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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Exodus 21:7

"If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do.
New American Standard Version
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  1. Adam Clarke Commentary
  2. Bridgeway Bible Commentary
  3. Coffman Commentaries on the Bible
  4. Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
  5. E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes
  6. Calvin's Commentary on the Bible
  7. Chuck Smith Bible Commentary
  8. John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
  9. Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
  10. Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
  11. Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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  18. George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary
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Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Children;   Concubinage;   Daughter;   Divorce;   Servant;   Wife;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Divorce;   Servants;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Concubine;   Servant;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Concubine;   Ethics;   Husband;   Justice;   Slave;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Concubine;   Family Life and Relations;   Law;   Slave, Slavery;   Woman;   Work;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Concubine;   Freedom;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Concubine;   Law;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Concubine;   Economic Life;   Exodus, Book of;   Freedom;   Hammurabi;   Pentateuch;   Slave/servant;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Canon of the Old Testament;   Covenant, Book of the;   Ethics;   Family;   Hexateuch;   Law;   Leviticus;   Priests and Levites;   Sabbatical Year;   Sin;   Slave, Slavery;   Ten Commandments;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Concubine;   Servant;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Concubine;   Law of Moses;   Slave;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Servant;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

If a man sell his daughter - This the Jews allowed no man to do but in extreme distress - when he had no goods, either movable or immovable left, even to the clothes on his back; and he had this permission only while she was unmarriageable. It may appear at first view strange that such a law should have been given; but let it be remembered, that this servitude could extend, at the utmost, only to six years; and that it was nearly the same as in some cases of apprenticeship among us, where the parents bind the child for seven years, and have from the master so much per week during that period.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/exodus-21.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Laws concerning slavery (21:1-11)

Among the Hebrews a slave had rights. Any person, man or woman, who became the slave of another Hebrew, could not be held as a slave for more than six years (21:1-2; Deuteronomy 15:12). If a man took his wife with him into slavery, he also took her with him when he was released. If he was unmarried when he became a slave, then later was given a wife by his master, he did not take his wife and children with him when released. They remained with the master. However, if he chose to continue working for the master, he could keep his wife and family (3-6).

The case of a female slave who had become a wife or concubine of the master was different. She was not freed after six years like other slaves, but neither could her master sell her to a foreigner if he no longer wanted her. She had to be bought either by her parents or by some other close relative. If no one bought her, the husband-master had to continue to look after her in accordance with her rights as his wife. If the husband failed to do this, he had to free her without payment (7-11).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/exodus-21.html. 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

THE RIGHTS OF FEMALE SLAVES

"If a man sell his daughter to be a maid-servant, she shall not go out as the men-servants do. If she please not her master, who hath espoused her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; to sell her unto a foreign people he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he espouse her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three things unto her, then shall she go out for nothing without money."

We are surprised that Noth suggested a "contradiction" between Exodus 21:2 and Exodus 21:7, although he did not use that word. The difference he supposed might have been due to the "view that only a man is a person, while the woman on the other hand was a possession."[16] How can a "Christian" commentator ascribe such a reason to Almighty God? NO! Nothing like that is here. What is in view in the case of selling a woman was that she would be used as s second-class wife, or a concubine. It is easy to see that, to make such women to be "released on their own" would be to do them a grave injustice. This Bill of Rights for women-slaves guaranteed to them legal status as permanent members of the families to which they were indentured, and, in the case of their being given to a man's son, endowed them with the status of daughterhood! They also had the right of returning to their father's home in case their master took another wife and denied them the three basic rights of food, cohabitation, and clothing. In such a case, the woman was free without the return of the purchase money.

"Her duty of marriage ..." "This is but a single word in Hebrew, defined as `cohabitation.'"[17]

The class of persons protected by these God-given rights was that of secondary-wives, or concubines, as indicated by the double mention of "espoused" and the mention of the duty of marriage in Exodus 21:10. Another right implied here but not specifically mentioned was the right of children born to such unions to inherit through either the master or his son. It was precisely this that compelled Abraham to send Hagar away in order to prevent Ishmael from becoming an heir to Abraham's wealth above Isaac. "A slave wife could be unfairly treated if they fell into disfavour, and the price of such unfair treatment was that which gave her her freedom."[18]

All of these "rights" of slaves (Exodus 21:1-11) have led some to criticize God's allowance of slavery under any circumstances. However, "God allowed slavery upon exactly the same basis that He allowed divorce (Matthew 19:3-9), allowed the monarchy (1 Samuel 8:7-9), allowed a representative priesthood instead of the priesthood of all Israel (Exodus 19:6), allowed the building of the Temple (2 Samuel 7:5-17), and allowed slavery here! "People were going to traffic in slavery anyway, so the laws were established to give some kind of protection to the enslaved."[19]

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/exodus-21.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

A man might, in accordance with existing custom, sell his daughter to another man with a view to her becoming an inferior wife, or concubine. In this case, she was not “to go out,” like the bondman; that is, she was not to be dismissed at the end of the sixth year. But women who were bound in any other way, would appear to have been under the same conditions as bondmen. See Deuteronomy 15:17.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/exodus-21.html. 1870.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

a man. Hebrew. "ish. See App-14.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/exodus-21.html. 1909-1922.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

From this passage, as well as other similar ones, it plainly appears how many vices were of necessity tolerated in this people. It was altogether an act of barbarism that fathers should sell their children for the relief of their poverty, still it could not be corrected as might have been hoped. Again, the sanctity of the marriage-vow should have been greater than that it should be allowable for a master to repudiate his bond-maid, after he had betrothed her to himself as his wife; or, when he had betrothed her to his son, to make void that covenant, which is inviolable: for that principle ought ever to hold good — “Those whom God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” ( Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9.) Yet liberty was accorded to the ancient people in all these particulars; only provision is here made that the poor girls should not suffer infamy and injury from their repudiation. But, although God is gracious in remitting the punishment, still He shows that chastity is pleasing to Him, as far as the people’s hardness of heart permitted. First of all, He does not allow a master to seduce his purchased maid-servant, but if he wishes to enjoy her embraces, a marriage must take place; for although He does not set this out in express terms, still we may infer from what He condemns, that the contrary is what He approves. From whence, too, their notion is refuted who suppose that fornication was lawful under the Law. But the words must be more closely examined on account of their ambiguity. First, the sex is treated with consideration, that the condition of a female may be somewhat more favorable than that of a male; since, otherwise, their weakness would render young women subject to injury and shame. An explanation then follows, respecting which, however, interpreters differ; for some read the particle לא, (74) lo, which is properly negative, for לו, lo; and hence arise two opposite meanings — If he hath, or hath not, betrothed her to himself. If it be preferred to take it affirmatively, the meaning of the precept will be: If a master shall repudiate his bond-maid, whom he has loved and destined to be his wife, he must give her her liberty; for although literally it is, “he shall cause her to be redeemed,” yet; the context shows that the obligation of setting her free is laid upon him; nor is this contradicted by the fact that he is only deprived of the power of selling her to a strange people; since I do not understand this as applying to foreigners only, but to others of his own nation, since sometimes those of another tribe or family are called strangers. For, even though there were no marriage-compact, it was not otherwise lawful to sell slaves of the holy and elect people to foreigners. Besides, amongst the Israelites, slavery was only temporary. But, to pass by everything else, let it suffice to observe the absurdity that a master should hold his wife as a slave to be sold at pleasure, if their opinion is received who suppose that the words refer to repudiation after betrothal. (75) I myself rather approve of the other opinion, that, although the master shall not have aspired to matrimony with her, if her appearance displeases him so that he would be unwilling to have her as his wife, at least he must provide for her redemption; because her chastity would be in jeopardy if she remained with him unmarried; unless perhaps Moses may signify that, after she had been seduced, her master did not honor her with marriage. But the other view which I have just expressed is more simple; and a caution is given lest masters should seduce their maid-servants at their pleasure. Thus the word despise (76) does not refer to repudiation, but is opposed to beauty, or conjugal love.

The next case is, that if he should betroth her to his son, (he must give her a dowry, (77)) in which, also, her modesty and honor is consulted, lest she should be oppressed by the right of ownership, and become a harlot. In the third place, it is provided that, if she should be repudiated, her condition should not be disadvantageous. If, therefore, he would make her his daughter-in-law, and betroth her to his son, he is commanded to deal liberally with her; for “after the manner of daughters” is equivalent to giving her a dowry, or, at any rate, to treating her as if she were free. Finally, he adds that, if he should choose another wife for his son, he should not reject the former one, nor defraud her of her food and raiment, or of some third thing, concerning which translators are not well agreed. Some render it time, but I do not see what is the meaning of diminishing her time; others, duty of marriage, but this is too free a translation; others, more correctly, affliction, since the girl would be humiliated by her repudiation; still, to diminish affliction, is too harsh an expression for to compensate an injury. Let my readers, then, consider whether the word, ענתה, gnonathah, is not used for compact or agreement; for thus the context will run very well: If his son have married another wife, that the girl who has suffered ignominious rejection should obtain her rights as to food, and raiment, and her appointed dowry; otherwise, God commands that she should be set free gratuitously, in order that her liberty may compensate for the wrong she has received.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/exodus-21.html. 1840-57.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Exodus chapter twenty-one, God said to Moses,

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

Now the judgments are really for the judges. You remember they appointed seventy to rule over the lesser, or they appointed "men over the thousands, men over the hundreds, men over the fifties, men over the tens", to judge in the smaller matters. So that they would only bring the major cases to Adam-I mean to Moses, so that Moses wouldn"t be bogged down. Jethro said, "Hey, you know, you"re gonna kill yourself standing here all day long, judging the matters of the people."

So these are the judgments or the guidelines for the judges who are judging in these matters that are brought before them. These are the judgments, the guidelines for the judges. These are not an individual kind of a retaliation-kind of thing that you"re supposed to take, but these are the standards that have been set for the judges. The term "judgments" referred to the standards set for the judges.

Now you read of God"s statutes, of His ordinances, of His law, and of His judgments. These are one of the things you read about. The judgments of God are different from the statutes. The statutes are different from the ordinances. The ordinances are different from the basic law. So all is comprised in the law, but these are now the guidelines for those men who were chosen to be judges.

Now it is interesting that here in verse six, and then in chapter twenty-two, verse eight and verse nine, the word "judges" in these verses is the Hebrew word "Elohim" which is the word for "gods". The judges are called gods because they are acting in the place of God in bringing God"s judgment upon man and enforcing God"s judgment upon the particular situations. They were acting in the place of God, and thus, the term for the judges was "gods", "Elohim".

Thus, in the New Testament when the Pharisees were arguing with Jesus in the gospel of John, and when He declared the fact that "before Abraham was I am", and they took up stones to stone Him. Jesus said, "I"ve done many good works among you for which of the works are you going to stone me?". They said, "Not for the works that you have done, but because you"re a man, and continually insisting that you are equal with God." He said, "Did I not say", or, "Did I not say, or the Word of God say that ye are gods? Then why are you gonna stone me because I say I"m the Son of God?"( John 10:32-36 ).

Now in the Word it said, "Ye are gods". In other words, here in Exodus these men are called gods, those who were to judge and to enact God"s judgment on men. It doesn"t mean in anywise that they were as the eternal God, the Creator of heaven and earth. It just meant that they were acting as gods and in the place of God, in the fact that they had been given this responsibility of judging men, and thus, men"s lives were in their hands. Thus acting for God, they were called "Elohim", gods. The word "Elohim" refers in the Old Testament to many different gods. It is not a term used exclusively for the God who created the heaven and the earth.

The Bible recognizes that man can have many different gods that are not true gods; that is, they are not the true God. They are god as far as they are the ruling master passion of a person"s life. David says, "The gods of the heathen are vain", ( 1 Samuel 12:21 ) "Elohim", recognizing that heathen had gods but they weren"t true gods. God challenged, "If you be gods, if you be Elohim, then prove it by telling us something that is going to happen before it ever happens." Thus the term "Elohim" refers to that which is the master guiding principle, or passion of a person"s life.

Now I went into that to give you just a background to the scripture that Jesus referred to in the gospel of John because the Mormons, because of that one reference of Christ to this scripture, "Ye are gods", have built the whole doctrine of man"s progression into gods. That if you are a faithful Mormon and your marriage has been sealed in the Mormon temple, and you"ve gone through the rites, and you wear your underwear, and the whole thing; what that has to do with making you a god, I don"t know, but you can be one.

"You will be gods." That"s their teaching. You and your wife, who has been sealed to you in marriage, will be able to go to a planet. You will be able to start your own little world on that planet. Other Mormons and good people, Christians and all, who weren"t faithful true Mormons all the way, who didn"t quite make it to the god stature, will be your angels and will serve you in your own system that you inaugurate. You will be god over that planet, and you will watch over that planet and develop and so forth, a whole life form and style, and all, from your offspring there in some planet in the universe. Now that is the acknowledged, recognized goal of the Mormon.

Now Brigham Young did something that has upset a lot of Mormons, in that he has carried this particular concept back one step instead of forward one step. If you carry it forward one step, every Mormon will acknowledge that that is the goal, and that is the purpose, and that is their desire, to be god and they"re ascending the scale in progression into godhood; to have their own planet, and take their wife and begin their own little experiment on a planet someplace. Brigham Young carried it back one step. He said that Adam was a good Mormon who progressed into god. He brought to the earth one of his celestial wives Eve, and they began to have their children and that they began to populate the earth. That Adam is our god and the only god with whom we have to do.

Now Mormons get very upset about that and they say, "Oh you"ve taken what he said out of context." But I challenge you to read the whole context of that sermon, and you"ll find that it isn"t taken out of context, it is actually consistent with the Mormon doctrine, but it takes it back one step instead of forward one step. Why not? If you and your wife can be god on a planet someplace and start the whole thing off, why wasn"t Adam a man somewhere in another planet within the universe, and became faithful and true and all, and ascended into the godhood, and of course brought one of his celestial wives Eve and started the whole thing?

Now that whole system of thought and idea taken from one little verse in the New Testament where Jesus said, "Did I not say in the law, Ye are gods?" From that one little verse, this whole system of thought and doctrine that you"re gonna be god, providing you are a faithful Mormon and so forth, has come out of that one verse of scripture, rather than researching and finding out what that scripture was referring to. Not at all a progression into the godhood, as such; it"s not what that was teaching.

In fact, that desire to be god is the thing that has started the whole problem with the human race and with the angels prior. You read of Satan"s fall in Isaiah fourteen, "How art thou fallen from heaven O Lucifer son of the morning?" ( Isaiah 14:12 ). He goes on to tell of his will against the will of God. The fifth statement of Satan was, "I will be like the most High" ( Isaiah 14:14 ). Shakespeare has someone saying "Oh Cromwell flee ambition, for by this sin did the angels fall." "I will be like God."

When Adam and Eve were in the garden and Satan came to Eve to tempt her to eat of the fruit that God had forbidden, what was the enticement that Adam held out to her? "The day that you eat of it, you will be wise as God"( Genesis 3:5 ). So that desire to be wise, as God is the thing that he used to trip Eve up in the garden. "Be like God, be as God." So it is the same thing that is being held out to people today.

But the word judges, "Elohim", does not refer at all to the living, eternal God who created the heavens and the earth, but men who are appointed to judge in the cases that are brought before them. And in judging are representing God and are acting for God, holding the lives and the destiny of these men in their hands. It is so that the judges will realize the awesome responsibility they have as a judge.

There is one occupation I would never want, and that is to be a judge. To me, I could not live with myself if I were a judge. I would have too much difficulty in worrying about making a wrong decision, making a wrong judgment, realizing the awesome responsibility that here"s a man, his life, his future, is in my hands. It would absolutely destroy me to think that I had sent a man to prison for five years for a crime he did not commit. That"s one occupation I would never want.

But unfortunately those men who have that occupation have more or less taken, I think, from judges the concept of gods. And so many of them act as though they are God and want to be treated as God. When they walk into the courtroom they want you to all stand and bow and so forth, and come before them and offer your pleas. The attitude that many of them have is reprehensible. They need to realize the awesome, awesome responsibility that they have. Rather than making them proud, it should humble them, and they should come in, I feel, in a very humble way to sit in judgment, realizing the awesome responsibility that is theirs.

Now this whole chapter twenty-one deals with the judges and deals with their judgments, as it does on into chapter twenty-two. So this is addressed basically to those men who were to occupy the position of a judge in Israel, and they were to judge over the various matters. So He starts laying out certain basic laws that will govern first of all, the position of a servant.

If you buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him ( Exodus 21:2-3 ).

So here we find again the six-and-one pattern. "Six days shalt thou labor, do thy work, the seventh day is the day of rest"( Exodus 20:9-10 ) "If you buy a Hebrew slave, six years shall he serve." If you were a Hebrew sold into slavery, six years you would have to serve, but the seventh year you"d go free.

I believe that this six-and-one pattern is significant not only in a day, but God established it in a year also. He established the months. The seventh month of the Jewish calendar was to be a sacred month; the day of atonement, and so forth came in the seventh month along with the feast. It was a sacred month in their calendar. Then the six years they were to sow their land. The seventh year the land was to just grow of itself. They were just to eat of that which came from the land; they weren"t to sow it. They give the land a rest in the seventh year.

They failed to do this and God got after them later for their failure to do that. Inasmuch as for four hundred and ninety years that they were in the land, they didn"t give the land the rest. God said, "You owe the land seventy years of rest, so you can stay in Babylon for seventy years and the land will get its Sabbaths that you robbed it of the whole time you were living there"( Jeremiah 29:10 ). So God gave the land its rest, its Sabbath, as He shut them up in Babylonian captivity for four hundred and ninety years.

But I believe that the pattern will also carry out that for six, and this is in a thousand-year cycles, for six millennia the earth will go on in the bondage to Satan, sold out by Adam. But the seventh millennia will be a restoration, the freedom, the return to God. Thus, it makes the age in which we are living extremely exciting because we"re getting very, very, very close to the beginning of the seven thousandth year.

Now how long before Christ Adam fell in the garden, we don"t know for certain. Somewhere around four thousand years before Christ, Adam turned this whole system over to Satan. Living now in nineteen seventy-nine, we realize that we are coming very, very close to the seventh millennia. Satan has ruled. We"ve been in bondage for just about six thousand years. But we look forward to that glorious seven thousandth year when man has been delivered, when the earth has been delivered. We"ll be restored, and we will live and reign with Christ upon the earth for a thousand years in the glorious kingdom age.

So this six-and-one pattern has been established by God. I am convinced that it will also follow in thousand year cycles, and that we are coming extremely close to the end of Satan"s reign and dominion and rulership over the earth and over man, that the day of redemption is very close. That"s what Revelation chapter five is all about, as Jesus takes the seven sealed books, the title deed of the earth, and lays claim to that which He redeemed with His own blood. Then in chapter nineteen of Revelation, returns to establish God"s kingdom upon the earth. So it"s a very interesting law.

"Now if he came, if he was sold as a slave, and he came by himself, he will go out by himself. If he were married and his wife came with him, then his wife can go out with him."

But 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 go out by himself ( Exodus 21:4 ).

The slave had no rights at all, no rights of possession. Therefore, if you were sold as a slave, and while you were a slave your master gave you one of the other slave girls for your wife, and you"ve had a couple of children, now the seventh year is come; it"s time for you to go free. You can go free, but you can"t take your wife and children because she belongs to your master. And thus, the fruit that has come from your relationship also belongs to him, because you had no rights of your own of possession while you were working for him. You say, "Well, that seems very hard and cruel." Yes, it does. It"s hard for us to even imagine such a thing.

But if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the [gods, the Elohim, translated,] judges; [Correctly so.] 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 for ever ( Exodus 21:5-6 ).

So you"ve had your wife and your children, say, "Hey I love this, I love my master, he"s treating me good. I love my wife; I love my children. I don"t want to go free, I want to serve him." Then he brings you before the judges and there your master takes an awl, and he runs the awl through the lobe of your ear, and he pins you to a post with that awl. Then you would put a gold ring, as a rule, in the pierced ear, which was the sign of a slave by choice. It indicated that you, it was a slave by choice. You had willingly submitted to this life of slavery.

Now there is an interesting prophecy concerning Jesus Christ that declares, "My ear hath He pierced." So Christ in a figurative sense had a pierced ear, inasmuch as He by choice submitted to the will of the Father. "Who, being in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet emptied Himself, became of no reputation, humbled Himself and became as a servant"( Philippians 2:6-7 ). The pierced ear servant, it was service by willingness. He willingly submitted Himself to the Father"s will, to serve. Thus the prophecy, "Mine ear hath He pierced", referring to Jesus Christ, and His serving of God.

Now in a figurative sense I have a pierced ear, in that I am glad to take the title of, "Chuck, a bondslave of Jesus Christ." It"s slavery by choice. I don"t have to serve Him, I don"t have to be His slave; I want to be His servant. I want to be His slave. I really want everything that I possess and am to belong to Him. Not to lay claims to things for myself, but what I am, and what I have are His. The pierced ear. All of the New Testament writers beginning their epistles would write, "Paul, a bondslave of Jesus Christ." "Peter a bondslave of Jesus Christ." "Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ." They loved the title.

I know of nothing better that could happen to any of us than just to be a bondservant of Jesus Christ, a servant by choice. Oh, that He would bring us to the post, and run the awl through our ears that we might demonstrate that we are servants by choice. It isn"t forced upon us. We don"t have to be, but I love Him. I love my Master. No one"s ever treated me so good. I"ve never had it so well. I love serving Him.

Thus it is the choice of life, and the choice of being a bondslave was irrevocable, that was it. Once your ear was pierced, that was a choice of life, an irrevocable choice.

So the law of the servant,

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. And if she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: but to sell her to a strange nation he shall nave no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her ( Exodus 21:7-8 ).

So it"s the idea of-actually, men bought their wives in those days when they became like a servant, or like a slave practically; you bought her, she belonged to you. So they had this form of dowry. If you took a wife, you paid the dowry.

Now a dowry wasn"t such a bad deal. Actually, what a dowry was, was alimony in advance. The father would figure how much it would take for her to live, if you should decide you don"t want her after you"re married, because divorce was quite easy. Find out once I"ve purchased her, I don"t like her, then let her be redeemed. She doesn"t have to stay there and take my guff forever. But I don"t have any right to sell her to a strange nation, but she should have the right of her dowry. She can live off of what I paid to get her in the beginning. "If she please not her master who has betrothed her to himself, then let her be redeemed."

Verse nine,

And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. And if he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. [In other words, he"s got to go ahead and pay her alimony, and take care of her and so forth.] And if he do not these three unto her, then she shall go out free without money ( Exodus 21:9-10 ).

So it was tragic, but that"s the way their customs were in those days. Women had very little rights; so you"ve come a long way. Why have you come a long way? Because of Jesus Christ. Hey, women still have it tough in a lot of cultures. If you don"t believe it, you just go to some of these other areas, New Guinea, Guatemala, even, close by. Look at the lot of the Bedouin women; man, they have it tough. You women can be thankful for what the Lord has done in liberating you.

It is actually because of Jesus Christ, and His declaring that we are, all of us, children of God, and in Christ "there is neither male nor female". The distinctions are broken down. It is Christ that has put us all on an equal footing, and an equal plain and has taken away any concept or idea of a superior sex. That God favors men over women, or vice a versa; it doesn"t exist. "We are all one in Christ Jesus" ( Galatians 3:28 ). It is the Christian ethic that has done so much to give the woman the rightful place of equality with a man but such does not exist in cultures where the Christian gospel has not had a strong influence.

Be glad women, you"re not a Moslem. If you don"t believe that, just read what Khomeini is doing to the women there in Iran, and you"ll find out that being a Moslem woman wouldn"t be so easy. Many of you wouldn"t last long under his reign.

Now we deal with assault and battery, and murder, manslaughter, first and second degree in manslaughter.

Now he that smites a man, so that he dies, shall surely be put to death. And if a man lie not in wait, but God delivers him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee ( Exodus 21:12-13 ).

So if you first of all are guilty of just plain murder, capital punishment. But if it was accidental or just not a premeditated thing, then God was going to appoint a place where you could flee and be safe; they were called cities of refuge that they established. You could flee to a city of refuge and there you would be safe from the avenger.

Now if you would kill my brother, then I would be obligated to kill you because you killed my brother. So if it were an accident and yet I"m mad at you because you were foolish in doing it, and I"m wanting to get retribution and kill you, you could flee to a city of refuge, and there you would be safe as long as you stayed in the city of refuge. But if you came out and I caught you, then I could kill you. But you had to stay in that city of refuge. So God appointed these cities of refuges at strategic points in the land when they came into the land. So God is promising that these cities of refuge would be appointed.

Now if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, [This would be premeditated, your purpose for coming was] to slay him with guile; [deceitfulness] thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die ( Exodus 21:14 ).

In other words, you may even flee to the altar of God, but they can take you right from the altar of God and kill you, because yours was a premeditated action.

Now several things for which capital punishment was to be given:

He that smites his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death. [The law said, "Honor thy father and thy mother."] He that stealeth a man, and sells him, [or kidnappers] or if it be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. He that curses his father, or mother, shall surely be put to death. [They didn"t have nearly the problem with juvenile delinquency in those days that we have today.] And if men are fighting together, and one smites another with a stone, or with his fist, and he did not die, but he laid up for awhile: And he"s able finally to get out of bed, and walk on a crutch, he that smote him will be acquitted: only he shall pay for his loss of time, until he is thoroughly healed. Now if a man smite his servant, or his maid, [Shows you what little rights the maids and servants had, if it"s your servant or maid,] you smite him with a rod, and he dies under his hand; he shall be punished. [But it wasn"t capital punishment.] Notwithstanding, if he continues a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money. [In other words if he, if he lingers before he dies than you won"t be punished because actually you"ve lost your own money, he belongs to you.] If men are striving, and hurt a woman that is pregnant, so that she aborts [actually] the child, [miscarriages, has a miscarriage] and yet no further danger, or mischief follow: he shall surely be punished, according as the woman"s husband will lay upon him; and he must pay whatever the judges determine. But if any further mischief follow, then you are to give life for life. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; then he shall let him go free for his eye"s sake ( Exodus 21:15-26 ).

But this "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burning for burning", and so forth, now men had begun to misinterpret this law. As if someone had struck you in the eye, that you have a right, not only a right, you"ve got an obligation to smack him in the eye. In other words, they made it an obligatory thing. "You knocked out my tooth, all right man you"ve had it. I gotta knock out your tooth." Tooth for tooth.

Jesus said, "You"ve heard that it hath been said" ( Matthew 5:38 ). Now really what the Lord is doing here is limiting because there is a perversity about our human nature that doesn"t want to just get even. We want to more than get even.

It used to be when my brothers and I were growing up, scuffling with each other, you know we"d be sort of boxing and all, and maybe he would catch you one. What do you want to do? You want to catch him one back just a little harder. So many times when we started out just playing, boy, we ended up in a full-fledged fight cause you keep getting harder, and harder, and harder, and wanting to get back at him a little more. You"d start out with just sort of a game, and playing, but boy you end up just really going at it. That is human nature.

So this was to put a limitation. "An eye for an eye", not two eyes for an eye. "A tooth for a tooth", not three tooth, three teeth for one tooth, three tooths. So the purpose of the law was so that it would not exceed, but they had begun to interpret it as an obligation.

So Jesus said, "Hey look, I say unto you if a man smites you on one cheek, turn the other. You know, don"t seek retribution, don"t seek to get even"( Matthew 5:39 ). So Christ gave a whole new concept to this. It isn"t, "I"m not under an obligation to blacken your eye cause you blacked mine. Better to forgive, better to pass it over." So Christ was showing actually that the law was intended to curb man"s spirit, and to curb that spirit of retaliation, that desire to retaliate, but it had become misinterpreted by the Pharisees.

Now we deal with the person dealing with his servant. "If he hits his servant in the eye, and the servant loses the eye, the servant goes free for the eye"s sake."

If you knock out a tooth of your servant, or your maidservant; then they get to go free for the tooth"s sake. 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 will be acquitted. But if the ox were known to push with his horn in times past, and it has been testified to his owner, and he did not keep him corralled, but that he has killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also will be put to death. [You"ve been told that your ox is bad, that it"s out there goring people, or trying to gore people, and you"ve been told about it and you do nothing to corral it or to restrain it, then you are responsible for what your ox did.] If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for ransom for his life whatever is laid upon him. [So you could buy your way out of that one.] Whether he have a gored son, or a gored daughter, according to the judgment it shall be done unto him. Now 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 ( Exodus 21:27-32 ).

So it is interesting that Jesus was sold by Judas Iscariot for the price of a slave that had been gored by an ox. That was the amount if a slave was gored by an ox, you were to pay the master thirty pieces of silver.

If a man shall open a pit, if you dig a pit and you don"t cover it, and an ox or an ass falls in; Then you"ve got to pay for the ox or the ass to the owner of the beast that was slain. If one man"s ox hurt another that it die; then they will sell the live ox, and divide the money; and the dead ox also they can divide. [And barbecue.] So if it be know that the ox has been used to push in the times past, and the owner did not keep him in; then he shall pay for the ox; and the dead one shall be his own ( Exodus 21:33-36 ).

In other words, you get the whole thing. He kills your ox, he has to pay you, and then you get the dead carcass also.

"

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/exodus-21.html. 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible


The Book of the Covenant (continued)

I-ii. Regulations regarding the Treatment of Hebrew Slaves.

Slavery was universal in ancient times, and the Mosaic Law does not abolish it. Among the Hebrews, however, slavery was by no means the degrading and oppressive thing that it was among other nations. Manstealing, upon which modern systems of slavery are based, was a crime punishable by death (see Exodus 21:16), and the Law of Moses recognises the right of a slave to just and honourable treatment. A Hebrew slave might occupy a high position in his master's household and be regarded as a trusty friend, as the case of Eliezer shows (Genesis 24). He could not be bound for more than six years at a time; in the seventh year he obtained his freedom if he desired it (see Exodus 21:2); he might hold property and come to be able to redeem himself (Leviticus 25:49); he was protected from the violence of his master (Exodus 21:20-21); he could claim compensation for bodily injury (Exodus 21:26-27); and he was entitled to the sabbath rest (Exodus 20:10). If a Hebrew girl became her master's concubine he could not sell her to a foreigner, but must let her be redeemed (Exodus 21:8); if his son married her he must treat her as a daughter (Exodus 21:9); if he took a second wife he must not degrade her, but use her as liberally as before (Exodus 21:10). In general the Hebrew master was to treat his slave rather as a brother or hired servant than as a chattel, and the principle which was to govern his treatment was the humane precept 'thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God' (Leviticus 25:43). These laws, it is true, apply to the slave who was an Israelite, but the lot of even the foreign slave who had been captured in war was only a little less favourable. If it be asked why the Mosaic Law did not at once abolish slavery the answer must be that the time was not ripe for that. Christ Himself did not abolish it; and His apostles tolerated it (see 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 and the Epistle to Philemon). Christianity did not violently overthrow existing social institutions or abolish class distinctions. But it taught the brotherhood of all men, and by quietly introducing the leaven of justice, humanity, and brotherly love into society, gradually abolished the worst social abuses and made slavery impossible.

2. If thou buy an Hebrew servant] A man might voluntarily sell himself for debt (Leviticus 25:39), or he might be judicially sold for theft (see Exodus 22:3), or he might be sold by his parents (Exodus 21:7). If the year of Jubilee fell before the seventh year of his servitude he went free then: see Leviticus 25:40, Leviticus 25:41. Lifelong compulsory servitude was therefore unknown.

