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07 June 2011

Wrestling With God and Scripture

I had one of those experiences in the scriptures this week that happens about once a year. I'm reading large amounts of text closely and I see something I've never seen before. And this time it was awful:
Exodus 21:7 When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves go out. 

I know there's slavery in the bible. I know the Israelites seek to subjugate the Canaanites (or dream about it retrospectively) as they were subjugated by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. I get it.
But could they not even wait until they got out of Egypt, off the Sinai Peninsula before they started enslaving each other? And not just randomly; they were selling their own daughters for sex. The passage in Exodus tries to put some limited ethical reforms on the practice:
8 If she is unacceptable in the sight of her lord, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be ransomed; he shall not sell her to a foreign people – he does not have the authority to do so because of his treachery against her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall treat her justly as a daughter. 10 If he takes another woman to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or intercourse of the first woman. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing – no money.

Really? This is an improvement? They were just screwing these girls, literally and figuratively and selling them off away from their people? Really! Just despicable. Ugh. I had had it.

Then I read again a passage that I knew was there, yet it still took my breath away:
Exodus 22:21 Not one resident alien, female or male, shall you wrong or oppress, for you all were aliens in the land of Egypt. 22 Not one widow or fatherless child will you oppress. 23 If you do abuse them, as sure as they will cry out me, will I hear their cry. 24 My fury will burn, and I will kill you all with the sword, and your women shall become widows and your children fatherless.
How can both of these verses be in the same book? Does the Torah wrestle with herself? With God? Who walks limps away with the blessing?

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