The Pierced Ear

Exodus 21:1-6

Do you like to see pierced ears? Both males and females think its a modernistic thing to do. Not So! In OT times, many Hebrew men had an ear pierced in obedience to God’s law.

At the urging of the Israelites, Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. From Mt. Sinai, Yahweh spoke to Moses. Exodus 21:1—

These are the laws you are to set before them:

THE LAWS, literally tpvm (mishpat), which denotes the exercise of the process of government through JUDGMENTS. The Israelites did not divide the functions of government as most modern governments do—between legislative, executive, and judicial functions. The centering of law, rulership, government in a man was deeply ingrained. The administration of justice in all early eastern nations, as among the Arabs of the desert to this day, rests with patriarchal elders. Therefore, the MISHPATS that Moses is to set before the people are for judges or elders to decide controversy in civil, domestic, and religious cases.

Israel is to be a nation governed by persons rather than merely of laws. The judges are to have executive as well as judicial powers. Ultimately, the MISHPATS will rest in the Messiah during the Millennial Kingdom.

GOD’S MORAL LAW—THE TEN COMMANDMENTS—are applicable to all people at all times. No civilized nation could exist without law as a basis of its life. The moral law of God is essential to society because it is eternal truth.

The MISHPATS are set alongside the Ten Commandments. The two belong together in time as well as interpretation. These laws belong to a time that we cannot judge by the standards of this century. Yet, these laws are so progressive and liberating in the area of PERSONAL RIGHTS that it will take until the middle nineteenth century A.D. for Gentile nations to champion the one we will looked at this morning.

The laws God gave Moses that appear harsh, unloving were liberating and progressive compared to the world’s history. They were given for an agricultural society in a time when slavery was not abolished, but a way of life. For God to forbid slavery, would have led to far worse evils.

These laws vastly improved the condition of slave, and elevated the status of woman and were far in advance of the best Gentile cultures. It would be impossible to estimate the importance of these laws in human history. They are the seeds of modern civilization. Here the fundamental RIGHTS of the Israelite are established.

The first words spoken by God to Israel from Mt. Sinai were His declaration that He had brought Israel out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Now the first person to have RIGHTS is the HEBREW SLAVE or SERVANT. Verse 2—

If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.

A slave is a person who is legally the property of another person and is subject to the will of his or her master. God’s laws regarding slaves were intended for an agricultural society.

Being from the city, I was astounded to hear that Lois’ brothers were sent off to live and work on neighboring farms when they were growing up. Her family thought little of it—it was an acceptable way of life and such was the case with slavery in ancient Israel.

A Hebrew male became a slave by selling himself to pay off his debts or being sold by the civil judges for restitution of a theft. In comparison, the Code of Hammurabi, from the 18th Century B.C., said “if a thief has nothing to give, he shall die.” Right away, we discover that’s God’s law is far more compassionate than the very best of the ancient laws. Exodus 22:3 says—

A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft.

Insolvency was a major cause for slavery in Biblical times. Debtors who went bankrupt were often forced to sell their children as slaves, or their children would be confiscated as slaves by creditors. 2 Kings 4:1-2 presents such a case —

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a little oil.”

If a borrower did not have personal property as security, his own person and that of his dependents would serve as security. Therefore, the creditor could legally take the widow’s sons as payment. In this case, Elisha came to the rescue with a miracle—filling many jars with the little oil—much like Jesus feeding the five thousand with a boy’s lunch.

Slavery resulting from man-stealing was absolutely forbidden by God in verse 16—

Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death.

It would take 3,330 years for the world to begin to catch up to God’s law. In 1833, Britain entirely outlawed slavery listening to William Wilberforce’s heartfelt cry to Parliament for its abolishment. It took a Civil War in the United States. The slaves of the Confederacy were declared free during the war by Lincoln’s EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION in 1863. With the passing of the THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT in 1865, slavery was constitutionally abolished in the United States.

The African slave trade could not have existed in a humane society! Our forefathers were barbarian compared to the ancient Israelites.

In parts of Africa, Asia, and South America forms of slavery still exist, which oppress more than 200 million poor people in the developing world.

The kind of slavery that God legislated within the nation of Israel was neither evil nor oppressive!

In Israel slavery was not so irksome, since this status involved rights and often positions of trust. The Hebrew servant was placed on equality with that of hired laborers. Leviticus 25:39-43 states—

If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. He is to be treated as a hired worker or a temporary resident among you; he is to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then he and his children are to be released, and he will go back to his own clan and to the property of his forefathers. Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.

Deuteronomy 15:13-15 adds—

And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing-floor and your winepress. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.

Slaves were to be treated with consideration and gentleness. The fear of God’s judgment along with His blessings were primary motivations to avoid ruthlessness!

A fellow Israelite could not be held indefinitely against his will. His period of bondage was limited to six years. Every 50 years every Hebrew slave was to be set free, whether his period of service was up or not.

