Exodus 21:7 MEANING

Exodus 21:7
(7) If a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant.--The right of selling their children into slavery was regarded in ancient times as inherent in the patria potestas, and was practised largely by many nations (Herod. v. 6; Heyne, Opusc., vol. iv., p. 125). Among the Hebrews such sales were, comparatively speaking, rare; but still they occasionally took place, in consequence of extreme poverty (Nehemiah 5:5). Women sold in this way might claim their freedom at the end of six years if they chose (Deuteronomy 15:17); but if purchased to be wives, they received a further protection. If the intention were carried out, they were to be entitled to the status of wives during their whole lifetime, even though their husbands contracted further marriages (Exodus 21:10). If, instead of becoming the wife of her purchaser, a woman was made over by him to his son, she was to enjoy all the rights of a daughter (Exodus 21:9). If the purchaser declined to act in either of these two ways, he was compelled to take one of two other courses. Either he must get another Hebrew to discharge his obligation of marriage (Exodus 21:8), or he must return the maid intact to her father, without making any demand for the restitution of the purchase-money (Exodus 21:11). These provisions afforded a considerable protection to the slave-concubine, who might otherwise have been liable to grievous wrong and oppression.

Verse 7. - If a man sell his daughter to be a maid-servant. Among ancient nations the father' s rights over his children were generally regarded as including the right to sell them for slaves. In civilised nations the right was seldom exercised; but what restrained men was rather a sentiment of pride than any doubt of such sales being proper. Many barbarous nations, like the Thracians (Herod. 5:6), made a regular practice of selling their daughters. Even at Athens there was a time when sales of children had been common (Plut. Vit. Solon. § 13). Existing custom, it is clear, sanctioned such sales among the Hebrews, and what the law now did was to step in and mitigate the evil consequences. (Compare the comment on verse 2.) These were greatest in the case of females. Usually they were bought to be made the concubines, or secondary wives of their masters. If this intention were carried out, then they were to be entitled to their status and maintenance as wives during their lifetime, even though their husband took another (legitimate) wife (ver. 10). If the retention was not carried out, either the man was to marry her to one of his sons (ver. 9), or he was to sell his rights over her altogether with his obligations to another Hebrew; or he was to send her back at once intact to her father' s house, without making any claim on him to refund the purchase-money. These provisos may not have furnished a remedy against all the wrongs of a weak, and, no doubt, an oppressed class; but they were important mitigations of the existing usages, and protected the slave-concubine to a considerable extent.

21:1-11 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.And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant,.... That is, if an Israelite, as the Targum of Jonathan, sells his little daughter, as the same Targum, and so Jarchi and Aben Ezra, one that is under age, that is not arrived to the age of twelve years and a day, and this through poverty; he not being able to support himself and his family, puts his daughter out to service, or rather sells her to be a servant:

she shall not go out as the menservants do; that are sold, before described; or rather, according to the Targum,"as the Canaanitish servants go out, who are made free, because of a tooth, or an eye, (the loss of them, Exodus 21:26) but in the years of release, and with the signs (of puberty), and in the jubilee, and at the death of their masters, with redemption of silver,''so Jarchi.

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