green Hornet.

Jono: “…drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the river.” Keith, I’ve got an asterisk there, I’m looking down to the note and it says the Euphrates.

Keith: Yeah, that’s what it says.

Nehemia: Yeah, whenever Scripture talks about the river…

Jono: The river.

Nehemia: It’s the Euphrates.

Jono: “For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” And here we are at chapter 24.

Keith: Before we do this, Jono, real quick, we talked about this, I believe it was last week or maybe the week before, this little word that both in Hebrew and in English is two letters. And I think this is really interesting because often times people will speak about verses 22 and forward. These are the things that God’s going to do, he’s going to do this, he’s going to do this, he’s going to miscarry… He’s going to send forth the hornet, he’s going to do this. But we’ve got to go back to the “if,” or as my friend Nehemia's version that he's reading, the “im,” If you listen."

And why this is so important to me as I’m reading this, is I love this section. It wasn't so easy to go through the earlier chapters - that's not so easy, talking about how I’m supposed to deal with my neighbor and the leader, and how I am supposed to deal with the issue of property. Those things aren't so easy. I love talking about the second half, but the transition is the “im,” or the “if.” And what’s the listening?

We've got to listen to those difficult parts, we got to work through that time, and I’m glad we took extra time talking about this because, as we understand those things and practicality of life, then we look for “if” we do these things, if we listen, if we are careful to do all that he commands, not 90% of it, but all that he says is important there's a reason for. Then here's what am going to do.

And I love what he's going to do, but I've got to reflect and pray on and deal with and struggle through, and that is, how am I dealing with my neighbor? How am I dealing with my attitude? How am I dealing with my words? I just have to stop and say that for a moment because I want that, I want what he's going to do. But he's saying, you've got to take all of my words that I've given you and apply them into your life and then these are the things you can expect. So I just know that it's hard to work through those chapters, but those are things that are important because they're in the word of God.

Nehemia: Amen.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: “So Moses came and told the people all the words of Yehovah and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which Yehovah has said we will do. And Moses wrote all the words… he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings and oxen to Yehovah. And Moses took half the blood and put it in the basin, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant,” Nehemia?

Nehemia: Yeah?

Keith: I mean we have a problem here, guys.

Nehemia: That’s really interesting. What's the problem?

Keith: We have a problem here. We're only in Exodus 24.

Nehemia: Yeah.

Keith: We're in Exodus 24, is this the end? Is this it?

Nehemia: No, I don't think that's the entire Torah, I think it’s what was written up until that point. Presumably, and we don't know for sure, but it sounds to me like it refers to the book of Genesis, and the first 23, maybe even the half, chapters of Exodus. So, he read that to them, and what's interesting is that first he told them verbally. In verse 3 it says, and the whole people answered, and they said, “all the things that Yehovah has been spoken we will do." And after he reads it to them and they said, "All that Yehovah has spoken we will do,” and it says, “ve-nishma,” and literally, we will hear. The traditional understanding here of “we will do” and “we will hear” is, we're going to do even the things that we haven’t heard yet. We don't know what all is going to be revealed over the next 40 years, but whatever it is we accept this covenant. We will do and we will hear.

Jono: Yeah. And they have the covenant. Keith, not only do they have the covenant, the Book of the Covenant, but “Moses then says, “This is the blood of the covenant with which Yehovah has made with you according to all these words.” There it is. There’s the blood of the covenant.

Keith: Right there. Okay

Jono: Right there. “Then Moses went,” well, I mean good heavens, Mount Sinai, they go up there, seventy elders and Moses, Aaron, some of these guys. And it says, "and they saw the Elohim of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity,” is what it says.

Nehemia: What I do think is interesting is it says here, "And they saw the God of Israel,” they saw the Elohim of Israel. And then the next verse says, again, using a different word, “and they saw Elohim.” This is actually an example that many of the Jewish philosophers brought as the typical example of a verse that you must not take literally, that is only to be meant metaphorically. The reason they say that is, they say, we know that it says in a different verse, “you can't see God and live.” And so, when it says here “see,” it doesn't literally mean see, it means, “perceive,” which is very possible. There is a verse in Exodus chapter 20 or 19, where it says, “they saw the thunder.” Well, we know you don't see thunder, you hear thunder. So there the word “see,” actually means to perceive, they perceive the thunder. So, it's possible that “and they saw the God of Israel, and they saw God,” means they perceived, somehow, God in a way that we don't normally perceive God.