In Biblical times, the price of slaves naturally varied somewhat according to circumstances and the sex, age, and condition of slaves, but the average price of slaves gradually rose like that of other commodities during the course of history. The female of child-bearing age being always more valuable than the male slave.

Mothers were more treasurable than fathers! How is that for a tribute to MOTHERS on MOTHERS DAY?

Slavery in Israel is not the horrible institution known by the rest of the world, for it often approximated employer and employee relationships. The slave, however, was considered his master’s property during the period of servitude according to Exodus 21:20.

Ownership served to control physical abuse by the master. Whenever evil intention could be proved or the slave died at his hand, the master was liable to similar punishment. If the master’s intent was debatable, an injured slave at least won his freedom and the master lost his loaned money.

The Book of the Covenant and subsequent laws reduced the greatest bondage in Israel to a comparatively mild apprenticeship, surpassing by far the legislations of Greece and Rome centuries later.

Verses 3-4 appear harsh—

If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

God permitted marriage to take place during servitude. However, where a wife had been given to a slave, that wife an any children resulted from that union belonged to the master. The Hebrew female slave was obligated to finish her servitude according to Deuteronomy 15:12—

If a fellow Hebrew, a man or woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free.

Separation of a man from his family may appear oppressive, but it was an equitable consequence of the possession of property. At the same time, in order to modify the harshness of such a separation, the option was given to the male servant to remain in his master’s service, provided he was willing to renounce his liberty for life under the terms of verses 5-6—

But if the servant declares, `I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the door-post and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

The piercing of the ears was a humiliating punishment in the Assyrian Laws. But it is an act of love in God’s law. The piercing of the servant’s ear symbolized voluntary submission and willing obedience to his master.

What a picture this is of Jesus—placed right after the giving of the Ten Commandments. The prophetic Scriptures announce Christ as God’s Servant. For example:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1).

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11).

I am going to bring my servant, the Branch (Zechariah 3:8).

Which Book of the NT depicts Jesus as the Servant of God?—THE GOSPEL OF MARK. Its key verse is Mark 10:45—

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

As God’s Servant, Jesus came to this earth and took upon Himself our humanity when we were all slaves of sin. He could have gone free. But . . .

Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8).

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Psalm 40 is one of the great Messianic Psalms. According to Hebrews 10:5-9 the words of Psalm 40:6-8 belong to Christ—

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

Instead of MY EARS YOU HAVE PIERCED, the Septuagint and the writer of Hebrews have A BODY YOU PREPARED FOR ME .

Christ’s ears were not PIERCED, but His body—hands and feet were nailed to the Cross—so that He could have you and me as His bride. He said, “I love My Father! I love My Bride! I love the sinner! I will not go free! I will do the will of my Father!” So He was pierced for us!

The Lord Jesus had no wife when He entered into His service, but God gave Him the disciples as His bride. Now He was entitled by law to go out free. But that same law required that He should go out alone.

Love led Him to Calvary! Love led Him to undertake a service that the Law did not lay upon Him—a service that involved suffering—the pierced ear symbolizes the taking of His bride with His blood forever.

The flip side of salvation is that we are to be liked-minded with Christ. Out of love for Him, we are to say, “I DO NOT WANT TO GO FREE—I WANT TO BE CHRIST’S.

THE PIERCED EAR was A MARK—a sign of belonging to another. The apostle Paul asserts in Galatians 6:17 that he is a servant owned by the Lord Jesus—

Let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

In other words, if you cause me trouble, you are picking on my Master—Jesus, who owns me. This reaches back to when God MARKED Cain for killing Abel in Genesis 4:15—

The LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.

Yahweh was saying, “Cain belongs to me—if you kill him—you will have me to deal with me.”

Marked Cain became a “walking sermon” on the grace of God and the tragic consequences of sin. What picture of humankind today—restless, hopeless, wandering, and defeated! Did Cain spend the rest of his life wandering? NO! He rebelled against God’s grace and built a city!

Cain foreshadows the people during the Tribulation Period who worship the beast and his image—they will receive his mark on the forehead or on the hand. Revelation 14:11 predicts their doom—

And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.

In contrast, 144,000 servants of God will receive a seal on the foreheads for protection from the Beast as well as God’s wrath. Before the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, the LORD marked for deliverance those who loved Him. Ezekiel 9:3-6 reports—

Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”

As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark.

In a sense, every human being bears an invisible mark—we either belong to or serve Satan or we have been purchased by God with the blood of Jesus and serve Him. Ephesians 1:13-14 affirms the Christian’s mark—

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

There will be no pity or compassion on Judgment Day for those who are not marked in Christ with the Holy Spirit. In Zechariah 11:4, the LORD God says, they are “the flock marked for slaughter.”

THE PIERCED EAR is a mark of being owned and voluntary servitude.

Peter, Paul, James and Jude each open a Letter of the NT by identifying themselves as a SERVANT of the LORD. They serve Christ by choice—they volunteered to serve Him the rest of their lives—they had their ears pierced as it were! That’s what Christ wants from you and from me! He wants us not to go free but to join Him in doing His Father’s will. That’s the idea behind Jesus’ saying in Luke 9:23—

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Freedom is sweet, but what are all its joys if is not to taste them or we must leave our best friend behind? Whatever we must renounce is as nothing to that which we have found in Him. Therefore, the matter is fixed and settled. We have not choice but to say, “I love my life in the Master’s house, I will not go out free. I’ll put my ear to His door.”

These laws and Christ’s teaching on voluntary servitude cut against the grain of modern individuality. It is to SELF that man is now accountable.

It is because of a sense of self-interest, or self-duty, that modern man declines to relinquish decisions to others such as the state or the Church. Most people now seek access to reality only through the self, having decided that neither God nor His revelations are any longer pertinent.

The 1960’s began a shift in public psychology and the way people in America viewed their work. Many have come to view prosperity as a right rather than an accomplishment.

Once people worked to achieve tangible ends, now they work to accomplish things. Now, such accomplishments are of far less significance than one’s “image.” Once people worked; now they manipulate. Once people sweated; now they seduce. Once people wished to be respected, to have their accomplishments recognized; now they wish to be envied, regardless of whether they are envied for anything they have actually accomplished.

From 1953 to 1973, the average family income more than doubled, rising in constant dollars from $5,000 to $12,000. The ranks of the middle class swelled as the taste of affluence became widespread. In pursuit of affluence—beliefs changed—normal routines of life, such as working at a job and raising a family, are not really what life is about. Life begins when these duties are ended and one can turn to genuine self-expression. Life is creativity, a voyage of personal discovery that replaces God with self. God and family are thrown overboard to complete this voyage.

Interpersonal relationships inevitably involve conflicts of interests that can be resolved only by compromise and sacrifice. Self-fulfillers place a premium on such relationships, and yet their guiding concern for self-fulfillment, their devotion to self-interest, guarantees that they will not be successful in maintaining them.

In contrast to our modern philosophy of life, stands the servant with the pierced ear who humbly makes himself a slave for life because he loves his master, wife and children more than self. The FLESH—his self-interest—has been bored into the doorpost with awl. His pierced ear is symbolic of the love it takes to live the Ten Commandments—placing God and others before self.

In Exodus 20:24-21:6, God has painted a PICTURE with the ALTAR OFFERINGS and PIERCED SERVANT of what it takes to be a CHRISTIAN!

First, the burnt and fellowship offerings on the altar are for the atonement of sin and to secure peace with God. We must approach God in humility with our nakedness unexposed—that is, we cannot come to Him by the way of the flesh, but only His way—through faith in Christ’s atonement on the Cross. That’s Romans 5:1-2—

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

Then, because we love our Master—our LORD—we offer to have our ear pierced. That’s Romans 12:1—

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship [or reasonable service].

The consecration of our body to God is not an outward act, like the offerings on the altar or the piercing of an ear, but an act of our mind according to Romans 12:2—

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

True Christian service and living begins with personal dedication to the LORD. The Christian who fails in life is the one who has first failed at the altar and doorpost, refusing to surrender completely to Christ.

The motive for dedication is LOVE. We do not serve Christ in order to receive grace and mercy; we already have them. We serve Him out of love and appreciation. Each day God wants our body, mind, soul—our love—for us to serve Him.

Are you marked in Christ with the seal of the Holy Spirit?

Are you a living sacrifice?

Is your ear pierced?

Who do you serve? Self or God?

In the ANE, female slaves might bear children to their master for the childless wife as Hagar did for Sarah. Verses 7-9 deal with a girl who was sold by her father, not for slavery but for marriage—

If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter.

The daughter sold for marriage is designated a SERVANT. Should the terms of this marriage not be fulfilled after the betrothal, the purchaser must allow the girl to be redeemed; she was not to be sold outside that family. Furthermore, she must always be treated as a daughter and a free-born woman or a forfeiture clause was invoked in this breach of contract.

Verses 10-11 deal with polygamy—

If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

The biblical accounts of polygamy are filled with grief and despair for everyone involved. This law regulated but did not prohibit polygamy. A man might have many wives, but a wife could have only one husband. Apparently, to keep the custom of concubines from degenerating any further, these laws were made to restrain and regulate it.

In the Post-Babylonian period monogamy appears to have become more prevalent than at any previous time. The practice of polygamy nevertheless still existed; Herod the Great had no less than nine wives at one time.

Jesus and His apostles restored the sacred institution of marriage to monogamy—the original law under which man lived—and polygamy is ranked with the sins of fornication and adultery.

Truly, personhood is upheld and the institution of indentured slavery, indebtedness, and marriage contracts are all subject to rights, worth, and value of person.

God is deeply concerned about human interrelationships for the well-being of Israelite society. His laws are designed to promote the well-being of society in a world and time we do not comprehend. If Israel remains faithful and loyal to Yahweh, he will raise society to new heights. If they seek His kingdom and His righteousness—all things will be added unto them! His blessings will flow!

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