3. If he were married] before coming into slavery. If he married after becoming a slave, the case contemplated in the next verse, he would do so subject to the consent of his master, in which case the wife and children remained with the master.

5. Slavery may be preferable to freedom. This shows the mild nature of slavery among the Hebrews.

6. Unto the judges] RV 'unto God.' The expressions are really identical, for the judges would be the priests, or the high priest, and the transaction would take place at the sanctuary and have the sanction of the divine judgment: see on Exodus 22:8, Exodus 22:28; RV. Bore his ear] The fastening of the ear to the doorpost signifies his perpetual attachment to the house of his master: cp. Deuteronomy 15:17. The ear is pierced as being the organ of hearing and, therefore, of obedience.

7. To be a maidservant] The word denotes a slavewife, a consort of inferior rank, like Hagar (Genesis 16:3). Her position was permanent. She did not go out at the end of six years, which would have been a degradation. If she were the wife of the master of the house, she was to be treated as a wife; if of the son, as a daughter. If she were dismissed, it must be in an honourable way (Exodus 21:8, Exodus 21:11), and without repayment of the purchase money.

10. Polygamy, like slavery, was tolerated by the Law of Moses. Its cessation in Christian lands has naturally followed the nobler teaching of Christianity regarding woman: cp. the remarks on the cessation of slavery.

12-17. Three Offences Punishable by Death, viz. murder, manstealing, and the smiting or cursing of parents.

13. For the appointment of cities of refuge as an asylum in the case of accidental homicide, see on Numbers 35:9-34.

14. From mine altar] The altar seems to have been the place of refuge at first: see 1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28.

15. Smiteth] not necessarily with fatal effect. Reverence towards parents was regarded in ancient times as more a religious than a social duty, and a breach of the fifth commandment, like blasphemy, was a capital offence: see intro. to the Decalogue, and cp. Deuteronomy 21:18.

16. Manstealing is to be punished as severely as murder.

17. Cursing, like blessing, is always looked upon as efficacious. It is a solemn appeal to God, who will not permit His name to be taken in vain. He will not respond to the child who invokes His power to the injury of a father or mother. And such an impious appeal is itself a serious crime.

18-32. The Law of Compensation for Injury to Life or Limb.

19. Shall.. be quit] i.e. of the charge of murder. But he must pay for the injured man's loss of time and medical treatment.

21. He is his money] The master himself loses by his servant's inability to work, and is sufficiently punished in this way. If the injury is of a permanent nature the slave is entitled to his freedom: see Exodus 21:26, Exodus 21:27.

23. Any mischief] beyond the loss of the child (Exodus 21:22). The law of retaliation ('like for like') is common to all early stages of civilisation: cp. e.g. art. 'Laws of Hammurabi.' It is a rough and ready kind of justice, but it involves many difficulties and is generally abandoned in favour of a system of fines and penalties. It should be observed that the law of retaliation is not the same as private revenge. The equivalent penalty is inflicted by the judge, not by the injured person: cp. Leviticus 24:17-21; Deuteronomy 19:15-21. Christ refers to this passage in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38.), forbidding the spirit of revenge, and enforcing the duty of forbearance in imitation of the heavenly Father.

28. The following enactments are a good illustration of the spirit of even-handed justice displayed by the Mosaic Law: cp. Genesis 9:5. His flesh shall not be eaten] This would serve to emphasise the horror connected with such an accidental death. It was also in accordance with the law forbidding the eating of blood as unclean. An ox killed by stoning would not be bled: see on Leviticus 17:10-16, and cp. Exodus 22:31.

29. In this case the owner is morally responsible and is liable to be put to death. The death penalty may, however, be commuted by a fine, the amount of which would be fixed by the relatives of the person killed, with probably an appeal to the judges.

32. The silver shekel was in value a little more than half-a-crown. The ordinary price of a slave, therefore, was about £3 10s.: cp. Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 26:15. From the latter passage it will be seen that our Lord's life was reckoned of the same value as that of a slave.

33-c. Exodus 22:15. Law of Compensation for Injury to Property.

34. The dead beast shall be his] It is assumed that he has paid the full value of the live animal.

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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/exodus-21.html. 1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The fundamental rights of the Israelites21:1-23:12

It is very important to note that various law codes already existed in the ancient Near East before the giving of the Mosaic Covenant. These included laws in the Akkadian civilization located in Mesopotamia in the twentieth century B.C. (e.g, the Laws of Esnunna). [Note: Pritchard, pp161-63.] There were also the laws in the Sumerian civilization in the nineteenth century (e.g, the Code of Lipit-Istar). [Note: Ibid, pp159-61.] Moreover laws in the Babylonian civilization that followed in the eighteenth century (e.g, the Code of Hammurabi) [Note: Ibid, pp163-80.] existed, as did others. People living in the Near East at the time of the Exodus (fifteenth century) knew these laws and lived by them more or less. The Mosaic Covenant presupposes this body of legal literature. It was not given as a comprehensive legal system to a people living without any laws. Rather it was a series of instructions God gave as Israel"s king for His people to govern their behavior in certain specific matters. This fact explains why the Torah (lit. instruction, i.e, the Law of Moses) does not contain fundamental instruction in many basic areas of law, such as monogamy. The instructions in the Law of Moses confirmed certain existing laws, cancelled other laws, and changed still others for the Israelites as the will of God for them. [Note: For further explanation, see Cassuto, pp257-64.]

Moses revealed the laws that follow analogically (i.e, on the basis of the association of ideas). Analogical thinking has been more characteristic of eastern cultures and rational thinking more typical of western cultures throughout history generally speaking.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/exodus-21.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Betrothal of a female21:7-11

Females did not enjoy as much freedom as males in the ancient Near East or in Israel. They were subject to the fathers or husbands in authority over them as well as to God (cf. Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18). Exodus 21:7-11 describe a girl whom her father sells as a servant (Heb. "amah, Exodus 21:7) for marriage, not for slavery. [Note: Kaiser, " Exodus," p430.] In such a case the girl would become the servant of the father of her husband-to-be who would than give her to his son as his wife. She would remain in her prospective father-in-law"s household unless someone redeemed her before the consummation of her marriage. If for some reason her prospective father-in-law became displeased with her, he was to allow someone to redeem her (set her free by the payment of a price). Her redeemer could be herself or someone else (cf. Deuteronomy 24:1). Her master was not to sell her to some other person, a "foreign" person in that sense ( Exodus 21:8). Such treatment was unfair to her because it violated her legitimate human rights. "Conjugal rights" ( Exodus 21:10) here refers to her living quarters and other support provisions, not sexual intercourse. This passage is not discussing marriage as such (after physical consummation) as the NIV and AV imply.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/exodus-21.html. 2012.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(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.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/exodus-21.html. 1905.

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Exodus 21:1

The Maker"s Laws, whether they are promulgated in Sinai thunder, to the ear or imagination, or quite otherwise promulgated, are the Laws of God; transcendent, everlasting, demanding obedience from all men. The Universe is made by Law; the great Soul of the World is just and not unjust. Look then, if thou have eyes or soul left, into this Shoreless Incomprehensible; into the heart of its tumultuous Appearances, Embroilments and mad Time-Vortexes, is there not, silent, eternal, an All-just, an All-beautiful; sole Reality and ultimate controlling power of the Whole? This is not a figure of speech; this is a fact.

—Carlyle, Past and Present.

The Egyptians were the first people upon the earth who emerged into what is now called civilization. How they lived, how they were governed during the tens of hundreds of generations which intervened between their earliest and latest monuments, there is little evidence to say. At the date when they become distinctly visible they present the usual features of effete Oriental societies; the labour executed by slave gangs, and a rich luxurious minority spending their time in feasting and revelry. Wealth accumulated, Art flourished. Enormous engineering works illustrated the talent or ministered to the vanity of the priestly and military classes. The favoured of fortune basked in perpetual sunshine. The millions sweated in the heat under the lash of the taskmaster and were paid with just so much of the leeks and onions and flesh-pots as would continue them in a condition to work. Of these despised wretches some hundreds of thousands were enabled by Providence to shake off the yoke, to escape over the Red Sea into the Arabian desert, and there receive a code of laws under which they were to be governed in the land where they were to be planted.

What were these laws? A revelation of the true God was bestowed on them, from which, as from a fountain, a deeper knowledge of the Divine Nature was to flow out over the earth; and the central thought of it was the realization of the Divine government—not in a vague hereafter, but in the living present. The unpractical prospective justice which had become an excuse for tyranny was superseded by an immediate justice in time. They were to reap the harvest of their deeds, not in heaven, but on earth. There was no life in the grave whither they were going. The future state was withdrawn from their sight till the mischief which it had wrought was forgotten. It was not denied, but it was veiled in a cloud. It was left to private opinion to hope or to fear; but it was no longer held out either as an excitement to piety or a terror to evildoers. The God of Israel was a living God, and His power was displayed visibly and immediately in rewarding the good and punishing the wicked while they remained in the flesh.

It would be unbecoming to press the parallel, but phenomena are showing themselves which indicate that an analogous suspension of belief provoked by the same causes may possibly be awaiting ourselves. It may be that we require once more to have the living certainties of the Divine government brought home to us more palpably; that a doctrine which has been the consolation of the heavy-laden for eighteen hundred years may have generated once more a practical infidelity; and that by natural and intelligent agencies, in the furtherance of the everlasting purposes of our Father in heaven, the belief in a life beyond the grave may again be about to be withdrawn.

—Froude, Short Studies, vol. II.

References.—XXI:5, 6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No1174. XXII:21, 22.—H. Adler, The Orphan and the Helpless, Sermons, 1855-84. XXII:29.—R. B. Brindley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. p41.

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/edt/exodus-21.html. 1910.

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

CHAPTER 21 Different Judgments

1. Master and servant (Exodus 21:1-11)

2. Concerning injury to the person (Exodus 21:12-32)

3. Concerning property (Exodus 21:33-36)

The Three Chapters which follow the giving of the Ten Commandments give the practical application of the Decalogue in the daily life. The duties towards the fellowman are demonstrated in part. There are seven sections to these three chapters; each section contains ten precepts.

The servant occupies the first place. He was to obtain his freedom for nothing after serving six years. In Deuteronomy we read that the master is commanded not to let him go empty-handed, but give him of his flock, his threshing floor and his winepress. In this Israel was to remember their own deliverance from the house of bondage (Deuteronomy 15:12-18). If the servant chose to remain with his master forever, his ear was to be bored through as the sign of perpetual servitude. This was a custom in other nations as well and signified that the servant was, as it were, fastened by the awl to the house (Deuteronomy 15:17).

The Hebrew servant is put so prominently in the foreground because the Son of God became a servant and has chosen the perpetual service. Psalms 40:6 and Hebrews 10:5 show that it is typical of the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice what it says in our chapter: “And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife and my children, I will not go out free.” It was love which decided the Hebrew servant to be a servant forever. And it was love which brought Him to this earth to do the Father’s will, and love for the church. “He loved the church and gave Himself for it.” And He loves us as individuals. This corresponds to the love of the servant to his wife and his children. Christ was a servant on earth; He is serving in glory now as the priest and advocate of His people, and in glory “He will gird Himself ... and will come forth and serve them” (Luke 12:37).

This is followed by judgments concerning the injury of a person. Injury of a person had to be punished in a manner corresponding to the injury. The principle of retribution is marked throughout these laws. Smiting father or mother, man-stealing, and cursing the parents was punishable with death. Many pages might be written to follow these laws in detail. Read Exodus 21:23-27, and compare with Matthew 5:38-48.

Notice again the mention of the servant in Exodus 21:32. The price of a servant was thirty shekels of silver. The redemption price of a free Israelite was fifty shekels (Leviticus 27:3); that of a slave, thirty shekels. How it reminds us again of Him who was sold for thirty pieces of silver (Deuteronomy 11:12).

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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/exodus-21.html. 1913-1922.

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

At this point we have certain laws which apply the principles of the Decalogue to life. The first movement has to do with the laws of the person. This begins with the relation of slaves to their masters. By these laws slavery was changed into covenant relationship. Henceforward the condition of slaves among the Hebrew people would be in marked distinction to slavery as existing among other peoples. It was the beginning of a great moral movement. The right of a master to service by a definite bond was recognized, but the right of the servant to freedom on fulfilment of the bond was also recognized.

Then followed laws dealing with possible injury of man by man. Life was to be held so sacred that he who took it must forfeit his own. If a killing were premeditated there must be no escape. If the act were unpremeditated, provision was made for a place of refuge. Every detail emphasized the sanctity of human life.

Finally, this sanctity is still in mind in the laws dealing with injury and death wrought by cattle.

It is impossible to read these laws carefully without being impressed with their absolute equity and righteousness and at the same time with their thoroughness. Here, as in other cases, carelessness was never to be an excuse.

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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gcm/exodus-21.html. 1857-84.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

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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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/exodus-21.html. 1999.

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

The Covenant Code - Exodus 21:1 to Exodus 23:12 can be called the "Covenant Code." Sailhamer tells us that the laws listed in the "Covenant Codes" ( Exodus 21:1 to Exodus 23:12) are 42 (7 x 6), which was in intentional multiple of seven. He also notes that there are 611laws listed in the Pentateuch, which equals the numerical value of the Hebrew word "Torah" ( תורה). He notes that "the traditional number of laws in the Pentateuch (613) is obtained by treating both Deuteronomy 6:4 (the "Shema") and Exodus 20:2 ("I am the Lord your God") as ‘laws.'" In addition, there are three hundred seventy-five (375) proverbs in Solomon's First Collection ( Exodus 10:1 to Exodus 22:16), which equals the numerical value of Solomon's Hebrew name. He says there are His point is that such numerical coincidences reflect deliberate composition by the ancient Jewish scribes, and concludes that the laws, as well as the statutes, were not intended to be exhaustive. 87]

87] See John H. Sailhammer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, c 1995), 257.

Exodus 21:10Scripture References - Note

Isaiah 4:1, "And in that day seven women shall take hold of one Prayer of Manasseh, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach."

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

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

Exodus 21:12Comments- The Mosaic Law considered murder as a capital offence punishable by death. This method of judgment against such a sin is a type and shadow of eternal judgment God will impart unto wicked men.

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.

Exodus 21:13Comments- This is killing a man accidentally.

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.

Exodus 21:14Illustrations:

, "But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities: Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die."

, "And it was told king Solomon that Joab was fled unto the tabernacle of the LORD and, behold, he is by the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, Go, fall upon him. And Benaiah came to the tabernacle of the LORD, and said unto him, Thus saith the king, Come forth. And he said, Nay; but I will die here. And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me."

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

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

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

Exodus 21:17Scripture References - Note:

Matthew 15:4, "For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death."

Mark 7:10, "For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:"

Comments - The Penalty for Smiting a Prayer of Manasseh - See Luke 10:25-37. The good Samaritan paid the penalty under the Law for those who beat the man. Likewise, Jesus paid our penalty.

Exodus 21:21"if he continue a day or two" - Comments- That Isaiah, "If the man live a few days before dying."

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.

Exodus 21:22"No mischief follow" - Comments- That Isaiah, the woman is not hurt in any way. Note Exodus 23:25-26.

, "And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil."

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

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

Exodus 21:24Comments- The context of this passage is referring to compensation and not to retribution. It is not about getting even with someone, but about how we are to give a righteous compensation to those who are injured and wronged by others. It is to be an act of love and not an act of vengeance. Evidently, the first-century Jews used it to justify retribution ( Matthew 5:38).

Matthew 5:38, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:"

Exodus 21:32 — "thirty shekels of silver" - Comments- Scholars suggest that thirty shekels of silver was considered the price of a good, healthy slave (see Adam Clarke 88], Keil 89]).

88] Adam Clarke, Exodus, in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), comments on Exodus 21:32.

89] C. F. Keil, and F. Delitzsch, Pentateuch, vol 2, in Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, trans. James Martin, in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), comments on Exodus 21:32.

Matthew 26:15, "And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver."

Exodus 21:33Comments- This pit would most commonly be a well. Short walls around a well were required to prevent a person or animal from falling into the pit.

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Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/exodus-21.html. 2013.

Geneva Study Bible

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

(f) Forced either by poverty, or else with the intent that the master should marry her.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/exodus-21.html. 1599-1645.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Go out, to work in the fields, according to Grotius; or rather, to enjoy her liberty. A father who sold his daughter, always expected that she should be the wife of the purchaser, or of his son. If this did not take place, she was free after six years, or before, if her master died. Constantine sanctioned the power of the Romans to sell their children. The Phrygians and Thebans had the like custom. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/exodus-21.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Exodus 21:7-36. Laws for maidservants.

if a man sell his daughter — Hebrew girls might be redeemed for a reasonable sum. But in the event of her parents or friends being unable to pay the redemption money, her owner was not at liberty to sell her elsewhere. Should she have been betrothed to him or his son, and either change their minds, a maintenance must be provided for her suitable to her condition as his intended wife, or her freedom instantly granted.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/exodus-21.html. 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maid-servant. Although it is not expressly said, it may be presumed, for the reasons stated on Exodus 21:1., that this man was a Hebrew father, who having, from some cause or other, been reduced to indigence, was forced to let his daughter go from his house into that of another. The sale, as it is called, was wages, a stipulated hire; but until then the daughter had been a free woman; an inmate in the house of her father, who parted with her in the full persuasion that she was forming a suitable relation, which gave him a pledge of her future condition. She shall not go out as the men-servants do. The relation to be formed was a matrimonial one; not indeed that of a regular marriage, for she was not to be a wife, only a concubine; but it was admitted to give her a recognized status, and accordingly she is not placed on the same footing with servants who are free at the expiration of six years' service (see the notes at Deuteronomy 15:17 : cf. Jeremiah 34:9-10). [The Septuagint has: hoosper apotrechousin hai doulai, as the maid-servants marry. That would be treating her as a mere slave. L

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/exodus-21.html. 1871-8.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

Bye-laws

Exodus 21-23

Amongst these bye-laws there are some sayings which may be considered hard, and on reading them we may ask in almost plaintive and despairing tones, "Who is sufficient for these things?" There are also some out-of-the-way responsibilities, which only Divine wisdom and justice could in the then state of society have imposed. We must not permit ourselves to lose the religious philosophy and the religious beneficence of the Mosaic legislation by going back upon it with our Christian instincts and culture. We must forget all we have ever learned in the Christian school, and think ourselves back into the comparative barbarism of the age. Then we shall see a light above the brightness of the sun, and feel round about us an influence which cannot be satisfactorily explained without taking into account the possibility of supernatural existence and Divine sovereignty. We shall lose the whole meaning of ancient writings, so far as their religious philosophy is concerned, if we compare them to their disadvantage with Christian standards and the advanced civilisation of the day in which we live. Critically examined, fibre by fibre as it were, this is not crude legislation; there is nothing rough and ready in this distribution of offices, duties, and obligations. This legislation Isaiah, on the contrary, highly spiritual in its assumptions, and full of sublime tribute to the nature which is addressed. The dignity of law pre-supposes the dignity of man. Little laws for little creatures, great laws for great beings—that is the philosophy of the Bible system. Looked at, therefore, narrowly and critically, we shall find that, however crude in appearance may be some of these bye-laws, the substance under them, and of which they may be said to be the mere phenomena, is a holy quantity, a Divine substratum, nothing less than God, the Eternal Creator and Sovereign.

Without attempting to go through all the bye-laws, we can touch them here and there with sufficient distinctness and sympathy to understand the whole scheme of which some parts are here quoted.

"And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed: 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" ( ).

Are our little personal strifes noted in heaven? The answer is: Yes, every one of them. But can men strive together? Properly looked at, that would seem to be the harder question of the two. Coming suddenly upon a line of this kind, we should exclaim, in surprise, "The assumption is impossible. We must begin our criticism of a statement of this kind by rejecting its probability, and, that being done, there is no case left. How can men strive together? Men are brothers, men are rational creatures, men recognise one another"s rights, and interests, and welfare; society is not a competition, but a fraternal and sacred emulation; therefore, the assumption that men can strive together is a false one, and, the foundation being false, the whole edifice totters down." That would be fine theory, that would be sweet poetry, it might almost be thrown into rhyme, but there are the facts staring us in the face. What are those facts? That all life is a strife, that every man in some way or degree, or at some time, begrudges the room which every other man takes up. The tragedy of Cain and Abel has never ceased, and can never cease until we become children of the Second Adam. Great degrees of modification may, of course, take effect. The vulgarity of smiting may be left to those who are in a low state of life—who are, in fact, in barbarous conditions; but they who smite with the fist are not the cruellest of men. There is a refined smiting—a daily, bitter, malignant opposition; there is a process of mutual undermining, or outreaching, or outrunning, in the very spirit of which is found the purpose of murder. But mark how beneficence enters into the arrangement here laid down. Not only is the man who smote his brother to pay for the loss of his brother"s time; that would be a mere cash transaction. There are men ready enough to buy themselves out of any obligation; a handful of gold is nothing. Their language Isaiah, "Take it, and let us be free." That would be poor legislation in some cases, though heavy enough in others. To some men money has no meaning; they have outlived all its influences; they are so rich that they can bribe and pay, and secure silence or liberty by a mere outputting of the hand. But the beneficence is in the next clause, "and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed." The man must be made as good as he was before, therefore he must be inquired about; he must be taken an interest in; he must become a quantity in the life of the man who injured him, and, however impatient the man who inflicted the injury may become under such chafing, the impatience itself may be turned to good account. Some men can be taught philanthropy by only such rough and urgent schoolmasters.

"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. 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" ( ).

In the one case provision is made against what we term an accident, and accidents are treated within their own narrow limits; but from accident we pass to purpose. The ox was "wont to push with his horn in time past,"—the ox was known to the owner to be an unmanageable ox; notice had been given to the owner of the temper of the ox; the ox, in short, had won for itself a bad character and reputation. If the owner allowed such an ox to go where danger and injury were possible, the owner was not released on the plea that an accident had occurred: he was held guilty of manslaughter. Is that ox still living? Yes. Is it possible that there are men to day who have oxen "wont to push with their horns," and who have killed ten thousand men, and are yet permitted to live and carry on this work of devastation? Do not fritter away the meaning of the injunction by fixing on the literal term, ox. The meaning is not to be confined within any one definition; the great solemn meaning is this: If your trade, occupation, method of life, is inflicting injury anywhere, and you have been made aware of it, you are responsible for the injury that has been done, and you cannot throw off that responsibility. It was not the ox that did it, it was the owner of the ox. Guilt comes home to man. How stands the case? Each must answer for himself. The case applies to ministers of the Gospel, and teachers of every kind of doctrine. If a man preach any doctrine that poisons the life of the hearer, that degrades his best ambition, that narrows and diminishes his life"s quantity, that fills him with discontent, peevishness, distrust, and jealousy; and if that preacher has been made aware of the effects of his doctrine, he is responsible for all the heart-ache, for all the up-breaking of life, for all the poisoning of health, and, at the last, hell will be too good a lot for so huge a murderer. The same applies to all men who lecture upon platforms, or who issue vicious books or other literature from the press. Whoever is guilty of the propagation of ideas that injure life, that impair its majesty, and that crush its best endeavours, is a murderer, and he must be held liable for the consequences of his deed. I fix the charge thus particularly upon those who are in the spiritual and intellectual function, that I may the more broadly and pungently suggest the lesson to every man in every other sphere and line of life that he may apply the doctrine to himself. This is the Divine doctrine: it is the rational doctrine, it is the right doctrine. There is nothing so supernatural about this as to cause us to resent it on the ground of its being supermundane, too lofty for us to realise. Reason is satisfied; conscience says "Amen"; the just heart rises up and says, "The judgment is true and righteous; let it stand." But what a revolution would be created in all teaching, in all commerce, in all social relations, if this one bye-law, respecting the "ox wont to push with his horn," were carried out this day!

"If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep" ( Exodus 22:1).

That is the only way of getting at a thief. You cannot reason with him. He dismissed his reason before he committed his felony. He had first to strangle his reason; he committed murder in the sanctuary of his soul before he committed theft in the fields of his neighbour. What then is to be done with him? He must be made to feel the folly of theft; he must be made to feel that theft is a bad investment; he must be made to feel that he has played the fool even in the excess of his cleverness. The thief would be made to know what dishonesty Isaiah, when for the one ox he must pay five in its place. He could have evaded an argument; he could have doubled upon a covenant, and have quibbled about the ambiguity of its terms; but he could not shuffle out of this four-square arithmetical arrangement. Five oxen for an ox, four sheep for a sheep; and by the time the thief had played at that game two or three days, he would have put on the garb, at least, of an honest man!

"If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution" ( Exodus 22:6).

This is right. The Bible really builds upon granite bases; there is nothing merely fanciful in this legislation. This is sound common-sense, and common-sense in the long run wins the esteem and confidence of the world. No man may trifle with bread. Bad enough to burn down any kind of property; but to consume stacks of corn is to commit murder with both hands; to light the standing corn when it waves in the fields is to thrust a knife, not into one heart, but into the very life of society. How can restitution be made? It cannot be made. You cannot replace corn; money bears no relation to corn; corn is not an arithmetical quantity. Destroyed bread is destroyed life. Who destroys bread? He who makes poison of it; he who turns it into a drink that takes away the reason and deposes the conscience of men. He who holds back the bread-stuff until the time of famine that he may increase his own riches by an enhanced market value is not a political economist, unless, under such circumstances, a political economist is a heartless murderer. And if it is wicked to set fire to corn, is it a light or frivolous matter to set fire to convictions, faiths—the bread-stuff of the soul? Is he guiltless who takes away the bread of life, the bread sent down from heaven? Is he a pardonable incendiary who burns down the altar which was a stairway to the light, or reduces to ashes the Church which was a refuge in the day of storm?

"If thou meet thine enemy"s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him" ( ).

Man never imposed that law. That is not a trick of human wisdom. It is too profound, too exacting, too full of implications of the noblest kind to have been invented by human nature. Who would not take vengeance upon his enemy"s ox? Who would not hamstring the bullock? Who would not be pleased to see his enemy"s ox going astray, running furiously mayhap along the wrong road? Who would not felicitate himself on such an occurrence, and think with cruel gladness about his enemy"s disappointment and loss? But the other picture is more vivid still: "If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden.". The enemy himself would be present personally or representatively, because the ass is not unburdened but burdened; he Isaiah, therefore, upon an appointed road and journey. Who would not rather taunt his enemy with the petty disaster and tell him to send for his friends to help him, and not to his hated and hating ones? "Who is sufficient for these things?"

But this is Judaism? It is humanism. But this old law is abolished? No, never can be abolished. It is one of the very laws which Jesus Christ came to "fulfil." Who can do it? To help the cause of a friend would be a pleasure, but to lift up the burden from the back of the ass of an enemy tears us in pieces: tests our quality. Nor can we do it in a mere law-keeping spirit. We know that to keep this law we must be above the law; grace must have begun its redeeming and inspiring ministry in our hearts before we can keep this law in the perfectness of its meaning. We have all opportunities of doing honour to this law. Our enemies need help to day. The man who spoke basely about us may need bread at our hand at this moment; his trade is in a bad way, though a good trade in itself. We could bring custom to his hand, and help him out of his embarrassments. If we hesitate to do so we must no longer bear the Christian name. Do release Jesus Christ from the responsibility involved in such reluctance, or in such disobedience. First let him go! We cannot love Christ and hate an enemy.

But is not sentiment now supplanting law? Have we not left the marble halls of justice, and entered a chamber decked with coverings of tapestry? Certainly not. Read on:—

"Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause" ( Exodus 23:3).

There is no mere sentiment in that. The meaning is: A man is not to be excused because he is poor. The effect of the law Isaiah, that a man is not to be treated with mere pity on the ground of his poverty; the judge is not to say—"If you had been a rich man you would have been punished, but being a poor man we take pity upon you." When a man stands before the law, he stands neither rich nor poor; he stands as one who appeals to the law of right; he is there as a criminal: let him prove his innocence. So the Bible is not softly sentimental. It has not one law for the great, and another for the small, one ordinance for the rich, and another for the poor; it is exceeding broad, it is impartial, it has in it the elements and the guarantees of complete security.

And is it all law—hard, iron, pitiless law? Is all life reduced to a schedule of regulations—an infinite placard of times, seasons, appointments of a merely hireling kind, so much equivalent for so much labour? Read on:—

"Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou earnest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty): and the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in thy field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field" ( ).

There is to be feasting as well as law-keeping; there is to be a recognition of the Lawgiver as well as a continual attempt to obey the letter of the law. There was to be a feast of memory—the liberation from Egypt—there was to be a feast of firstfruits, and there was to be a feast of ingathering. When men put the sickle into the wheatfield there was to be a feast unto the Lord. Fifty days were supposed to elapse between the putting in of the sickle and the full ingathering of the harvest. At the end of the fifty days, there was to be a feast of ingathering, a looking up into heaven, a recognition of the Divine and supernatural element in life. They whose faces had been towards the earth, and whose hands had been put out in daily labour, were to look up to heaven and stretch out the hands to the skies, and to say by attitude and by voice, "We are not the hirelings of men: we are the servants of the living God." We need these festivals; we need the holy day; we are better for touching one another in Christian companionship and worship. We ought to be the more righteous, the more lofty, for spending one hour in the house consecrated to Jehovah"s praise. We cannot keep the law in all the fulness of Christian obedience until we have been with Christ, and learned of him. It is not our enemy"s ox that is in distress, but our enemy himself. We are not called upon to study the mere framework of regulated society, and to attend to enactments and stipulations which will keep that society in skeleton-outline together; we have not come into a political society, but into a Christian brotherhood. We are not to be kept back from smiting only—that we have outlived long ago—but we have to come into the spirit of forgiveness, largest pardon, multiplied, heaped up, forgiveness and pardon—yea, here we may resort to all tautology of expression, if in the infinite redundance of our speech we do but give some feeble hint of the passion of love that has been created in our hearts by the Spirit of the Cross of Christ.

Thus the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, and Christ came not to abolish the law, even about ox, and ass, and theft, and burning of standing corn, but to fulfil it, to glorify it, to carry it up to higher meaning, and thus to consolidate the New Society—his Church—and make it infinitely precious and secure.

We look with some curiosity upon all these endless laws and exactions, and think ourselves well quit of a mechanism so detailed and vexatious. Herein we rejoice before the time. We are not quit of one of them. Is not our life also set in a marvellous network of law? If all the laws which are continually operating upon us and impoverishing us by their taxation could be set down in a book, we should marvel with exceeding astonishment at the mechanism under which our own boasted liberty is breathing. We call ourselves free, and rejoice that all the exactions of the past are done away, and that now it lies very much with our own will to say when life"s work shall begin and end and of what it shall exactly consist. We enjoy no such liberty. We cannot put our foot down upon any point of the earth that is not throbbing with the energy of law. Not a hand can be put out that is not entangled in the meshes of never-ceasing ordinances of life and nature. Cause and effect proceed eternally. The seedtime and the harvest are still linked by bonds that cannot be sundered. The evil-doer finds a thorn in his pillow every night. The oppressor is made to feel that he himself is under domination. Every morning has its duty, every night its sacrifice; the whole year round is but one unceasing opportunity for self-expenditure and self-control. Our liberty consists in our being able to do all the law requires with a steadier hand and a loftier purpose. The law itself is not susponded. Not one moment less of time does God demand; not one penny less of gold, not one thought less of spiritual consecration and intensity of mind; only by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we have come to such complete devotion of soul that what aforetime was grievous is now pleasant, and what at the beginning was almost impossible has now become the chief delight of life. Never suppose that law has been lessened in its force or in its details; the effort is wholly on the other side, that we ourselves have been blessed with greater power and have been brought into sweet consent with the Divine purpose.

