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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Exodus 21



Verse 1

Exodus 21:1 Now these [are] the judgments which thou shalt set before them.

Ver. 1. Now these are the judgments,] i.e., The judicial laws, fitly annexed to the Decalogue, whereof the civil magistrate is the lord-keeper. It was written upon the sword of Charles the Great, Decem praeceptorum custos Carolus.

Verse 2

Exodus 21:2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

Ver. 2. In the seventh year.] No longer might they serve, because they were God’s servants; [Leviticus 25:42] whose privilege, see in Isaiah 65:13-14 Christ’s "freemen." [1 Corinthians 7:22]

Verse 3

Exodus 21:3 If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.

Ver. 3. If he came in by himself,] Without a second-self, a yoke fellow, standing on even ground with himself, though drawing on the left side.

Verse 4

Exodus 21:4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.

Ver. 4. Have given him a wife,] viz., One of his heathen handmaids, whom to part with was no great punishment, because an unlawful couple.

Verse 5

Exodus 21:5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:

Ver. 5. I love my master.] A little better than he in Plautus, that said, Ego non servio libenter; herus meus me non habet libenter, tamen utitur me ut lippis oculis.

Verse 6

Exodus 21:6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

Ver. 6. And he shall serve him.] Being υπερετης και οργανον και ολως εκεινου, as Aristotle hath it; the master’s instrument, underling, and wholly his. He doeth his own, and not his master’s will, that doeth no more than himself will: this is a holiday servant, as they say.

Verse 7

Exodus 21:7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

Ver. 7. She shall not go out.] But upon better terms. He that was to come "in the form of a servant," [Philippians 2:7] see what care he takes of poor servants’ welfare. Lawyers seldom speak but for great men, or when they may have great gifts. Christ is not of that humour.

Verse 8

Exodus 21:8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.

Ver. 8. He hath dealt deceitfully with her.] By not answering her expectation. This God tolerated for the hardness of their hearts, but approved not.

Verse 9

Exodus 21:9 And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.

Ver. 9. After the manner of daughters.] Not put her off, as they say they do their daughters in Hungary, without a portion, only with a new coat at their wedding: much less set her to sale, as the Thracians did their young brides; quae non moribus nubebant, sed praemiis. (a)

Verse 10

Exodus 21:10 If he take him another [wife]; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

Ver. 10. Her duty of marriage.] See 1 Corinthians 7:5, {See Trapp on "1 Corinthians 7:5"}

Verse 11

Exodus 21:11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

Ver. 11. And if he do not these three unto her.] Picus est imago ingrati mariti, quia sub autumnum eiecit coniugem, ne cogatur per hyemem nutrire: postea sub vernum tempus eam ad se blande revocat, ac in consortium recipit. (a)

Verse 12

Exodus 21:12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

Ver. 12. Shall be surely put to death.] {See Trapp on "Genesis 9:6"}

Verse 13

Exodus 21:13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver [him] into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.

Ver. 13. But God deliver him.] Who is the Lord of our lives, and to whom we have frequently forfeited them; so that it is his mercy that we are not consumed; [Lamentations 3:22] that we are not cut off from the land of the living.

Verse 14

Exodus 21:14 But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.

Ver. 14. Thou shalt take him, &c.] "A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let none stay him"; - where [Proverbs 28:17] the word Adam, rendered man, hath in the original a little d, to show that a murderer is not worthy to be called a man; - he is to be drawn from the altar to the slaughter. {Hebrew Text Note}

Verse 15

Exodus 21:15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

Ver. 15. He that smiteth.] By the law of God, of nature, and of nations, such a man should die. And herein, I think, our laws are defective: albeit, I am not of Carolostadius’s mind, who, if Melancthon misreport him not, held that these judicial laws set down by Moses should be still of force, and these only, in Christian commonwealths, and all other civil and municipal laws abolished. Our English Alfred I cannot but commend for his piety, in that he began his common laws with the ten commandments. (a)

Verse 16

Exodus 21:16 And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

Ver. 16. He that stealeth a man.] Akin to these are they that steal other men’s books, and father them, setting them out in their own names. Diagoras was so served by a plagiary, which, when he saw, and that the thief was not presently struck with a thunderbolt, he, out of stomach, turned atheist. Thus, of late, Fabricius stole Tremelius’s Syriac translation. Villavincentius stole Hyperius’s treatise, "De Ratione Studii Theologici." And Possevinus stole Dr James’s "Cyprianus Redivivus."

