“These are the laws you are to set before them:

Hebrew Servants

2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. 3 If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

5 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

7 “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. 8 If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. 9 If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

Some may remember a song which, I think, came out of the ‘Dales’ movement:

‘Pierce my ear, O Lord my God,

Take me to your throne this day.

I will serve no other god,

Lord I’m here to stay.

For you have paid the price for me,

With your blood you’ve ransomed me.

I will serve you eternally,

A free man I’ll never be.’

It will readily understood that this imagery is drawn from verses 5,6 of this chapter. Hebrew servants were not to be treated as permanent ‘slaves’. They were to be freed after 6 years (2).

But, a servant, out of sheer love, could make a voluntary commitment to become a “servant for life” (6). We Christians, also, have the honour of being servants of Jesus Christ for life (Ps.84:10: Rom.1:1). We love Him. We know it is the utmost privilege to be His slaves. Our commitment is to always love and serve Him, by His grace

This strange (and even painful- sounding) ear-piercing activity, may have had to do with the ear being the organ of hearing, and therefore of obedience. ‘The pierced ear was on the master’s part a claim to obedience; on the servant’s part it was a commitment to obey.’ Alec Motyer: ‘The Message of Exodus’, p.239.

It seems to me that this is the most obvious devotional thought to share from this passage. But I will try to make one or two further comments tomorrow.