Jono: Sure. Okay.

Nehemia: But then again, I used to have this man who I considered my mentor. His name was Mordechai. He always used to challenge me on things, and one of the things I said to him once was, "Well, one thing we can all agree upon is that God doesn't have a physical form that we can see." He challenged me on that and he said, you're entitled to believe that, but prove it to me from Scripture. And maybe he does, and there have been Jewish scholars, Jewish philosophers, as well, who said that God does have a physical form, it's just a very, very big one. Now, look, I don’t believe God has a physical form, I believe he's entirely a spirit. But it isn't something that we should necessarily take for granted. And maybe they did see something physical, I don't know. I wasn't there.

Keith: So, let’s say that they did.

Nehemia: I believe the words in Scripture. How do I understand those words? I’m not exactly sure. Maybe they did see something.

Keith: So, there’s this aspect, so maybe they did see physically this color below his feet, or whatever. It doesn't say they saw all of him, they saw a piece of him.

Nehemia: It then implies that they saw feet, which means you’re seeing the physical form of some sort.

Keith: Well, I meant – okay.

Jono: Perhaps.

Nehemia: I don’t know. If you have a better interpretation, please help me know what that is.

Jono: There’s one for the listeners in the comments section.

Nehemia: Yeah.

Jono: And verse 12 says, "Then Yehovah said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.’ So Moses went up with his assistant Joshua.”

Nehemia: Wow. I got to stop you here. This is a very important verse because here it’s telling us what Moses received up on Mount Sinai. What did he receive up on Mount Sinai? It says, he received the…

Jono: The law, the commandments.

Nehemia: …the “luhot ha-even,” the tablets of stone that consisted of the Torah, the Mitzvah, the instruction, the commandment, which I wrote to instruct them. Now, what specifically did he receive? We find out later, not in this Torah portion, but we find out he received two Tablets of Stone that had on them the Ten Commandments, or the Ten Words, literally, the “Aseret HaDvarim.” So, he actually didn't receive the entire Torah.

I was always taught, Moses went up to Mount Sinai and he received both the written Torah and the oral Torah. And when I actually read Scripture, I find out that's not true. All he received up on Mount Sinai were the Ten Commandments, and then he also was shown some of the diagrams of the implements of the tabernacle that he was to build.

But he didn't receive the entire Torah up on Mount Sinai. And if you read the Torah that becomes obvious. There are many sections of the Torah that will open up, “And Yehovah had spoken to Moses saying,” and each one of those is very clearly a separate revelation.

And we’re told at the end of Exodus how those revelations took place. That he would be in the tent and Yehovah would speak to him face to face in the tent. Each one of those was on a separate occasion that was spread out over 40 years. So, this idea that he went up to Mount Sinai to receive the entire Genesis to Deuteronomy, and actually, the rabbis say Genesis through the end of the Bible, which in the Hebrew is Chronicles, I mean that's utterly ridiculous. He didn't receive them up on Mount Sinai.

He only received the Ten Commandments, and that’s very clearly stated here. And everything he received, all these commandments were written down. Then other ones were revealed to him, and those were written down as well.

Jono: Keith?

Keith: Well, I mean, all you want to do is completely undo the very easy way of communicating how these commandments were given, Nehemia. I mean you really want to…

Nehemia: Well, I mean Moses went up at Mount Sinai and he received the book of Samuel where David commits adultery with Bat-Sheva. What? That's ridiculous. That's what I was led to believe. That's what I was taught.

Jono: Really?

Nehemia: Yeah, absolutely. He received the entire Tanach, the entire, what Christians call the Old Testament, from Genesis all the way to the end, in English, it’s Malachi, in Hebrew it’s Chronicles.

Jono: On top of that he received the Oral Torah?

Nehemia: And on top of that he received also the entire Oral Law, the Mishnah, and the Talmud, and the Midrash, the Haggadah, which is ridiculous. That's a story you tell children, and even the children don't believe it.

Jono: Okay.

Nehemia: I mean, that’s the Santa Claus version of the Revelation of Scripture.

Jono: Sure.

Nehemia: The real version is that Yehovah would speak to Moses face-to-face, and Moses, either Moses or probably Joshua would then write it down. We see in Deuteronomy that actually Moses did some of the writing, at least. Then that was handed over to the Levites, who preserved it. That's what we're told at the end of Deuteronomy. It isn’t something that was written during this 40-day period.

The response I'll hear from some Orthodox Jews is, "So what did Moses do up there for 40 days if he didn't receive the Oral law and the rest of the Tanach”? We don't know what Moses did for 40 days. Maybe he just sat there fasting, I don't know. But it doesn't mean that we have to fill in the blanks with stuff that we make up.

Keith: The only thing that I wanted to bring up, just for those who are reading and they’re kind of going through the process, so then at the end of the Ten Words, it says specifically, "These are the Torah. These are the laws you are to set before them." In chapter 21, the section that we went through, chapter 21 up until chapter 24, there's this section of mitzvoth, of the laws, of the ordinances that were just spoken to Moses before he went up the mountain. So, this little group of difficult words that we just went through, in context, where do we see these words then being given to the people? He explains it to the people and he says, "Will you accept these things?" And what did they say?

Nehemia: We will do it.

Jono: They said, we will do it.

Keith: If all I had was 21 through 24, I would not have all of the Tanach. But what I have is the general concepts. In other words, I was saying this earlier - here are the Ten Words, here's now another section, and as you said Nehemia, over a 40-year process, we get the entire Torah.

Nehemia: Right.

Keith: But basically, at this point, there is something that’s been given, put into a book, and a covenant that’s been set. This section here, before he went up for the 40 days, is a written part that he's been given at the mountain other than the Ten Words. Do you understand what I’m saying? I’m working this out on the radio right now. See, I would say, is there an in-between? It isn't all of the Torah, it isn't all of the Tanach, but there is this section. Chapter 21 up until chapter 24, where we have actual commandments and laws and judgments that are brought before the people and the people say, "Yes, we'll do it."

Jono: Yeah.

Keith: Okay, so these were at the mountain, they weren't during the 40 days of fasting, but these were actually given. While I go up and get the Tablets of the Ten Words, here's something for you to live by now.

Nehemia: Right. And that’s something he said in - Yeah, sorry, go ahead.

Keith: Yeah, this is just me reading it, thinking of it from the aspect of coming out of slavery. Coming out of this great major thing. Moses is about to go up for 40 days, "Hey, guys, in the meantime, will you do this? Will you make sure you don't have other gods? Will you make sure you don’t do this? Will you make sure you treat each other? Will you do?” And they said, "Yeah, we'll do it." And then, of course, we’re going to find in the next section, maybe that didn’t happen.

Nehemia: Right.

Keith: But I think it's important that there was something given that they agreed to, that wasn’t just the Ten Words but that these commands…that's a lot of stuff there.

Nehemia: Right. And actually one of the important points is that when we read, I guess it was in the previous Torah portion, he explained, "The reason I’m speaking to all Israelites is that, every man, woman, and child here will know I’m really speaking to you, so that they’ll believe in you forever.”

Keith: Amen.

Nehemia: So, the Ten Commandments were given and he brought them down, written with the finger of God. Throughout the 40 years, he received the rest of the Torah, and you're right, some of it he received before he even went up.

Keith: Yeah.

Nehemia: But the process throughout their 40 years is described in Exodus 33 and I guess we'll save that for when we get to Exodus 33, though.

Keith: Yes.

Nehemia: And it’s in verse 11.

Keith: Excellent.

Jono: Sure. And so more is revealed, obviously, as we continue through the Torah, and I think this is probably an ideal opportunity to say Nehemia, would you pray that prayer from Psalms 119 verse 18. It seems so significant right now.

Nehemia: Absolutely. Yehovah, Elohim, Eloheinu, ve-Elohei avoteinu, ana gal eneinu ve-nabi-tah niphlaot mi-Torahteha. Yehovah, God, God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, open our eyes, uncover our eyes that we may see the wonderful hidden things of your Torah. Amen.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: Amen.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: Amen. “So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua,” there he is, the man of the moment. And he sets them up and he went up to the mountain and there it is, the cloud that covered the mountain. “The glory of Yehovah rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. The sight of the glory of Yehovah was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And,” this is the way it ends, “Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” Boy.

Nehemia: Wow.

Jono: I know.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: I mean, who knows what was going on in the cloud? You know, I mean, man.

Keith: Amen.

Jono: Amen.

Nehemia: Amen.

Nehemia: There it is. That is the Torah portion for this week.

Keith: Plenty to eat, plenty portion to eat now.

Jono: That's it, that’s a marathon Torah Pearl.

Nehemia: I think it's a record.

Keith: It’s a record.

Jono: I think it is a record.

Keith: And it's well worth it. Thank you, guys. I really appreciate the fact that we were willing to wade through from the beginning until now. It really is very powerful information.

Jono: I’m glad we took our time through this one, because this one is absolutely chock-a-block.

Keith: Yes.

Jono: So thank you, again, Nehemia Gordon, and Keith Johnson. I really appreciate you guys so much. Next week we're in Terumah, Exodus 25:1 to 27 verse 19. And until then my dear listeners, be blessed and be set apart by the truth of our Father’s word. Shalom.

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28 thoughts on “Torah Pearls #18 – Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18)

  1. You cannot understand the 70 seeing Yehovah on the mountain unless you acknowledge the elephant in the room: Yehovah, being Yeshua, can appear to us without our dying because He is not the Father. It is the Father whose presence we cannot survive. Yehovah appeared to the patriarchs a number of times: to Adam in the garden, to Abraham before the destruction of Sodom, to Jacob when they wrestled, to the 70 on Sinai, and probably others. I would not expect this forum to resolve this issue, since we do not all hold this belief. When Messiah comes we can ask Him whether that was Him all these times 🙂

  2. Interesting that with the current climate here in the US, and the heinous acts and new laws that were just passed to abort a baby up until birth in NY state and if the child should survive the abortion they have the right to kill the baby after birth. This is truly horrific and would seem like the adversary is timingly coming against YHVH! Thank you to you all for always your words of wisdom.

  3. In the section about the thief breaking in could “if the sun has risen on him” mean the next day after the crime has been committed instead of the sun rising during the crime? This then could mean that while he is breaking in you can articulate that he is an immediate threat but if you catch him the next day it would be hard to say that he is an immediate threat and therefore he could not be killed.

  4. Hey all! Just listened to this! Absolutely awesome discussion! Thoroughly enjoyed it! Just a quick thought! Around 1 hour and 24 minutes you guys were discussing the portion of Exodus where Moses and the 70 elders go up into the mount and see or perceive YeHoVah with the paved safire path beneath His feet. Then the question was brought up and discussed whether they literally saw YeHoVah or perhaps only perceived His presence. Not sure if this is Scriptural or can be proven but I’ve often thought that YeHoVah reveals portions of Himself or even veiled versions of Himself because it’s His full glory that cannot be withstood. Like I said, not sure if that can be backed up, that’s just been a personal take I’ve pondered while reading the Scriptures. YeHoVah bless you all! Thanks for the deep, informative, and powerful discussions! This whole episode was chalked full of some awesome points!

  5. Is urgent to give a lecture of this Torah pearl #18 Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:1 to the Oval Office in the White House Feb 2018

    • this portion definitely touches on a lot of the issues being brought up in today’s political climate. prison system does have major flaws and can be like he said, modern day slavery. debt is in the trillions and abortion in my state you can abort up to full term and even get the government to pay for it in some cases. outrageous! its strange how the constants are still relevant to this day and have emerged in different form but yet still the same.

      The Torah is still the go to self help book for living a good and meaningful life. Jordan Peterson is basically making money off his book all from the ideas portrayed within the hero stories of these wonderful scriptures. These are truly exciting times! god bless you brother!

