The first reading for this coming Sunday

The Jewish Bible establishes many laws for Jews – 613 according to medieval scholars. I have not counted them. Some of them appear in the passage from Exodus below.

These are laws particular to Israel’s unique covenantal relationship with God, as his chosen people. Early Christian debate established that Gentiles who were won to faith in Israel’s God through Christ were not bound to all of these laws (cf Acts 15)

That said, some of the laws have held a central place in Christian tradition – some permanently such as those cited by Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel, and the 10 Commandments themselves. Others have been held important for a time, but then abandoned – such as the commandment about usury below, and that of not permitting a sorceress to live.

Even those that are no longer applied literally often still have something to teach us about good living, godly living – for example 23.4-5 below. Our ‘enemies’ (if thus we choose to call them) may no longer have oxes or donkeys, but there are still many times when in charity they deserve our care.

  • Which of those below would you choose to observe?
  • What wisdom do you find in the one’s you reject, at least in the form they are given?

Exodus 22:20-26
First reading for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Laws About Social Justice
22.16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.

18 “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.

19 “Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.

20 “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction.

21 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

25 “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. 26 If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, 27 for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

28 “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.

29 “You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.

31 “You shall be consecrated to me. Therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.

23.1 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, 3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. 8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

9 “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Acknowledgements
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
~ Commentary: © 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photograph:© 2019, Allen Morris. Detail of Font cover, St Mary and St John’s, Wolverhampton.

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