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/exodus-21.html. 1885-95.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 21:1. These are the judgments. In this chapter we enter upon the fifty seven precepts of the civil law of the Hebrew nation. They are the laws of patriarchal society; and are here arranged and modified so as to promote order, purity and justice, in the whole community. The American Indians are found to have had many of these laws, as will be cited under the particular precept. Theodore Beza has left us a Latin work entitled Mosaycarum & Romanorum Legum Collatio, the Mosaic code collated with the Roman laws, in which many of the statutes are striking coincidents.

Exodus 21:2. Buy a Hebrew servant. In criminal cases, and in cases of debt, the magistrates had of course the power to inflict this punishment. It was allowed also in cases of insolvency. 1 Kings 4:1. Matthew 18:25. And seven years servitude was milder than long imprisonment.

Exodus 21:4. The wife—her master’s. The Jews affirm that this law respected aliens only.

Exodus 21:6. Bore his ear: a frequent custom among the gentiles as well as the Jews.

Exodus 21:7. If a man sell his daughter, not for δουλα, a slave, but οικετις, for a domestic, and under a promise of marriage. In all Shem’s race, as in the tribes of Ham and Japhet, a man had the power of a husband over a maid that he had bought. “From the beginning,” as our Saviour says on cases of divorce, “it was not so.” Moses therefore mitigates what he could not supersede, by guarding the spotless honour of a poor virgin.

Exodus 21:13. God delivered him into his hand. That is, he proved the stronger in the fight, and his opponent died of his bruises. But neither refuge nor satisfaction was allowed for wilful murder. Numbers 35:31.

Exodus 21:24. Eye for an eye. The judges might in some cases mitigate this. If a man with one eye should do this, the punishment would exceed the crime.

REFLECTIONS.

The political laws given to the Jews are worthy the serious attention, not only of judges and magistrates, that they may conform to them as much as possible in all things that are not peculiar to the Israelites, to the land of Canaan, and to those times, but of every other person; as they contain very excellent precepts of justice and charity, and many other duties. Upon the laws concerning slaves it must be observed, that slavery is prohibited among christians; and therefore that these laws do not respect us directly. However, we may conclude from them that the will of God is, that servants should be faithful to their masters, and that masters should treat their servants with tenderness and humanity. We learn likewise in this chapter, that murderers, men stealers, and those that curse father or mother, are guilty of very enormous crimes, which the magistrates ought to punish severely; and we may judge from thence, that God will not leave them unpunished. These are crimes which ought not to be so much as known among christians, any more than several others mentioned in the laws of Moses.

From this chapter, says Ostervald, we learn—that those who smite or wound their neighbour ought not to go unpunished—that those who occasion any evil to their neighbour, whether wilfully or accidentally and without any evil intention, should suffer for it, and ought to repair the damage as far as possible—that although slavery obtained amongst the Jews, God did not intend that they should treat their slaves cruelly or inhumanly as other nations did; from whence it appears that christians should behave with still greater meekness and gentleness towards their servants. It must also be observed, that these words, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” do not authorize private revenge, but only denote the punishment that judges were to inflict upon such as assaulted and wounded their neighbour; otherwise, we should be so far from returning evil for evil, that we ought, (as our Saviour observes, Matthew 5. where this law is mentioned) to bear injuries patiently: not to avenge ourselves, nor always insist upon what is strictly our right; but to imitate that meekness and patience which Jesus Christ our Redeemer has given us an example of.

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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/exodus-21.html. 1835.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/exodus-21.html. 1865-1868.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

The daughter of an Israelite, who had been sold by her father as a maid-servant ( לאמה ), i.e., as the sequel shows, as a housekeeper and concubine, stood in a different relation to her master's house. She was not to go out like the men-servants, i.e., not to be sent away as free at the end of six years of service; but the three following regulations, which are introduced by אם (Exodus 21:8), ואם (Exodus 21:9), and ואם (Exodus 21:11), were to be observed with regard to her. In the first place (Exodus 21:8), “ if she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed. ” The לא before יעדהּ is one of the fifteen cases in which לא has been marked in the Masoretic text as standing for לו ; and it cannot possibly signify not in the passage before us. For if it were to be taken as a negative, “that he do not appoint her,” sc., as a concubine for himself, the pronoun לו would certainly not be omitted. הפדּהּ (for הפדּהּ, see Ges. §53, Note 6), to let her be redeemed, i.e., to allow another Israelite to buy her as a concubine; for there can hardly have been any thought of redemption on the part of the father, as it would no doubt be poverty alone that caused him to sell his daughter (Leviticus 25:39). But “ to sell her unto a strange nation (i.e., to any one but a Hebrew), he shall have no power, if he acts unfaithfully towards her, ” i.e., if he do not grant her the promised marriage. In the second place (Exodus 21:9, Exodus 21:10), “ if he appoint her as his son's wife, he shall act towards her according to the rights of daughters, ” i.e., treat her as a daughter; “and if he take him (the son) another (wife), - whether because the son was no longer satisfied, or because the father gave the son another wife in addition to her - “ her food ( שׁאר flesh as the chief article of food, instead of לחם, bread, because the lawgiver had persons of property in his mind, who were in a position to keep concubines), her raiment, and her duty of marriage he shall not diminish, ” i.e., the claims which she had as a daughter for support, and as his son's wife for conjugal rights, were not to be neglected; he was not to allow his son, therefore, to put her away or treat her badly. With this explanation the difficulties connected with every other are avoided. For instance, if we refer the words of Exodus 21:9 to the son, and understand them as meaning, “if the son should take another wife,” we introduce a change of subject without anything to indicate it. If, on the other hand, we regard them as meaning, “if the father (the purchaser) should take to himself another wife,” this ought to have come before Exodus 21:9. In the third place (Exodus 21:11), “ if he do not (do not grant) these three unto her, she shall go out for nothing, without money .” “These three” are food, clothing, and conjugal rights, which are mentioned just before; not “ si eam non desponderit sibi nec filio, nec redimi sit passus ” ( Rabbins and others), nor “if he did not give her to his son as a concubine, but diminished her,” as Knobel explains it.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/exodus-21.html. 1854-1889.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

The Hebrew Female Slave

The Hebrew male slave may be released in the seventh year after six years of service. This arrangement is not for a Hebrew female slave. She has been bought to please her master. If she disappoints him, he has to let her go. The condition is that he will not sell her to a foreign people. The purpose of this regulation is to protect her against arbitrariness.

He may also have destined the female slave for his son. Then he has to treat her like his daughter. If he takes another wife and does not sell her, but keeps her, he cannot evade his marital obligations. If he does, she is free to leave, without any purchase price involved.

In this female slave we can see a picture of Israel. Israel cannot go out freely, as the Lord Jesus was allowed to. The people are bought by God so that they may please Him. But the people did not please God.

Unlike the master in this section, God has sold His people in the hands of foreign peoples (Jdg 2:14; Psa 44:13; Isa 50:1). This is not His dealing faithlessly. On the contrary, it is because of the infidelity of the people. His goal here is to teach the people the difference between service to Him and service to the nations (2Chr 12:8).

The female slave, Israel, will eventually become free. She will become the wife of the Son (Hos 2:19). Then God will deal with her according to that position. In anticipation of that time, the Son has taken "another woman", the church. There is no relationship with Israel at the time the church is formed (Hos 3:3-5). Israel is now "Lo-ruhama", which means "not having compassion", and "Lo-ammi", which means "not My people" (Hos 1:6; 9). God does not recognize Israel in this time as His people. It has gone away, away from Him.

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Exodus 21:7". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kng/exodus-21.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Precepts Regulating the Master's Relation to Slaves

v. 1. Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. These were special ordinances concerning the political commonwealth of the Jews. In the New Testament God's revelation is no longer confined to one single people, and we no longer have any state under the direct government of God. And yet, also these ordinances were recorded for our learning, especially for the purpose of teaching us various applications of the law of love.

v. 2. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, as a slave, six years he shall serve in this capacity; and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing, the idea being that he has earned his freedom by his six years' service.

v. 3. If he came in by himself, literally, with his body, that is, unmarried, he shall go out by himself; if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. Cf Exo_22:3; Lev_25:39; Deu_15:12-15.

v. 4. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters, the woman, of course, being a slave also, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. The man could have his freedom, if he chose, but the woman would still remain the master's property, and her children as well.

v. 5. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children, I will not go out free, the slave preferring a continuation of his slavery in the company of his family to freedom without his loved ones,

v. 6. then his master shall bring him unto the judges, before the proper officers; he shall also bring him to the door or unto the door-post of his house; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever, the opening in the ear marking the slave as such.

v. 7. And if a man sell his daughter to be a maid-servant, her position being that of housekeeper and probable concubine, she shall not go out as the men-servants do, that is, not be released in the seventh year, the purpose being that she meanwhile become the wife or the concubine either of the master or of his son.

v. 8. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, that is, who had purchased her with the expectation of making her his wife or concubine, then shall he let her be redeemed by some other man who might desire her for his wife. To sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her, he has broken faith with her, for she came to him, although her father sold her for reasons of poverty, Lev_25:39, with the understanding that she was to occupy the position of wife or concubine. Hebrew girls were not to be sold into unconditional slavery to members of other nations.

v. 9. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, if he have purchased the girl with the intention of making her his son's wife or concubine, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters, according to the rights of a daughter. That was the second possibility.

v. 10. If he take him another wife, so that he have two or more wives or concubines, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, the special duty which marriage implies, shall he not diminish. She was on no account to be neglected also in case of this third possibility; the father was to use his power and authority in upholding the rights of the girl.

v. 11. And if he do not these three unto her, that is, if, in the three given instances, he does not do the right thing by her, then shall she go out free without money. The woman would have her freedom, and her father would have the advantage of the purchase-money. Thus was the Hebrew male or female servant protected, for the Israelites were not to forget that the lowly among their people were likewise members of God's chosen nation. The principle applies to Christian masters also, inasmuch as they will treat even the least among the believers as brethren and sisters in Christ.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/exodus-21.html. 1921-23.

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

             c.—First form of the law of the political commonwealth

  Exodus 21:1 to Exodus 23:33

a. Right of Personal Freedom (according to Bertheau, ten in number)

1Now these are the judgments [ordinances] which thou shalt set before them 2 If [when] thou buy [buyest] an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing 3 If he came [come] in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were [be] married, then his wife shall go out with him 4 If his master have given [give] him a wife, and she have borne [bear] him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself 5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: 6then his master shall bring him unto the judges [God]; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him foreExo Exodus 21:7 And if [when] a man sell [selleth] his daughter to be a maid-servant, she shall not go out as the men-servants do 8 If she please not her master who hath betrothed her to himself,[FN1] 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 9 And if he have betrothed [betroth] her unto his Song of Solomon, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters 10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage [marriage due] shall he not diminish 11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free [for nothing], without money.

b. On Murder and Bodily Injuries. Sins against the Life of one’s Neighbor. (Ten in number, according to Bertheau.)

12He that smiteth a Prayer of Manasseh, so that he die [dieth], shall be surely put to death 13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand [make it happen 14 to his hand[FN2]]; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee. But [And] if [when] a man come [cometh] presumptuously upon his neighbor, 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 be surely put to death 16 And he that stealeth a Prayer of Manasseh, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death 17 And he that curseth [revileth][FN3] his father, or his mother, shall surely be 18 put to death. And if [when] men strive together, and one smite [smiteth] another [the other] with a stone, or with his fist, and he die [dieth] not, but keepeth his bed: 19If 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 20 thoroughly healed. And if [when] a man smite [smiteth] his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die [dieth] under his hand; he shall be surely punished 21 Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he Isaiah 22 his money. If [And when] men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her [depart], and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished [fined], according as the woman’s husband will [shall] lay upon him: 23and he shall pay as the judges determine.[FN4] And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, 24Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25, 26Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. And if [when] a man smite [smiteth] the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish27[and destroyeth it]: he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. And if he smite out his Prayer of Manasseh -servant’s tooth, or his maid-servant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.

c. Injuries resulting from Relations of Property. Through Property and of Property. Acts of Carelessness and Theft. (Ten, according to Bertheau.)

28If [And when] an ox gore [goreth] 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 29 But if the ox were [hath been] wont to push with his horn [to gore] in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in [keepeth him not in], but that he hath killed [and he killeth] a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death 30 If there be laid on him a sum of money [ransom], then he shall give for the ransom [redemption] of his life whatsoever is laid upon him 31 Whether he have gored a Song of Solomon, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him 32 If the ox shall push [gore] a Prayer of Manasseh -servant or maid-servant, he shall give unto their master 33 thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. And if [when] a man shall open a pit, or if [when] a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; 34The owner of the pit shall make it good, and [good; he shall] give 35 money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his. And if [when] one man’s ox hurt [hurteth] another’s, that he die [dieth]; then they shall sell the live ox, 36and divide the money [price] of it; and the dead ox also they shall divide. Or if it be known that the ox hath used to push [hath been wont to gore] 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.

Chap. Exodus 22:1 If [When] a man shall steal [stealeth] an ox, or a sheep, and kill [killeth] it, or sell [selleth] it; he shall restore [pay] fiveoxen for an ox, and four sheep 2 for a sheep. If a [the] thief be found breaking up [in], and be smitten that he die3[so that he dieth], there shall no blood be shed [no blood-guiltiness] for him. If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed [blood-guiltiness] for him; for he [him; he] should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft 4 If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, 5or ass, or sheep; he shall restore [pay] double. If [When] a man shall cause [causeth] a field or vineyard to be eaten [fed upon], and shall put in his beast [letteth his beast loose], and shall feed [and it feedeth] in another man’s field; of the best 6 of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution. If [When] fire break [breaketh] out, and catch [catcheth] in thorns, so that the stacks of corn [grain], or the standing corn [grain], or the field, be [is] consumed therewith; he [consumed; he] that kindled the fire shall surely make [make full] restitution.

d. Things Entrusted and Things Lost

7If [When] a man shall deliver unto his neighbor money or stuff to keep, and it be [is] stolen out of the man’s house; if the thief be found, let him pay double 8 If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges [unto God], to see whether he have put [have not put] his hand unto his neighbor’s goods 9 For all manner of trespass [In every case of trespass], whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost [any lost] thing, which another challengeth to be his [of which one saith, This is it], the cause of both parties shall come before the judges [God]; and [he] whom the Judges 10[God] shall condemn, he [condemn] shall pay double unto his neighbor. If [When] a man deliver [delivereth] unto his neighbor an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep; and it die [dieth], or be [is] hurt, or driven away, no man seeing11it: Then shall an [the] oath of Jehovah be between them both, that [whether] he hath not put his hand unto his neighbor’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof [it], and he shall not make it good [make restitution]. 12And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof 13 If it be torn in pieces, then let him bring it for witness; and [witness;] he shall not make good that which was 14 torn. And if [when] a man borrow [borroweth] aught of his neighbor, and it be [is] hurt, or die [dieth], the owner thereof being not with it, he shall surely make15it good [shall make full restitution]. But if [If] the owner thereof be with it, Hebrews 16shall not make it good: if it be an hired thing, it came for his [its] hire. And if [when] a man entice [enticeth] a maid [virgin] that is not betrothed, and lie [lieth] with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife 17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

e. Unnatural Crimes. Religious and Inhumane Abominations. (Arranged according to Bertheau.)

(1) 18Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. (2) 19Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. (3) 20He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto Jehovah only, he [only,] shall be utterly destroyed [devoted to destruction]. (4) 21Thou shalt neither vex [wrong] a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. (5) 22Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child 23 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; 24And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. (6) 25If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee [with thee that is poor], thou shalt not be to him as an usurer; neither shalt thou [shall ye] lay upon him usury [interest]. (7) 26If thou at all take thy neighbor’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver [restore] 27it unto him by that the sun goeth down: For that is his covering only [only covering], it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? And it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious. (8) 28Thou shalt not revile the gods [God], nor curse the [a] ruler of [among] thy people. (9) 29Thou shalt not delay to offer [not keep back] the first of thy ripe fruits and of thy liquors [the first-fruits of thy threshing-floor and of thy press]:[FN5] the first-born of thy sons shalt thou give unto me 30 Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his [its] dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me. (10) 31And ye shall be holy men unto me; neither shall ye [and ye shall not] eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.

f. Judicial Proceedings

Exodus 23:1(1) Thou shalt raise [carry] a false report: (2) put not thine [thy] hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. (3) 2Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline [turn aside] after many [a multitude] to wrest judgment: (4) 3Neither shalt thou countenance [be 4 partial to] a poor man in his cause. (5) If [When] thou meet [meetest] thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again5[to him]. (6) If [When] thou see [seest] the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him [thou shalt forbear to leavehim], thou shalt surely help [release it] with him.[FN6] (7) 6Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause. (8) 7Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay them not: for I will not justify the wicked. (9) 8And thou shalt take no gift [bribe]: for the gift [a bribe] blindeth the wise [theseeing], and perverteth the words of the righteous. (10) 9Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

g. Rules for Holidays and Festivals

(1) 10And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: 11But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still [fallow]; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy olive-yard. (2) 12Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger may be refreshed 13 And in [unto] all things that I have said unto you be circumspect [take heed]: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard [gods; let itnot be heard] out of thy mouth. (3) 14Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. (4) 15Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed [at the set time] of [in] the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty: (5) 16And the feast of harvest, the [of the] first fruits of thy labors, which thou hast sown [sowest] in the field: (6) and the feast of ingathering, which is in [ingathering, at] the end of the year, when thou hast gathered [thou gatherest] in thy labors out of the field. (7) 17Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God [Jehovah]. (8) 18Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice [feast] remain until the morning. (9) 19The first of the first-fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of Jehovah, thy God. (10) Thou shalt not seethe [boil] a kid in his [its] mother’s milk.

h. The Promises

(1) 20Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee, in [by] the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared 21 Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not: for he will not pardon your trangressions: for my name22is in him. But [For] if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. (2) 23For mine angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off 24 Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. (3) 25And ye shall serve Jehovah your God, and he shall [will] bless thy bread and thy water; (4) and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. (5) 26There shall nothing [no one] cast their [her] young, nor be barren, in thy land; (6) the number of thy days I will fulfil. (7) 27I will send my fear [terror] before thee, and will destroy [discomfit] all the people to whom thou shalt come, 28and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. (8) And I will send [send the] hornets before thee, which [and they] shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. (9) 29I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee 30 By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. (10) 31And I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee 32 Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods 33 They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[ Exodus 21:8. The Hebrew here, according to the K’thibh, is לֹא, and if this were followed, we should have to translate with Geddes, Rosenmüller and others: “so that he hath not betrothed (or will not betroth) her.” The K’ri reads לוֹ, “unto him” or “unto himself.” This yields much the easiest sense, and is especially confirmed by the consideration that יָעַד of itself means, not “betroth,” but “appoint,” “destine.” Followed by the Dative, it may in the connection convey the notion of betrothal; but used absolutely, it cannot convey it.—Tr.]

[ Exodus 21:13. אִנָּה cannot mean “deliver,” and no object is expressed. It is therefore unwarrantable to render, with A. V, “deliver him,” or even with Lange, “let him accidentally fall into his hand.” The object to be supplied is the indefinite one suggested by the preceding sentence, viz. homicide.—Tr.]

[ Exodus 21:17. קִלֵּל, though generally rendered “curse” in A. V, yet differs unmistakably from אָרַר in being used not merely of cursing, but of evil speaking in general, e.g. Judges 9:27 and 2 Samuel 16:9. The LXX. render it correctly by κακολογέω. And this word, where the passage is quoted in the New Testament, is rendered by the same Greek word, viz. Matthew 15:4.—Tr.]

[ Exodus 21:23. The Heb. reads בִּפְלִלִים, lit. “with judges” or “among judges.” Some render “unto the judges;” others “before the judges;” but the preposition does not naturally convey either of these senses. The A. V. probably expresses the true meaning: “with Judges,i.e. the line being judicially imposed.—Tr.]

[ Exodus 22:29. Literally: “thy fullness and thy tear.” The phrase “ripe fruits” is objectionable as including too much; “liquors” as suggesting a wrong conception. The first refers to the crops generally, exclusive of the olive and the grape, from which oil and wine, the liquid products (“tear”), were derived. Cranmer’s Bible renders, not inaptly: “thy fruits, whether they be dry or moist.”—Tr.]

[ Exodus 23:5. The rendering of A. V.: “and wouldest forbear,” is utterly untenable. Not less so is the rendering of עֲזֹב by “help.” The simplest explanation assumes a double meaning of עָזַב, viz. to “loose,” and to “leave.” We might borrow a vulgar phrase, and read: “Thou shalt forbear to cut loose from him, thou shalt cut loose with him.” De Wette and Murphy attempt to avoid the double meaning by emphasizing “with.” Thus: “Thou shalt forbear to leave it to him: thou shalt leave it with him.” But this is a nicety quite alien from the Hebrew.—Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

This section is very clearly to be distinguished from the two preceding, so that after the purely religious and ethical legislation, and after the ritual, now the social and political legislation is instituted. The genuinely theocratic character of this legislation here at once appears. It is not a criminal law in the first instance, but a system of legal regulations for a people that is to be trained for freedom. Hence these ordinances begin at once very significantly with the regulating of the laws concerning emancipation; and indirectly all the main points of this law point to the rights of freedom. Just as the sacrificial usages were found already existing, and were thenceforth theocratically regulated, so now the relations of slavery, found as an existing fact, were regulated in the spirit of the typical people of God. So Keil entitles the section: “The fundamental rights of the Israelites in their civil and social relations.” Less satisfactorily Knobel: “The further rights, i.e. laws,” etc. But the parallels which he draws between the Jewish legislation and that of other ancient people, and of heathen people in general, as also of the modern Mohammedan Arabs, are excellent. We divide thus: (a) The law of personal freedom. That this may correspond with the first commandment of the decalogue, the duty of holding sacred the divine personality, is obvious. (b) The second division, on murder and bodily injuries, quite as unmistakably aims to secure the human form from abuse or disfigurement, as the second commandment to keep the divine image from being deformed; but it is also connected with the commandment: Thou shalt not kill, (c) The third division, on injuries which result from the relations of property, points to the commandment: Thou shalt not steal, (d) Akin to the foregoing, and yet different, are the regulations concerning goods put in another’s care, and goods lost, (e) The regulations concerning unnatural crimes, offences against religion and humanity are more specially connected with the first and with the fifth and tenth commandments. (f) The section on judicial processes reminds us of the prohibition of false witness. (g) The division relating to holidays and feast-days reminds us of the third commandment, but is more especially an unfolding of the law of the Sabbath. (h) Also the promises which are annexed to the fifth and second commandments are in the last division expanded into a fuller form.

Here must be noticed one more circumstance. When regulations of similar import are found in different sections of the law, this is not to be regarded as mere repetition, still less as confusion. The moral law of the Sabbath, e.g., comes here ( Exodus 23:12) under consideration again, from a social point of view; in Leviticus still again as connected with the ceremonial law. For the Sabbath, there are moral and ritual reasons, and likewise social or civil reasons, the latter uniting the two former. In like manner the great festivals of the Israelites are here regarded from a national, or civil, point of view: in Leviticus they are associated with the idea of worship. The occasional precepts concerning purification and sacrifice in the book of Numbers relate to the keeping pure of the social commonwealth of Jehovah, and are therefore not primarily ceremonial. The tabernacle is found in Exodus, not in Leviticus, because it is primarily the house of the theocratic lawgiver, and is the repository of the decalogue; only secondarily the place of worship, the place where the lawgiver meets his people.

a. Law of Personal Freedom

(1) The Hebrew Prayer of Manasseh -servant, Exodus 21:1-6; (2) The Hebrew maid-servant, Exodus 21:7-11. The further development of, and reasons for, the law of emancipation, vid. in Deuteronomy 15:12-18. “The Hebrew Prayer of Manasseh -servant after six years of service is to receive his freedom gratis. According to Deuteronomy 15:12 this holds also of the Hebrew maidservant. The attributive עִבְרִי designates the servant as an Israelite (comp. אָחִיךָ in Deut.) in distinction from the slaves derived from non-Israelitish foreign nations, to whom this law does not apply” (Keil). The law evidently tends towards securing the universality of personal freedom. But it also knows that within the theocracy, in the servitude which is mitigated by it, there is an element susceptible of education. Therefore the servant is not compelled to become free in the seventh year. We are to consider that the sons of the household also then stood in the relation of strict subjection, so that a dutiful servant became more and more like them. Vid. Exodus 23:12, Leviticus 25:6, etc. The servant might also be led by devotion to his wife, given to him by his master during his servitude, and to her children, to remain a servant. With reference to this the three cases in Exodus 21:3-4 were to be distinguished. The fixing of the seventh year as the year of emancipation is connected with the sabbatical year, but does not coincide with it. How one could become a slave among the Israelites is told in Exodus 22:3, Leviticus 25:39. But how the emancipation was to be beautified and enriched is seen in the parallel passage in Deuteronomy [ Exodus 15:12-15]. On the manner of emancipation vid. Keil p130. Unto God.—Not to the priests, but to the court of the assembly, which passed judgment in the name of God, and whose sentence was a divine dispensation. Similar expressions vid. in Knobel, p214. There had therefore to be a public declaration that the servant voluntarily remained a servant. “The boring of the ears was among the Orientals a sign of slavery” (Knobel). The ear-rings among the Carthaginians from being a symbol of slavery came to be an ornament, like the cross among Christians. The case mentioned in Leviticus 25:39 is probably a modification, but according to Knobel is a contradiction, of the law before us.

Exodus 21:7-11 : The Israelitish daughter as servant and concubine. Knobel makes no distinction between concubinage as it is found among the patriarchs, and the usual custom of the Jews. But in reply see the Commentary on Genesis, p80. She shall not go out as the men-servants do.—It follows from the nature of her position that it is a benefit to her if she can remain in the house of her master, provided that the rights of the concubine are respected. It is therefore presupposed either that he takes her for himself, or gives her to his Song of Solomon, or maintains her honor by the side of his son’s wife. In the first case, he must let her be redeemed; in the second case, he must accord to her the domestic rights of an associate wife. If he is not willing to give her this protection, he must let her go free for nothing. In this connection the precepts of Deuteronomy 15:12 are also to be considered. Exodus 21:8-9. Who hath betrothed her to himself.—“The לֹא before יְעָדָהּ belongs to the15 passages designated by the Massorah in which לֹא stands for לוֹ” (Keil; compare Knobel). To sell her unto a strange people.—Knobel: “The Greek, too, did not sell a Greek slave to go beyond the boundary of the land.” Seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.—It would certainly create a difficulty to translate, “on account of his infidelity towards her,” as if this unfaithfulness were the only reason why an Israelitess might not be sold to heathen. Therefore the emphasis probably lies on the thought that his injustice would be doubly great if even in this case, in which he has gone so far as to send her away, he should also in his treachery to her violate the theocratic law. That the word בָּגַד has a specially important meaning, is seen from Psalm 73:15. Comp. Deuteronomy 21:14, and the account of the Arabian customs in Knobel, p216. If he betroth her unto his son.—Comp. Knobel also on a Persian or Arabian custom of a similar sort. As his son’s concubine she is to be regarded by him as a daughter. Exodus 21:9. If he take him another wife.—That Isaiah, the father for his son. So Keil; but Knobel understands it to mean: If he takes another for himself. Keil well disposes of the views, according to which either the son is the subject, or the father takes for himself.[FN7] Her food, etc.—All of her domestic rights are to remain secure. שְׁאֵר, meat, as the chief article of food, “because the lawgiver has men of wealth in mind.” (Keil). To understand עוֹנָה, which properly means lying, of cohabitation, yields no tolerable sense. How could the father in this thing control the son? Or how could the son be obliged to conduct himself towards several wives in the same way as towards one. Either, therefore, the expression has in it something figurative, meaning: She must not as wife be neglected; or it refers to a seat, a resting-place (see the meaning of עוּן), which would well harmonize with the reference to food and raiment. It is therefore assumed that under the conditions imposed she has in the house of her servitude a much better position than if she should be dismissed, especially if she has borne children who belong to the permanent members of the household.

b. On Murder, Homicide, and Bodily Injuries

(1) Homicide proper, Exodus 21:12-14. (a) Simple homicide in consequence of beating; (b) unintentional, resulting from misfortune and mistake; (c) murder proper. (2) Spiritual homicide, (a) Smiting of parents; (b) deprivation of freedom (as spiritual fratricide); (c) cursing of parents (spiritual suicide). (3) Bodily injuries, (a) Of uncertain, perhaps fatal result; (i) to a free man; (ii) a Prayer of Manasseh -servant or maid-servant; (iii) a pregnant woman, in which connection is to be noticed that the jus talionis is laid down in close connection with an extremely humane law of protection, Exodus 21:22-25; (b) local injuries to men-servants or maid-servants.

Exodus 21:12. He that smiteth a man.—Says Keil: “Higher than personal freedom stands life.” It may then be asked, why is capital punishment prescribed ( Exodus 21:16) for the violent taking away of freedom? The slavery treated of in the preceding section was no innovation, but as a traditional custom it was restricted, and moreover in great part was based on guilt or voluntary assent; it had besides an educational end. It is true, the law of retaliation, as instituted in Genesis 9:6, underlies all this section; but it is noticeable that this law is expressly prescribed just where the protection of a pregnant woman is involved. It is repeated ( Leviticus 24:17) in connection with the ordinance that the blasphemer shall be stoned. The reason for the repetition is the principle that in respect to these points perfect equality of rights should be accorded to the stranger and the Israelite; and it was occasioned by the fact that the blasphemer was a Jew on his mother’s side, but an Egyptian on his father’s side. So that he dieth.—Three cases are specified: first, the severe blow which in fact, but not in intention, proves mortal; secondly, the unfortunate killing through mistake, a providential homicide; thirdly, intentional, and hence criminal and guileful, murder.

Exodus 21:13. And if a man lie not in wait.—When, therefore not only the murderous blow, but any blow, was unintentional, so that the case is one of severe divine dispensation. I will appoint thee a place.—A place of refuge, with reference to the avengers of blood who pursue him. A check, therefore, upon the custom, prevalent in the East, of avenging murder. It is worthy of notice, from a critical point of view, that no place is now fixed; this was done later, vid. Numbers 35:11; Deuteronomy 19:1-10. Here too the innocent homicide is expressly distinguished from the violent one, Numbers 35:22 sqq. Together with the prescribed place of refuge for the one who kills by mistake is found the stern provision that a real murderer, who has committed his murder with criminal and guileful intent, cannot be protected even by fleeing to the altar of the sanctuary, as it was customary in ancient times for those to do whom vengeance rightly or wrongly pursued, because, as some would say, the altar was a place of expiation. Even from the altar of God he is to be torn away. The expression יָזִד is not adequately represented by “behave viciously, or arrogantly.” It denotes the act of breaking through, in ebullient rage, the sacred restraints which protect one’s neighbor as God’s image. Particular cases, Numbers 35:16, Deuteronomy 19:11. Murder could be expiated only with death, Numbers 35:31. Examples of fleeing to the altar, 1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28. This was also customary among the Greeks.

