Shemot 21

1 1 Now these are the mishpatim which thou shalt set before them.
2 If thou acquire an eved Ivri, shesh shanim he shall serve; and in the seventh he shall go out lachafeshi (to the freedom) for no charge.
3 If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he were a ba’al isha, then his isha shall go out with him.
4 If his adon have given him an isha, and to him she gives birth to banim or banot; the isha and her yeledim shall be her adon’s, and he shall go out [free] by himself.
5 And if the eved shall plainly say, I love adoni, my isha, and my banim; I will not go out lachafeshi (to the freedom);
6 Then his adon shall bring him unto HaElohim; he shall also bring him to the delet (door), or unto the mezuzah; and his adon shall pierce through his ozen (ear) with a piercing-tool; then he shall serve him l’olam.
7 And if an ish sell his bat to be an amah (maidservant), she shall not go out as the avadim [go free].
8 If she please not her adon, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed [i.e., let her freedom be purchased]; to sell her unto an am nochri (foreign people) he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.
9 And if he have betrothed her unto his ben, he shall deal with her according to the mishpat habanot (rights of [free] daughters; i.e., those rights of verse 10).
10 If he take him another, her food, her covering of clothing, and her onah (conjugal rights) shall he not deprive.
11 And if he does not perform these three unto her, then shall she go out free without kesef.
12 He that strikes down an ish, so that the ish die, shall be surely put to death.
13 And if he lie not in ambush, but HaElohim deliver him into his yad, then I will appoint thee a makom (i.e., city of refuge) where he shall flee there.
14 But if an ish come premeditatedly upon his re’a, to murder him by guile; thou shalt take him from Mine Mizbe’ach for capital punishment.
15 And he that striketh down his av, or his em, shall be surely put to death.
16 And he that kidnaps an ish, and selleth him, or if he be found in his power, the kidnapper shall surely be put to death.
17 And he that curseth his av, or his em, shall surely be put to death.
18 And if anashim quarrel, and one strike another with an even (stone), or with his egrof (fist), and he die not, but is bedfast;
19 If he rise again, and walk around outside upon his staff, then shall he that struck down him be absolved; only shivto yiten (he shall give for his lost time), and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed.
20 And if an ish strikes his eved, or his amah, with a shevet (rod), and he die under his yad; he shall be surely avenged.
21 Notwithstanding, if he continue a yom or two, he shall not be avenged; for he is his kesef.
22 If men fight, and hurt an isha harah (pregnant woman), so that she gives birth prematurely but not with any injury; he shall be surely punished, according as the ba’al haisha will assess a fine upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
23 And if any ason (harm, fatality) follow, then thou shalt take nefesh for nefesh,
24 Ayin for ayin, shen for shen, yad for yad, regel for regel,
25 Burn for burn, wound for wound, chaburah (stripe laceration) for chaburah.
26 And if an ish strike the ayin of his eved, or the ayin of his amah, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his ayin’s sake.
27 And if he strike his eved’s shen (tooth), or his amah’s shen; he shall let him go free for his shen’s sake.
28 If an ox gore an ish or an isha, that they die; then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his basar shall not be eaten; but the ba’al hashor (owner of the ox) shall be exempt from punishment.
29 But if the shor habitually from mitmol (yesterday) gored, and its ba’al has been warned, and he hath not kept it in the bull pen, and it hath killed an ish or an isha; the shor shall be stoned, and his ba’al also shall be put to death.
30 If there be laid on him a kofer (atonement payment, ransom), then he shall give for the redemption of his nefesh whatsoever is assessed upon him.
31 Whether he have gored a ben, or have gored a bat, according to this mishpat shall it be done unto him.
32 If the ox shall gore an eved or an amah; he shall give unto their adon sheloshim shekalim kesef, and the ox shall be stoned.
33 And if an ish shall open a bor (pit), or if an ish shall dig a bor and not cover it, and an ox or a donkey fall therein;
34 The ba’al habor shall make restitution, and give kesef unto their ba’alim; and the carcass shall be his.
35 And if the shor ish (ox of a man) hurt the ox of a neighbor, that it die; then they shall sell the shor hachai (live ox), and divide the kesef of it; and the carcass also they shall divide.
36 Or if it be known that the shor hath habitually from mitmol (yesterday) gored, and his ba’al hath not kept it in the bull pen; he shall surely pay ox for ox; and the carcass shall belong to him.

Shemot 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


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.

Shemot 21 Commentaries

The Orthodox Jewish Bible fourth edition, OJB. Copyright 2002,2003,2008,2010, 2011 by Artists for Israel International. All rights reserved.