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A recent reading in Exodus brought to mind a memory of the very day our first granddaughter went to get her ears pierced. She was so proud of herself sporting the little studs and announced with delight, “I didn’t even cry!”

Exodus 21 gives directions regarding the possession of servants. In buying a Hebrew servant, the servant could serve no more than six years. He was to be set free in the seventh year. If he came single, he was to leave single. If he came married, he left with his wife.

However, if the master gave him a wife during the years of service, then only the man is set free. The wife and children would remain with the master. At that point, the man could say that he loved his wife and children, and did not want to be set free.

Special instructions were given for these circumstances:

But the slave may declare, ”˜I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God.Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.” (Exodus 21:5-6, NLT)

“The process probably went something like this: boss and servant went to the tabernacle (later the temple) and swore before the priests (who served as witnesses) while at the same times understanding that they were, far more importantly, swearing before God (who served as the ultimate witness to any oath) that they both wanted to enter into a permanent employment arrangement. Then the boss bore a hole in the servant’s ear, probably in the earlobe, which became a visible sign of permanent commitment to service. This prevented a servant from sneaking away from his boss, relocating elsewhere, and entering into a service contract with someone else. It also provided a permanent reminder to a boss that he had an obligation to employ the servant for life and could not renege on that obligation.”

(The New American Commentary, Exodus Volume 2, page 481)

It was a mutual commitment. They both benefited from this arrangement.


Join me at Woman to Woman Ministries HERE. We will continue to look at the mutual commitment and benefits of this arrangement.


Photo by Carmen Alarcón on Unsplash
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