Exodus 21:15. Smiteth his father.—The simple act of smiting, committed on a father or mother, is made equivalent to Prayer of Manasseh -slaughter committed on one’s neighbor. “Parricide, as not occurring and not conceivable, is not at all mentioned” (Keil). Similar ordinances among the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians are mentioned by Knobel, p217. The two following provisions rest on the same ground. The parents are God’s vicegerents for the children; the neighbor is God’s image; hence a violent abuse of his person is equivalent to murder, vid. Deuteronomy 24:7. We explain the insertion of the prohibition of Prayer of Manasseh -stealing between verses15,17 by the fact that in cursing his parents the curser morally destroys himself, vid. Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 27:16. The order is: undutifulness, Prayer of Manasseh -stealing, self-destruction.[FN8] See various views of Exodus 21:16 in Keil, p133.

Exodus 21:18 sq. And when men strive.—The section concerning bodily injuries as such is distiuguished from the section beginning with Exodus 21:12 in that there injuries are spoken of which result in death. The injuries here mentioned would accordingly also be punished with death if they resulted in death. This is shown especially by Exodus 21:20. Here, then, an injury is contemplated which only confines the injured one to his bed. The penalty is twofold: First, the offender must make good his sitting still, i.e. what he might have earned during this time; secondly, he must pay the expenses of his cure, Exodus 21:19. In the case of a Prayer of Manasseh -servant or maidservant a different custom prevailed. If manslaughter took place, the manhood of the slain one is fully recognized, i.e. the penal retribution takes place. Probably sentence was to be rendered by the court, which was to decide according to the circumstances. According to Jewish interpretations capital punishment was to be inflicted with the sword; but vid. Knobel for a different view.[FN9] On the one hand, the danger of a fatal blow was greater than in other relations, for it was lawful for a master to smite his slave (vid. Proverbs 10:13; the rod was also used on children); but on the other hand an intention to kill could not easily be assumed, because the slave had a pecuniary value. Furthermore, the owner is exempted from punishment, if the beaten one survives a day or two; and the punishment then consists in the fact that the slave was his money, i.e. that in injuring the slave he has lost his own money. The Rabbins hold that this applied only to slaves of a foreign race, according to Leviticus 25:44. This is not likely, if at the same time, in case of death, execution by the sword was to be prescribed; also according to this view there would have been a great gap in the law as regards Hebrew slaves. It is true, reference is here had only to injuries inflicted by the rod. When one was killed with an iron instrument, an intention to kill was assumed, and then capital punishment was inflicted unconditionally, Numbers 35:16, Leviticus 24:17; Leviticus 24:21, Deuteronomy 19:11 sqq. On the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman legislation, see Knobel, p219.[FN10]

Exodus 21:22-25. Special legal protection of pregnant women. It might often happen that in quarrelling men would injure a pregnant woman, since wives on such occasions instinctively interpose, Deuteronomy 25:11. In the latter passage the rudenesses which the woman, protected by law, might indulge in are guarded against.—So that her fruit depart. Literally: so that her children come out; i.e., so that abortion takes place. According to Keil, the expression designates only the case of her bearing real children, not a fetus imperfectly developed; i.e., a premature birth, not an abortion, is meant. “The expression יְלָדֶיהָ is used for the sake of indefiniteness, since possibly there might be more than one child in her body.” Strange interpretation of the precept, according to which the plural in individual cases denotes indefiniteness! According to this view, the most, and perhaps the worst cases, would not be provided for, since women far advanced in pregnancy are most apt to guard against the danger of such injuries. The plural may also indicate that the capacity for bearing was injured. “If no other injury results from the quarrel, reparation is to be made, according as the husband of the woman imposes it on the perpetrator, and the latter is to give it ‘with Judges,i.e., in company with, on application to them, in order that excessive demands may be suitably reduced. The amount of indemnity demanded doubtless was determined by the consideration, whether the injured man had many or few children, was poor or rich, etc. The law stands appropriately at the end of the cases which relate to life and the inviolability of the person. The unborn child is reckoned as belonging to, and, as it were, a part of, the mother” (Knobel).

Exodus 21:23. And if any mischief follow. It is to the credit of the legislation that the law of retaliation (vid. Leviticus 24:19, Deuteronomy 19:21) is here so particularly laid down. In its connection it reads: The injury of such a woman must be most sternly expiated according to the degree of it. But even this explication of the law of retaliation must be guarded from a lifeless literalism, as is shown by the provisions in Exodus 21:26-27. It would surely have been contrary to nature to put out the eye of a master who had put out his servant’s eye, or to make him lose tooth for tooth. Keil says, “ The principle of retaliation, however, is good only for the free Israelite, not for the slave.” In the latter case, he adds, emancipation takes place. Emancipation, even on account of a tooth knocked out, has nevertheless the force of retaliation, which, even in the relations of free Israelites, could not have been everywhere literally applied, e.g., in the case of burns. On the jus talionis in the ancient heathen world, and generally in the Orient, vid. Knobel, p220.

c. Injuries resulting from Property relations. Specially from acts of Carelessness. Chs. Exodus 21:28 to Exodus 22:6.

We follow in general Bertheau’s classification, which makes property the determining thought. Keil and Knobel divide otherwise. Keil with the words, “Also against danger from cattle is man’s life secured.” The conflict between life and property, and the subordination of property is here certainly everywhere observed. In a critical respect it may not be without significance that there is here no trace of horses; also the dog is not mentioned. At the time of Solomon and Ahab the case was quite different. First are to be considered the accidents occasioned by oxen that hook, Exodus 21:28-32. But this list is connected with the following one, which treats of the misfortunes which men may suffer in respect to their oxen or asses through the fault of neighbors, in which case a distinction is made between the injuries resulting from carelessness and those resulting from theft, Exodus 21:33 to Exodus 22:4. Then follow injuries done to fields or estates through carelessness in the use of cattle or of fire, Exodus 21:5-6. Then the criminal misuse of goods held in trust constitute a separate section, Exodus 21:7-17, which we do not, like Bertheau, make a subdivision of the division (c), but must distinguish from it.

Exodus 21:28. First case. And if an ox.—The instinct of oxen to hook is so general that every accident of this sort could not be foreseen and prevented. Therefore when an ox has not been described to the owner as properly a goring ox, the owner is essentially innocent. Yet for a possible want of carefulness he is punished by the loss of his animal. But the ox is stoned to death. Legally it would involve physical un-cleanness to eat of the flesh. But the stoning of the ox does not mean that the ox is “tainted with capital crime” (Keil), but that he has become the symbol of a homicide, and so the victim of a curse (חֶרֶם). It is therefore an application of Genesis 9:6 in a symbolical sense, on account of the connection of cattle with men. Comp. also Leviticus 20:15. Similar provisions among the Persians and Greeks vid. in Knobel, p220.

Exodus 21:29. Second case. The owner has been cautioned that his ox is given to hooking. In this case he himself is put to death as well as his ox. This is the rule. But as there may be mitigating considerations, especially in the case of the injured family; as in general the guilt was only that of carelessness, not of evil intention, the owner might save his life by means of a ransom imposed on him by the relatives of the man that had been killed. Probably with the mediation of the Judges, as in Exodus 21:22. Reference to the Salic law made by Knobel. Ransom.—כֹּפֶר, covering, expiation.

Exodus 21:31. Third case. The son or the daughter of a freeman are treated in the same manner as, according to the foregoing, he himself is treated.

Exodus 21:32. Fourth case. The ox gores a manservant or a maid-servant to death. The stoning of the ox is still enjoined, but the owner in this case is not doomed to death. He must pay the master of the slave30 shekels of silver. “Probably the usual market price of a slave, since the ransom money of a free Israelite amounted to50 shekels, Leviticus 27:3.” (Keil). On the value of the shekel (שֶּׁקֶל σίκλος) vid. Winer, Realwörterbuch, p 433 sqq.[FN11] The result of the perplexing investigation is that its value Isaiah 25 or26 silver groschen.[FN12] The shekel afterwards used for the revenue of the temple and of the king was different from that used in common life. This legal inequality [between the slave and the freeman] is to be explained by the consideration that the capital punishment inflicted on the owner formed an offset, to the revenge to which otherwise the relatives of the murdered man might resort. But this revenge for bloodshed was in no danger of being exercised in the case of a murdered slave, since he was removed from the circle of his relations. The seemingly great difference in the penalty amounts finally to this, that the ransom money for a free man was50 shekels, and that for a slave30 shekels. On the estimate of the Attic slave, vid. Knobel; but the great difference in the period of time must be taken into account. “In the legal codes of other ancient nations also are found laws concerning the punishment of beasts that have killed or injured a man. Coop. Clericus and Knobel on this passage. But no nation had a law which made the owner of such a beast responsible, because none of them had recognized the divine image in human life” (Keil). The responsibility of the owner could certainly be grounded only on the mysterious solidarity of the Hebrew household (“thy Prayer of Manasseh -servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle”), a unity which was not taken into account where a more atomistic view of liberty prevailed.

Exodus 21:33-34. Fifth case. And when a man shall open a pit (cistern). This is connected with the foregoing cases as coming under the head of punishable carelessness. The ox or ass are named as examples of domestic animals in general. In this case only property is destroyed; and the careless man has to pay for it, but receives the dead beast, of which he could only use the skin and other such parts, since the flesh was unclean.

Exodus 21:35. Sixth case. A specially fine provision. In the ox that has killed another ox there is nothing abominable, but yet a stain; the sight of him is obnoxious. He is therefore sold and comes into another place where his fault is not known. But the two owners share the price of sale and the dead animal. This is an alleviation of a misfortune that is common to both parties. Without doubt the dead ox also must have hooked.

Exodus 21:36. Seventh case. But here too is to be considered the special circumstance that the ox may have been a notorious hooker. In this case the owner must make full compensation for the loss with a live ox, in return for which he receives the dead beast.

Exodus 22:1-4. Eighth case. The cattle-thief. Five-fold indemnity for the stolen ox; four-fold for the stolen sheep or goat. In the case of the five-fold indemnity any kind of large animal may be delivered over. The difference of five-fold and four-fold points to the greater guilt of the greater theft. “The four-fold restitution is also mentioned in 2 Samuel 12:6 : the seven-fold, Proverbs 6:31, is not to be understood literally, but only in a general way as manifold” (Knobel). From the five-fold and four-fold restitution is distinguished the two-fold, which is prescribed in case the thief has not yet slaughtered or sold the animal, but is able to return it alive. The reasons for this distinction are differently given; vid. Keil; also his note, II. p137.[FN13] In the latter case the thief had not carried out his purpose to the full extent, especially as he has not put the object of his theft out of the way. The case differed therefore materially from the other. Vid. Knobel on the Roman laws. Others indicating the value set on ploughing oxen, Knobel. p222.

Exodus 22:2-3. If the thief be found breaking in.—This is obviously an incidental interpolation, which properly belongs to the class (b). There shall be no blood to him; i.e. no blood-guiltiness is incurred by the homicide; vid. Numbers 35:27; Deuteronomy 19:10; Job 24:16. One might understand this chiefly of an attack on the fold, since the topic is the stealing of cattle; at all events a nocturnal irruption is meant, vid. Exodus 22:3. Accordingly the watchman, or the one who is awaked, is in a condition of defense. He must protect his property, and therefore fight; and the thief is liable to become a robber and murderer. If the sun be risen upon him.—It might be thought that this refers to the early dawn or early day, when he might recognize the thief, or frighten him away unrecognized, or with the help of others capture him. But inasmuch as further on it is assumed that the thief has really accomplished his theft, the expression probably means: If some time has elapsed. If in this case the owner kills the thief, he incurs blood-guiltiness; but on account of the great variety in the cases the sentence of death is not here immediately pronounced upon him. Since the life of the thief is under the protection of the law, the case comes before the criminal court, vid. Exodus 21:20. For Calvin on the “ratio disparitatis inter furem nocturnum et diurnum,” vid. Keil, p137. The real punishment for the thief is determined by the law concerning restitution, Exodus 22:1; Exodus 22:3. But in case the thief can restore nothing, he is sold for the theft, for that which is stolen, i.e. for the value of it. “This can mean only a sale for a period of time. The buyer reckoned the restitution which the thief was to render, and used the thief as a slave until the whole loss was made good” (Knobel). Similar arrangements among the Romans vid. in Knobel, p223. Likewise laws concerning theft, p224. The thief could not be sold to a foreigner, according to Josephus, Ant. XVI:1, 1.

Exodus 22:5. Ninth case. A field or a vineyard to be fed upon.—There are various views of this. (1) Si læserit quispiam agrum vel vineam, etc. (Vulg.). Luther: “When any one injures a field or vineyard, so that he lets his cattle do damage.” (2) Knobel: “When one pastures a field or a vineyard by sending his cattle to it.” (3) Keil: “When any one pastures a field or a vineyard, and lets his cattle loose.” שָׁלַח bears either meaning, to send away, or to let go free; but according to the connection only the latter can be meant here. The sense given to it by the Vulgate might accordingly be accepted: he injures the field or vineyard of his neighbor so that, (in that) etc. But it is more obvious to assume an incidental carelessness to be meant. The beast feeds on his field (perhaps also on the grass between the grape-vines); from this pasture ground he lets him pass over so that he does damage to his neighbor. Knobel even affirms that an intentional damage is meant. And yet only a simple, though ample, indemnity is to be rendered from the best of his field and of his vineyard. Keil rightly contends against Knobel’s theory. Talmudic provisions on this point are found in Saalschütz, Mosaisches Recht, p875 sq.

Exodus 22:6. Tenth case. This is about, a fire in a field, which might the more readily sweep over into the neighbor’s field, inasmuch as it was likely to be kindled at the edge of the field, in the thorn-hedge. Clearly an act of carelessness is meant; comp. Isaiah 5:5. He that hath kindled the fire.—The carelessness is imputed to him as a virtual incendiary, because he did not guard the fire.

d. Things entrusted and lost.

Exodus 22:7. First case. The money or articles or stuff (on כֵלִים see Deuteronomy 22:5) left for safe keeping are stolen from the keeper, but the thief is discovered. The affair is settled by the thief being required to pay back double, vid. Exodus 22:4.

Exodus 22:8. Second case. The thief is not discovered. In this case suspicion falls on the keeper; he may have embezzled the property entrusted to him. Therefore such a case must come before the court, which was esteemed a divine court, hence the expression, אֶל־הָאֱלהִים. The penalty is paid according to the decision of the case. The man under suspicion must approach unto God. Such an approach produced an excitement of conscience. The true high-priest is the one who may approach unto God. In case the keeper is adjudged guilty, he has to pay double.

Exodus 22:9. The foregoing provision is designated as an example for a general rule. The cleansing of the suspected man was probably often effected by an oath of purification. The LXX. and Vulgate interpolate καὶ ὸμεῖται, et jurabit. In all cases in which the concealer made a confession, an oath was unnecessary. Also dishonesty respecting objects found is placed under this rule. On the oath among the Arabs and Egyptians, see Knobel, p225. Knobel seems to assume without reason that the plaintiff also is meant in the words, “whom God shall condemn,” etc.[FN14]

Exodus 22:10-11. Third case. This is about beasts put in others’ care, which die in their possession, or are mutilated in the pasture, or injure themselves, or are driven away by robbers. Here the oath is positively required, in case the guardian alone has seen the thing; but it is also decisive. On a similar Indian law vid. Knobel.

Exodus 22:12. Fourth case. Stolen from him.—It is assumed that the thief is not found. “Here,” says Knobel, “restitution is prescribed, but not in Exodus 22:8, because he who has an animal in charge is the guardian of it, whereas he who has things in charge cannot be regarded as exactly a watchman.” But according to Exodus 22:9 the judges could even adjudge a double restitution, while here only simple restitution is spoken of. There a complication was referred to, in which the approach of the master of the household to God and the attitude of his conscience formed the main ground for the judicial sentence. In the case described in Exodus 22:10-11 the oath determines the main decision; in the present case the simple restitution is prescribed upon the simple declaration: “stolen.”

Exodus 22:13. Fifth case. The production of the animal torn by a beast of prey (not, “or a part of it,” as Keil says) proved not only the fact itself, but also that the guardian had watched, and had driven off the beast of prey by a violent exertion. From this we see the severity of Laban who, according to Genesis 31:39, required his Song of Solomon -in-law in such cases to make the loss good. Comp. 1 Samuel 17:34, Amos 3:12. On the Indian law, vid. Knobel, p227.

Exodus 22:14. Sixth case. A hired beast is injured, or dies, when the owner is not present. The sentence requires restitution, because neglect may be presumed.

Exodus 22:15. Seventh case. The owner is present when the accident occurs. In that case it belonged especially to himself to prevent the accident, if prevention was possible.

Eighth case. The borrower is in the hired service of the owner of the beast. In this case he gets the dead beast instead of his pay; it is subtracted from his pay. For the owner as a hired laborer would have had to do only with himself; and a hired servant with a hired beast cannot be meant. It is therefore a day-laborer to whom the animal of the owner has been entrusted. שָׂכִיר can hardly (with Stier and Keil) be referred to the hired beast. Knobel has a forced explanation, in which the hired servant becomes the one who lets the beast.[FN15]

Exodus 22:16. Ninth case. The seducer of an unbetrothed virgin (the case is different with the seduction of a betrothed one ( Deuteronomy 22:23), who has entrusted to him the wealth of her virginity, valuable not only in a moral, but in a civil point of view, must make restitution to her by marrying her, and to her father by giving a dowry.

Exodus 22:17. Tenth case. The seducer himself cannot refuse the settlement; but the father of the seduced maiden may have reasons for refusing it. In this case the seducer must pay him the dowry (vid. Genesis 34:12), with which she Isaiah, in a sort, reinstated as a virgin, and as afterwards a legally divorced woman. The case is not differently provided for in Deuteronomy 22:28, as Knobel affirms. There only the price of sale is fixed, viz., at50 shekels; the right of the father to refuse his daughter to the seducer is simply not repeated. The dowry was not properly a price of sale.

“The precepts in Exodus 22:18 and onwards,” says Keil, “differ in form and contents from the foregoing laws; in form, by the omission of כִּי [when], with which the foregoing are almost without exception introduced; in substance, by the fact that they impose on the Israelites, on the ground of their election to be the holy people of Jehovah, requirements which transcend the sphere of natural law.” Yet the two divisions are not to be distinguished as natural and supernatural. But Keil has correctly found a new section here, whilst Knobel begins a new section, poorly defined, with Exodus 22:16.

e. Unnatural Crimes. Abominations committed against Religion and Humanity.

Exodus 22:18. First offence. The sorceress is condemned to death. This term is not to be made synonymous with witch, as Knobel makes it. The mediæval witch may practice, or wish to practice, sorcery; but she may also be a calumniated woman. She gets her name from the popular conception, whereas the sorceress gets her name from the real practice of a lying, dark art. She operates on the assumption that demoniacal powers co-operate with her, and so she promotes radical irreligion. She injures her neighbor in body and life, as being the instrument of hostile passions, which she nourishes; or, when she enters into the mood of the questioner, she nourishes ruinous hopes (Macbeth) or despair (the soothsayer of Endor), and often from being a mixer of herbs becomes a mixer of poisons (Gesina). “The sorceress is named instead of the sorcerer, as Calovius says, not because the same thing is not punishable in men, but because the female sex is more addicted to this crime” (Keil). According to Knobel the expression, “not suffer to live,” intimates that perhaps a foreign sorceress might be punished with banishment; but Keil supposes that she may have been allowed to live, if she gave up her occupation. Sorcery was connected not only with simple idolatry, but in many ways with the worship of demons, and the sorceress was regarded as seducing to such things.

Exodus 22:19. Second offence. Sexual intercourse with a beast. Comp. Leviticus 18:23; Leviticus 20:15; Deuteronomy 27:21. This unnatural thing also was punished with death, like the kindred one of sodomy, a prominent vice of the Canaanites, Leviticus 20:13.

Exodus 22:20. Third offence. Idolatry. Keil’s explanation, “Israel must not sacrifice to foreign gods, but must not only tolerate foreigners in the midst of them,” etc., almost seems intended to intimate that the heathen in Israel had an edict of tolerance for their offerings. Opposed to this conception is the Sabbath law, and the ordinance in Exodus 23:24. In both cases, however, the explanation is that a public worship of strange gods was not tolerated in Israel; but an inquisition to ferret out such worship secretly carried on is not countenanced by the Mosaic law. The words are: “whosoever sacrificeth unto any god.” The addition, “save unto Jehovah only” (as likewise Exodus 20:24), is a mild expression also as regards the theocratic offerings, and also secures a right understanding of the word “Elohim.”—He is to be devoted, i.e., to the judgment of Jehovah sentencing him to death. Here the notion of חֶרֶם (hherem, ban) comes out distinctly. Every capital punishment was essentially a hherem; but here is found the root of the notion: an idolater by his offering has withdrawn from Jehovah the offering due to Him alone; he has, so to speak, removed the offering away from the true divine idea, and perverted it into its opposite. “He is to be devoted by death to the Lord, to whom in life he would not devote himself” (Keil). It may be that a sort of irony lies in the notion of the hherem; as being consecration reversed, it secures to God the glory belonging to Him alone; but it does this also as being consecration to the judging God in His judgment. “No living thing,” says Knobel, “devoted to Jehovah could be redeemed, but had to be destroyed. Leviticus 27:28 sq.; 1 Samuel 15:3.” But only when it was a case of hherem, vid. Deuteronomy 13:12 sqq.

Exodus 22:21. Fourth offence. A beautiful contrast to the foregoing is formed by the statement, of offences against humanity. Maltreatment of the foreigner is put first of all. He must not be wronged, “for ye were strangers,” etc. A moral principle which Revelation -appears in the N. T. ( Matthew 7:12). as also in Kant. The particular rules concerning the treatment of aliens are given by Knobel. p228, who also gives the appropriate references to Michaelis and Saalschütz. Vid. Exodus 3:9, Deuteronomy 26:7. Knobel says, “The persons meant are the Canaanitish and non-Canaanitish strangers who staid as individuals among the Israelites; the Canaanites as a whole are, according to this lawgiver also, to be extirpated (vid. Exodus 23:33).” It belongs to the definition of the “stranger,” that he is dissociated from his own nationality, and has become subject to another, i.e. here, to the national laws of the Israelites. The failure to affix a penalty to this law implies that the noble emotion of gratitude was probably depended on to secure its fulfilment.

Exodus 22:22-24. Fifth offence. Against widows and orphans. On this point see Knobel’s collection of the various passages, p229. God takes the place of the deceased fathers and husbands by His special protection; whence follows that they on their part when living are to exercise a divine protection in the house over wife and children. And because, through the selfishness of the strong, widows and orphans were so liable to be oppressed, being easily despoiled on account of their impotence, chief prominence is given to the significance of their crying. This need not always be a conscious prayer uttered in one’s extremity, for crying, on the part of living things and before God, has a special meaning, even down to the crying of the young ravens. The threatened punishment, in the first place, is connected with the guilt, and in the second place corresponds with it. Despotism begins with the oppression of the weak (widows and orphans), and reaches its consummation in unrighteous wars and military catastrophes, out of which again widows and orphans are made. Vid. Isaiah 9:17.

Exodus 22:25. Sixth offence. Prohibition of usury, by which the exigency of the poor is abused, Leviticus 25:36. Two grounds: the poor man belongs to the people of God as a free Prayer of Manasseh, and has lost his freedom through his troubles. By usury he is burdened.

Exodus 22:26-27. Seventh offence. Excessive taking of pawn. The lender may require a pledge of the creditor, but his covering (outer garment) he must return to him before sunset, lest he suffer from the nocturnal cold. The mantle marks the extreme of poverty in general, vid. Deuteronomy 24:6 sqq. The compassion which Jehovah here promises to the helpless ones that cry has an obverse side for the pitiless. The expression in Exodus 22:27 becomes even a rhetorical plea for the poor. Matthew 5:7, James 2:13. “The indigent Oriental covers himself at night in his outer garment. Shaw, Travels, p224, Niebuhr, Arabien, p64” (Knobel). On the pawning of clothes, see Amos 2:8, Job 22:6, Proverbs 20:16; Proverbs 27:13.

Exodus 22:28. Eighth offence. Contempt, of the Deity and of princely magistrates. Keil says, “Elohim means neither the gods of the other nations, as Josephus (Ant. IV:8, 10, contra Apionem II:33), Philo (vita Mos. III:864) and others explain the word in their dead and Pharisaic monotheism; nor the magistrates, as Onkelos, Jonathan, Aben Ezra and others think; but God, the Deity in general, whose majesty is despised in every transgression of Jehovah’s commands, and should be honored in the person of the prince. Comp. Proverbs 24:21; 1 Peter 2:17,” etc. So Knobel. This explanation is certainly favored by the context, particularly the following; especially also by the fact that the prince (the exalted, the high one) is mentioned next to God. Yet this is to be observed in the line of Josephus and Philo’s opinion, that the theocracy does not reject the divine element in the religions themselves, but the false ideal images of the gods (Elilim), and the actual idols, and that even in this sphere there are reservations in reference to Satan (Epistle of Jude). There are two reasons for it: first, the element of truth which underlies the errors; secondly, the moral injury of the religious feelings of the neighbor who is in error. We prefer to render, “the Deity;” at all events the reviling of the Deity, which may have many degrees, is sharply distinguished from the positive reviling of Jehovah ( Leviticus 24:15-16). The world of to-day would perhaps invert the order of guilt in this relation. Luther’s translation transposes the meanings of the verbs [“Den Göttern. … nicht fluchen, und den Obersten … nicht lästern,” “not curse the gods, and not revile the magistrates”]. The princes are under God as His vicegerents. Passages relative to the defamation of princes are given by Knobel. The word קִלֵּל comprehends all forms of evil-speaking of God.

Exodus 22:29-30. Ninth offence. Holding back of the natural products due to the sanctuary. “מְלֵאָה means the produce of grain ( Deuteronomy 22:9), and the word דֶּמַע, which occurs only here, properly ‘tear,’ something flowing, liquor stillans, is a poetic designation of the produce of the wine-vat, the wine and the oil, comp. δάκρυον τῶν δένδρων. Theoph.: arborum lacrymæ; Pliny XI:6.” (Keil.) Vid. Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 26:2-11; Numbers 18:12. These gifts to the temple retained their festal character and their value only as they were freely and joyfully presented. The first-born of thy sons.—Repetition of the precept to sanctify the first-born to Jehovah, Exodus 13:2; Exodus 13:12. In the passage before us, however, the precept is put under the point of view of the civil commonwealth. This needs religious institutions in order to its perpetuity. Knobel attempts in vain to make out a difference between this passage and others which prescribe the redemption of the first-born. A week of existence with the dam must also be secured to the sacrificial victims taken from the cattle and from the sheep or goats.

Exodus 22:31. Tenth offence. Use of unclean meat. As men of holiness consecrated to the sanctuary, they must refrain from the use of unclean meat, especially of that which is torn of beasts. The carcass is to be given to the dogs, whose characteristic here appears. Comp. Exodus 19:6; Leviticus 17:15.

f. Legal Proceedings

Exodus 23:1. First precept. Against rashness in cherishing and uttering suspicions. Comp. Leviticus 19:16; Deuteronomy 22:13 sqq. Vid. the references to Michaelis and Saalschütz in Knobel.

Second precept. No one shall allow himself to be misled by wicked men into the utterance of false witness.

Exodus 23:2. Third precept. Base compliance with the judgment of the multitude.

Exodus 23:3. Fourth precept. Not to favor the poor man in his suit. Affectation in sympathy with the lowly. The error of many modern minds. Against Knobel’s conjecture, vid. Keil.[FN16]

Exodus 23:4. Fifth precept. To keep even an enemy from suffering loss. One’s enemy is in this case a brother, according to Deuteronomy 22:1. Neglect of this duty is positive and culpable violation of law.

Exodus 23:5. Sixth precept. It is still harder to labor in company with the enemy (the hater), in order to help him in his extremity. In this case the inclination to avoid the enemy must be overcome. On the pun see Gesenius under עָזַב. Comp. Bertheau, p41. The neglect of this difficult self-denial also comes into the category of violation of law.

Exodus 23:6. Seventh precept. Of thy poor.—The poor must be the protegé of the rich. But the temptations to violate his rights, to pervert it this way and that, is strong, since he is defenceless. Hence Moses puts him specially under the protection of the law. Comp. Deuteronomy 27:19; 1 Samuel 8:3; Lamentations 3:35.

Exodus 23:7. Eighth precept. This looks like the first. But there the subject is false testimony—here, the false judge; because his conduct may possibly bring death to the innocent man. Here, therefore, judicial murder is specifically treated of, with the declaration that God will not acquit the wicked one, i.e., will judge him; and the wicked judge is probably meant. Bertheau, dividing this one precept into two, fails to make out the tenth—wherefore Keil is led to pronounce his hypothesis of decades to be arbitrary throughout.

Exodus 23:8. Ninth precept. Prohibition of the taking of presents in law-suits. Out of such presents corruption grows. They pervert the cause of the righteous—make right wrong.

Exodus 23:9. Tenth precept. This is not identical with the general precept in Exodus 22:21, since here the question is about law-suits. It should be considered especially in courts of law how a stranger feels. He is timid, faint-hearted, and readily surrenders a part or the whole of his just claim before the mighty judge. Israel is to learn this from his experience in Egypt. Vid. Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 27:19.

g. Ordinances concerning Feast-days and Days of Rest

Exodus 23:10-11. First ordinance. The land must rest the seventh year. It is the Sabbath of the years, the continuation of the Sabbath of the months, as of the Sabbath of the days, while they all look back to the Sabbath of God’s creation, and look forward to the Sabbath of the generation, the great year of jubilee, the type of the future foundation and completion of the Sabbath by Christ. The civil side of the religious ordinances here made should not be overlooked, as is done by Keil and Knobel. In Leviticus 25 the ordinance bears a predominantly religious aspect. What the land produces of itself, without culture, belongs to all as a common possession to be freely enjoyed; likewise to the stranger and to the cattle, and even to the wild beasts. Thus this festal year forms a reflex of Paradise. And if this festal year in point of fact, was poorly observed in Israel, critics may well infer that this law was written long before the time of the later national life of the Israelites. In its ideal significance, however, it belongs to all times: not only the field, but also the forest, the river, and the mine, may be spoiled by unintermittent labor.

Exodus 23:12-13. Second ordinance. Man and beast must rest on the seventh day. The humane object of the Sabbath in its civil aspect comes out prominently in the text. Mention is first made even of the rest needed by the ox and the ass, then of the hand-maid’s Song of Solomon, i.e., the one born a slave, and the stranger; they must on the Sabbath have a breathing-spell, as the verb properly means. Exodus 23:13 enjoins the proper celebration for this sacred list of feast-days, strictly excluding the names of all heathen deities, and containing a suggestion for the revision of the Christian calendar in view of the medieval deifications. Says Knobel: “The most important point is the exclusive adoration of Jehovah. The Hebrew is not even to mention—i.e., utter—the name of another god; not to take it into his mouth, still less recognize or reverence such a god. Song of Solomon, too, the strict worshippers of Jehovah did ( Psalm 16:4; Hosea 2:17; Zechariah 13:2). Accordingly the Hebrew was to swear only by Jehovah ( Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Jeremiah 12:16). So the Phenician could not swear ὅρκους ξενικούς (Josephus c. Apionem I:22).” But we must distinguish between the proper meaning of this command and the superstitious Jewish interpretation of it, which has even imposed a penalty on the utterance of the name of Jehovah. The Song of Solomon -called “killing by silence” [Todtschweigen], generally a sin, has therefore here, too, its moral side.

Exodus 23:14. Third ordinance. Three annual festivals are to be celebrated in accordance with the wants of God’s people in their civil capacity. At the head stands the feast of unleavened bread, as the festival of freedom; then follow the two principal harvest festivals, of which the second at the same time marks the close of the year with reference to the notion of the civil year. Vid. Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16; 2 Chronicles 8:13. “Otherwise,” says Knobel, “the Elohist, on which point see Leviticus 23.” But it must be observed that there the festivals are spoken of in their relation to religion and religious rites. Therefore, at that place special prominence is given to the Passover and the day of atonement. The arrangement of the three festivals, however, was, for the most part, prophetic, since in the wilderness there could be no harvesting, nor even sacrifices, vid. Leviticus 23:10.

Exodus 23:15. Fourth ordinance. The feast of unleavened bread as the birth-day festival of the people and of their freedom; whereas the Passover stands at the head of their religious offerings, vid. Exodus 12:40 sqq. On Hitzig’s view in his “Ostern und Pfingsten,” vid. Knobel,[FN17] p233; Bertheau, p57.—“Not empty,” i.e., not with empty hands, but with sacrificial gifts. Even the general festival offerings had to come from the sacrificial gifts of the people—a fact which Knobel seems to overlook; to these were added the peace-offerings made by individuals. So the Oriental never came before his king without presents; vid. the citations from Ælian and Paulsen in Keil. The offering is the surplus of the gain which God has blessed, and by the effort to secure this surplus a barrier is built against want in civil life. While the offerings serve to maintain the religious rites, they also serve indirectly to maintain the common weal. The same holds of the true church and of its wants.

Exodus 23:16. Fifth ordinance. The feast of harvest.—Here named for the first time, as also the third feast, vid. Leviticus 23:15 : Numbers 28:26. Also called the feast of weeks, because it was celebrated seven weeks after the feast of unleavened bread; or the feast of the first fruits of the wheat-harvest, because the loaves offered as first-fruits at that time were to be made of wheat flour, Exodus 34:22. On the Pentecost, see the lexicons.

Sixth ordinance.—The feast of ingathering.—Gathering or plucking characterizes this harvest: the fruit-harvest and vintage. Further particulars, as that it is to be held on the 15 th day of the 7 th month, seven days like that of unleavened bread, a feast of rich abundance in contrast with that of great privation, see in Leviticus 23:34, Numbers 29:12, Winer, Realwörterbuch, Art. Laubhüttenfest, [Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Art. Tabernacles, Feast of]. In the end of the year.—Knobel, on account of this passage, assumes that the Hebrews had two new-years, the one in autumn, when the agricultural season of the year ended with the harvesting of the fruits, and the following one, beginning with the ploughing and sowing of the fields. The former, he says, seems to have been the usual mode of reckoning in the East; and he cites many proofs, p235. His view that this is a contradiction of the Elohist, who puts the beginning of the year in the spring ( Exodus 12:2), is not perspicuous; neither, on the other hand, is Keil’s—that reference is here made only to the agricultural year, by which he must mean the natural seasons, II. p148. We find here a new proof that the Mosaic law distinguishes the civil from the religious ordinances. But because the civil is subordinate to the religious, the determinative regulation proceeds from the feast of Passover, as is seen especially from Numbers 29:12. That in Leviticus 23:34 the date is religious, is self-evident.

Exodus 23:17. Seventh ordinance. Three times in the year;i.e. of course at the three above mentioned feasts. The place where the Israelites are to appear before Jehovah, i.e. in the place where He reveals Himself, is not yet fixed, an omission explained by the fact that they were still wandering. That only the males are held obliged to do this, shows the civil side of this legislation. זָכוּר for זָכָר, thy males. “Probably,” says Keil, “from the twentieth year and upwards, those who were included in the census. Numbers 1:3. But this does not prohibit the admission of the women (comp. 1 Samuel 1:3 sqq.) and boys ( Luke 2:41 sqq.).” More exactly: by the side of the civil ordinance the religious custom was developed in a natural way. Knobel thinks he finds here another discrepancy, p235.

Exodus 23:18. Eighth ordinance. Not offer with leavened bread.—The duty of keeping sacred things pure is enjoined especially by references to the feast of the Passover. The connection of the feast of unleavened bread with the Passover is here assumed. Backwards and forwards the paschal feast is to be kept pure in view of the fact that the blood of the offering (i.e. of the offering emphatically so called, the Passover offering) belongs to Jehovah, that therefore the surrender must be unmixed. In reference to the past, therefore, everything leavened must be removed ( Exodus 12:15; Exodus 12:20). In reference to the future, the fatty parts of the paschal offering, which also belong to Jehovah, must not remain over night, and so serve for ordinary food. They must therefore be burned in the night. That cannot mean, as Knobel understands it, that the fatty pieces are to be at the outset separated from the paschal lamb, as was done with other offerings, since the lamb was to remain whole; but it was natural that the fatty parts would be for the most part left over; and then they were to be burned with the other things left over. Thus these fatty remains, which, however, were not burnt on the altar, became a type of the fatty pieces which were from the first designed for the altar. So then this regulation is made to refer to the more detailed laws of the festivals as found in Leviticus 2:11, etc. As the Passover was to be contrasted with the ordinary mode of life, so also with the feast of unleavened bread. The three stages are: (1) the old life (leaven); (2) the offering of life (Passover); (3) the beginning of the new life (unleavened bread).

Exodus 23:19. Ninth ordinance. Precept in reference chiefly to the feast of weeks, or the first feast of harvest, but with a more general significance. “The pentecostal loaves ( Leviticus 23:17) are meant,” says Knobel. Keil with reason understands the precept of a bringing of firstlings in general, vid. Numbers 18:12, Deuteronomy 26:2 sqq. “The sheaf of barley which was to be offered on the second day of the feast of unleavened bread ( Leviticus 23:10) belongs to the same” [Keil]. It may be asked how the expression רֵאשִׁית־בִּכּוּרֵי is to be understood; whether, according to the LXX, followed by Keil, as the first of the first fruits, the first gathering of the first fruits; or, according to Aben Ezra and others, including Knobel (p236), as the best, the choicest, of the first fruits. Inasmuch as not the very first that came to hand was also the best, the latter explanation is to be taken as a more precise statement of the other: the first, provided it was the best, or the first-fruits, properly so called (for not even every first-born beast was a true firstling). The chronological element in the term “first,” however, takes precedence, and forbids every delay and sequestration, according to Exodus 22:29. The meaning of these offerings is seen from the liturgical forms prescribed for them in Deuteronomy 26:3 sqq, 13sqq. Everything is a gift from Jehovah; therefore the first fruits are brought back to Him, and their acceptance is effected by the priest, who, however, represents also the Levites, the widows and orphans, and the stranger. As in the N. T. Christ pictures Himself to His church as poor, in the person of the poor and the little ones, so Jehovah in the O. T. symbolically pictures Himself as in a human state of want, in the priests under whose protection all, especially all needy ones stand. So then the church ought continually to care for the poor, as a religious duty.

Exodus 23:19. Tenth ordinance. Not boil a kid.—This precept seems strange, probably for the reason that it may be in a high degree symbolical. First, we must pronounce incorrect Luther’s translation: “Not boil the kid while it is at its mother’s milk” (vid. 1 Samuel 7:9). Other incorrect interpretations see in Knobel: (1) not to cook and eat meat and milk together; (2) injunction not to use butter instead of the oil of trees; (3) prohibition of an odious barbarity and cruelty. According to Knobel there is a reference to a custom of heathen religions which is to be kept away from the worship of Jehovah. Vid. his commentary, p237, where are accounts of Jewish opinions and Arabian usages. “Aben Ezra and Abarbanel,” he says, “mention, the boiling of the kid in milk by the Arabs of their time: and they are right. Up to the present day the Arabs generally boil the flesh of lambs in sour milk, thus giving to it a peculiar relish (Berggren, Reisen, etc.).” Further on Knobel, following Spencer, professes to give proofs that a peculiar superstition underlay the custom. But the heathen element, if there was one in the practice, might have been excluded without prohibiting the practice itself. If we assume that the precept in Exodus 23:18 referred to the first feast, and was designed to prevent the profanation of the offering, and that the one in Exodus 23:19 referred to the second one, and was designed to prevent the neglect of the peace-offering and the priesthood with its family of Levites and of the poor, it is natural, with Abarbanel and others, to refer this precept especially to the third feast; and because this was in the highest degree the joyous feast of the Israelites, it is furthermore probable that this prohibition was designed to prevent a luxury which was inconsistent with simple comfort, and which moreover was hideous in a symbolical point of view, the kid here being, as it were, tortured even in death by the milk of the dam. The same precept condemns all the heathen refinements of festive gormandizing, such as are still practiced (e.g. roasting live animals). This epicurism might also pitch upon the eating of unclean animals or other haut goût; vid. Deuteronomy 14:21, where the same prohibition is connected with the one before us. Keil’s explanation, that the practice marked a reversal of the divine order of things in regard to the relation between old and young, is less intelligible than that the kids were a very favorite article of food, according to Genesis 27:9; Genesis 27:14; Judges 6:19; Judges 13:15; 1 Samuel 16:20. To be sure, the usage considered in its symbolical aspect was a sort of unnature such as the keen sense of natural fitness which characterized the Mosaic laws rejected in every form, so that it even denounced the production of hybrid animals and grains, the mixing of different materials in cloth, as well as human misalliances, Leviticus 19:19-20.

h. The Promises. Exodus 23:20-33

That this last division also of the religio-civil legislation relates to the political commonwealth, is seen from the whole contents of it, especially from Exodus 23:22; Exodus 23:24 sqq, 27, 33. Knobel calls them “Some more promises;” Keil, “The conduct of Jehovah towards Israel.” The promises here given are not some, but a whole; not, however, the whole of Jehovah’s promises, but the sum of the civil and political blessings conditioned on good behavior. (1) Protection of angelic guidance, of the religion of revelation; and invincibility founded on religious obedience. (2) Victory over the Canaanites. Possession of the holy land on condition of their purifying the land from idolatry. (3) Abundance of food. (4) Blessing of health. (5) Fertility of man and beast, (6) Long life. (7) The respect and fear of all neighboring peoples. (8) Mysterious control of natural forces in favor of Israel, ver28. (9) The subjected Canaanites themselves made to serve for the protection of the growth of Israel. (10) Wide extent of territory and sure possession of it on condition of not mingling with the Canaanites and their idolatry.

Exodus 23:20-22. First promise. I send an angel.—That which the people, as the religious congregation of God, afterwards have imposed upon them as a check on account of their misbehavior (chap33), is here promised to the civil congregation as a protection. This cannot well be an anticipation, and cannot, with Knobel, be accounted for on the theory of “another narrator” who calls this angel פְּנֵי יְהוֹה. For in Exodus 33:2-3 two forms of revelation are clearly distinguished. In Exodus 33:18-19 this distinction is between the glory of Jehovah and the goodness of Jehovah. Further on it is said that no one can see the glory in its full display, i.e. Jehovah’s face, but can see its reflected splendor as it passes by in sacred obscurity ( Exodus 23:23). It is therefore a private relation between Jehovah and Moses, when Jehovah speaks with him face to face ( Exodus 33:11), and hence in Moses’ consciousness the two degrees of revelation go together. The prophet Moses stands as Abraham’s son higher than Moses the lawgiver. So Paul (in Galatians 3) distinguishes positively between the form of revelation which Abraham received and the form of revelation by which the people of Israel received the law ( Exodus 23:16; Exodus 23:19). This difference in degree is presented antithetically as early as in Jeremiah 31:32-34. It harmonizes entirely with this distinction, when the angel of Jehovah first appears to Hagar, Genesis 16:7; also in the circumstance that he directs her to return to the household to which she legitimately belonged. Comp. Genesis 21:17. Later also the immediate revelations made by God to Abraham are distinguished from the appearance of the angel of Jehovah in a legal aspect, Genesis 22:1; Genesis 22:11. The difference resembles that between inspiration and manifestation, as these two through ecstatic vision are made to assume forms different in degree. The angel of Jehovah is therefore the revelation of Jehovah for the people of Israel in a predominantly legal relation; hence also the form of the political theocracy as it is instituted through the mediation of Moses and Aaron, chiefly of Moses. The salvation of the people will depend on their obedience to the theocratic religion, as shaped by the higher form of the ceremonial revelation. This angel prepares the way for the Israelites, and conducts them to their goal. His countenance in the theocratic legal institutions is turned towards Israel; Jehovah’s name, the revelation of His essential being, is within him, under the cover of this angelic form. He requires awe; he can be easily offended; he punishes acts of disloyalty, for he is legal; hence he goes before Israel as the terror of God to intimidate the enemies. Knobel identifies this Angel of the Lord with the pillar of cloud and fire; and in fact this was a sign of the hidden presence of the angel, Exodus 33:9.

Exodus 23:23-24. Vid. Genesis 15:18 sqq. Annihilation of the public heathen worship in Canaan after its conquest by Israel. That the system of worship was connected with the morals, which were horrible and criminal, is even thus early made prominent. Vid. the parallel passages in Knobel, p238.

Exodus 23:25. The pure service of Jehovah is the condition of well-being and health; vid. Exodus 15:26 : comp. Leviticus 26:16; Leviticus 26:25; Deuteronomy 28:20. Bread and water, the most important articles of nutrition, symbols of all kinds of welfare.

Exodus 23:26. Prevention of miscarriages. Only one item in a whole category: diminution of the population through miscarriages, unchastity, conjugal sins against procreation, exposure of children, etc.; comp. Leviticus 26:9; Deuteronomy 28:11; Deuteronomy 30:9; vid. Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 65:23. Respecting the blessing of long life, vid. chap, 20; Deuteronomy 5; 1 Corinthians 15:51.

Exodus 23:27. My fear.—This marks the sphere of intimidating influences exerted by the religious power of Israel on the heathen in general; whereas the hornets ( Exodus 23:28) represent the terrifying or destructive effects of this power in particular. Vid. Genesis 35:5; Exodus 15:14; Psalm 18:41 (40); Exodus 21:13 (12); Joshua 7:8; Joshua 7:12.

Exodus 23:28. Hornets.Vid. Deuteronomy 7:20; Wisdom of Solomon Exodus 12:8. Says Knobel: “According to Joshua 24the kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, were driven out not by Israel’s weapons, but by the צִרְעָה. Elsewhere neither the word nor the thing occurs in the O. T.” Different explanations: (1) The promise is literally meant. So Jarchi, Clericus, and others. (2) Plagues in general. So Saadias, Michaelis, and others. (3) The expression is figurative. So most modern interpreters. Yet the text evidently does not mean to identify the hornets with the great general terror of God, as Knobel holds, but distinguishes them from it as small, isolated, but very powerful evils, as Keil, following Augustine, has correctly observed. It is a question even whether the hornets are not meant to represent the same thing as the bees, Deuteronomy 1:44; Psalm 118:12; Isaiah 7:18. The bee frightens by the multitude of the irresistible swarm; the hornets by the frightful attack and sting of the individual insect. In the petty religious and moral conflicts between Judaism and heathenism, civilized Christian nations and barbarians, Indians, and other savages, it is just these hornets, these thousand-fold particular sources of terror, moral thorns, and even physical stings, under which the enemies gradually succumb. The three Canaanitish nations which are here named denote the totality; perhaps, however, in the heathen trinity may be found a reference to the spiritual impotence of heathenism.

Exodus 23:29. Not in one year.—Comp. Deuteronomy 7:22; Leviticus 26:22; Ezekiel 14:15; Ezekiel 14:21; 2 Kings 17:25; Joshua 13:1-7. From this it appears that the destruction denounced by Jehovah on the Canaanites was intended primarily for them in their collective and public capacity, not for the individuals. The individuals, in so far as they submit, Jehovah will allow, as individuals, to live; and to live, in so far as they remain heathen and enemies, for the purpose of preventing the wild beasts from getting the upper hand and diminishing the number of the people of Israel, which as yet is far too small to subdue the wild beasts, and the wildness of nature in general. The higher races of mankind are still indebted for this service to the lowest races throughout the five continents. Even savages constitute still a sort of barrier against what is monstrous in nature, which without them would lapse into wildness. These Canaanites serve this purpose only as being incorrigible. In proportion as nature is reclaimed, they sink away. It was therefore not the fact that these individuals continued to live in Israel, but that the Israelites mingled with them, which led to ruinous consequences. Comp. Judges 1, 2.

Exodus 23:31. Set thy bounds.Vid. Genesis 15:18. The Red Sea on the south—the sea of the Philistines, or Mediterranean Sea, on the west—the Arabian desert on the east ( Deuteronomy 11:24), the Euphrates on the north. These ideal boundaries are assured to the Israelites, in so far as they conduct themselves in relation to the heathen according to the ideal standard. Forming alliances with the heathen and recognizing their political existence would not of itself be actual apostasy, but it would be a snare to the Israelites through which they would be drawn into idolatry by way of false consistency in the policy of toleration. The lesson is to be applied even at the present day. The several precepts are given by Knobel, p241.


Footnotes:

FN#1 - Exodus 21:8. The Hebrew here, according to the K’thibh, is לֹא, and if this were followed, we should have to translate with Geddes, Rosenmüller and others: “so that he hath not betrothed (or will not betroth) her.” The K’ri reads לוֹ, “unto him” or “unto himself.” This yields much the easiest sense, and is especially confirmed by the consideration that יָעַד of itself means, not “betroth,” but “appoint,” “destine.” Followed by the Dative, it may in the connection convey the notion of betrothal; but used absolutely, it cannot convey it.—Tr.]

FN#2 - Exodus 21:13. אִנָּה cannot mean “deliver,” and no object is expressed. It is therefore unwarrantable to render, with A. V, “deliver him,” or even with Lange, “let him accidentally fall into his hand.” The object to be supplied is the indefinite one suggested by the preceding sentence, viz. homicide.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Exodus 21:17. קִלֵּל, though generally rendered “curse” in A. V, yet differs unmistakably from אָרַר in being used not merely of cursing, but of evil speaking in general, e.g. Judges 9:27 and 2 Samuel 16:9. The LXX. render it correctly by κακολογέω. And this word, where the passage is quoted in the New Testament, is rendered by the same Greek word, viz. Matthew 15:4.—Tr.]

FN#4 - Exodus 21:23. The Heb. reads בִּפְלִלִים, lit. “with judges” or “among judges.” Some render “unto the judges;” others “before the judges;” but the preposition does not naturally convey either of these senses. The A. V. probably expresses the true meaning: “with Judges,i.e. the line being judicially imposed.—Tr.]

FN#5 - Exodus 22:29. Literally: “thy fullness and thy tear.” The phrase “ripe fruits” is objectionable as including too much; “liquors” as suggesting a wrong conception. The first refers to the crops generally, exclusive of the olive and the grape, from which oil and wine, the liquid products (“tear”), were derived. Cranmer’s Bible renders, not inaptly: “thy fruits, whether they be dry or moist.”—Tr.]

FN#6 - Exodus 23:5. The rendering of A. V.: “and wouldest forbear,” is utterly untenable. Not less so is the rendering of עֲזֹב by “help.” The simplest explanation assumes a double meaning of עָזַב, viz. to “loose,” and to “leave.” We might borrow a vulgar phrase, and read: “Thou shalt forbear to cut loose from him, thou shalt cut loose with him.” De Wette and Murphy attempt to avoid the double meaning by emphasizing “with.” Thus: “Thou shalt forbear to leave it to him: thou shalt leave it with him.” But this is a nicety quite alien from the Hebrew.—Tr.]

FN#7 - The reasons are thus stated by Keil: “If the language in Exodus 21:9 is referred to the Song of Solomon, so as to mean, ‘when he takes to himself another wife,’ then there must be assumed a change of subject of which there is no indication; but if we understand the language to mean that the father (the purchaser) takes to himself another wife, then this precept ought to have been given before Exodus 21:9.”—Tr.]

FN#8 - This explanation of the order of the verses can hardly he regarded as satisfactory. In fact, any attempt to discover deep metaphysical or psychological reasons for the order and number of these laws is open to suspicion as implying a degree of subtlety and regard for logical order which was quite alien from the Hebrew spirit.—Tr.]

FN#9 - Viz. that the omission of the direction, “he shall surely be put to death,” implies that his punishment was something milder; as does also the spirit of the precept in Exodus 21:21.—Tr.]

FN#10 - According to whom, the Egyptians punished all murders with death; the Greeks punished all murders, but punished the murder of a slave only by requiring certain expiatory rites; the Roman law, however, until the time of the emperors, allowed masters to treat their slaves as they pleased.—Tr.]

FN#11 - See also Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Art. Weights and Measures.—Tr.]

FN#12 - I.e., about60 or62½ cents. Mr. Poole, in the article above referred to, makes the silver shekel = 220 grains, i.e., about53½ cents, or 2 shillings and 2 pence.—Tr.]

FN#13 - “The difference,” says Keil, l. c., “cannot be explained by the consideration ‘that the animal slaughtered or sold was lost to its owner, while yet it may have had for him a special individual value’ (Knobel), for such regard for personal feelings is foreign to the law, to say nothing of the fact that an animal when sold might have been regained by purchase; nor by the consideration that the thief in that case has carried his crime to a higher point (Baumgarten), for the main thing was the stealing, not the disposition or consumption of the stolen object. The reason can have lain only in the educational aim of the law, viz., to induce the thief to think of himself, recognize his sin, and restore what he has stolen.”—Tr.]

FN#14 - This is a mistake. Knobel translates: “If God makes (one) a malefactor, (i.e. if the court decides that a misdemeanor has been committed), then he shall restore double to his neighbor.” And in opposition to the translation. “whichever one God condemns, he shall restore double,” he says, “How could the plaintiff be condemned to make restitution, if Hebrews, even though the complaint was ungrounded, had yet taken nothing from the other?”—Tr.]

FN#15 - The majority of interpreters (like the A. V.) regard שָכִיר as referring to the beast, not the borrower. Knobel explains thus: “If the beast was not merely lent out of kindness, but let for pay, the loss comes upon the hire by the receipt of which the owner is paid. In fixing the hire he had regard to the danger of the loss, and, when the loss takes place, must content himself with the hire.” So Keil. The explanation of Knobel’s above referred to by Lange, is a second one, evidently not preferred by Knobel, but merely stated as possible, especially in view of the fact that שָׂכִיר everywhere else is used of men.—Tr.]

FN#16 - Knobel’s conjecture is that instead of וְדַל (“and a poor man”) we should read גָּדֹל (“a great man”)—since in Leviticus 19:15 it is the “mighty” who is not to be “honored,” and partiality to the poor “was not to be anticipated, and needed not to be forbidden.” Keil replies that this is sufficiently answered by the fact that the same passage has a command not to “respect the person of the poor.”—Tr.]

FN#17 - Hitzig l. c. holds that חֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב means the new moon of the month of green ears—to which Knobel replies that in that case the phrase “time appointed” would be superfluous; that the Hebrew expression, if חֹדֶשׁ means “new moon,” would have to be rendered “new moon of the green ears”—a very improbable translation; and that according to Leviticus 23:6 the festival was to begin on the fifteenth day of the month, i.e., at the time of the full moon.—Tr.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/exodus-21.html. 1857-84.

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

RESPONSIBILITIES OF MASTERS

(vs.1-11)

Moses is now given an expanded view of the law on Chapters 21-23. Special duties of masters are first considered. They may think they have full authority over their slaves, but they must first remember God's authority over themselves. For God decidedly limits their authority over slaves. It was permissible to buy a Hebrew slave. Sometimes one would become so poor as to sell himself to another (Leviticus 25:39), but his master was to strictly observe God's orders in this matter. After six years the slave was to be fully freed, and the master was required to "furnish him liberally out of the flock" and out of all the provisions he had (Deuteronomy 15:14). This was a gracious provisions of God so that people would not just be driven out on the street when they became poor.

If he was alone in becoming a slave, he should be freed alone: if his wife was with him, then both should be freed (v.3). However, if the master had given him a wife, then both the wife and any children she bore would still belong to the master, while he could be freed alone. This does not correspond to the grace of God today, but it illustrates the hardness of law alone.

However, what follows is a beautiful contrast. If the slave plainly says that he loves his master, his wife and his children, and does not want to go out free, then the master should present him to God, then bring him to the door or doorpost, and pierce his ear, which would indicate that the man was his servant for life (vs.5-6). The typical significance of this is by all means the most wonderful consideration. The servant is the Lord Jesus, who has willingly taken this place in coming into the world (Philippians 2:7). Now He has willingly decided to be a servant forever because He loves His Master (God the Father), He loves his wife (the church of God, the assembly), He loves His children (every individual who has been born again). The ear being bored is instructive too. A hearing ear is the major characteristic of a true servant, and its being bored in this case reminds us of the death of the Lord Jesus in obedience to His Father's will, that death confirming the fact that He is a servant forever.

The law did not forbid the sale of one's daughter to another man as a female slave (v.7). She would not however be set free in the year of jubilee, for she might actually be her purchaser's wife before that time, or the wife of his Son (vs.8-9). Yet the law did protect her. If the buyer was not pleased with her, he should allow her to be redeemed by her father or other relative. But he must not sell her to a foreigner.

VIOLENCE AMONG PEOPLE

(vs.12-27)

One guilty of murder was himself to be put to death. Whatever people may say in opposing the death penalty today, in cases of proven murder, at least they cannot say it is unjust. However, if the case was not that of deliberate murder, but of manslaughter, there was a provision made for a guilty man to go to a city of refuge for his protection.

As to this, see Deuteronomy 19:1-2. But in a case of premeditated murder, the penalty was death (v.14)

The law's exactions were most stern, as verse 15 shows. The death penalty was to be pronounced against one who struck his father or his mother. This is solemn guilt in the eyes of God. A kidnapper also was put to death, whether he had sold his victim or whether he held him as a captive (v.16). Again, death was the penalty for one who cursed his father or his mother (v.17). This of course is a great contrast to honoring one's parents.

Verses 18 and 19 deal with the question of a physical quarrel and one striking another with his fist or other weapon, so that he is injured. If death did not ensue, then there was not a death penalty, but the injurer must pay for the loss of time suffered by the injured party and also any medical expenses that might arise from this, till the person was fully healed.

One striking his servant and causing death would incur the death penalty himself, yet if the servant continued even only a day or two before dying, the penalty would not be effective. The only explanation given for this is, "for he is his money" (v.21).

If through physical striving a woman is caused an abortion, the person responsible must pay some recompense, as the woman's husband demands, or as was to be determined by a judge. If however there were bad results for the woman, the guilty party would be held responsible for this, the judgment would be commensurate with the injury, -- "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe" (vs.24-25). Of course, to literally pluck out one's eye because he had blinded another's eye, would not help the injured party. But he is entitled to a fair recompense.

This is intimated in verse 26. If a man blinded the eye of his slave, he must let him go free for his eye's sake, and similarly, if he knocked out his tooth (v.27).

An ox that gored anyone to death was to be stoned to death, and the meat of the ox not eaten. The owner of the ox would not be held responsible unless he had been warned that his ox was dangerous. In this case, if he had not kept the ox penned in and the ox killed anyone, the owner as well as the ox was to be put to death (v.29). This penalty could however be relaxed if the nearest relative of the victim would agree to accept ransom money instead (vs.30-31). If it were a matter of the ox only pushing a servant, the owner of the ox must pay thirty shekels of silver to the owner, and the ox must be stoned.

Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/exodus-21.html. 1897-1910.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Judicial Laws. B. C. 1491.

1Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. 2If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. 3If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4If 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. 5 And 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 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 awl and he shall serve him for ever. 7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. 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. 9 And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. 10 If he take him another wife her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. 11And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

The Exodus 21:1 is the general title of the laws contained in this and the two following chapters, some of them relating to the religious worship of God, but most of them relating to matters between man and man. Their government being purely a Theocracy, that which in other states is to be settled by human prudence was directed among them by a divine appointment, so that the constitution of their government was peculiarly adapted to make them happy. These laws are called judgments, because they are framed in infinite wisdom and equity, and because their magistrates were to give judgment according to the people. In the doubtful cases that had hitherto occurred, Moses had particularly enquired of God for them, as appeared, Exodus 18:15 but now God gave him statutes in general by which to determine particular cases, which likewise he must apply to other like cases that might happen, which, falling under the same reason, fell under the same rule. He begins with the laws concerning servants, commanding mercy and moderation towards them. The Israelites had lately been servants themselves and now that they had become, not only their own masters, but masters of servants too, lest they should abuse their servants, as they themselves had been abused and ruled with rigour by the Egyptian task-masters, provision was made by these laws for the mild and gentle usage of servants. Note, If those who have had power over us have been injurious to us this will not in the least excuse us if we be in like manner injurious to those who are under our power, but will rather aggravate our crime, because, in that case, we may the more easily put our souls into their soul's stead. Here is,

I. A law concerning men-servants, sold, either by themselves or their parents, through poverty, or by the judges, for their crimes even those of the latter sort (if Hebrews) were to continue in slavery but seven years at the most, in which time it was taken for granted that they would sufficiently have smarted for their folly or offence. At the seven years' end the servant should either go out free (Exodus 21:2,3), or his servitude should thenceforward be his choice, Exodus 21:5,6. If he had a wife given him by his master, and children, he might either leave them and go out free himself, or, if he had such a kindness for them that he would rather tarry with them in bondage than go out at liberty without them, he was to have his ear bored through to the doorpost and serve till the death of his master, or the year of jubilee.

1. By this law God taught, (1.) The Hebrew servants generosity, and a noble love of liberty, for they were the Lord's freemen a mark of disgrace must be put upon him who refused liberty when he might have it, though he refused it upon considerations otherwise laudable enough. Thus Christians, being bought with a price, and called unto liberty, must not be the servants of men, nor of the lusts of men, 1 Corinthians 7:23. There is a free and princely spirit that much helps to uphold a Christian, Psalm 51:12. He likewise taught, (2.) The Hebrew masters not to trample upon their poor servants, knowing, not only that they had been by birth upon a level with them, but that, in a few years, they would be so again. Thus Christian masters must look with respect on believing servants, Philemon 1:16.

2. This law will be further useful to us, (1.) To illustrate the right God has to the children of believing parents, as such, and the place they have in his church. They are by baptism enrolled among his servants, because they are born in his house, for they are therefore born unto him, Ezekiel 16:20. David owns himself God's servant, as he was the son of his handmaid (Psalm 116:16), and therefore entitled to protection, Psalm 86:16. (2.) To explain the obligation which the great Redeemer laid upon himself to prosecute the work of our salvation, for he says (Psalm 40:6), My ears hast thou opened, which seems to allude to this law. He loved his Father, and his captive spouse, and the children that were given him, and would not go out free from his undertaking, but engaged to serve in it for ever, Isaiah 42:1,4. Much more reason have we thus to engage ourselves to serve God for ever we have all the reason in the world to love our Master and his work, and to have our ears bored to his door-posts, as those who desire not to go out free from his service, but to be found more and more free to it, and in it, Psalm 84:10.

Concerning maid-servants, whom their parents, through extreme poverty, had sold, when they were very young, to such as they hoped would marry them when they grew up if they did not, yet they must not sell them to strangers, but rather study how to make them amends for the disappointment if they did, they must maintain them handsomely, Exodus 21:7-11. Thus did God provide for the comfort and reputation of the daughters of Israel, and has taught husbands to give honour to their wives (be their extraction ever so mean) as to the weaker vessels, 1 Peter 3:7.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/exodus-21.html. 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

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.