      • It is interesting to me that everyone is gravitating to the prison system being modern day slavery. Question to ponder: If we truly followed everything in the bible then shouldn’t some of these prisoners be taken “outside the city walls and stoned to death” for their crimes? What would our prison system look like then if we actually handed down the punishments that Yehovah said to do?
        I taught in elementary and middle school long enough to witness the horrors that adults can do to young innocent children and prison is too good for these horrendous people.

    • Torah consists of the first five books of the bible. Ecclesiastes isn’t that. I’m not saying that your comment is suggesting that Ecclesiastes is Torah, but at least cite a verse from Torah supporting your opinion about Torah. I would like to know why you believe that though it sounds like an interesting discussion, like what did you read that brought you to that assertion?

      on another note:
      I love these Torah pearls and prophet pearls by the way! I have been gleaning these discussions for a couple years now and they are still a blessing! And more recently 1,010 times found the name of יהוה in ancients manuscripts?! With the vowel points!!?? prophetic times my people, prophetic times!

  6. Pure Gold! Thanks so much for that Portion-and-a-half. Regarding what the multitude saw at Sinai; I’m thinking that if I’m at the base of a mountain looking up at a very large dynamic figure seated on a throne at the top of said mountain, and this figure has its feet on a pavement made of some translucent gemstone, then the vision would be ‘filtered’ through that ‘pavement’. And, who says you can’t see spirit? Scripture clearly states some can sometimes. With YHVH all things are possible. YHVH’s blessings!

  7. Nehemia you seemed adverse to YHVH having a “physical” form since He is spirit. Is it possible He can condense in time and space to present himself with a body? Is it possible the elders saw His form in the spiritual realm vs physical realm?

    The whole congregation heard His voice? Sound is tangible. Just as a body is tangible.

    • Why do we say silly things like, God can’t be in a physical form? Anytime I say God can’t I end up being wrong. God can do anything he wants, including appear in physical form. Perhaps, He can’t do things like Lie/Break His Covenant. Pretty much anything else, God can.

  8. As for there being more Blacks in Prison ( slavery), than Whites ; I sat in a lecture with a State’s Attorney who is actually a Liberal person. The lopsided prison population is not due to judicial prejudice as it pertains to Race. From the Judge who presides over a Case, to the Attorney’s and Police Officers , their collective #1 priority is not meting out Justice but rather, PUBLIC SAFETY. This is how it was explained by the State’s Attorney; In rendering verdicts and assigning penalties and sentences, the Courts first priority of PUBLIC SAFETY requires them to protect the innocent. Hence, when an Attorney pleads with a Judge for leniency, the first thing that is looked at for minors, especially, is whether the perpetrator has a valid and stable support structure at his/her home. Sadly, more than half of young Blacks in most American cities do not have a stable nuclear family structure to be sent home to for monitoring any proposed probation.The Court is forced to incarcerate as opposed to releasing the individual back into an unsupervised environment. Obviously there are some Judges who have “axes to grind” but the goal should always be; not to have to stand before that Judge, yes ?

    • It’s true, I work in Rehabilitation for local inmates in Upstate NY. I see firsthand the damage done by ultra liberal courts. We see kids get cut a break the first several times they commit a crime and then finally the judge slams the gavel having expected change. We are backwards, punishment is invalid when it isn’t immediate or effective. Would you let your dog crap on the floor six times and beat it the seventh to teach it? Strong punishment on first offenses are the only effective solution to use the system for behavior modification.

    • I disagree-I am a Social Worker and for many years I worked in residential programs for children and teens, and in one home in particular we had 3 different boys at 3 different times caught shoplifting at the same store, items of roughly the same value. One boy was White, one was Asian, one was Black. Only the boy who was Black had charges pressed. Same store, same “home life”-no differences at all, so why were charges pressed against him?? There may not be bias in all cases but there certainly seemed to be in his situation.

