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Mishpatim מִּשְׁפָּטִים


Torah: Exodus 21:1–24:18
PROPHETS: Jeremiah 34:8–22; 33:25–26

These devotionals are designed to supplement, not replace, your Bible reading.


Torah 1 & 2

Torah 1: 
Preservation of Human Dignity
Exodus 21:1–19

Israel has just accepted God’s invitation into covenant relationship. God spoke the Ten Words to the nation face-to-face and the community was terrified. Moses as mediator is confirmed.

God now gives Israel judgments for wise living, or rulings that reveal God’s standards for community-in-covenant living.

God begins instructing these recently freed slaves with guidelines for treating Hebrew slaves: male (vv. 2–6) and female (vv. 7–11). This slavery is not the modern notion of “forced labor” but is in fact “debt slavery.” Debt slavery functioned as kind of a protective economic “safety net” where people could receive the benefits of protection, provision, and debt reduction in return for committed service. It was kind of like an ancient form of welfare.

Some social conduct is so destructive to living together in healthy relationship with God and each other that it warrants death. Three examples of such capital offenses are: murder (vv. 12–14; premeditated and accidental), abusing parents (vv. 15, 17; physical and verbal), and kidnapping (v. 16).

Penalties less severe than death are warranted for cases such as assault and battery that result in personal injury: caused by a fight…

Torah 2:
Limitation of Human Vengeance

Exodus 21:20–22:4 [3 Heb]

…inflicted on a slave (vv. 20–21), brought upon a pregnant woman (vv. 22–25), or requiring freedom to compensate an injured slave/servant (vv. 26–27). God values life because He created it and it reflects His nature. Thus, it is dishonoring to God when human life is killed or injured.

Animals, however, can also harm or be harmed. Since humans have been given stewardship responsibility over animals (Genesis 1:28), humans have varying degrees of culpability/responsibility when animals harm people (vv. 28–32) and when people, or their animals, harm other animals (vv. 33–36).

These mishpatim now transition from issues relating to the sanctity of life to issues relating to personal property rights. The first property rights issue relates to property theft (22:1–4 [21:37-22:3 Heb]). Even though the new topic relates to property, can you discern a continued focus on sanctity of human life, even the life of the criminal? Do you see the “eye for eye” principle of justice as one that perpetuates violence in a punitive way? Perhaps this misunderstood principle was intended to limit violence in a protective way by curbing the passions of revenge?


Read Genesis 9:4–6 for God’s mishpatim to humanity after the flood. How do God’s instructions revealed at Mt. Sinai listed above amplify the principles laid down by God after Noah and his family emerged from the ark? Consider Messiah’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7. Do God’s instructions through Messiah contradict or amplify His earlier revelation? How can you amplify and illuminate Godly principles for holy in-covenant-relationship living through your life today (cf. 1 Peter 1:13–16)?


Torah 3 & 4

Torah 3: 
Justice Must Be Upheld 

Exodus 22:5–27 [4–26 HEB]

Continuing Mishpatim relating to personal property rights focus mainly on assigning guilt and making restitution. The preservation of justice is essential for a holy community. The principle is this: injustice is toxic to holiness! It defiles the people involved and can even defile the land upon which it is committed (cf. Numbers 35:33–34).

Thus, cases involving property that is damaged (vv. 5–6[4–5 Heb]), deposited with another for safekeeping (vv. 7–13[6–12 Heb]), or borrowed or hired (vv. 14–15[13–14 Heb]) must be resolved justly to maintain purity and thus intimacy with God—Who would soon be dwelling in the midst of the people (cf. Exodus 40:34).

Justice must also be maintained in cases regarding violated virgins (vv. 16–17[15–16 Heb]). The Mishpatim now switch from “if…then” rulings (called “casuistic” law) to “do not” ones (called “apodictic” law)!

Three prohibitions against: sorcery (v.18 [17 Heb]), bestiality (v. 19 [18 Heb]), and sacrificing to another god (v. 20 [19 Heb]) also preserve purity in the camp.

Three protections on behalf of: the stranger/foreigner (v. 21 [20 Heb]; Hebrew=“ger”), the widow and orphan (v. 22–24 [21-23 Heb]), and the impoverished borrower (vv. 25–27[24–26 Heb]) preserve neighborly concern for the needy. What character trait of God is named in v. 14 that is reflected by those who follow these Mishpatim? What “light” does Jeremiah 7:1–23 and James 1:27 shed on “true religion”? How can you make the “religion” you practice more true and pure?

Torah 4:
Authority Must Be Honored

Exodus 22:28 [27 Heb]–23:5

More ways to preserve a spiritually healthy community-in-relationship (with God and each other): respect authority (v. 28 [27 Heb]), give faithfully (v. 29–30 [28-29 Heb]), be holy (v. 31 [30 Heb]), be honest (23:1–3), and serve your enemies (vv. 4–5).