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Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/exodus-21.html. 1706.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

A man, i.e. a Hebrew, as appears by the opposition of one of a strange nation, Exodus 21:8.

For a man to

sell his daughter to be a maid-servant was allowed in case of extreme necessity, because of the hardness of their hearts.

She shall not go out as the men-servants do, but upon better terms, as being one of the weaker and more helpless sex.

Quest. How doth this agree with Deuteronomy 15:17,

Also unto thy maid-servant thou shalt do likewise?

Answ. 1. Distinguish persons. She, Deuteronomy 15:17 was sold by herself, and that to mere servitude; this here was sold by her father, not only for service, but in order to her marriage, as the following verses sufficiently imply.

2. Distinguish things. The likeness between men-servants and maid-servants was only in the rites used, in case she consented to perpetual servitude. The difference here is, in case they both were made free, in which case she had some privileges, which here follow.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/exodus-21.html. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Expansion of the Ten Words of the Covenant (Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33).

In this section, which is composed of elements put together mainly in chiastic form (see later), Yahweh expands on the Ten Words of the covenant. Notice that it begins with ‘and Yahweh said to Moses’. This proceeds as follows:

a Instructions concerning future worship in obedience to the commandments in Exodus 20:3-5, for He will be with them and record His name in places where they go (Exodus 20:22-26).

b Instructions concerning bondservants remembering the manservants and maidservants in mentioned in Exodus 20:10 (Exodus 21:1-11).

c Instructions concerning those who cause death or injury and those who dishonour their parents in obedience to Exodus 20:12-13 (Exodus 21:12-36).

d Instructions concerning a neighbour’s goods in obedience to Exodus 20:15; Exodus 20:17 (Exodus 22:1-15).

d Instruction concerning the forcing of virgins, who belong to their families, which connects with Exodus 20:14; Exodus 20:17 (Exodus 22:16-17).

c Instructions concerning wrong attitudes which connect with wider implications from the words of the covenant, which include some for which the penalty is death, and the need for avoidance of dishonourable conduct (Exodus 22:18 to Exodus 23:11).

b Instructions concerning the Sabbath (compare Exodus 20:8-9) and the regular feasts (Exodus 23:12-19).

a Yahweh’s resulting promise that His Angel will go with them until the land is theirs, finishing with a warning against idolatry (Exodus 23:20-23).

We should note here that in ‘a’ the approach to and worship of Yahweh is in mind, and His recording of His name in places as they go on their way, and they are warned against idolatry, and in the parallel the Angel of Yahweh is to go with them and they are warned against idolatry. In ‘b’ we are instructed concerning bondmen and bondwomen and in the parallel the Sabbath is dealt with which, in the announcing of the covenant, contained reference to the rights of menservants and maidservant (Exodus 20:9). The bondmen also had a right to enjoy a seven year sabbath. It may be this connection which decided the positioning of this law prior to those concerning murder and theft. In ‘c’ we have reference to death and violence, while in the parallel death is the sentence for some of the crimes mentioned. In ‘d’ we have reference to misappropriation of people’s goods, and in the parallel misappropriation of their daughters.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/exodus-21.html. 2013.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Provision in Respect of A Woman Sold To Be A Slave Wife.

The remaining provisions protected a woman sold to be a slave wife permanently and were necessary for her. It meant that she could not be discarded when older. It will be noted that this system allowed a form of divorce. It was not really God’s purpose, but controlled a system that already existed because of the hardness of their hearts.

We may analyse this as follows:

a A woman bought with promises of marriage could not be treated in the same way as other bondservants (Exodus 21:7).

b If she does not please her master who has espoused her to him, then he must let her be redeemed (Exodus 21:8).

c He must not sell her to a other than her own family (to a strange people) (Exodus 21:8).

c If he espouse her to his son he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters (Exodus 21:9).

b If he takes for himself another for wife, her food, her clothing and duty of marriage he shall not diminish (Exodus 21:10).

a And if he do not these three to her then shall she go out for nothing without money (Exodus 21:11).

In ‘a’ reference is made to a woman bought with promises of marriage, in the parallel it is stressed that if not rightly treated she is to go out free, without cost. In ‘b’ we have the situation where the man, although having betrothed her to himself, decides that he will seek another wife. In that case she must be returned to her own family at an agreed price. A betrothed woman was seen in most respects as already married to her betrothed, thus this is tantamount to a divorce. In the parallel, where the man as an alternative marries another wife he may not keep the slave wife and diminish her portions. She must be treated in all respects as a true wife. In ‘c’ He must not sell her to others (the purchase was so that he could marry her and he is restricted to that). In the parallel he may marry her to his son.

Exodus 21:7-11

“And if a man sell his daughter to be a female bondservant she shall not go out as the male bondservants do. If she please not her master who has espoused her to him, then shall he let her be redeemed. He shall have no power to sell her to a strange people seeing he has dealt deceitfully with her. And if he espouse her to his son he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he takes for himself another for wife, her food, her clothing and duty of marriage he shall not diminish. And if he do not these three to her then shall she go out for nothing without money.”

The contrast with ‘the male bondservants’ (Exodus 21:7), which presumably looks back to the previous verses, suggests that we are here dealing with a Hebrew woman sold by her father for the purpose of marriage. The corresponding situation in Nuzi was that a Hapiru may sell his daughter either conditionally or unconditionally. If sold unconditionally the sale was outright. (With Israel the regulations in respect of bondmen and as in Deuteronomy 15:12-17 would then apply). If sold conditionally it was so that the girl should be adopted into the family of the purchaser, with a marriage situation in view. Thus at some stage they would have a responsibility for arranging her marriage. This is the example in view here.

If the master espouses the girl to himself and then finds that she is not pleasing he must allow her to be redeemed, probably to be bought back by her father at a mutually agreed price which was reasonable taking into account the poverty which had caused the original sale. He must be willing to suffer loss because he has dealt with the girl deceitfully. He may not sell her on to a strange people (that is, someone not of the family circle). Alternately it may mean that she could be sold to another Israelite, but not to a foreigner, thus keeping her within the covenant. But this seems less likely and would not really be redemption.

The alternative was that he may espouse her to his son. In this case she must be treated as a proper daughter.

If he marries her and then takes another wife he must treat her properly. He must not reduce her food and clothing, nor may he refuse her her conjugal rights.

If he does none of these things he must let her go free at no cost. She is to be released immediately. This proviso supports the view that the possible redemption is by the impoverished father. If no agreement can be reached the master gets nothing, a good incentive to reaching a reasonable agreement given all the circumstances.

The importance of this law for us today is that it lays down a principle, the principle of fair treatment for those for whom we are responsible as employers or hirers. It emphasises that we are to treat them better than others do, and must not manipulate them.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/exodus-21.html. 2013.

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

E. The Laws of Slavery.—In the 19th cent. slaves were bought and sold as chattels in Liverpool. Here we see one of the stages towards the abolition of slavery, i.e. regulation, then the only practicable course. Hebrews might become slaves through sale by parents, or forced sale for theft or insolvency, or through poverty (p. 110). Later stages of law are reflected in Deuteronomy 15:12-18* and Leviticus 25:39-55*. A male slave by six years' service earned the right to rest from servitude in the seventh year, his wife accompanying him only if he were already married (Exodus 21:3 f.), but if he could say, in the terms of a customary oath, "I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free" (Exodus 21:5), then he could become a slave for life. The ratifying ceremony was the boring of the ear, the symbol of obedience, to the "door" or "doorpost" (Exodus 21:6), obviously that of the home in which he was to serve. That being so, the bringing of him "unto God" will not mean to the sanctuary but to the home-altar, the threshold (Exodus 12:22*), or (so Kautzsch, HDB, vol. 5, p. 642) to the teraphim (p. 101) or household image of Yahweh (cf. 1 Samuel 19:13; 1 Samuel 19:16). A female slave had no such right (Exodus 21:7); but if she did not suit the man who had "designed her for himself" (i.e. as his concubine), her relatives might redeem her, or she might be sold to another Israelite (Exodus 21:8); and if he bought her for his son, she should have a daughter's rights (Exodus 21:9). If she were supplanted by another concubine he must maintain her allowance of flesh food and of clothing and her conjugal rights, or free her (Exodus 21:10 f.). Driver also discusses a slightly different view (CB, p. 214).

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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/exodus-21.html. 1919.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Exo . Not as the men-servants] From Deu 15:17, ‘Kalisch infers that in this place foreign female servants are intended, whereas in that place Hebrew domestics are meant, by which supposition the seeming contradiction is removed.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exo

THE RIGHTS OF THE FEMALE SLAVE

This passage is somewhat obscure, and in its interpretation we find comparatively little help from the Commentators. It treats of that state of concubinage which was assumed and provided for by the law of Moses. "The natural desire of offspring was, in the Jew, consecrated into a religious hope, which tended to redeem concubinage from the debasement into which the grosser motives for its adoption might have brought it."

I. The Israelitish daughter as servant and concubine. On account of poverty the Israelite sold his daughter, not merely as a slave, but with the hope that ultimately she would become the wife of her master, or of his son. In this respect she is not to be treated as a male slave. She is not to be sent out in the seventh year, but remain as one of the members of the family. Practically she has become a concubine, and if her rights are respected, it is far better for her to remain in the house of her master, than to go out free as did the manservant in the seventh year. "She shall not go out as the menservants do." The master must not follow mere caprice. Lust must be checked. She has rights which must be respected.

II. Her rights when betrothed unto the master. He has no power to deal with her as he lists, even though she be evil in his eyes. "If she please not her master, then shall he let her be redeemed." The father may redeem her by paying back either the whole or part of the purchase money. The master has no power to sell her unto a strange nation. "The Greek, too, did not sell a Greek slave to go beyond the boundary of the land" (Knobel). Her lot would be more severe in a strange land than in her own country. To sell her into a strange land would be to deal unjustly by her. This would be to increase the injustice, if. after having dealt deceitfully with her, he were to sell her unto a strange nation.

III. Her rights when betrothed unto the son. "And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters." "As his son's concubine, she is to be regarded by him as a daughter." The servile merged in the connubial relation, and her children would be free.

IV. Her rights if displaced by another. "If he take him another wife, her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish." If the master take another wife for the son, then the concubine's domestic rights must remain inviolate. She must have her proper food, her fitting raiment, and her recognised seat and resting-place in the house as a lawful concubine.

V. The concubine's remedy if her rights are not regarded. "And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money." She becomes a free woman, and the master can get no compensation. Learn that the weakest have rights which must be regarded—and that masters must conduct themselves so as to promote the welfare of the community and the consolidation of the nation.—W. Burrows, B.A.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Exo . It is a great hardness of heart to sell children for the advantage of men to unnatural fathers.

God's special judgments take care for daughters as the weaker sex, before men. God will not have any to make merchandise of the children of the Church.

Man's deceitfulness occasions God's faithfulness to provide for His oppressed children.

God's judgments determine all relations justly to be used, servants as servants, children as children.

God's justice appears in legal freedom, and His goodness to the Gospel freedom under Christ our head.

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY

REV. WILLIAM ADAMSON

Slave-Service! Exo . Swinnock says that civil subjection to man came in by sinful defection from God. The word "servant" is thought to be derived from a servando, because those who were taken in battle and might have been slain were saved (2Ki 5:2). As servitude came in with a curse (Gen 9:25), so sovereignty is promised as a blessing (Gen 27:9). It was usual for the debtor to become servant to the creditor amongst the Romans, by the law of the Twelve Tables. The French were wont also to sell themselves to noblemen for debt; and the Jews were not ignorant of this practice (2Ki 4:1). Titus Sempronius would sell his aged and weak servants as cattle. Cato Pollio commanded one of his servants to be thrown into his fishponds for breaking a glass which he valued highly, though he had an abundant stock of them. When Augustus Csar heard of it, he entered the place where the glasses were, and broke them all.

"Why didst thou this? Man! was he not thy brother?

Bone of thy bone, and flesh and blood of thine?

But ah, this truth, by Heaven and reason taught,

Was neverfully credited on earth."

Pollok.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/exodus-21.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Here again, beside the moral lesson taught of doing what is just and right, here is a spiritual intimation of the betrothing of the heart to the Lord intended from it. The humblest of the Lord's freemen cannot be sold for bondage to a strange nation. John 8:36.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/exodus-21.html. 1828.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 21:7. If a man sell his daughter — A Hebrew, as appears by the opposition of one of a strange nation, Exodus 21:8. To be a maid-servant — Which was allowed in cases of extreme necessity; she shall not go out as the men-servants do — Gaining her liberty after a servitude of six years, but upon better terms, as being one of the weaker and more helpless sex.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/exodus-21.html. 1857.

The Biblical Illustrator

CHAPTER XXI.

THE LESSER LAW (continued).

PART II.--RIGHTS OF THE PERSON.

Exodus 21:1-32.

The first words of God from Sinai had declared that He was Jehovah Who brought them out of slavery. And in this remarkable code, the first person whose rights are dealt with is the slave. We saw that a denunciation of all slavery would have been premature, and therefore unwise; but assuredly the germs of emancipation were already planted by this giving of the foremost place to the rights of the least of all and the servant of all.

As regards the Hebrew slave, the effect was to reduce his utmost bondage to a comparatively mild apprenticeship. At the worst he should go free in the seventh year; and if the year of jubilee intervened, it brought a still speedier emancipation. If his debt or misconduct had involved a family in his disgrace, they should also share his emancipation, but if while in bondage his master had provided for his marriage with a slave, then his family must await their own appointed period of release. It followed that if he had contracted a degrading alliance with a foreign slave, his freedom would inflict upon him the pang of final severance from his dear ones. He might, indeed, escape this pain, but only by a deliberate and humiliating act, by formally renouncing before the judges his liberty, the birthright of his nation ("they are My servants, whom I brought forth out of Egypt, they shall not be sold as bondservants"-- Leviticus 25:42), and submitting to have his ear pierced, at the doorpost of his master's house, as if, like that, his body were become his master's property. It is uncertain, after this decisive step, whether even the year of jubilee brought him release; and the contrary seems to be implied in his always bearing about in his body an indelible and degrading mark. It will be remembered that St. Paul rejoiced to think that his choice of Christ was practically beyond recall, for the scars on his body marked the tenacity of his decision (Galatians 6:17). He wrote this to Gentiles, and used the Gentile phrase for the branding of a slave. But beyond question this Hebrew of Hebrews remembered, as he wrote, that one of his race could incur lifelong subjection only by a voluntary wound, endured because he loved his master, such as he had received for love of Jesus.

When the law came to deal with assaults it was impossible to place the slave upon quite the same level as the freeman. But Moses excelled the legislators of Greece and Rome, by making an assault or chastisement which killed him upon the spot as worthy of death as if a freeman had been slain. It was only the victim who lingered that died comparatively unavenged (Exodus 21:20-21). After all, chastisement was a natural right of the master, because he owned him ("he is his money"); and it would be hard to treat an excess of what was permissible, inflicted perhaps under provocation which made some punishment necessary, on the same lines with an assault that was entirely lawless. But there was this grave restraint upon bad temper,--that the loss of any member, and even of the tooth of a slave, involved his instant manumission. And this carried with it the principle of moral responsibility for every hurt (Exodus 21:26-27).

It was not quite plain that these enactments extended to the Gentile slave. But in accordance with the assertion that the whole spirit of the statutes was elevating, the conclusion arrived at by the later authorities was the generous one.

When it is added that man-stealing (upon which all our modern systems of slavery were founded) was a capital offence, without power of commutation for a fine (Exodus 21:16), it becomes clear that the advocates of slavery appeal to Moses against the outraged conscience of humanity without any shadow of warrant either from the letter or the spirit of the code.

There remains to be considered a remarkable and melancholy sub-section of the law of slavery.

In every age degraded beings have made gain of the attractions of their daughters. With them, the law attempted nothing of moral influence. But it protected their children, and brought pressure to bear upon the tempter, by a series of firm provisions, as bold as the age could bear, and much in advance of the conscience of too many among ourselves today.

The seduction of any unbetrothed maiden involved marriage, or the payment of a dowry. And thus one door to evil was firmly closed (Exodus 22:16).

But when a man purchased a female slave, with the intention of making her an inferior wife, whether for himself or for his son (such only are the purchases here dealt with, and an ordinary female slave was treated upon the same principles as a man), she was far from being the sport of his caprice. If indeed he repented at once, he might send her back, or transfer her to another of her countrymen upon the same terms, but when once they were united she was protected against his fickleness. He might not treat her as a servant or domestic, but must, even if he married another and probably a chief wife, continue to her all the rights and privileges of a wife. Nor was her position a temporary one, to her damage, as that of an ordinary slave was, to his benefit.

And if there was any failure to observe these honourable terms, she could return with unblemished reputation to her father's home, without forfeiture of the money which had been paid for her (Exodus 21:7-11).

Does any one seriously believe that a system like the African slave trade could have existed in such a humane and genial atmosphere as these enactments breathed? Does any one who knows the plague spot and disgrace of our modern civilisation suppose for a moment that more could have been attempted, in that age, for the great cause of purity? Would to God that the spirit of these enactments were even now respected! They would make of us, as they have made of the Hebrew nation unto this day, models of domestic tenderness, and of the blessings in health and physical vigour which an untainted life bestows upon communities.

By such checks upon the degradation of slavery, the Jew began to learn the great lesson of the sanctity of manhood. The next step was to teach him the value of life, not only in the avenging of murder, but also in the mitigation of such revenge. The blood-feud was too old, too natural a practice to be suppressed at once; but it was so controlled and regulated as to become little more than a part of the machinery of justice.

A premeditated murder was inexpiable, not to be ransomed; the murderer must surely die. Even if he fled to the altar of God, intending to escape thence to a city of refuge when the avenger ceased to watch, he should be torn from that holy place: to shelter him would not be an honour, but a desecration to the shrine (Exodus 21:12, Exodus 21:14). According to this provision Joab and Adonijah suffered. For the slayer by accident or in hasty quarrel, "a place whither he shall flee" would be provided, and the vague phrase indicates the antiquity of the edict (Exodus 21:13). This arrangement at once respected his life, which did not merit forfeiture, and provided a penalty for his rashness or his passion.

It is because the question in hand is the sanctity of man, that the capital punishment of a son who strikes or curses a parent, the vicegerent of God, and of a kidnapper, is interposed between these provisions and minor offences against the person (Exodus 21:15-17).

Of these latter, the first is when lingering illness results from a blow received in a quarrel. This was not a case for the stern rule, eye for eye and tooth for tooth,--for how could that rule be applied to it?--but the violent man should pay for his victim's loss of time, and for medical treatment until he was thoroughly recovered (Exodus 21:18-19).

But what is to be said to the general law of retribution in kind? Our Lord has forbidden a Christian, in his own case, to exact it. But it does not follow that it was unjust, since Christ plainly means to instruct private persons not to exact their rights, whereas the magistrate continues to be "a revenger to execute justice." And, as St. Augustine argued shrewdly, "this command was not given for exciting the fires of hatred, but to restrain them. For who would easily be satisfied with repaying as much injury as he received? Do we not see men slightly hurt athirst for slaughter and blood?... Upon this immoderate and unjust vengeance, the law imposed a just limit, not that what was quenched might be kindled, but that what was burning might not spread." (Cont. Faust, xix. 25.)

It is also to be observed that by no other precept were the Jews more clearly led to a morality still higher than it prescribed. Their attention was first drawn to the fact that a compensation in money was nowhere forbidden, as in the case of murder (Numbers 35:31). Then they went on to argue that such compensation must have been intended, because its literal observance teemed with difficulties. If an eye were injured but not destroyed, who would undertake to inflict an equivalent hurt? What if a blind man destroyed an eye? Would it be reasonable to quench utterly the sight of a one-eyed man who had only destroyed one-half of the vision of his neighbour? Should the right hand of a painter, by which he maintains his family, be forfeited for that of a singer who lives by his voice? Would not the cold and premeditated operation inflict far greater mental and even physical suffering than a sudden wound received in a moment of excitement? By all these considerations, drawn from the very principle which underlay the precept, they learned to relax its pressure in actual life. The law was already their schoolmaster, to lead them beyond itself (vide Kalisch in loco).

Lastly, there is the question of injury to the person, wrought by cattle.

It is clearly to deepen the sense of reverence for human life, that not only must the ox which kills a man be slain, but his flesh may not be eaten; thus carrying further the early aphorism "at the hand of every beast will I require ... your blood" (Genesis 9:5). This motive, however, does not betray the lawgiver into injustice: "the owner of the ox shall be quit"; the loss of his beast is his sufficient penalty.

But if its evil temper has been previously observed, and he has been warned, then his recklessness amounts to blood-guiltiness, and he must die, or else pay whatever ransom is laid upon him. This last clause recognises the distinction between his guilt and that of a deliberate man-slayer, for whose crime the law distinctly prohibited a composition (Numbers 35:31).

And it is expressly provided, according to the honourable position of woman in the Hebrew state, that the penalty for a daughter's life shall be the same as for that of a son.

As a slave was exposed to especial risk, and his position was an ignoble one, a fixed composition was appointed, and the amount was memorable. The ransom of a common slave, killed by the horns of the wild oxen, was thirty pieces of silver, the goodly price that Messiah was prized at of them (Zechariah 11:13).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 21:7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/exodus-21.html. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

6

THE LESSER LAW.

Exodus 20:18 - Exodus 23:33.

With the close of the Decalogue and its universal obligations, we approach a brief code of laws, purely Hebrew, but of the deepest moral interest, confessed by hostile criticism to bear every mark of a remote antiquity, and distinctly severed from what precedes and follows by a marked difference in the circumstances.

This is evidently the book of the Covenant to which the nation gave its formal assent (Exodus 24:7), and is therefore the germ and the centre of the system afterwards so much expanded.

And since the adhesion of the people was required, and the final covenant was ratified as soon as it was given, before any of the more formal details were elaborated, and before the tabernacle and the priesthood were established, it may fairly claim the highest and most unique position among the component parts of the Pentateuch, excepting only the Ten Commandments.

Before examining it in detail, the impressive circumstances of its utterance have to be observed.

It is written that when the law was given, the voice of the trumpet waxed louder and louder still. And as the multitude became aware that in this tempestuous and growing crash there was a living centre, and a voice of intelligible words, their awe became insufferable: and instead of needing the barriers which excluded them from the mountain, they recoiled from their appointed place, trembling and standing afar off. "And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us and we will hear, but let not God speak with us lest we die." It is the same instinct that we have already so often recognised, the dread of holiness in the hearts of the impure, the sense of unworthiness, which makes a prophet cry, "Woe is me, for I am undone!" and an apostle, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man."

Now, the New Testament quotes a confession of Moses himself, well-nigh overwhelmed, "I do exceedingly fear and quake" (Hebrews 12:21). And yet we read that he "said unto the people, Fear not, for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not" (Exodus 20:20). Thus we have the double paradox,--that he exceedingly feared, yet bade them fear not, and yet again declared that the very object of God was that they might fear Him.

Like every paradox, which is not a mere contradiction, this is instructive.

There is an abject fear, the dread of cowards and of the guilty, which masters and destroys the will--the fear which shrank away from the mount and cried out to Moses for relief. Such fear has torment, and none ought to admit it who understands that God wishes him well and is merciful.

There is also a natural agitation, at times inevitable though not unconquerable, and often strongest in the highest natures because they are the most finely strung. We are sometimes taught that there is sin in that instinctive recoil from death, and from whatever brings it close, which indeed is implanted by God to prevent foolhardiness, and to preserve the race. Our duty, however, does not require the absence of sensitive nerves, but only their subjugation and control. Marshal Saxe was truly brave when he looked at his own trembling frame, as the cannon opened fire, and said, "Aha! tremblest thou? thou wouldest tremble much more if thou knewest whither I mean to carry thee today." Despite his fever-shaken nerves, he was perfectly entitled to say to any waverer, "Fear not."

And so Moses, while he himself quaked, was entitled to encourage his people, because he could encourage them, because he saw and announced the kindly meaning of that tremendous scene, because he dared presently to draw near unto the thick darkness where God was.

And therefore the day would come when, with his noble heart aflame for a yet more splendid vision, he would cry, "O Lord, I beseech Thee show me Thy glory"--some purer and clearer irradiation, which would neither baffle the moral sense, nor conceal itself in cloud.

Meanwhile, there was a fear which should endure, and which God desires: not panic, but awe; not the terror which stood afar off, but the reverence which dares not to transgress. "Fear not, for God is come to prove you" (to see whether the nobler emotion or the baser will survive), "and that His fear may be before your faces" (so as to guide you, instead of pressing upon you to crush), "that ye sin not."

How needful was the lesson, may be seen by what followed when they were taken at their word, and the pressure of physical dread was lifted off them. "They soon forgat God their Saviour ... they made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the work of their own hands." Perhaps other pressures which we feel and lament today, the uncertainties and fears of modern life, are equally required to prevent us from forgetting God.

Of the nobler fear, which is a safeguard of the soul and not a danger, it is a serious question whether enough is alive among us.

Much sensational teaching, many popular books and hymns, suggest rather an irreverent use of the Holy Name, which is profanation, than a filial approach to a Father equally revered and loved. It is true that we are bidden to come with boldness to the throne of Grace. Yet the same Epistle teaches us again that our approach is even more solemn and awful than to the Mount which might be touched, and the profaning of which was death; and it exhorts us to have grace whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe, "for our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 12:28). That is the very last grace which some Christians ever seem to seek.

When the people recoiled, and Moses, trusting in God, was brave and entered the cloud, they ceased to have direct communion, and he was brought nearer to Jehovah than before.

What is now conveyed to Israel through him is an expansion and application of the Decalogue, and in turn it becomes the nucleus of the developed law. Its great antiquity is admitted by the severest critics; and it is a wonderful example of spirituality and searching depth, and also of such germinal and fruitful principles as cannot rest in themselves, literally applied, but must lead the obedient student on to still better things.

It is not the function of law to inspire men to obey it; this is precisely what the law could not do, being weak through the flesh. But it could arrest the attention and educate the conscience. Simple though it was in the letter, David could meditate upon it day and night. In the New Testament we know of two persons who had scrupulously respected its precepts, but they both, far from being satisfied, were filled with a divine discontent. One had kept all these things from his youth, yet felt the need of doing some good thing, and anxiously demanded what it was that he lacked yet. The other, as touching the righteousness of the law, was blameless, yet when the law entered, sin revived and slew him. For the law was spiritual, and reached beyond itself, while he was carnal, and thwarted by the flesh, sold under sin, even while externally beyond reproach.

This subtle characteristic of all noble law will be very apparent in studying the kernel of the law, the code within the code, which now lies before us.

Men sometimes judge the Hebrew legislation harshly, thinking that they are testing it, as a Divine institution, by the light of this century. They are really doing nothing of the sort. If there are two principles of legislation dearer than all others to modern Englishmen, they are the two which these flippant judgments most ignore, and by which they are most perfectly refuted.

One is that institutions educate communities. It is not too much to say that we have staked the future of our nation, and therefore the hopes of humanity, upon our conviction that men can be elevated by ennobling institutions,--that the franchise, for example, is an education as well as a trust.

The other, which seems to contradict the first, and does actually modify it, is that legislation must not move too far in advance of public opinion. Laws may be highly desirable in the abstract, for which communities are not yet ripe. A constitution like our own would be simply ruinous in Hindostan. Many good friends of temperance are the reluctant opponents of legislation which they desire in theory but which would only be trampled upon in practice, because public opinion would rebel against the law. Legislation is indeed educational, but the danger is that the practical outcome of such legislation would be disobedience and anarchy.

Now, these principles are the ample justification of all that startles us in the Pentateuch.

Slavery and polygamy, for instance, are not abolished. To forbid them utterly would have substituted far worse evils, as the Jews then were. But laws were introduced which vastly ameliorated the condition of the slave, and elevated the status of woman--laws which were far in advance of the best Gentile culture, and which so educated and softened the Jewish character, that men soon came to feel the letter of these very laws too harsh.

That is a nobler vindication of the Mosaic legislation than if this century agreed with every letter of it. To be vital and progressive is a better thing than to be correct. The law waged a far more effectual war upon certain evils than by formal prohibition, sound in theory but premature by centuries. Other good things besides liberty are not for the nursery or the school. And "we also, when we were children, were held in bondage" (Galatians 4:3).

It is pretty well agreed that this code may be divided into five parts. To the end of the twentieth chapter it deals directly with the worship of God. Then follow thirty-two verses treating of the personal rights of man as distinguished from his rights of property. From the thirty-third verse of the twenty-first chapter to the fifteenth verse of the twenty-second, the rights of property are protected. Thence to the nineteenth verse of the twenty-third chapter is a miscellaneous group of laws, chiefly moral, but deeply connected with the civil organisation of the state. And thence to the end of the chapter is an earnest exhortation from God, introduced by a clearer statement than before of the manner in which He means to lead them, even by that mysterious Angel in Whom "is My Name."

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 21:7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/exodus-21.html. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Exodus 21:7-11

If a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant.

Degraded condition of girls in Africa

The condition of girls in Africa is thus described by a missionary: “A father looks upon his girl as being of the value only of so many goats, and he is ready to sell her as soon as any man offers him the required payment. Thus, while she is quite young--perhaps only four or five--her life and liberty may have been sold away by her own father, and sooner or later she must become the wife, the slave, the drudge of her owner. While at Mayumba, near the mouth of the Congo river, I one afternoon heard a child screaming frantically behind the house where I was staying, and going out I found a little Bavilla girl, not more than four years old, who had just been brought down the lagoon from her home away in the Mamba hills, where she had been bought by a Mayumba man. The crew of the canoe in which she had been brought down--six big, fierce-looking men--were standing around the little prisoner, pointing their guns and spears at her just for the sport of seeing her shake and scream with fright; and a band of women were dancing with wild delight at the heartless game. It was possible to save the poor child from the cruel treatment just then, but that was only the beginning of a lifetime of suffering for her in the midst of a strange people, with no friend at hand to help or protect her.”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 21:7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/exodus-21.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Exodus 21:7. And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant It appears very plainly from the account given in Leviticus, that the law laid down in the former verses held good with regard to female as well as to male-servants; and consequently, what follows must be considered as an exempt or particular case: in which view, it can no otherwise be understood, than as referring to a parent's selling his daughter through poverty. Daughters, thus sold by their parents, were to be treated in a different manner from those females who were sold on the other accounts mentioned in note on Exodus 21:2.; for the sacred writer tells us, that if a man thus sold his daughter, she should not go out as the men-servants do; that is, by gaining her liberty after a servitude of six years: other and easier terms are assigned for her.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/exodus-21.html. 1801-1803.

Expositor's Bible Commentary

CHAPTER XXI.

THE LESSER LAW (continued).

PART II.--RIGHTS OF THE PERSON.

Exodus 21:1-32.

The first words of God from Sinai had declared that He was Jehovah Who brought them out of slavery. And in this remarkable code, the first person whose rights are dealt with is the slave. We saw that a denunciation of all slavery would have been premature, and therefore unwise; but assuredly the germs of emancipation were already planted by this giving of the foremost place to the rights of the least of all and the servant of all.

