Lent with the Book of Exodus (Ch 21)
March 05, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Exodus 21 (Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent)


“Now these are the ordinances 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 without paying anything. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself. If he is married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. But if the servant shall plainly say, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I will not go out free;’ then his master shall bring him to God, and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever.

“If a man sells his daughter to be a female servant, she shall not go out as the male servants do. If she doesn’t please her master, who has married her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. If he marries her to his son, he shall deal with her as a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marital rights. If he doesn’t do these three things for her, she may go free without paying any money.

“One who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death, but not if it is unintentional, but God allows it to happen; then I will appoint you a place where he shall flee. If a man schemes and comes presumptuously on his neighbor to kill him, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.

“Anyone who attacks his father or his mother shall be surely put to death.

“Anyone who kidnaps someone and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

“Anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

“If men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone, or with his fist, and he doesn’t die, but is confined to bed; if he rises again and walks around with his staff, then he who struck him shall be cleared; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for his healing until he is thoroughly healed.

“If a man strikes his servant or his maid with a rod, and he dies under his hand, the man shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if his servant gets up after a day or two, he shall not be punished, for the servant is his property.

“If men fight and hurt a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely, and yet no harm follows, he shall be surely fined as much as the woman’s husband demands and the judges allow. But if any harm follows, then you must take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, and bruise for bruise.

“If a man strikes his servant’s eye, or his maid’s eye, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. If he strikes out his male servant’s tooth, or his female servant’s tooth, he shall let the servant go free for his tooth’s sake.

“If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull shall surely be stoned, and its meat shall not be eaten; but the owner of the bull shall not be held responsible. But if the bull had a habit of goring in the past, and this has been testified to its owner, and he has not kept it in, but it has killed a man or a woman, the bull shall be stoned, and its owner shall also be put to death. If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed. Whether it has gored a son or has gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him. If the bull gores a male servant or a female servant, thirty shekels of silver shall be given to their master, and the ox shall be stoned.

“If a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and doesn’t cover it, and a bull or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make it good. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall be his.

“If one man’s bull injures another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live bull, and divide its price; and they shall also divide the dead animal. Or if it is known that the bull was in the habit of goring in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall surely pay bull for bull, and the dead animal shall be his own.


Such an enactment required a man not to injure others. Supposing him to have sustained an injury, his anger at the wrongdoer must not go beyond an equal retribution. But the general bearing of the legal mode of life was by no means pleasing to God. It was even given to those of old time as a schoolmaster, accustoming them little by little to a fitting righteousness and leading them on gently toward the possession of the perfect good. For it is written, “To do what is just is the beginning of the good way”; but finally all perfection is in Christ and his precepts. “For to him that strikes you on the cheek,” he says, “offer also the other.” (Cyril of Alexandria)
Not to exceed due measure in inflicting punishment, lest the requital be greater than the injury—that is the lesser justice of the Pharisees. And it is a high degree of justice, for it would not be easy to find a man who, on receiving a fisticuff, would be content to give only one in return and who, on hearing one word from a reviler, would be content to return one word exactly equivalent. On the contrary, either he exceeds moderation because he is angry, or he thinks that, with regard to one who has inflicted an injury on another, justice demands a penalty greater than the injury suffered by the innocent person. To a great extent, such a spirit is restrained by the law, in which is written the directive, “An eye for an eye” and “A tooth for a tooth.” Moderation is signified by these words, so that the penalty may not be greater than the injury. And this is the beginning of peace. But to have absolutely no wish for any such retribution—that is perfect peace. (Augustine of Hippo)
We read that every Hebrew keeps the same Passover, and that in the seventh year every prisoner is set free, and that at Jubilee, that is, the fiftieth year, every possession returns to its owner. All this refers not to the present but to the future. For being in bondage during the six days of this world, on the seventh day, the true and eternal sabbath, we shall be free. If we wish to be free, we will be free even while still in bondage in the world. If, however, we do not desire it, our ear will be bored in token of our disobedience. We shall, with our wives and children, remain in perpetual slavery if we prefer the flesh and its works to liberty. (Jerome)
Musical Selection
O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth, thou God, to whom vengeance belongeth, show thyself. Arise, thou Judge of the world, and reward the proud after their deserving. Lord, how long shall the ungodly, how long shall the un- godly triumph? How long shall all wicked doers speak so disdainfully, and make such proud boasting?  They smite down thy people, O Lord, and trouble thine heritage. They murder the widow and the stranger, and put the fatherless to death.  And yet they say, Tush, the Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Take heed, ye unwise among the people; O ye fools, when will ye understand? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? or he that made the eye, shall he not see? Or he that instructeth the heathen, it is he that teacheth man knowledge; shall not he punish? The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are but vain. Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him in thy law, that thou mayest give him patience in time of adversity, until the pit be dug up for the ungodly. For the Lord will not fail his people; neither will he forsake his inheritance. And why? judgement shall return again unto righteousness, and all such as are true in heart shall follow it. Who will rise up with me against the wicked? or who will take my part against the evil doers? If the Lord had not helped me, it had not failed, but my soul had been put to silence. But when I said, My foot hath slipped, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. In the multitude of the sorrows that I had in my heart, thy comforts have refreshed my soul. Wilt thou have anything to do with the stool of wickedness, which imagineth mischief as a law? They gather them together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.  But the Lord is my refuge, and my God is the strength of my confidence. He shall recompense them their wickedness, and destroy them in their own malice; yea, the Lord our God shall destroy them.


Do not forsake us, Lord, in this time of penance,
but by your grace
confirm your power within us
and renew our dedication to your holy service.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen.