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Deuteronomy 23:15

Miscellaneous Laws

15 If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master.

Deuteronomy 23:15 in Other Translations

15 Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee:
15 "You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you.
15 “If slaves should escape from their masters and take refuge with you, you must not hand them over to their masters.
15 Don't return a runaway slave to his master; he's come to you for refuge.
15 "Do not return a slave to his master when he has escaped from his master to you.

Deuteronomy 23:15 Meaning and Commentary

Deuteronomy 23:15

Thou shall not deliver unto his master the servant which is
escaped from his master unto thee.
] That is, one that has been used ill by a cruel and tyrannical master, and was in danger of his life with him, or of being lamed by him, and therefore obliged to make his escape from him on that account; such an one, when he fell into the hands of an Israelite, was not to be taken and bound, and sent back to his master again, but was to be retained till his master's anger subsided; or however until inquiry could be made into the cause of the difference between him and his master, and matters be made up between them to mutual satisfaction; or if it appeared that the flight of the servant was just, and it was not safe for him to return to his master, then he was to be used as hereafter directed; for it cannot be thought that this law was made to encourage and protect every idle, disobedient, and fugitive servant, which would be very sinful and unjust: the Jewish writers generally understand it of the servants of idolaters fleeing for the sake of religion; Onkelos renders it,

``a servant of the people,''

of Heathen people; the Targum of Jonathan is,

``thou shalt not deliver a stranger (i.e. a proselyte of righteousness, as Maimonides F23 calls this servant) into the hands of those that worship idols, but he shall be delivered by you, that he may be under the shadow of my Shechinah, because that he fled from the worship of his idol.''

Jarchi makes mention of another sense; that it may be understood of

``a Canaanitish servant of an Israelite that flees (from his master) without the land, where he was not obliged to go with him, and serve him against his will; but I suppose a proselyte is meant;''

and much more then will this hold good of an Hebrew servant in such circumstances. Aben Ezra interprets this of a servant not an Israelite, who, in time of war, flees from his master, not an Israelite also, unto the camp of Israel, and that for the glory of the divine name which is called upon Israel; such an one, though a servant, might not be delivered to his master.


F23 Hilchot Abadim, c. 8. sect. 11.

Deuteronomy 23:15 In-Context

13 As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement.
14 For the LORD your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.
15 If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master.
16 Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.
17 No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute.

Cross References 2

  • 1. 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 2:12; Psalms 71:1
  • 2. 1 Samuel 30:15
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