As regards the Hebrew slave, the effect was to reduce his utmost bondage to a comparatively mild apprenticeship. At the worst he should go free in the seventh year; and if the year of jubilee intervened, it brought a still speedier emancipation. If his debt or misconduct had involved a family in his disgrace, they should also share his emancipation, but if while in bondage his master had provided for his marriage with a slave, then his family must await their own appointed period of release. It followed that if he had contracted a degrading alliance with a foreign slave, his freedom would inflict upon him the pang of final severance from his dear ones. He might, indeed, escape this pain, but only by a deliberate and humiliating act, by formally renouncing before the judges his liberty, the birthright of his nation ("they are My servants, whom I brought forth out of Egypt, they shall not be sold as bondservants"-- Leviticus 25:42), and submitting to have his ear pierced, at the doorpost of his master's house, as if, like that, his body were become his master's property. It is uncertain, after this decisive step, whether even the year of jubilee brought him release; and the contrary seems to be implied in his always bearing about in his body an indelible and degrading mark. It will be remembered that St. Paul rejoiced to think that his choice of Christ was practically beyond recall, for the scars on his body marked the tenacity of his decision (Galatians 6:17). He wrote this to Gentiles, and used the Gentile phrase for the branding of a slave. But beyond question this Hebrew of Hebrews remembered, as he wrote, that one of his race could incur lifelong subjection only by a voluntary wound, endured because he loved his master, such as he had received for love of Jesus.

When the law came to deal with assaults it was impossible to place the slave upon quite the same level as the freeman. But Moses excelled the legislators of Greece and Rome, by making an assault or chastisement which killed him upon the spot as worthy of death as if a freeman had been slain. It was only the victim who lingered that died comparatively unavenged (Exodus 21:20-21). After all, chastisement was a natural right of the master, because he owned him ("he is his money"); and it would be hard to treat an excess of what was permissible, inflicted perhaps under provocation which made some punishment necessary, on the same lines with an assault that was entirely lawless. But there was this grave restraint upon bad temper,--that the loss of any member, and even of the tooth of a slave, involved his instant manumission. And this carried with it the principle of moral responsibility for every hurt (Exodus 21:26-27).

It was not quite plain that these enactments extended to the Gentile slave. But in accordance with the assertion that the whole spirit of the statutes was elevating, the conclusion arrived at by the later authorities was the generous one.

When it is added that man-stealing (upon which all our modern systems of slavery were founded) was a capital offence, without power of commutation for a fine (Exodus 21:16), it becomes clear that the advocates of slavery appeal to Moses against the outraged conscience of humanity without any shadow of warrant either from the letter or the spirit of the code.

There remains to be considered a remarkable and melancholy sub-section of the law of slavery.

In every age degraded beings have made gain of the attractions of their daughters. With them, the law attempted nothing of moral influence. But it protected their children, and brought pressure to bear upon the tempter, by a series of firm provisions, as bold as the age could bear, and much in advance of the conscience of too many among ourselves today.

The seduction of any unbetrothed maiden involved marriage, or the payment of a dowry. And thus one door to evil was firmly closed (Exodus 22:16).

But when a man purchased a female slave, with the intention of making her an inferior wife, whether for himself or for his son (such only are the purchases here dealt with, and an ordinary female slave was treated upon the same principles as a man), she was far from being the sport of his caprice. If indeed he repented at once, he might send her back, or transfer her to another of her countrymen upon the same terms, but when once they were united she was protected against his fickleness. He might not treat her as a servant or domestic, but must, even if he married another and probably a chief wife, continue to her all the rights and privileges of a wife. Nor was her position a temporary one, to her damage, as that of an ordinary slave was, to his benefit.

And if there was any failure to observe these honourable terms, she could return with unblemished reputation to her father's home, without forfeiture of the money which had been paid for her (Exodus 21:7-11).

Does any one seriously believe that a system like the African slave trade could have existed in such a humane and genial atmosphere as these enactments breathed? Does any one who knows the plague spot and disgrace of our modern civilisation suppose for a moment that more could have been attempted, in that age, for the great cause of purity? Would to God that the spirit of these enactments were even now respected! They would make of us, as they have made of the Hebrew nation unto this day, models of domestic tenderness, and of the blessings in health and physical vigour which an untainted life bestows upon communities.

By such checks upon the degradation of slavery, the Jew began to learn the great lesson of the sanctity of manhood. The next step was to teach him the value of life, not only in the avenging of murder, but also in the mitigation of such revenge. The blood-feud was too old, too natural a practice to be suppressed at once; but it was so controlled and regulated as to become little more than a part of the machinery of justice.

A premeditated murder was inexpiable, not to be ransomed; the murderer must surely die. Even if he fled to the altar of God, intending to escape thence to a city of refuge when the avenger ceased to watch, he should be torn from that holy place: to shelter him would not be an honour, but a desecration to the shrine (Exodus 21:12, Exodus 21:14). According to this provision Joab and Adonijah suffered. For the slayer by accident or in hasty quarrel, "a place whither he shall flee" would be provided, and the vague phrase indicates the antiquity of the edict (Exodus 21:13). This arrangement at once respected his life, which did not merit forfeiture, and provided a penalty for his rashness or his passion.

It is because the question in hand is the sanctity of man, that the capital punishment of a son who strikes or curses a parent, the vicegerent of God, and of a kidnapper, is interposed between these provisions and minor offences against the person (Exodus 21:15-17).

Of these latter, the first is when lingering illness results from a blow received in a quarrel. This was not a case for the stern rule, eye for eye and tooth for tooth,--for how could that rule be applied to it?--but the violent man should pay for his victim's loss of time, and for medical treatment until he was thoroughly recovered (Exodus 21:18-19).

But what is to be said to the general law of retribution in kind? Our Lord has forbidden a Christian, in his own case, to exact it. But it does not follow that it was unjust, since Christ plainly means to instruct private persons not to exact their rights, whereas the magistrate continues to be "a revenger to execute justice." And, as St. Augustine argued shrewdly, "this command was not given for exciting the fires of hatred, but to restrain them. For who would easily be satisfied with repaying as much injury as he received? Do we not see men slightly hurt athirst for slaughter and blood?... Upon this immoderate and unjust vengeance, the law imposed a just limit, not that what was quenched might be kindled, but that what was burning might not spread." (Cont. Faust, xix. 25.)

It is also to be observed that by no other precept were the Jews more clearly led to a morality still higher than it prescribed. Their attention was first drawn to the fact that a compensation in money was nowhere forbidden, as in the case of murder (Numbers 35:31). Then they went on to argue that such compensation must have been intended, because its literal observance teemed with difficulties. If an eye were injured but not destroyed, who would undertake to inflict an equivalent hurt? What if a blind man destroyed an eye? Would it be reasonable to quench utterly the sight of a one-eyed man who had only destroyed one-half of the vision of his neighbour? Should the right hand of a painter, by which he maintains his family, be forfeited for that of a singer who lives by his voice? Would not the cold and premeditated operation inflict far greater mental and even physical suffering than a sudden wound received in a moment of excitement? By all these considerations, drawn from the very principle which underlay the precept, they learned to relax its pressure in actual life. The law was already their schoolmaster, to lead them beyond itself (vide Kalisch in loco).

Lastly, there is the question of injury to the person, wrought by cattle.

It is clearly to deepen the sense of reverence for human life, that not only must the ox which kills a man be slain, but his flesh may not be eaten; thus carrying further the early aphorism "at the hand of every beast will I require ... your blood" (Genesis 9:5). This motive, however, does not betray the lawgiver into injustice: "the owner of the ox shall be quit"; the loss of his beast is his sufficient penalty.

But if its evil temper has been previously observed, and he has been warned, then his recklessness amounts to blood-guiltiness, and he must die, or else pay whatever ransom is laid upon him. This last clause recognises the distinction between his guilt and that of a deliberate man-slayer, for whose crime the law distinctly prohibited a composition (Numbers 35:31).

And it is expressly provided, according to the honourable position of woman in the Hebrew state, that the penalty for a daughter's life shall be the same as for that of a son.

As a slave was exposed to especial risk, and his position was an ignoble one, a fixed composition was appointed, and the amount was memorable. The ransom of a common slave, killed by the horns of the wild oxen, was thirty pieces of silver, the goodly price that Messiah was prized at of them (Zechariah 11:13).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/exodus-21.html.

Expositor's Bible Commentary

6

THE LESSER LAW.

Exodus 20:18 - Exodus 23:33.

With the close of the Decalogue and its universal obligations, we approach a brief code of laws, purely Hebrew, but of the deepest moral interest, confessed by hostile criticism to bear every mark of a remote antiquity, and distinctly severed from what precedes and follows by a marked difference in the circumstances.

This is evidently the book of the Covenant to which the nation gave its formal assent (Exodus 24:7), and is therefore the germ and the centre of the system afterwards so much expanded.

And since the adhesion of the people was required, and the final covenant was ratified as soon as it was given, before any of the more formal details were elaborated, and before the tabernacle and the priesthood were established, it may fairly claim the highest and most unique position among the component parts of the Pentateuch, excepting only the Ten Commandments.

Before examining it in detail, the impressive circumstances of its utterance have to be observed.

It is written that when the law was given, the voice of the trumpet waxed louder and louder still. And as the multitude became aware that in this tempestuous and growing crash there was a living centre, and a voice of intelligible words, their awe became insufferable: and instead of needing the barriers which excluded them from the mountain, they recoiled from their appointed place, trembling and standing afar off. "And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us and we will hear, but let not God speak with us lest we die." It is the same instinct that we have already so often recognised, the dread of holiness in the hearts of the impure, the sense of unworthiness, which makes a prophet cry, "Woe is me, for I am undone!" and an apostle, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man."

Now, the New Testament quotes a confession of Moses himself, well-nigh overwhelmed, "I do exceedingly fear and quake" (Hebrews 12:21). And yet we read that he "said unto the people, Fear not, for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not" (Exodus 20:20). Thus we have the double paradox,--that he exceedingly feared, yet bade them fear not, and yet again declared that the very object of God was that they might fear Him.

Like every paradox, which is not a mere contradiction, this is instructive.

There is an abject fear, the dread of cowards and of the guilty, which masters and destroys the will--the fear which shrank away from the mount and cried out to Moses for relief. Such fear has torment, and none ought to admit it who understands that God wishes him well and is merciful.

There is also a natural agitation, at times inevitable though not unconquerable, and often strongest in the highest natures because they are the most finely strung. We are sometimes taught that there is sin in that instinctive recoil from death, and from whatever brings it close, which indeed is implanted by God to prevent foolhardiness, and to preserve the race. Our duty, however, does not require the absence of sensitive nerves, but only their subjugation and control. Marshal Saxe was truly brave when he looked at his own trembling frame, as the cannon opened fire, and said, "Aha! tremblest thou? thou wouldest tremble much more if thou knewest whither I mean to carry thee today." Despite his fever-shaken nerves, he was perfectly entitled to say to any waverer, "Fear not."

And so Moses, while he himself quaked, was entitled to encourage his people, because he could encourage them, because he saw and announced the kindly meaning of that tremendous scene, because he dared presently to draw near unto the thick darkness where God was.

And therefore the day would come when, with his noble heart aflame for a yet more splendid vision, he would cry, "O Lord, I beseech Thee show me Thy glory"--some purer and clearer irradiation, which would neither baffle the moral sense, nor conceal itself in cloud.

Meanwhile, there was a fear which should endure, and which God desires: not panic, but awe; not the terror which stood afar off, but the reverence which dares not to transgress. "Fear not, for God is come to prove you" (to see whether the nobler emotion or the baser will survive), "and that His fear may be before your faces" (so as to guide you, instead of pressing upon you to crush), "that ye sin not."

How needful was the lesson, may be seen by what followed when they were taken at their word, and the pressure of physical dread was lifted off them. "They soon forgat God their Saviour ... they made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the work of their own hands." Perhaps other pressures which we feel and lament today, the uncertainties and fears of modern life, are equally required to prevent us from forgetting God.

Of the nobler fear, which is a safeguard of the soul and not a danger, it is a serious question whether enough is alive among us.

Much sensational teaching, many popular books and hymns, suggest rather an irreverent use of the Holy Name, which is profanation, than a filial approach to a Father equally revered and loved. It is true that we are bidden to come with boldness to the throne of Grace. Yet the same Epistle teaches us again that our approach is even more solemn and awful than to the Mount which might be touched, and the profaning of which was death; and it exhorts us to have grace whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe, "for our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 12:28). That is the very last grace which some Christians ever seem to seek.

When the people recoiled, and Moses, trusting in God, was brave and entered the cloud, they ceased to have direct communion, and he was brought nearer to Jehovah than before.

What is now conveyed to Israel through him is an expansion and application of the Decalogue, and in turn it becomes the nucleus of the developed law. Its great antiquity is admitted by the severest critics; and it is a wonderful example of spirituality and searching depth, and also of such germinal and fruitful principles as cannot rest in themselves, literally applied, but must lead the obedient student on to still better things.

It is not the function of law to inspire men to obey it; this is precisely what the law could not do, being weak through the flesh. But it could arrest the attention and educate the conscience. Simple though it was in the letter, David could meditate upon it day and night. In the New Testament we know of two persons who had scrupulously respected its precepts, but they both, far from being satisfied, were filled with a divine discontent. One had kept all these things from his youth, yet felt the need of doing some good thing, and anxiously demanded what it was that he lacked yet. The other, as touching the righteousness of the law, was blameless, yet when the law entered, sin revived and slew him. For the law was spiritual, and reached beyond itself, while he was carnal, and thwarted by the flesh, sold under sin, even while externally beyond reproach.

This subtle characteristic of all noble law will be very apparent in studying the kernel of the law, the code within the code, which now lies before us.

Men sometimes judge the Hebrew legislation harshly, thinking that they are testing it, as a Divine institution, by the light of this century. They are really doing nothing of the sort. If there are two principles of legislation dearer than all others to modern Englishmen, they are the two which these flippant judgments most ignore, and by which they are most perfectly refuted.

One is that institutions educate communities. It is not too much to say that we have staked the future of our nation, and therefore the hopes of humanity, upon our conviction that men can be elevated by ennobling institutions,--that the franchise, for example, is an education as well as a trust.

The other, which seems to contradict the first, and does actually modify it, is that legislation must not move too far in advance of public opinion. Laws may be highly desirable in the abstract, for which communities are not yet ripe. A constitution like our own would be simply ruinous in Hindostan. Many good friends of temperance are the reluctant opponents of legislation which they desire in theory but which would only be trampled upon in practice, because public opinion would rebel against the law. Legislation is indeed educational, but the danger is that the practical outcome of such legislation would be disobedience and anarchy.

Now, these principles are the ample justification of all that startles us in the Pentateuch.

Slavery and polygamy, for instance, are not abolished. To forbid them utterly would have substituted far worse evils, as the Jews then were. But laws were introduced which vastly ameliorated the condition of the slave, and elevated the status of woman--laws which were far in advance of the best Gentile culture, and which so educated and softened the Jewish character, that men soon came to feel the letter of these very laws too harsh.

That is a nobler vindication of the Mosaic legislation than if this century agreed with every letter of it. To be vital and progressive is a better thing than to be correct. The law waged a far more effectual war upon certain evils than by formal prohibition, sound in theory but premature by centuries. Other good things besides liberty are not for the nursery or the school. And "we also, when we were children, were held in bondage" (Galatians 4:3).

It is pretty well agreed that this code may be divided into five parts. To the end of the twentieth chapter it deals directly with the worship of God. Then follow thirty-two verses treating of the personal rights of man as distinguished from his rights of property. From the thirty-third verse of the twenty-first chapter to the fifteenth verse of the twenty-second, the rights of property are protected. Thence to the nineteenth verse of the twenty-third chapter is a miscellaneous group of laws, chiefly moral, but deeply connected with the civil organisation of the state. And thence to the end of the chapter is an earnest exhortation from God, introduced by a clearer statement than before of the manner in which He means to lead them, even by that mysterious Angel in Whom "is My Name."

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/exodus-21.html.

The Pulpit Commentaries

EXPOSITION

THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT.—Continued.

I. Laws connected with the rights of persons (Exodus 21:1-32). The regulations of this section concern—

1. Slavery (Exodus 21:2-6);

2. Murder and other kinds of homicide (Exodus 21:12-15 and Exodus 21:20, Exodus 21:21);

3. Man-stealing (Exodus 21:16);

4. Striking or cursing of parents (Exodus 21:15, Exodus 21:17);

5. Assaults and injuries to the person not resulting in death (Exodus 21:18, Exodus 21:19, and Exodus 21:22-27), both in the case of free men and of slaves; and

6. Injuries done by cattle both to free men and to slaves (Exodus 21:28-32). The chief bodily injury whereto women are liable is not mentioned. A later enactment (Deuteronomy 22:25-29) made it expiable by marriage, or else a capital offence. There are no other remarkable omissions.

Exodus 21:1

These are the judgments. The term "judgment" applies most properly to the decisions of courts and the laws founded upon them. No doubt the laws contained in the "Book of the Covenant" were to a large extent old laws, which had been often acted on; but we should do wrong to suppose that there was nothing new in the legislation. The Hebrew mishphat is used with some vagueness.

Exodus 21:2-11

Slavery.

Exodus 21:2

If thou buy an Hebrew servant. Slavery, it is clear, was an existing institution. The law of Moses did not make it, but found it, and by not forbidding, allowed it. The Divine legislator was content under the circumstances to introduce mitigations and alleviations into the slave condition. Hebrews commonly became slaves through poverty (Le 25:35, 39), but sometimes through crime (Exodus 22:3).

In the seventh he shall go out. Not in the Sabbatical year, but at the commencement of the seventh year after he became a slave. If the jubilee year happened to occur, he might be released sooner (Le 25:40); but in any case his servitude must end when the sixth year of it was completed. This was an enormous boon, and had nothing, so far as is known, correspondent to it in the legislation of any other country. Nor was this all. When he went out free, his late master was bound to furnish him with provisions out of his flock, and out of his threshing floor, and out of his winepress (Deuteronomy 15:12-14), so that he might have something wherewith to begin the world afresh. The humane spirit of the legislation is strikingly marked in its very first enactment.

Exodus 21:3

If he came in by himself, etc. The first clause of this verse is further explained in the next; the second secured to the wife who went into slavery with her husband a participation in his privilege of release at the end of the sixth year.

Exodus 21:4

If his master have given him a wife. If the slave was unmarried when he went into servitude, or if his wife died, and his master then gave him a wife from among his female slaves, the master was not to lose his property in his female slave by reason of having permitted the marriage. When the man claimed his freedom at the end of the sixth year, he was to "go out" alone. Should children have been born, they were also to be the property of the master and to remain members of his household. No doubt these provisos, which cannot be regarded as unjust, had the effect of inducing many Hebrew slaves not to claim their release (Exodus 21:5, Exodus 21:6).

Exodus 21:5, Exodus 21:6

I love my master, etc. Affection might grow up between the slave and the master, if he were well treated. The Hebrew form of slavery was altogether of a mild kind. Masters are admonished to treat their slaves "not as bond-servants, but as hired servants or sojourners," and again "not to rule over them with rigour" (Le Exodus 25:39, Exodus 25:40, 43). Even among the heathen, slaves often bore a true affection to their masters. Or, the slave might be so attached to his wife and children as to be unwilling to separate from them, and might prefer slavery with the solace of their society to freedom without it. For such cases the provision was made, which is contained in Exodus 21:6. On the slave declaring to his master his unwillingness to go free, the master might take him before the judges, or magistrates (literally "gods") as witnesses, and perhaps registrars of the man' s declaration, and might then reconduct him to his house, and by a significant ceremony mark him as his slave "for ever." The ceremony consisted in boring through one of his ears with an awl, and driving the awl into the door or doorpost of the house, thereby attaching him physically to the dwelling of which he became thenceforth a permanent inmate. Almost all commentators assert that some such custom was common in the East in connection with slavery, and refer to Xen. Aaab. 3.1, § 31; Plant. Poenul. 5.2, 21; Juv. Sat. 1.104; Plutarch. Vit. Cic. § 26, etc. But these passages merely show that the Orientals generally—not slaves in particular—had their ears bored for the purpose of wearing earrings, and indicate no usage at all comparable to the Hebrew practice. The Hebrew custom—probably a very ancient one—seems to have had two objects—

1. The declaring by a significant act, that the man belonged to the house; and

2. The permanent marking of him as a slave, dis-entitled to the rights of freemen, he shall serve him for ever. Josephus (Ant. Jud. 4.8, § 20) and the Jewish commentators generally maintain that the law of the jubilee release overruled this enactment; but this must be regarded as very doubtful.

Exodus 21:7

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 Exodus 21:2.) 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 (Exodus 21:10). If the retention was not carried out, either the man was to marry her to one of his sons (Exodus 21:9), 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.

Exodus 21:8

If she please not her master. If he decline, i.e; to carry out the contract, and take her for his wife. Then let her be redeemed. Rather, "Then let him cause her to be redeemed." Let him, i.e; look out for some one who will buy her of him and take his obligation of marriage off his hands To sell her to a strange nation he shall not have power. Only, this purchaser must be a Hebrew, like himself, and not a foreigner, since her father consented to her becoming a slave only on the condition of her being wedded to a Hebrew. Seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. By professing to take her as a secondary wife, and not carrying out the contract.

Exodus 21:9

And if he hath betrothed her unto his son. A man might have bought the maiden for this object, or finding himself not pleased with her (Exodus 21:8), might have made his son take his place as her husband. In this case but one course was allowed—he must give her the status of a daughter thenceforth in his family.

Exodus 21:10

If he take him another wifei.e; If he marry her himself, and then take another, even a legitimate, wife—her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage shall he not diminish—she shall retain during her life all the privileges of a married woman—he shall not diminish aught from them. The word translated "duty of marriage" seems to mean "right of cohabitation."

Exodus 21:11

If he do not these three unto her. Not the "three" points of the latter part of Exodus 21:10; but one of the three courses laid down in Exodus 21:8, Exodus 21:9, and Exodus 21:10. She shall go out freei.e; she shall not be retained as a drudge, a mere maidservant, but shall return to her father at once, a free woman, capable of contracting another marriage; and without moneyi.e; without the father being called upon to refund any portion of the stun for which he had sold her.

Exodus 21:12-14

Homicide. Exodus 21:12 reiterates the Sixth Commandment, and adds to it a temporal penalty—"he shall surely be put to death." The substance of this law had already been given to Noah in the words, "Whoso sheddeth man' s blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (Genesis 9:6). Real murder, with deliberate intent, was under no circumstances to be pardoned. The murderer was even to be torn from the altar, if he took refuge there, and relentlessly punished (Exodus 21:14). See the case of Joab (1 Kings 2:28-34). But, if a man happened suddenly upon his enemy, without having sought the opportunity, and slew him (Exodus 21:13), then the case was one not of murder, but at most of manslaughter, or possibly of justifiable homicide. No legal penalty was assigned to such offences. They were left to the rude justice of established custom, which required "the avenger of blood" to visit them with due retribution. According to the general practice of the Eastern nations, he might either insist on life for life or take a money compensation. With this custom, deeply ingrained into the minds of the Oriental people, the law did not meddle. It was content to interpose between the avenger of blood and his victim the chance of reaching an asylum. Places were appointed, whither the shedder of blood might flee, and where he might be safe until his cause was tried before the men of his own city (Numbers 35:22-25), and afterwards, if the judgment were in his favour. Some particular part of the camp was probably made an asylum in the wilderness.

Exodus 21:13

God deliver him into his hand. This does not seem to mean more than, "if he chance upon him without seeking him." God' s providence does in fact bring about the meetings which men call accidental. I will appoint thee a place. When we first hear of the actual appointment, the number of the places was six—three on either side of Jordan. (See Joshua 20:7, Joshua 20:8; and compare Numbers 35:10-15, and Deuteronomy 19:2.) Thus there was always a city of refuge at a reasonable distance.

Exodus 21:14

Presumptuously. Or "proudly," "arrogantly." Thou shalt take him from mine altar. See the comment on Exodus 21:12.

Exodus 21:15-17

Other capital offences. The unsystematic character of the arrangement in this chapter is remarkably shown by this interruption of the consideration of different sorts of homicide, in order to introduce offences of quite a different character, and those not very closely allied to each other—e.g.,

1. Striking a parent;

2. Kidnapping;

3. Cursing a parent.

Exodus 21:15

He that smiteth his father, etc. To "smite" here is simply to "strike"—to offer the indignity of a blow—not to kill, which had already been made capital (Exodus 21:12), not in the case of parents only, but in every case. The severity of the law is very remarkable, and strongly emphasises the dignity and authority of parents. There is no parallel to it in any other known code, though of course the patria potestas of the Roman father gave him the power of punishing a son who had struck him, capitally.

Exodus 21:16

He that stealeth a man. Kidnapping, or stealing men to make them slaves, was a very early and very wide-spread crime. Joseph' s brothers must be regarded as having committed it (Genesis 37:28); and there are many traces of it in the remains of antiquity. Most kidnapping was of foreigners; and this was a practice of which the laws of states took no cognizance, though a certain disrepute may have attached to it. But the kidnapping of a fellow-country-man was generally punished with severity. At Athens it was a capital offence. At Rome it made a man infamous. We may gather from Deuteronomy 24:7, that the Mosaic law was especially levelled against this lena of the crime, though the words of the present passage are general, and forbid the crime altogether. Man-stealing, in the general sense, is now regarded as an offence by the chief civilised states of Europe and America, and is punished by confiscation of the stolen goods, and sometimes by imprisonment of the man-stealers.

Exodus 21:17

He that curseth his father, etc. Blasphemy against God, and imprecations upon parents, were the only two sins of the tongue which the law expressly required to be punished with death (Le Exodus 24:16). In later times analogy was held to require that "cursing the ruler of the people" (Exodus 22:28) should be visited with the same penalty (2 Samuel 19:22; 1 Kings 2:8, 1 Kings 2:9, 1 Kings 2:46). The severity of the sentence indicates that in God' s sight such sins are of the deepest dye.

Exodus 21:18, Exodus 21:19

Severe assault. Assault was punishable by the law in two ways. Ordinarily, the rule was that of strict retaliation' ' Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe" (Exodus 21:24, Exodus 21:25; compare Le 24:20, and Deuteronomy 19:21). But where the assault was severe, causing a man to take to his bed, and call in the physician' s aid, something more was needed. The Rabbinical commentators tell us that in this case he was arrested, and sent to prison until it was ascertained whether the person hurt would die or no. If he died, the man was tried for murder; if he recovered, a fine was imposed. This was axed at such a sum as would at once compensate the injured man for his loss of time and defray the expense of his cure. A similar principle is adopted under our own law in many cases of civil action.

Exodus 21:18

If men strive together. If there is a quarrel and a personal encounter. In our own law this would reduce this offence, if death ensued, to manslaughter. With a stone, or with his fist. The use of either would show absence of premeditation, and of any design to kill. A weapon would have to be prepared beforehand: a stone might be readily caught up.

Exodus 21:19

If he rise again and walk upon his staff. If he recovered sufficiently to leave his bed, and get about with a stick to lean on, his hurt was not to be brought up against the injurer, though he died soon afterwards. Compensation was to be received, and the score regarded as wiped off.

Exodus 21:20, Exodus 21:21

Homicide of slaves. In most ancient states the slave was the absolute property of his master, and might be ill-used to any extent, even killed, without the law in any way interfering. It is said that the state of things was different in Egypt (Kalisch); but we have scarcely sufficient evidence on the point to be certain that the slave enjoyed there any real and efficient protection. At Athens, beyond a doubt, the law protected the life of the slave; and a very moderate amount of ill-treatment entitled a slave to bring an action. At Rome, on the contrary, "the master could treat the slave as he pleased, could sell him, punish him, and put him to death". And this was the ordinary state of the law, particularly in Oriental countries. The Mosaic legislation must be regarded as having greatly ameliorated the condition of the native slave population. Hebrew bondmen it placed nearly upon a par with hired servants (Le Exodus 25:40); foreign slaves, whether prisoners taken in war, or persons bought in the market, it protected to a very great extent. By the law given in Exodus 21:26, Exodus 21:27, it largely controlled the brutality of masters, who had to emancipate their slaves if they did them any serious injury. By the law laid down in Exodus 21:20, it gave their lives the same protection, or nearly the same, as the lives of freemen. "Smiting "was allowed as a discipline, without which slavery cannot exist; but such smiting as resulted in death was, as a general rule, punishable like any other homicide. The only exception was, if the slave did not die for some days (Exodus 21:21). In that case the master was considered not to have intended the slave' s death, and to be sufficiently punished by the loss of his property.

Exodus 21:20

If a man smite his servant, or his maid. "Maids" would commonly be chastised by their mistress, or by an upper servant acting under the mistress' s authority. "A man" here means "any one." With a rod. The rods wherewith Egyptian slaves were chastised appear upon the monuments. They were long canes, like those used by our schoolmasters. Under his hand. Criminals in the East are said often to die under the bastinado; and even in our own country there have been cases of soldiers dying under the lash. A special delicacy of the nervous system will make a punishment of the kind fatal to some, which would have been easily borne by others.

Exodus 21:21

If he continue a day or two—i.e; "If the slave does not die till a day or two afterwards." Compare the provision in Exodus 21:19, with respect to persons who were not slaves. No special callousness to the sufferings of slaves is implied. He is his money. The slave had been purchased for a stun of money, or was at any rate money' s worth; and the master would suffer a pecuniary loss by his death.

Exodus 21:22-25

Assault producing miscarriage. Retaliation. Women in all countries are apt to interfere in the quarrels of men, and run the risk of suffering injuries which proceed from accident rather than design, one such injury being of a peculiar character, to which there is nothing correspondent among the injuries which may be done to man. This is abortion, or miscarriage. The Mosaic legislation sought to protect pregnant women from suffering this injury by providing, first, that if death resulted the offender should suffer death (Exodus 21:23); and, secondly, that if there were no further ill-result than the miscarriage itself, still a fine should be paid, to be assessed by the husband of the injured woman with the consent of the judges (Exodus 21:22). The mention of "life for life," in Exodus 21:23, is followed by an enunciation of the general "law of retaliation," applied here (it would seem) to the special case in hand, but elsewhere (Le 24:19, 20) extended so as to be a fundamental law, applicable to all cases of personal injury.

Exodus 21:22

If men strive and hurt a woman. A chance hurt is clearly intended, not one done on purpose. So that her fruit depart from her. So that she be prematurely delivered of a dead child. And no mischief follow. "Mischief" here means "death," as in Genesis 42:4, Genesis 42:38; Genesis 45:1-28 :29. He shall pay as the judges determine. He was not to be wholly at the mercy of the injured father. If he thought the sum demanded was excessive, there was to be an appeal to a tribunal.

Exodus 21:23

Then thou shalt give life for life. "Life for life" seems an excessive penalty, where the injury was in a great measure accidental, and when there was certainly no design to take life. Probably the law was not now enacted for the first time, but was an old tribal institution, like the law of the "avenger of blood." There are many things in the Mosaic institutions which Moses tolerated, like "bills of divorce"—on account of "the hardness of their hearts."

Exodus 21:23, Exodus 21:24

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, etc. Aristotle says in the Nicomachean Ethics, that this was the rule of justice which Rhadamanthus was supposed to act on in the judgment after death (book 5, see. 3), and that it had the approval of the Pythagoreans. Solon admitted it to a certain extent into the laws of Athens, and at Rome it found its way. into the Twelve Tables. There is a prima facie appearance of exact equality in it, which would captivate rude minds and cause the principle to be widely adopted in a rude state of society. But in practice objections would soon be felt to it. There is no exact measure of the hardness of a blow, or the severity of a wound; and "wound for wound, stripe for stripe," would open a door for very unequal inflictions "Eye for eye" would be flagrantly unjust in the case of a one-eyed man. Moreover, it is against public policy to augment unnecessarily the number of mutilated and maimed citizens, whose power to serve the state is lessened by their mutilation. Consequently in every society retaliation has at an early date given way to pecuniary compensation; and this was the case even among the Hebrews, as Kalisch has shown satisfactorily. If the literal sense was insisted on in our Lord' s day (Matthew 5:38), it was only by the Sadducees, who declined to give the law a spiritual interpretation.

