The legal mess in Exodus is one of the most influential documents in Western history. Once the Israelites are free, they have to decide what kind of society they are going to build. How will they live as a community? How will law-breakers be dealt with?
Exodus gives us the law, sure, but we never really get the specifics. Especially since we get so many details on priestly culture (kill Goat A on Day 34.2, and make sure Bob is there or he'll be mad), it seems a little strange. But don't worry—finish the Hebrew Bible and you'll have more details than you could ever hope for.
Questions About Law and Society
What is Jethro's role in influencing the law? Can you spot other non-Israelite influences?
Why are there practical rewards (like health or land) for following the law? How does our society do things differently?
How does "eye for an eye" work in conjunction with "do not murder?" Are the laws all this contradictory?
Why pair all of the priestly legalese with commandments as important as the Ten?