Exodus 21

1 “Now these are the ordinances which you shall set before them. 2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years and in the seventh he shall go out free without paying anything. 3 If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself. If he is married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. 5 But if the servant shall plainly say, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I will not go out free;’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him for ever. 7 “If a man sells his daughter to be a female servant, she shall not go out as the male servants do. 8 If she doesn’t please her master, who has married her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. 9 If he marries her to his son, he shall deal with her as a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marital rights. 11 If he doesn’t do these three things for her, she may go free without paying any money. 12 “One who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death, 13 but not if it is unintentional, but God allows it to happen: then I will appoint you a place where he shall flee. 14 If a man schemes and comes presumptuously on his neighbor to kill him, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die. 15 “Anyone who attacks his father or his mother shall be surely put to death. 16 “Anyone who kidnaps someone and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. 17 “Anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. 18 “If men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone, or with his fist, and he doesn’t die, but is confined to bed; 19 if he rises again and walks around with his staff, then he who struck him shall be cleared: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for his healing until he is thoroughly healed. 20 “If a man strikes his servant or his maid with a rod, and he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. 21 Notwithstanding, if he gets up after a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his property. 22 “If men fight and hurt a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely, and yet no harm follows, he shall be surely fined as much as the woman’s husband demands and the judges allow. 23 But if any harm follows, then you must take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burning for burning, wound for wound, and bruise for bruise. 26 “If a man strikes his servant’s eye, or his maid’s eye, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. 27 If he strikes out his male servant’s tooth, or his female servant’s tooth, he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake. 28 “If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the bull shall not be held responsible. 29 But if the bull had a habit of goring in the past, and it has been testified to its owner, and he has not kept it in, but it has killed a man or a woman, the bull shall be stoned, and its owner shall also be put to death. 30 If a ransom is laid on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is laid on him. 31 Whether it has gored a son or has gored a daughter, according to this judgement it shall be done to him. 32 If the bull gores a male servant or a female servant, thirty shekels of silver shall be given to their master, and the ox shall be stoned. 33 “If a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and doesn’t cover it, and a bull or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make it good. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall be his. 35 “If one man’s bull injures another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live bull, and divide its price; and they shall also divide the dead animal. 36 Or if it is known that the bull was in the habit of goring in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall surely pay bull for bull, and the dead animal shall be his own.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

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

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