The Penal Law of the Book of the Covenant

Introduction and commentary on Exodus 20:22 to 22:20

The title “Book of the Covenant” is taken from Exodus 24:7 where it refers back to verse three, “the words of the LORD and all the ordinances (mišpātîm).” This in turn refers back to the revelation which Moses had received from the LORD when he ascended the mountain for the first time, revelation we find in Exodus 20:22 – 23:33. The book itself is divided into three sections. It begins with a section on the worship of God. At 21:1 we have a title for the next section: “These are the mišpātîm.” There follows a lengthy section of judicial laws, beginning with a series of “judgements” or case laws, which most appropriately fall under the rubric “mišpātîm,” but also incorporating other kinds of legal formulations. The book concludes at 23:20-33 with a paraenetic section on the angel which will accompany the Israelites to the promised land.


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