Verse 17

Exodus 21:17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

Ver. 17. And he that curseth.] {See Trapp on "Exodus 21:15"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 15:4"} (a)

Verse 18

Exodus 21:18 And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with [his] fist, and he die not, but keepeth [his] bed:

Ver. 18. If men strive together.] This is counted manhood, when indeed it is doghood rather: heathens condemned it; (a) and yet Navarrus, a Popish casuist, Caedem recte admitti putat, ut alapa vitetur, et ad honorem recuperandum.

Verse 19

Exodus 21:19 If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote [him] be quit: only he shall pay [for] the loss of his time, and shall cause [him] to be thoroughly healed.

Ver. 19. Upon his staff.] See 2 Samuel 3:29, Zechariah 8:4.

Verse 20

Exodus 21:20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.

Ver. 20. He shall be surely punished.] At the discretion of the magistrate, who is the "revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." [Romans 13:4]

Verse 21

Exodus 21:21 Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he [is] his money.

Ver. 21. For he is his money.] And therefore he hath power over his flesh. [Colossians 3:22] Yet "hide not thine eyes from thine own flesh," saith the prophet. [Isaiah 58:7]

Verse 22

Exodus 21:22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart [from her], and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges [determine].

Ver. 22. And yet no mischief follow,] i.e., No life be lost. There is a time, then, when the embryo is not alive; therefore the soul is not begotten, but infused after a time by God. Infundendo creatur, et creando infnnditur, saith Augustine, who at first doubted, till overcome by Jerome’s arguments.

Verse 23

Exodus 21:23 And if [any] mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,

Ver. 23. And if any mischief follow.] Either by death or maim, either of mother or child.

Verse 24

Exodus 21:24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Ver. 24. Eye for eye.] How the Pharisees had wrested that text. {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:39"} This kind of law, in use among heathens also, Aristotle calls το αντιπεπονθος and was given against private revenge.

Verse 26

Exodus 21:26 And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.

Ver. 26. And if a man smite the eye of his servant.] Think the same, saith Aben Ezra, of the other principal members, which the Jews call capita membrorum: these are the ten fingers, the ten toes, the two ears, the nose, and the yard.

Verse 28

Exodus 21:28 If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox [shall be] quit.

Ver. 28. Then the ox shall be surely stoned.] God requiring man’s blood even of beasts. [Genesis 9:5] {See Trapp on "Genesis 9:5"}

Verse 29

Exodus 21:29 But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.

Ver. 29. That he hath killed a man, &c.] Since the fall, all creatures are armed against us; as that sword which Hector gave Ajax: which so long as he used against men, his enemies, served for help and defence: but after he began to abuse it to the hurt of hurtless beasts, it turned into his own bowels.

Verse 30

Exodus 21:30 If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.

Ver. 30. Sum of money.] Taxed upon him by the next of kin, or, if he be unreasonable, by the judge. [Exodus 21:22]

Verse 31

Exodus 21:31 Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him.

Ver. 31. A son or a daughter.] A little one, and in his minority, as Puerilitas est periculorum pelagus.

Verse 32

Exodus 21:32 If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

Ver. 32. Thirty shekels.] This same was that "goodly price" that our Lord Christ was valued at by the vile Jews. [Zechariah 11:12-13 Matthew 26:15]

Verse 33

Exodus 21:33 And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein;

Ver. 33. And an ox or an ass.] We can hardly open the deep pit of God’s bottomless, boundless mercy, but some silly beast will be falling thereinto; "stumbling at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed." [1 Peter 2:8]

Verse 34

Exodus 21:34 The owner of the pit shall make [it] good, [and] give money unto the owner of them; and the dead [beast] shall be his.

Ver. 34. The owner of the pit shall make it good.] Think the same of other cattle also, good vel ad usum, vel ad esum, as horse, ass, sheep, &c.: a parte, tolum intelligendum, saith Augustine here; by a part it is to be understood the whole.

Verse 36

Exodus 21:36 Or if it be known that the ox hath used to push in time past, and his owner hath not kept him in; he shall surely pay ox for ox; and the dead shall be his own.

Ver. 36. Ox for ox.] These were those "right judgments, true laws, good statutes, and commandments." [Nehemiah 9:13]


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Exodus 21:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 24th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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