The Second Book of Moses, Called Exodus

Chapter 21

Laws for men servants, 1-4. For the servant whose ear is bored, 5, 6. For women servants, 7-11. For manslaughter, 12-15. For those who steal men, 16. For cursers of parents, 17. For smiters, 18-21. For a hurt by chance, 22-27. For an ox that gores, 28-32. For him that is an occasion of harm, 33-36.

1 "Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them.

2 "If you buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve. And in the seventh he shall depart free for nothing. 3 If he came in by himself, he shall depart by himself. If he was married, then his wife shall depart with him. 4 If his master has given him a wife and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's and he shall depart by himself. 5 And if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children. I will not depart free,' 6 Then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the door-post, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever.

7 "And if a man sells his daughter to be a woman-servant, she shall not depart as the men-servants do. 8 If she shall not please her master who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no power to sell her to a strange nation, seeing he has dealt deceitfully with her. 9 And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. 10 If he takes him another wife, her food, her clothing, and her duty of marriage he shall not diminish. 11 And if he does not perform these three to her, then she shall depart free without money.

12 "He who smites a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. 13 And if the man did not lie in wait, but God has delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint you a place where he shall flee. 14 But if a man comes presumptuously upon his neighbor to slay him with guile, you shall take him from my altar so that he may die.

15 "And he who smites his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

16 "And he who steals a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

17 "And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

18 "And if men contend together, and one smites another with a stone, or with his fist, and he does not die, but remains in his bed, 19 If he rises again and walks abroad upon his staff, then he who smote him shall be acquitted. Only he shall pay for the loss of his time and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.

20 "And if a man smites his man-servant, or his woman-servant, with a rod and he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. 21 But if he survives a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money.

22 "If men contend and hurt a woman with child so that her fruit departs from her, and yet no mischief follows, he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him. And he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 And if any mischief follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

26 "And if a man smites the eye of his man-servant, or the eye of his woman-servant, so that it perishes, he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. 27 And if he smites out his man-servant's tooth, or his woman-servant's tooth, he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake.

28 "If an ox gores a man or a woman so that they die, then the ox shall surely be stoned and his flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted. 29 But if the ox was accustomed to push with his horn in time past, and it has been testified to his owner and he has not restrained him, but that he has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and his owner also shall be put to death. 30 If there is laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatever is laid upon him. 31 Whether he has gored a son, or has gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him. 32 If the ox gores a man-servant, or woman-servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver and the ox shall be stoned.

33 "And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit, and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 The owner of the pit shall make compensation and give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his.

35 "And if one man's ox hurts another's so that he dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide its money, and the dead ox also they shall divide. 36 Or if it is known that the ox is one accustomed to gore in time past and his owner has not restrained him, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead shall be his own."


Matthew Henry Commentary - Exodus, Chapter 21[➚]


[v.1] - The majority of this chapter contains ordinances governing our conduct toward our fellow man. These statutes can be summed up in the words of John, which he wrote in his first letter, "If a man says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, how can he love God, whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from him: he who loves God, must also love his brother" (1st John 4:20-21). From Robert Hawker's Commentary: "And what a gracious, merciful, compassionate, and ever-attentive God to the happiness of His creation, must the Lord our God be, who thus enjoins a system of laws, the very observance of which promotes universal welfare."

[v.12] - Reference, Genesis 9:6; Leviticus 24:17.

[v.15] - Reference, Proverbs 30:17.

[v.16] - Note the condition for kidnappers in 1st Timothy 1:9-10.

[v.17] - Quoted in Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10. Reference, Proverbs 20:20.

[v.20] - Reference, Ephesians 6:9.

[v.21] - "survives" - The Latin text reads, "supervixerit," which means, "he shall survive." Originally written as, "...if he shall continue a day or two..."

[v.22-27] - Reference, Colossians 3:25. See also Matthew 5:38-39.

[v.24] - Quoted in Matthew 5:38.