  9. Shalom Nehemia!
    I am so grateful to you,Keith, and Jono for bringing such life to the Torah!
    I will hopefully be able to show my gratitude monetarily in the near future. Without getting into backstory I had been studying the value of 5 Shekels of silver all weekend to redeem my firstborn son Aloysha (10.) I had found a sight to purchase 1/2 oz pure silver coins but didn’t complete the sale. Of course, when I listened to the first half of Mishpatim this morning Jono asked the question can one redeem himself? I was elated at the thought of being able to redeem myself, Halleluyah!
    Then while waiting for my morning Decaf I started to ponder the thought of Redemption, being the Firstborn and given that my father has passed should I redeem my younger brother Jacob. Who was firstborn to his mother as well? Is he also firstborn?
    many Blessings and thanks,
    Joshua
    קסה שלום רב לאהבי תורתך ואין-למו מכשול

  10. Quick question ?

    Do you really said Exodus 21:22 that if man kill the unborn baby or woman. Then this man should be dead ? That is life for life work.

    Were karaite Jews are against abortion because it violate the God law of murder by Genesis 9:6 and bible claim blood is life or life is in blood. Unborn have blood.

  11. As always, I love the torah pearls. However, I feel this episode was getting a little too political. I know it may be necessary to talk about todays issue to help in understanding, but I for one am sick of hearing politics. Lets not ruin a good thing.

    • I actually found that very helpful. In today’s very heated political climate I think it’s important to understand how the Torah teaches on these things affecting us now.

      Yehovah gave us the Torah as instructions on how to live our lives. We can find answers in the Torah for today’s very difficult situations. I think these three men did a very good job of explaining some of those things for us.

      I especially appreciate Nehemia’s input because, due to his full fluency in Hebrew, he can tell us what the original Hebrew text actually says. So much in Scripture has been manipulated. Nehemiah does a really good job of clearing up the things that have been manipulated.

    • I wonder, when people want to separate politics and religion, whether they realize that the two are the same. Politics is simply the jockeying for the power to impose one’s religious views on those around them, whether at a local, national or world level. The Messiah will merge government and religion when He rules the nations according to Torah for a thousand years in the Messianic era. (Psalms 2 and Isaiah 2:3.)

  12. Shalom brothers and sisters! Concerning the issue of what was given and what was not, on the mount. There is ambiguity here and it is purposeful. These issues are madning and to say that YHVH gave 100% on the mount. Did not Adams boys know Torah concerning sacrifice and that which is acceptable and what was not?, even to the point of sin and righteousness? Soooooo, then we can asuridly say that Torah existed and was given way back then! How much one may acceptably ask? ENOUGH is the answer. Adam and Chavvah positively had access to Torah knowledge and KNEW it. The long physical life folks experienced in those times proves it. The only important pertinent question concerning our present Torah portion is, how did Torah become available “in the beginning”? This is rather a simple quest but must precede with prerequisites to comprehend. For another venue perhaps. NOW,,,, can we please “nail down” the fact that Torah knowledge has existed from the beginning of physical man and leave behind the madness? I personally would appreciate being “less mad” in these troubled times! Blessings to all and yes to our rather madning president too! LOL

    • Isn’t it the Torah which tells us what is good and evil? Did Adam learn good and evil from eating of the tree? Wasn’t eating of the tree the knowledge of the Torah?

      There are many things that were added in Moses’ time which certainly would be different in Adam’s time, such as the tabernacle or not marrying your sister, but the basics, like the Ten Commandments, would still be there in both times.

  13. Nehemia, your guess about the number of slaves in America before the 13th compared to today was close but today the number of slaves by the definition of the13th amendment is half of the number as of 1860 prior to the enactment of the 13th.
    See:
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slave_Trade_Compromise_and_Fugitive_Slave_Clause
    And
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Us_prison_population#/search

    Thank you for this enlightened view of what slavery truly is…

  14. Regarding a thief or a breaking and entering as well as an attack on ones person. This appears to be a case where self defense is mandatory. Especially when the ‘Good Samaritan’ law is on the slate in many countries. Martyrdom is not a righteous option as some see it, but, a self righteous action on the part of a number in Christian history. Else why did Yeshua pray to Yehovah and ask three times if this could be done some other way? BTW a can of ‘wasp’ or ‘bear’ spray is very effective up to 25 feet away if firearms are not an option.

  15. For the first time in several years I feel so protected by God’s love. Exodus 22:22,23 where it says about widow and a child without a father. My father died when I was 17, so my mum, sister and I had a lot of difficulties. Now I see that God has a higher standard for us, who were unprotected, and He protected us with His love.

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