Exodus 21

1 Now these are the rights which thou shalt set before them.
2 If thou should buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.
3 If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he was married, then his wife shall go out with him.
4 If his master has given him a wife, and she has born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.
5 And if the slave shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free.
6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him forever.
7 And if a man should sell his daughter to be a maidslave, she shall not go out as the menslaves do.
8 If she pleases not her master, who therefore took her not unto himself to wife, then it is permitted that she be ransomed; and he may not sell her unto a strange nation when he rejects her.
9 And if he has betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.
10 If he takes another wife, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, he shall not diminish.
11 And if he does not do these three things unto her, then shall she go out free without money.
12 He that smites a man so that he dies shall be surely put to death.
13 And if a man did not lie in wait but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint thee a place where he shall flee.
14 But if a man comes presumptuously upon his neighbour to slay him with prudence, thou shalt take him from my altar that he may die.
15 And he that smites his father or his mother shall be surely put to death.
16 Likewise he that steals a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.
17 In the same manner he that curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
18 And if men strive together and one smites another with a stone or with his fist and he dies not, but keeps his bed,
19 if he rises again and walks abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be absolved, only he shall pay for the loss of his time and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.
20 And if a man smites his slave or his maid with a rod and he dies under his hand, he shall be surely punished.
21 Notwithstanding, if he continues a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money.
22 If men strive and hurt a woman with child so that she aborts but without death, he shall be surely punished according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him, and he shall pay by the judges.
23 And if there is death, then thou shalt pay life for life,
24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
26 And if someone smites the eye of their slave or the eye of their maid that it perishes, he shall let them go free for their eye’s sake.
27 And if he smites out his manslave’s tooth or his maidslave’s tooth, he shall let them go free for their tooth’s sake.
28 If an ox gores a man or a woman that they die, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be absolved.
29 But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past and it has been testified to his owner, and he has not kept him in, but that he has killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.
30 If there is laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatever is laid upon him.
31 Whether it has gored a son or has gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him.
32 If the ox shall gore a manslave or a maidslave, he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
33 And if someone shall open a pit or if someone shall dig a pit and not cover it and an ox or an ass falls in it,
34 the owner of the pit shall make it good and give money unto their owner, and the dead beast shall be his.
35 And if one man’s ox hurts another’s that he dies; then they shall sell the live ox and divide the money of it, and the dead ox they shall also divide.
36 Or if it is known that the ox used to push in time past and his owner has not kept him in, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead shall be his own.

Exodus 21 Commentary

Chapter 21

Laws respecting servants. (1-11) Judicial laws. (12-21) Judicial laws. (22-36)

Verses 1-11 The laws in this chapter relate to the fifth and sixth commandments; and though they differ from our times and customs, nor are they binding on us, yet they explain the moral law, and the rules of natural justice. The servant, in the state of servitude, was an emblem of that state of bondage to sin, Satan, and the law, which man is brought into by robbing God of his glory, by the transgression of his precepts. Likewise in being made free, he was an emblem of that liberty wherewith Christ, the Son of God, makes free from bondage his people, who are free indeed; and made so freely, without money and without price, of free grace.

Verses 12-21 God, who by his providence gives and maintains life, by his law protects it. A wilful murderer shall be taken even from God's altar. But God provided cities of refuge to protect those whose unhappiness it was, and not their fault, to cause the death of another; for such as by accident, when a man is doing a lawful act, without intent of hurt, happens to kill another. Let children hear the sentence of God's word upon the ungrateful and disobedient; and remember that God will certainly requite it, if they have ever cursed their parents, even in their hearts, or have lifted up their hands against them, except they repent, and flee for refuge to the Saviour. And let parents hence learn to be very careful in training up their children, setting them a good example, especially in the government of their passions, and in praying for them; taking heed not to provoke them to wrath. Through poverty the Israelites sometimes sold themselves or their children; magistrates sold some persons for their crimes, and creditors were in some cases allowed to sell their debtors who could not pay. But "man-stealing," the object of which is to force another into slavery, is ranked in the New Testament with the greatest crimes. Care is here taken, that satisfaction be made for hurt done to a person, though death do not follow. The gospel teaches masters to forbear, and to moderate threatenings, ( Ephesians 6:9 ) , considering with Job, What shall I do, when God riseth up? ( Job 31:13 Job 31:14 ) .

Verses 22-36 The cases here mentioned give rules of justice then, and still in use, for deciding similar matters. We are taught by these laws, that we must be very careful to do no wrong, either directly or indirectly. If we have done wrong, we must be very willing to make it good, and be desirous that nobody may lose by us.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO EXODUS 21

In this, and the two following chapters, are delivered various laws and precepts, partly of a moral, and partly of a religious, but chiefly of a civil nature, respecting the commonwealth of Israel, and its political good. This chapter treats of servants, and laws relating to them; to menservants, how long they shall serve, and what is to be done to those who are desirous of staying with their masters after their time is up, Ex 21:1-6, to maidservants, and especially betrothed ones, either to a father or a son, Ex 21:7-11, likewise it contains laws concerning the slaughter of men, whether with design or unawares, Ex 21:12-14, and concerning the ill usage of parents, Ex 21:15,17, and man stealing, Ex 21:16 and of mischief that comes by men's quarrelling and fighting, Ex 21:18,19 and by smiting a man or maidservant, Ex 21:20,21,26,27, to a woman with child, that is, by means of men's striving and contending with each other, Ex 21:22-25 and of damages that come by oxen, or to them, Ex 21:28-36.

Exodus 21 Commentaries

The Jubilee Bible

(from the Scriptures of the Reformation)

edited by Russell M. Stendal

Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2010