At the end of seven years
Not when seven years were elapsed and fully completed; but within the compass of seven years, or as soon as the seventh year was began; for this term of seven years is the term of the seventh year coming in, and not going out, as appears from the law itself, ( Exodus 21:9 ) ; and from an after clause in this verse, "when he hath served thee six years"; at the end of which, and the beginning of the seventh: and so Maimonides F13 interprets this law,
``he whom the sanhedrim sold served six years from the day of his sale, and at the beginning of the seventh year he was free:''
though the Vulgate Latin version very wrongly renders it, "when seven years are completed"; which version Sanctius takes a good deal of pains to reconcile to the original law. A Hebrew might sell himself for more years than six; he might sell himself for ten or twelve, as the above Jewish writer says, and nothing could release him but the year of jubilee; and that would do it, if he had served but one year F14
; let ye go every man his brother, an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee
or, "hath sold himself unto thee" F15
; to be a servant; for money was not given with apprentices to their masters, as is usual with us; but masters gave money for their servants, and bought them either of themselves, or of the magistrates; hence it is said, "if thou buy an Hebrew servant" ( Exodus 21:2
) . A Hebrew servant was sold either against his will, or with it; if a man committed a theft, and he had not wherewith to make restoration, the sanhedrim or magistrates said him: if he was exceeding poor, the law gave him liberty to sell himself; but he might not sell himself as long as he had anything left, even a covering; and after that was gone, he might sell himself; and he was bought with silver or the value of silver or by contract or bond F16
; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shall let him go free from thee
or "from with thee" F17
; from being with thee, from being in thy house, as well as from being in thy service; he was to be dismissed, so as to go where he pleased, and work for himself, or another, as he thought fit; but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear
to obey the laws of God, and particularly this concerning servants. This is not to be understood of the fathers with whom the covenant was first made, and to whom this law was first given; but their posterity in later times, who yet lived long before the present generation, and so might with great propriety be called their fathers; and by which it appears that this law had been long neglected.
F13 Hilchot Abadim, c. 2. sect. 2.
F15 (Kl rkmy) "se ventdiderit tibi", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
F16 Hilchot Abadim, c. 1. sect. 1, 2. & c. 2. sect. 1.
F17 (Kmem) "acuta te", Schmidt.