Exodus 21:3

3 If he came in by himself,[a] he shall go out by himself: if he were married*, then his wife shall go out with him.

Exodus 21:3 Meaning and Commentary

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.

Exodus 21:3 In-Context

1 Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.
2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: 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 were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have 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 servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. by himself: Heb. with his body
The King James Version is in the public domain.