Exodus 21:1 – 24:18; Haftarah: Jeremiah 34:8 – 34:22; 33:25 – 33:2
We begin our study this week of the “bridge” into our portion offered by last week’s portion: the instruction about altar-making and how this connects to the presence of God, justice and even the incarnation of Christ. We then study the laws of slavery / servitude in context and in their biblical significance – ultimately pointing towards Him who would come in the form of a servant to save all of humanity. We pay special attention to the slave with the “pierced ear” who loved his Master.. showing that, far from being an act of humiliation and punishment, this love to the Master forever is what we are all in Christ – and what Christ Himself has come to fulfill. Finally, we study the instruction of not “seething the kid in his mother’s milk” together with some Church Fathers as it pertains to our Lord – especially to the connection of His infancy and His passion.
Scripture references from the episode
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Heb 10:5-7 5
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body [“ear”, in Heb.] have you prepared [“cut out”, in Heb] for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
“In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
Paterius – Exposition of the Old and New Testament, Exodus 30
To make an altar of earth for the Lord is to place our hope in the incarnation of the Mediator. Our gift is accepted by God when, on this altar, our humility rests whatever it does upon faith in the Lord’s incarnation. We place the gift we offer on an altar made of earth if we base all our actions on faith in the Lord’s incarnation.
R. Ḥalaphta [b. Dosa] of Chephar Hanania said: When ten sit and are occupied with Torah, the Shechinah is among them, as it is said: ‘God stands in the congregation of God.’(Ps. 82:1) And whence is it proved for even five? As it is said: ‘He hath founded His troop upon the earth.’(Amos 9:6) And whence even three? As it is said: ‘He judgeth among gods.’(Ps. 82:1) And whence even two? As it is said: ‘Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another.’ (Mal. 3:16) And whence even one? As it is said: ‘In every place where I record My name I will come to thee and will bless thee.’ (Exod. 20:24)
(Ex 20:26) Origen – Homilies on Leviticus
But before we begin to say something about this kind of garment, I want to compare those miserable garments, with which the first man was clothed after he had sinned, with these holy and faithful garments. Indeed, it is said that God made those. “For God made skin tunics and clothed Adam and his wife.” Therefore, those were tunics of skins taken from animals. For with such as these, it was necessary for the sinner to be dressed. It says, “with skin tunics,” which are a symbol of the mortality which he received because of his skin and of his frailty which came from the corruption of the flesh. But if you have been already washed from these and purified through the Law of God, then Moses will dress you with a garment of incorruptibility so that “your shame may never appear” and “that this mortality may be absorbed by life.”
(Ex 21:6) Jerome – Against Jovinian 2.25
We read that every Hebrew keeps the same Passover, and that in the seventh year every prisoner is set free, and that at Jubilee, that is, the fiftieth year,1 every possession returns to its owner. All this refers not to the present but to the future. For being in bondage during the six days of this world, on the seventh day, the true and eternal sabbath, we shall be free. If we wish to be free, we will be free even while still in bondage in the world. If, however, we do not desire it, our ear will be bored in token of our disobedience. We shall, with our wives and children, remain in perpetual slavery if we prefer the flesh and its works to liberty.
Philo of Alexandria – On the Virtues 134
And being desirous to implant the seeds of gentleness and humanity in the minds of men, by every kind of expedient imaginable, he adds also another injunction akin to the preceding one, forbidding any one to sacrifice the mother and the offspring on the same day, for even if they are both to be sacrificed, still it must be at different times, for it is the greatest extravagance of barbarity to slay in one day the animal which has been born and her who is the cause of its birth.
Clement of Alexandria: Stromateis 2.18.94
Our physical nature rebels against the thought of making the nourishment of the living a garnish for the dead or the cause of life an accessory to the death of the body.
Cyril of Alexandria – Ep. 86.8–9
Concerning that most true immaculate Lamb it was commanded, “You shall not kill a lamb in the milk of his mother,” that is, in the next Pasch of its conception in the womb of its mother. So, Joseph wished secretly to put away Mary who was with child,lest she be killed with stones as defiled and an adulteress. In order that the lamb be not killed in the milk of his mother, by an invisible teacher instructing Joseph, or lest he be killed on the next Pasch of his nativity, Joseph fled into Egypt by the command of an angel in the month of March as the year came round, in the month in which Cain led the just Abel into the field to kill him, as a prefigurement of Christ, who was led to the tribunal of Pilate on the sixth day of the week, because he died on the cross on the same day on which he was conceived in the womb, while Adam died in spirit on the sixth day of the week for sin in paradise and died in his body on the same day.
Thomas Aquinas – STh., I-II q.102 a.6 ad 4
The figurative reason for this prohibition is this:—the kid, signifying Christ, on account of the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3), was not to be seethed, i.e., slain, by the Jews, in the milk of its dam, i.e., during His infancy