Exodus 21:3

3 If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him.

Read Exodus 21:3 Using Other Translations

If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him.
If he was single when he became your slave, he shall leave single. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife must be freed with him.

What does Exodus 21:3 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Exodus 21:3

If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself
That is, if he came into his servitude "alone", as the Septuagint version has it, he should go out of it in like manner; the word for "by himself", some interpret with "his garment" F6, or the skirt of one; and then the sense seems to be, that as he was clothed when he was sold, so he should be when made free: but rather the phrase literally is "with his body" F7; not his naked body, or as destitute of raiment, and the necessaries of life; for, as before observed, his master was to furnish him liberally with good things: but the plain meaning is, that if he was a single or unmarried man when he entered his master's service, he should go out, so; or as a Jewish writer F8 expresses it, as if he should say, with his body, without another body with him, who is his wife, as appears by what follows; unless his master should give him a wife while in his service, which is supposed in the next verse, and even then he was to go out alone, if he chose to go out at all; though Jarchi says, if he was not married at first, his master might not give him a Canaanitish woman to beget slaves of her:

if he were married, then his wife shall go with him;
that is, if he had a wife, a daughter of Israel, as the Targum of Jonathan; or an Israelitish woman, as Jarchi, and had her at his coming; for otherwise, if it was one his master after gave him, she might not go out, as appears by the following verse; but being his wife before his servitude, and an Israelitish woman, was not the master's bondmaid, nor bought with his money, and therefore might go out free with her husband.


F6 (wpgb) "cum quali veste", V. L. "cum veste sua"; some in Vatablus & Drusius.
F7 "Cum corpore suo", Munster, Pagninus, Vatablus, Drusius; "solus corpore suo", Junius & Tremellius; "cum solo corpore suo", Piscator.
F8 R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 15. 1.
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