How does Proverbs 25:21–22 at least partially explain why Matthew 5:44 works? How does the latter part of Romans 2:4 fit in to the equation of “perfect” loving? Who is it particularly difficult for you to love well (friend, family or “enemy”)? Pray for that person and step out in faith by calling or writing them to redeem that relationship and honor the Lord!


torah 5 & 6

Torah 5: 

Exodus 23:6–19

What is the purpose of God saying, “I will not acquit the guilty” in v. 7? The context is God instructing Israel on how to promote justice and maintain holiness. In practice then, it is better for the sake of upholding justice under God for human legal systems to free those who may be guilty rather than condemn the one who is really innocent. Why do you think punishing the innocent is more unjust than letting the guilty go free? How does Nahum 1:3 provide an answer to this question? As God’s people we are to order our lives according to God’s “rhythms” and cycles of time. Shabbat and Chagim (festivals) keep us “marching” to God’s beat and remind us to keep our eyes on Him. Think about ways you can order your life more according to God’s timetable so as to “harness” your heart and mind.

Torah 6: 
Exodus 23:20–25

God never leaves His people without adequate provision to do what He instructs. He sent an angel along the way during our wilderness wanderings. He has also given you and me exactly what we need to do what He asks us to do. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:11–20 is an all-encompassing charge to make disciples. How does Yeshua conclude this instruction with abundant provision to accomplish the task (v. 20b)? 


torah 7 &

torah 7:

Exodus 23:26–24:18

Surrounding nations would prove to be a snare to Israel in their call for exclusive and faithful worship (23:32–33). What is a snare to you in fulfilling the same call (cf. 1 John 2:15–17)?

After God’s Mishpatim are revealed the covenant ceremony is ready to begin. Read these verses and keep your eyes on the blood. Blood is central to entering into covenant relationship. What specifically is doused in blood, and thus united, during the actual covenant ceremony?

After the covenant is sealed (v. 8) what benefits of this covenant relationship are experienced by the leaders (vv. 9–11)? Compare Luke 22:20. What is similar about the covenant and its benefits? Are you experiencing the benefits of your covenant relationship with God? Psalm 1:1–3 offers some prescriptions for receiving the “blessing” of relationship with God. Don’t forget, though, that the true “benefit” of covenant relationship is found only in the Covenant Maker, even as the real “gift” is the Gift Giver Himself. Only Moses is able to penetrate into the depth of God’s Presence where lack of food and water (cf. 34:28) are apparently not a problem. God’s Presence alone is the source of sustenance. How can you feast like Yeshua teaches us to in John 4:32 and 34? 

Entering God’s Glory
Exodus 24:15–18



Reaffirming Covenant 

Jeremiah 24:8–22; 33:25–26

Quoted from Walk Exodus! by J. Feinberg:

“Nebuchadnezzar invades Judah and lays siege to the capital, Jerusalem. It is 589 BCE, and the end is near. Jeremiah recalls the exodus from Egypt and quotes from the rishon of Mishpatim, about setting free Hebrew slaves after seven years. In desperation, King Zedekiah listens to Jeremiah, proclaims liberty to the slaves, and solemnizes the covenant (34:8–10). The siege is lifted and the people rejoice (588 BCE); but then the nobles decide that the Egyptian army had caused the pull back, and not the Lord. Nobles and people reverse course, taking back all their slaves (v. 11). It is the end. Zedekiah’s sons are killed in front of the king; and he is blinded, chained, and exiled into slavery. Says the Lord, He would reject the seed of David; but His covenant with day and night is based on His chukot (statutes), rules that go beyond reason (33:25). Read Exodus 31:16–18. God fixed Shabbat as a time for rest with the seed of Israel. Shabbat comes after day follows night for the sixth time. What is so special about resting on the seventh day? How is it related to David’s seed?” (Feinberg, J. Walk Exodus! 1999, p. 114)


Apostolic Writings

Apostolic Writings:
Re-Entering God’s Glory

Matthew 17:1–13

Quoted from Walk Exodus! by J. Feinberg:

“In the Days of Messiah, Yeshua stands on the Mount of Transfiguration in the Land of Promise, with Peter, James, and John (17:1). It is six days since Yeshua has prophesied, ‘…some people standing here…will not experience death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom!’ (Matthew 16:28; cf. Exodus 24:16–18, another 6-day wait). Suddenly, Messiah glows (vv. 2–3). Once Moses stood upon another mount, dying to enter the Land with his pleas apparently denied (Deuteronomy 3:26–27a; 32:52; 34:5–6). Now, Moses appears in the Land of Promise! Elijah, the herald who announces Messiah, also appears (vv. 10–12; Malachi 4:5 [3:23 TaNaCH]). As at Sinai, a bright cloud overshadows the witnesses and a voice calls out. It proclaims that Yeshua is God’s Son: ‘Tishm’u elav (Listen to Him)!’ (v. 5b; Deuteronomy 18:15b). What validated Moses as prophet now validates Yeshua. Read Matthew 17:13 (cf. Matthew 16:28). Yeshua’s followers conclude that John comes to announce Messiah. Who would you say understood more about the Son of Man coming in His future Kingdom, Moses or the followers?” (Feinberg, J. Walk Exodus! 1999, p. 115)


Rest. Fellowship. Discussion.