Exodus 21:8

8 If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her.

Exodus 21:8 Meaning and Commentary

Exodus 21:8

If she please not her master
"Be evil in the eyes of her master" F16; and he has no liking of her, and love to her, not being agreeable in her person, temper, or conduct, so that he does not choose to make her his wife:

who hath betrothed her to him;
but not completed the marriage, as he promised, when he bought her, or at least gave reason to expect that he would; for, according to the Jewish canons, a Hebrew handmaid might not be sold but to one who laid himself under obligation to espouse her to himself, or his son, when she was fit to be betrothed F17; and so Jarchi says, he ought to espouse her, and take her to be his wife, for the money of her purchase is the money of her espousals. There is a double reading of this passage, the Keri, or marginal reading we follow; the Cetib, or written text, is, "who hath not betrothed her", both may be taken in, "who hath not betrothed her to him", as he said he would, or as it was expected he should; for, had she been really betrothed, what follows could not have been done:

then shall he let her be redeemed;
she being at age, and fit for marriage, and her master not caring to marry her, her father shall redeem her, as the Targum of Jonathan; it was incumbent on him to do that, as it was on her master to let her be redeemed, to admit of the redemption of her; or whether, as Aben Ezra says, she redeemed herself, or her father, or one of her relations, if she was near the six years (the end of them), they reckoned how many years she had served, and how many were yet to the seventh, or to the time that she is in her own power, and according to the computation was the redemption: thus, for instance, as it is by others F18 put, if she was bought for six pounds, then one pound is the service of every year; and if she redeemed herself, her master took off of the money for the years she had served; or thus F19, if she was bought for sixty pence, and had served two years, he must pay her forty pence, and so free her:

to sell her unto a strange nation, he shall
have no power; that is, to another man, as both the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, even to an Israelite that was of another family, to whom the right of redemption did not belong; for to sell an Israelite, man or woman, to a Gentile, or one of another nation, was not allowed of in any case, as Josephus


F20 observes; but the meaning is, he had no power to sell her to another, though of the same nation, to be his handmaid; this power neither her master nor her father had, as Jarchi asserts, she being redeemed, and in her own power:

seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her;
in not fulfilling his promise made to her father when he sold her to him, or not answering the expectation he had raised in her; and especially he dealt thus with her, if he had corrupted her, and yet refused to betroth and marry her.

F16 (ynyeb her) "mala in oculis", Montanus; "mala videbitur in oculis", Junius & Tremellius; "mala fuerit in oculis", Drusius.
F17 Maimon. Hilchot Abadim, c. 4. sect. 11. & in Misn. Kiddushin, c. 1. sect. 2.
F18 Bartenora in Kiddush. ib.
F19 Maimon. in ib.
F20 Antiqu. l. 16. c. 1. sect. 1.

Exodus 21:8 In-Context

6 then his master shall bring him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life.
7 When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do.
8 If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her.
9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter.
10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.