"These are the laws that you are to place before them:" Exodus 21:1 (MSG)
Do you remember the law of the playground? When I think back on it, the playground was a vicious place. There might have been an adult or two standing by the school door casually making sure no one died, but once you got out by the jungle him it was a whole new world. It was survival of the fittest, baby. The older, bigger and meaner you were the more clout you carried and the more scared followers you had in your herd. It was mob mentality to the core. The weak and defenseless were easy targets while the herd moved in unison behind the playground leaders out of self-defense.
Now, expand those rules and mentality to a regional level. Expand it to a national level.
We can scarce imagine a world without laws. Life without a well-defined set of civic rules, prescribed authority, and clearly laid out legal system is almost beyond our comprehension. But, for Moses and the millions of Israelites wandering through the desert behind him, there is no formal set of rules. The law of the playground is at work in the daily lives of a nation of people who have suddenly become nomads. The chaos between the lines of the chapters passed down to us must have been mind-boggling.
It's easy as modern readers to scratch our heads at these chapters of rules and laws, but I'm trying to wrap my brain around what this must have meant for them. As I read through the chapters yesterday and today, I think about the weight of responsibility on Moses to help God define a set of laws and a legal system for an entire nation of people who find themselves homeless wanderers.
It's pretty impressive to think that the legal system we take for granted traces its' roots all the way back to these very chapters of Exodus and to these people wandering in the desert 10,000 years ago.