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1 Now these are the Iudgements which thou shalt set before them.

2 If thou buy an Hebrew seruant, sixe yeeres he shall serue, and in the seuenth he shall goe out free for nothing.

3 If he came in by himselfe, he shal goe out by himselfe: if he were married, then his wife shall goe out with him.

4 If his master haue giuen him a wife, and she haue borne him sonnes or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her masters, and he shall go out by himselfe.

5 And if the seruant shall plainely say, I loue my master, my wife, and my children, I will not goe out free:

6 Then his master shall bring him vnto the Iudges, hee shall also bring him to the doore, or vnto the doore post, and his master shall boare his eare through with an aule, and he shall serue him for euer.

7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a mayd seruant, shee shall not goe out as the men seruants doe.

8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himselfe, then shall he let her be redeemed: To sell her vnto a strange nation hee shall haue no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.

9 And if he haue betrothed her vnto his sonne, he shall deale with her after the maner of daughters.

10 If he take him another wife, her food, her rayment, and her duety of mariage shall he not diminish.

11 And if he doe not these three vnto her, then shall she goe out free without money.

12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shalbe surely put to death.

13 And if a man lye not in wait, but God deliuer him into his hand, then I will appoint thee a place whither hee shall flee:

14 But if a man come presumptuously vpon his neighbour to slay him with guile, thou shalt take him from mine Altar, that he may die.

15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall bee surely put to death.

16 And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

17 And hee that curseth his father or his mother, shall surely bee put to death.

18 And if men striue together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed:

19 If hee rise againe, and walke abroad vpon his staffe, then shall hee that smote him, be quit: onely he shall pay for the losse of his time, and shall cause him to be throughly healed.

20 And if a man smite his seruant, or his mayd, with a rod, and hee die vnder his hand, hee shall bee surely punished:

21 Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, hee shall not be punished, for he is his money.

22 If men striue, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischiefe follow, he shalbe surely punished, according as the womans husband will lay vpon him, and hee shall pay as the Iudges determine.

23 And if any mischiefe follow, then thou shalt giue life for life,

24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foote for foote,

25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

26 And if a man smite the eye of his seruant, or the eye of his mayd, that it perish, hee shall let him goe free for his eyes sake.

27 And if he smite out his man seruants tooth, or his mayde seruants tooth, hee shal let him goe free for his tooths sake.

28 If an oxe gore a man, or a woman, that they die, then the oxe shal be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten: but the owner of the oxe shall be quitte.

29 But if the oxe were wont to push with his horne in time past, and it hath bene testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the oxe shall be stoned, and his owner also shall bee put to death.

30 If there be layed on him a summe of money, then he shall giue for the ransome of his life, whatsoeuer is layd vpon him.

31 Whether hee haue gored a sonne, or haue gored a daughter, according to this iudgement shall it bee done vnto him.

32 If the oxe shall push a man seruant, or a mayd seruant, hee shall giue vnto their master thirty shekels, and the oxe shalbe stoned.

33 And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall digge a pit, and not couer it, and an oxe or an asse fall therein:

34 The owner of the pit shall make it good, and giue money vnto the owner of them, and the dead beast shalbe his.

35 And if one mans oxe hurt anothers, that he die, then they shall sell the liue oxe, and diuide the money of it, and the dead oxe also they shall diuide.

36 Or if it bee knowen that the oxe hath vsed to push in time past, and his owner hath not kept him in, hee shall surely pay oxe for oxe, and the dead shall be his owne.

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Commentary for Exodus 21

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

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, #Eph 6:9|, considering with Job, What shall I do, when God riseth up? #Job 31:13,14|.

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.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Discussion for Exodus 21

  • Sarah, Child of God
    Matthew 5:38 repeats verse 24. I just looked up the word "tooth" and found this.
  • JP
    The word slavery is not in the Bible.
  • J
    @Sed B where in the bible does it give this explanation or definition of "Servant"
  • Sed. B.
    The Judgments are explained in Deuteronomy. Sold servants were poor people who had borrowed money and could not repay it. They'd work 6 years to repay the debt, owners could sell them to another owner. Finally, the poor would be set free even if debt was not repaid fully and with lavishly gifts from the former "employer". This was done to avoid usury and eliminate poverty from Israel altogether.
  • James L. Ryals
    I have to admit I am extremely disappointed in this passage in The Bible, it sounds as if slavery is confirmed to be God's will. I'm fully aware that this is not only speaking to people of color , find it disturbing to read
  • Maria Pelaez

    The ten commandments, is the representation of God's character, No one, is free from obeying it, it is one requirement in obtaining salvation. The other is, the testimony of Jesus Christ who said, he is the son of God. The covenant between man and God our father are his ten commandments. Further, in the new testament, 1Cor. Chap. 6 verses 9-11 testifies of this. Jesus came to fulfill the law.

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