Exodus 21:26, Exodus 21:27

Assaults on Slaves. The general law of retaliation was not made to extend to slaves. For ordinary blows the slave was not thought entitled to compensation, any more than the child. They were natural incidents of his condition. In extremer cases, where he was permanently injured in an organ or a member, he was, however, considered to have ground of complaint and to deserve a recompense. But for him to revenge himself upon his master by inflicting the same on him was not to be thought of. It would have put the slave into a false position, have led to his prolonged ill-treatment, and have been an undue degradation of the master. Therefore, compulsory emancipation was made the penalty of all such aggravated assaults, even the slightest (Exodus 21:27).

Exodus 21:26, Exodus 21:27

If a man smite the eye, etc. The "eye" seems to be selected as the most precious of our organs, the "tooth" as that the loss of which is of least consequence. The principle was that any permanent loss of any part of his frame entitled the slave to his liberty. A very considerable check must have been put on the brutality of masters by this enactment.

Exodus 21:28-32

Injuries done by cattle to slaves and freemen. For the purpose of inculcating as strongly as possible the principle of the sanctity of human life, the legislator notices the case where mortal injury is done to a person by a domesticated animal. The ox is taken as the example, being the animal most likely to inflict such an injury. In accordance with the declaration already made to Noah (Genesis 9:6), it is laid down that the destructive beast must be killed. Further, to mark the abhorrence in which murder ought to be held, the provision is made, that none of the creature' s flesh must be eaten. The question then arises, is the owner to suffer any punishment? This is answered in the way that natural equity points out—"If he had reason to know the savage temper of the animal, he is to he held responsible; if otherwise, he is to go free." In the former case, the Hebrew law assigned a higher degree of responsibility than accords with modern notions; but practically the result was not very different. The neglectful Hebrew owner was held to have been guilty of a capital offence, but was allowed to "redeem his life" by a fine. His modern counterpart would be held to have been guilty simply of laches or neglect of duty, and would be punished by fine or imprisonment

Exodus 21:28

The ox shall be surely stoned. He shall suffer the same death that would have been the portion of a human murderer. His flesh shall not be eaten. The animal was regarded as accursed, and therefore, as a matter of course, no Hebrew might eat of it. According to the Rabbinical commentators, it was not even lawful to sell the carcase to Gentiles. The owner shall be quiti.e; "shall be liable to no punishment."

Exodus 21:29

If the ox were wont to push with his horns. If he were notoriously, and to his owner' s knowledge, a dangerous animal, which required watching, and no watch was kept on him, then the owner became blame-able, and having by his neglect contributed to a homicide, was "guilty of death."

Exodus 21:30

If there be a fine laid upon him. There can scarcely have been any circumstances under which the penalty of death would have been enforced. No neglect could bring the crime into the category of murder. It is assumed, therefore, that practically the penalty would be a fine, proportioned no doubt to the value of the life taken.

Exodus 21:31

Whether he have gored a son or a daughter. If the sufferer were a child, the value of the life, and therefore the amount of the fine, would be less.

Exodus 21:32

If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant. Hitherto, the case of free persons only has been considered. But the accident might have happened to a slave. Where this was the case, the death of the ox was still made indispensable, and thus far the same sacredness was made to attach to the life of the slave and of the freeman. But, in lieu of a varying fine, the average price of a slave, thirty shekels of silver, was appointed to be paid in all cases, as a compensation to the master

HOMILETICS

Exodus 21:2-11; Exodus 20:1-26, Exodus 21:1-36; Exodus 26:1-37, Exodus 27:1-21; Exodus 32:1-35

The slave laws.

Slave laws belong to all communities, and not to some only, slavery being really a universal and not a partial institution. In the most civilised communities of modern Europe, there are two large classes of slaves—lunatics and criminals. The law openly condemns these last to penal servitude, which may be for life; and this "servitude," as Lord Chief Justice Coleridge has repeatedly pointed out, is simply a form of slavery. Ancient communities differed from modern—

1. In the extent to which slavery prevailed;

2. In the grounds upon which men were bound to it; and

3. In the treatment whereto those bound to it were subjected.

I. EXTENT OF ANCIENT SLAVERY. The slaves in ancient states were almost always more numerous than the freemen. At Athens they amounted to more than four-fifths of the community. Every free person was a slave owner, and some owned hundreds of their fellow-creatures. Perpetual insecurity was felt in consequence of the danger of revolt; and this fear reacted on the treatment of slaves, since it was thought necessary to break their spirit by severities. The evil effects of the institution pervaded all classes of the community, fostering pride and selfishness in the masters, dissimulation, servility, and meanness in the slaves.

II. GROUNDS ON WHICH ANCIENT SLAVERY RESTED. Ancient slavery did not necessarily imply any mental or moral fault in the slave. Some reached it through mental defect, as our lunatics; some through crime, as our convicts (see Exodus 22:3). But the great majority were either born in the condition, or became slaves through the fortune of war. Thus slavery was not commonly a deserved punishment, but an undeserved misfortune. Men found themselves, without any fault of their own, the goods and chattels of another, with no political and few social rights, bound to one who might be in all respects inferior to themselves, but who was their lord and master. A sense of injustice consequently rankled in the bosom of the slave, and made him in most cases dangerous. Slave revolts were of frequent occurrence.

III. TREATMENT OF SLAVES IS ANCIENT STATES. Some considerable differences may be observed between the treatment of slaves in different communities; but there are certain features which seem to have been universal.

1. Slaves were for the most part the property of individuals, and depended largely on the caprice of individuals, who might be harsh or mild, brutally tyrannical, or foolishly indulgent.

2. Slave families might at any time be broken up, the different members being sold to different masters.

3. Slaves might everywhere be beaten, and unless in case of serious injury, there was no inquiry.

4. Very severe labour might be required of them; they might be confined in workshops, which were little better than prisons, made to toil in mines, or chained to the oar as galley slaves.

5. They might be badly lodged, badly clothed, and badly fed, without the law taking any notice.

6. In most places there was no redress for any injury that a slave might suffer short of death; and in some the law took no cognisance even of his murder. The Mosaic legislation, finding slavery established under these conditions, set itself to introduce ameliorations, without condemning the institution altogether. Compare St. Paul' s conduct when he sent Onesimus back to Philemon (Philemon 1:12, Philemon 1:16). It divided slaves into two classes, Hebrew and foreign, changing the slavery of the former into a species of apprenticeship for six years, and guarding, not merely the life, but the members and organs of the latter. It acknowledged the family lie in the case of the slave, and laid down rules tending to check the separation of wives from husbands. It protected slave concubines from the caprice of a sated husband. It absolutely forbade the practice of kidnapping, whereby the slave-market was largely recruited in most countries, putting men-stealers on a par with murderers, and requiring that they should suffer death. We may gather from the Mosaic legislation on the subject—

I. THAT THERE ARE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH SLAVERY SHOULD BE TEMPORARILY MAINTAINED. Where a whole community is uncivilised, or half-civilised, where slavery is an old-established institution, engrained not only into the laws, but into the habits and manners of the people—where there are no prisons or means of building them, and where the alternative for slavery would he the massacre of prisoners taken in war, and of criminals, it may be well that even Christian legislators should for a time tolerate the institution. The Europeans who obtain political influence in Central Africa, and other similar regions are bound to bear this in mind; and while doing their utmost to put down man-stealing, should carefully consider in each case that comes before them, whether slavery can in the particular community be dispensed with or no. To tolerate it for a while is simply to act on the lines laid down by Moses and St. Paul.

II. THAT IF UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SLAVERY HAS TO BE MAINTAINED, ALL POSSIBLE AMELIORATIONS OF IT SHOULD BE INTRODUCED WITHOUT DELAY. The slave is entitled to be protected in life and limb, to he decently lodged, fed, and clothed, to have the enjoyment of the Sunday rest, to be undisturbed in his family relations, to have the honor of his wife and daughters respected, to have an appeal from his master if he regards himself as in any way wronged. The efforts of missionaries and other humane men in uncivilised communities, should be directed primarily to the introduction of such reforms as these into the systems which they find established there.

III. THAT, WHERE DOMESTIC SERVICE HAS SUPERSEDED SLAVERY, THERE IS STILL ROOM FOR AMELIORATIONS IN THE CONDITIONS OF SERVICE. It is not the masters of slaves only who are hard and tyrannical. In all service there is room for the exhibition on the part of the master, of indulgence on the one hand, or strictness and severity on the other. We at the present day may either oppress our servants, or deal kindly with them. True, they may leave us if we oppress them; but a good servant will not readily leave a respectable place, and a good deal of tyranny is often borne before warning is given. It is the duty of masters, not only to "give to their servants that which is just and equal" (Colossians 4:1), but to show them sympathy and kindness, to treat them with consideration, and avoid hurting their feelings. More warmth and friendliness than are at all usual in the present treatment of servants, seem to be required by the fact that they are our brethren in the Lord, joint-heirs of salvation with us, and perhaps to be preferred above us in another world.

Exodus 21:12-14 and Exodus 21:20, Exodus 21:21

Laws on homicide.

Here again, in the time of Moses, a custom, regarded as of absolute obligation upon all, held possession of the ground; and nothing was practicable hut some modification of it. The next-of-kin was "avenger of blood," and was bound to pursue every homicide to the bitter end, whether it was intentional and premeditated (i.e; murder), or done hastily in a quarrel (i.e; manslaughter), or wholly unintentional (i.e; death by misadventure). Moses distinguished between deliberate murder, which the State was to punish capitally (Exodus 21:12-14) and any other sort of homicide, which was left to the avenger of blood. In mitigation of the blood-feud, he interposed the city of refuge, whereto the man who had slain another might flee and be safe until his cause was tried. And in the trial of such persons he introduced the distinction between manslaughter and death by misadventure, allowing the avenger of blood to put the offender to death in the former case, but not in the latter. (Numbers 35:16-25.) Mercy and truth thus went together in the legislation.

I. TRUTH The primary truth is the sacredness of man' s life. In rude times, where it is everywhere "a word and a blow," very severe laws were necessary, if human life was not to be continually sacrificed; and so manslaughter was placed on a par with murder, made a capital offence; the sudden angry blow which caused death, though death might not have been intended, was to receive as its due punishment death at the hands of the "avenger of blood."

II. MERCY. The "avenger of blood" was not allowed to be judge in his own cause. Cases of unpremeditated homicide were to go before the judges, who were to decide whether the death was intentional or by mischance. Mercy was to be shown to the man who had blood on his hands through accident. He was to be safe within the walls of the "city of refuge." Cities of refuge were multiplied, that one might be always within easy reach. Legislation should always seek to combine mercy with justice. Draconian enactments defeat their own purpose, since over-severe laws are sure not to be carried out. The moral sense revolts against them. Thus, when in our own country forgery was a capital offence, juries could not be got to convict of forgery. Laws should be in accordance with the conscience of the community, or they will cease to command respect. Good men will infringe them; and even courts will be slow to enforce obedience when they are infringed. Wise legislators will ever aim at embodying in the law the judgments of the more advanced conscience, and making it thus an instrument' for elevating the moral sentiments of the community.

Exodus 21:15-17

Injuries to parents.

The command to honour father and mother (Exodus 20:12), which is enough for the conscience, and which, if obeyed, would render all further laws upon the subject unnecessary, is here reinforced by two important enactments, intended to restrain those who do not scruple to disobey mere moral laws. The penalty of death is affixed to two crimes:

1. Smiting a parent;

2. Cursing a parent.

I. SMITING A PARENT. When it is considered that our parents represent God to us, that they are in a real sense authors of our being, that they protect and sustain us for years during which we could do nothing for ourselves, and that nature has implanted in our minds an instinctive reverence for them, the punishment of parent-strikers by death will not seem strange or excessive. A son must have become very hardened in guilt, very reckless, very heartless, very brutal, who can bring himself to lift a hand against a father, not to say a mother. There is as much moral guilt in a light blow dealt to one whom we are bound to love, honour, and protect from hurt, as in the utmost violence done to a stranger. However, according to the Talmud, it was not every light blow that was actually punished with death, but only a blow which caused a wound; and, of course, the punishment was only inflicted upon the complaint of the party aggrieved, who would be unlikely to take proceedings, unless the assault was of grave character. Probably the law had very seldom to be enforced. What it did was to invest parents with a sacred and awful character in their children' s eyes, and to induce them to submit to chastisement without resistance.

II. CURSING A PARENT. To curse a parent is almost as unnatural as to strike one. ALL cursing is unsuitable to such a being as man—so full of faults himself, so liable to misjudge the character and conduct of others; but to curse those to whom we owe our existence is simply horrible. The sin is akin to blasphemy, and is awarded the same punishment. At the present day, when the Mosaic law is no longer in force, and when on this point no echoes of the Mosaic legislation are to be traced in existing codes, it is specially incumbent on conscientious persons to observe the spirit of the Mosaic enactments, and (as it were) make a Christian use of them.

Exodus 21:16

The crime of man-stealing.

To steal the purse of a man is a trivial crime; to filch his good name is a serious one; but the worst robbery of all is to steal his person. Civilised, refined, polished, intellectual men, happy in the enjoyment of freedom, wealth, honour, domestic happiness, have gone to sleep in comfort, peace, and fancied security, to wake up in the grip of lawless man-stealers, who have bound them and carried them into a hopeless captivity, far from any relative or friend, to become familiar with every sort of ill-usage and indignity. Cilician and other pirates did this in the olden time; Norman sea-kings in the middle ages; Algerine corsairs so late as the last century. The blood boils when we think of the sufferings inflicted on thousands of our species by these fiends in human shape, without pity, without conscience, without remorse. Death was certainly a punishment not one whit too severe for this atrocious crime, by which the happiest of the human race might become suddenly one of the most wretched. In modern times, the conscience of mankind, enlightened by eighteen centuries of Christianity, has revolted against the enormity long committed with impunity on the negro races of Western Africa, and the slave-trade has been proclaimed a form of piracy. Yet the accursed traffic still continues in the centre and in the east of the "Dark Continent;" still quiet villagers are awakened in the dead of night by the news that the kidnapper is upon them; harmless, peaceable men, together with their wives and children, are carried off in hundreds by Arab and sometimes by so-called Christian traders, driven to the coast in gangs, shipped in crowded dhows, and sold to the best bidder in the marts of Arabia and Persia. It is a subject well worthy the consideration of Christian governments, whether a revival of the Mosaic enactment is not required, to stop a trade the profits of which are so enormous, that nothing short of death is likely to deter avaricious men from engaging in it.

Exodus 21:23-25

The rule of retaliation.

"To suffer that a man has done is strictest, straightest right," was a line which passed into a proverb in ancient Greece. The administration of justice is rendered very simple and easy by the adoption of the principle, which approves itself to simple minds, and might work well in a simple state of society. The law of "life for life" (Exodus 21:23) remains, and must always remain, the basis on which society justifies the execution of the murderer. If "eve for eye, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Exodus 21:24), were enforced, the criminal could not complain; but the State would suffer by the mutilation and consequent debilitation of its members. In the administration of "burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe" (Exodus 21:25), there would be difficulties, it being almost impossible for the public executioner to inflict a burn, wound, or blow exactly similar to the burn, wound, or blow given by the criminal. These difficulties lead naturally to the substitution of "compensation" for "retaliation," which we find sanctioned in Exodus 21:19, Exodus 21:22, Exodus 21:30, and Exodus 21:32. If the damage caused by a wound, burn, blow, or even by the loss of a slave or wife, can be estimated, and the injurer be made to pay that amount to the injured party, then the original loss is in a certain sense retaliated, and the wrongdoer" suffers what he has done." In the administration of justice the rule of retaliation has thus still a place. Retaliation is made unlawful by Christianity (Matthew 5:38 42), not in the administration of justice, but in the private dealings of man with man. We must not ourselves give blow for blow, "wound for wound, burning for burning;" no, nor gibe for gibe, slight for slight, insult for insult. Firstly, because we are not fair judges in our own case, and should be almost sure to overestimate our own injury; and, secondly, because we should provoke a continuance of strife. We should not even be eager to prosecute those who have injured us, if there be a chance that by patience and forbearance we may bring them to a better mind. We should be content to "suffer wrong," if by so doing we may win souls to Christ. The Christian law is, "Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you;" and the ground of the law is, that by so doing we may "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).

HOMILIES BY J. ORR

Exodus 21:1

The judgments.

The "rights" or "judgments" contained in this and the two following chapters show the manner in which the spirit and principles of the preceding moral legislation were intended to be applied to the regulation of the outward life of the Jewish state.

Exodus 21:2-12

Hebrew bond-service.

The laws relating to this subject are to be found, in addition to those in the present chapter, in Exodus 12:43-45; Exodus 22:3; Le Exodus 25:39 -55; Exodus 26:13; Deuteronomy 12:12, Deuteronomy 12:18; Deuteronomy 15:15-19; Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 16:14; Deuteronomy 21:10-15; Deuteronomy 23:15; Deuteronomy 24:7. An impartial examination of these laws will show how fallacious must be every argument attempted to be deduced from them in favour of modern slave-holding. The Mosaic law did not establish slavery—at most it accorded to it a very modified toleration. It accepted it as an existing usage, labouring to the utmost to reduce, and as far as that was practicable, to abolish, the cvils connected with it. It could not well do more, for slavery, under the then existing conditions of society, was in some form or other almost inevitable, and was often the only alternative to a worse evil. Yet the law in its entire spirit and fundamental doctrines was opposed to slavery. Its doctrines of the dignity of man as made in God' s image, and of the descent of all mankind from one pair, contained in principle the recognition of every human right. As a member of the theocracy, redeemed by Jehovah for himself, every Israelite was free by constitutional right (see the emphatic annunciation of this principle in Le 25:42, 55; Deuteronomy 26:13). If from temporary causes, the Hebrew lost the use of his freedom, the right to it was not thereby destroyed. It returned to him at the beginning of the seventh year. A law can hardly be regarded as favourable to slavery which makes man-stealing a crime punishable by death (Deuteronomy 24:18), and which enacts that a fugitive slave, taking refuge in Israel from his heathen master, is not to be delivered back to him, but is to be permitted to reside where he will in the land (Deuteronomy 23:15, Deuteronomy 23:16). Bondsmen (both Hebrew and non-Israelite) were incorporated as part of the nation, had legal rights, sat with the other members of the family at the board of the passover, took part in all religious festivals, and had secured to them the privilege of the Sabbath rest. The master was responsible for the treatment of his slave; and if he injured him, even to the extent of smiting out a tooth, the slave thereby regained his freedom (verses 26, 27). A female slave was to be treated with strictest honour (Deuteronomy 24:7-11), and with due consideration for her womanly feelings (Deuteronomy 21:10-15). Humanity and kindness are constantly inculcated. When the Hebrew bondsman went out in the seventh year he was to go forth loaded with presents (Deuteronomy 15:13-16). The legislation of Moses is thus seen to be studiously directed to the protection of the slave' s interests and rights. If there is a seeming exception, it is the one precept in Deuteronomy 24:20, on which see below. The law as a whole must be admitted to be framed in the spirit of the greatest tenderness and consideration, recognising the servant' s rights as a man, his privileges as a member of the theocracy, his feelings as a husband and father. As respects the Hebrew bondsman, indeed, his position did not greatly differ from that of one now who sells his labour to a particular person, or engages to work to him on definite terms for a stated period (Fairbairn). He could be reduced to servitude only by debt, or as the penalty for theft. In this latter case (Exodus 22:3), liberty was justly forfeited—is forfeited still in the case of those convicted of felony, and doomed to compulsory labours, or to transportation, or lengthened terms of imprisonment. The laws in the present section embrace three eases—

1. That of the Hebrew servant who is unmarried (Deuteronomy 24:2). He goes out at the beginning of the seventh year.

2. That of the Hebrew servant who is married. In this case, if the wife came in with her husband, she goes out with him in the year of release (Deuteronomy 24:3); but if his master has given him a wife—presumably a non-Israelite—he has not the privilege of taking her with him when he leaves. He may, however, elect to remain in his master' s service, in which case his servitude becomes perpetual (Deuteronomy 24:5, Deuteronomy 24:6). The retention of the wife may appear oppressive, but it was, as Keil points out, "an equitable consequence of the possession of property of slaves at all."

3. The third case is that of a Hebrew daughter, sold by her father to be a maidservant, i.e; as the sequel shows, as a housekeeper and concubine (Deuteronomy 24:7-12). The master may betroth her to himself, or may give her to his son, but in either case the law strictly guards her honour and her rights. If her full rights are not accorded her, she is entitled to her freedom (Deuteronomy 24:11). Lessons.

Exodus 21:12-18

Murder and related capital offences.

It is characteristic of the law of Moses that its first care, in the practical ordering of the Hebrew theocracy, is for the rights of the slave. These are dealt with in the opening paragraphs. The next laws relate to murder, to man-stealing, and to smiting and cursing of parents.

I. MURDER (Exodus 21:12-15). The same spirit of justice which attaches severe penalties to proved crimes, leads to the drawing of a sound line of distinction between voluntary and involuntary actions. Only for actions of the former class is the individual held responsible. Homicide which is purely accidental is not treated as a crime (Exodus 21:13). Not only is the man who kills his neighbour inadvertently not punished with death, but the law interposes to protect him from the fury of such as might unjustly seek his life, by appointing for him a place of refuge. (Cf. Numbers 35:1-34.; Deuteronomy 19:1-21.) The deliberate murderer, on the other hand, was to be taken even from God' s altar, and put to death (Exodus 21:14). Deliberate murder implies "malice aforethought"—"intent to kill"—but it was sufficient to expose a man to the penalty attaching to this crime, that he had been guilty of an act of violence, resulting in another' s death (Exodus 21:12; cf. Exodus 21:19, Exodus 21:23). Note on this law—

1. The recognition of Divine Providence in the so-called accidents of life (Exodus 21:13).

2. The sacredness attached to the human person. The religious ground of the enactment is given in Genesis 9:6—"Whoso sheddeth man' s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." "The true Shechinah is man" (Chrysostom).

3. The ethical character of the Hebrew religion. The altar is to afford no sanctuary to the murderer. The Bible knows nothing of a religion which is in divorce from morality. This law condemns by implication all connivance at, or sheltering of, immorality, under religious sanctions (Romish huckstering of pardons, etc.).

II. MAN-STEALING (Genesis 9:16). The statute is perfectly general. There is no evidence that it applied only to Hebrews, though these are specially mentioned in Deuteronomy 24:7. The stealing and selling of a Hebrew was a direct offence against Jehovah. (Cf. Le 25:42.) "For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondsmen." The passage is a direct condemnation of the modern slave trade.

III. SMITING AND CURSING OF PARENTS (Deuteronomy 24:15-17). These offences also were to be punished with death. The fact that they are bracketed in the law with murder and manstealing, gives a peculiar impression of their enormity. As if the statute book had said, after laying down the law for murder—"And for the purposes of this law, the smiting or cursing of a father or a mother shall be regarded as equivalent to the taking of a life." And this view of the matter is, in a moral respect, hardly too strong. It would be difficult to say what crime a man is not capable of, who could deliberately smite or curse father or mother. As special reasons for the severity of the law, observe—

1. Hebrew society rested largely on a patriarchal basis, and the due maintenance of parental authority was a necessity of its existence. Just as it is found still that, whatever the form of social order, the spread of a spirit of insubordination to parents is the invariable prelude to a universal loosening of ties and obligations.

2. Parents are regarded as standing to their children in the relation of visible representatives of Jehovah (see fifth commandment). This, in the Hebrew theocracy, gave to the crime of cursing or smiting a parent the character of a treasonable act. It was an offence against the majesty of Jehovah, and as such, required to be promptly avenged. On the same ground it was forbidden to revile magistrates, or curse the ruler of the people (Exodus 22:28). The law is a standing testimony to the heinousness attaching in the sight of God to the sin of filial disobedience.—J.O.

Exodus 21:18-36

Bodily injuries.

The laws in this section may be thus classified:—

I. INJURIES BY MAN.

1. Strivers (Exodus 21:18, Exodus 21:19). The man who injured another in strife was required to pay for the loss of his time, and to cause him to be thoroughly healed. Had the man died, the case would have come under the law of Exodus 21:12. As it was, blame attached to both parties, and the law waived the right to further satisfaction. Note—

2. Servants (Exodus 21:20, Exodus 21:21; Exodus 26:1-37, Exodus 27:1-21). A master was not to be allowed to injure with impunity even a slave purchased with his "money." If the slave was wantonly murdered, the case would come under the law of murder. If he died under chastisement, the master was punished at discretion of the judges. If the slave was in any way maimed, he obtained his freedom. It has been remarked that this is the earliest certain trace of legislation for the protection of the slave. See below.

3. A woman with child (Exodus 21:22-26). The injury here is indirect. The woman is hurt in interfering in the strife between two men. Yet the law holds the man who has injured her responsible for his fault, and decrees that he shall pay heavy damages. If evil effects follow, he is to be punished under the jus talionis.

II. INJURIES BY BEASTS. The distinction formerly observed as made by the law between voluntary and involuntary actions (Exodus 21:13, Exodus 21:14) meets here with fresh illustrations.

1. If an ox gore a man or a woman, and the gored person dies, the ox is to be stoned—a testimony to the sacredness of human life (cf. Genesis 9:5), but the owner shall be quit (Exodus 21:28).

2. If, however, the owner had been previously warned of the dangerous habits of the animal, and had not kept it in, there devolved on him the entire responsibility of the fatal occurrence.

III. INJURIES TO BEASTS. The same principles of equity apply here.

1. If an ox or an ass fall into a pit which has been carelessly left uncovered, the owner of the pit is required to pay in full (Exodus 21:33, Exodus 21:34).

2. If one man' s ox kill another' s, the loss is to fall equally on both owners (Exodus 21:35).

3. If the owner of the ox was aware of its propensity to gore, and had not kept it in, he must, as before, bear the whole loss (Exodus 21:36). The equity of this series of precepts is not more conspicuous than their humanity. The important lesson taught by these enactments is, that we cannot evade responsibility for our actions. Our actions abide with us. They cleave to us. We cannot shake ourselves rid of them. We are responsible, not only for the actions themselves, but for the consequences which flow from them—for the influences they set in motion. And we are responsible, not only for direct, but for indirect consequences (Exodus 21:22). Involuntary acts are not imputed to us, but all voluntary ones are. We are responsible, as well for what we do not do (having the power to do it), as for what we actually perform. We are responsible for the effects of negligence and carelessness. These principles have wide application. They cover the whole range of conduct. They apply to the moral sphere as well as to the physical. They apply, not simply to definite acts, but to the entire influence exerted by our lives. What a responsibility is this! Only grace will enable us to bear its burden.—J.O.

Exodus 21:20

The servant dying under chastisement.

This law has frequently been seized on as a blot on the Mosaic legislation—as inculcating the odious doctrine which lies at the root of modern slave-systems, viz. that the slave is a mere "chattel," and as such, has no personal rights—is entitled to no protection of life or limb. The interpretation put on this particular clause is the more unfair, that it must be admitted to be opposed to the spirit and enactments of the law as a whole, taking, as this does, so exceptionally humane a view of the slave' s position (see above); and is, moreover, directly in the teeth of such clauses as those in the immediate context—"If a man smite the eye of a servant," etc. (Exodus 21:26, Exodus 21:27). The enactment will appear in its right light if we view it with regard to the following considerations:—

1. The law deals with slavery, not from the point of view of abstract right—from which point of view it could only be condemned—but as a recognised part of the then existing constitution of society. It takes its existence for granted. It deals with it as statesmen have constantly to deal with institutions and customs which they do not wholly approve of, but which they cannot summarily abolish without entailing on society worse evils than those from which escape is sought. But if the right to hold property in slaves—to however limited an extent—be granted, the corollaries of this possession must be granted also. A slave cannot be treated in the eye of the law quite as a free man. His position is relatively a degraded one. The owner of slaves has pecuniary and proprietary rights in his bondservants, which the law must take account of. The slave is the owner' s "money."

2. The aim of the law is not to place the slave at the master' s mercy, but to restrict the master' s power over him. Ancient law recognised no restriction. The Mosaic law does. It goes at least thus far, that if the slave dies under the rod, the master shall be punished. The drift and bent of the law is for the slave' s benefit.

3. It is important to remember that the case is treated here, not in its moral aspects, but solely as a question in criminal jurisprudence. The moral law has its own say in the matter, and. pronounces its own judgment, irrespectively of whether the individual is proceeded against under criminal law or not. The master who, by the undue exercise of the large right of chastisement which the usage of the time allowed him, occasioned his slave' s death, was responsible to God for the excess of passion which led to this catastrophe. The law of Moses gave no sanction to the master to endanger his servant' s life with the rod. But moral offences do not always admit of being dealt with as crimes. To convict of murder, e.g; there is proof required of malice prepense, and this, in the case before us, was precisely what was not forthcoming. The legal tribunals had. authority to punish the master, if the slave died under his hand; if immediate death did not take place, the master was to have the benefit of the doubt, and in view of the heavy money loss sustained in the death of the slave (on the average, "thirty shekels of silver," Exodus 21:32), was not to be further proceeded against.

4. The law in this verse—taken in conjunction with others—was really a powerful deterrent from the misuse of authority on the part of the master.

Exodus 21:23-26

An eye for an eye,

etc. (cf. Matthew 5:38-43). The principle here enunciated is that of the jus talionis. Stripped of its concrete form, it is simply the assertion of the dictate of justice, that when a wrong has been done to anyone, and through him to society, an adequate compensation ought to be rendered. So rendered, it is the principle underlying every system of criminal jurisprudence. We need not suppose that (in Jewish society) it was ever literally acted upon. Commutations of various kinds would be admitted (cf. Exodus 21:30). As a rule for courts of justice, therefore, this principle must remain. Bat error arises when this rule, intended for the regulation of public justice, is transferred into private life, and is applied there to sanction the spirit of revenge. This is to pervert it from its proper purpose. So far from sanctioning private retaliation, the object of this law is to set limits to the passion for revenge, by taking the right to avenge out of the hands of private individuals altogether, and committing it to public officers. In contrast with the retaliatory disposition, our Lord inculcates on his disciples a forbearing and forgiving spirit; a spirit which seeks to overcome by love; a spirit, even, which is willing to forego legal rights, whenever by doing so, it can promote the good of a fellow man.—J.O.

HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG

Exodus 21:1-11

Regulations for the treatment of slaves.

I. THE CONDITIONAL ELEMENT RUNNING THROUGH THESE REGULATIONS. What a difference there is here from the strong, uncompromising imperatives of Exodus 20:1-26! There we feel that we have to do with man, not only as he is at the time, a Hebrew in the wilderness, but with every man, in every age, and in all sorts of social circumstances. The ten commandments simply assume humanity and society. But the regulations now to be considered abound in the word "if." If certain things are done, then certain other things must be done. But then these things need not to be done at all. A man need not buy a servant; a man need not take a woman to be his companion in servitude, knowing that thereby he runs the risk of being separated from her and his offspring afterwards. These regulations have to be made for free agents, acting often thoughtlessly, or in a matter-of-fact compliance with the customs of their country. There was no real need for any of these "ifs" to pass into action. Consider how ludicrous such regulations would appear if propounded as possibilities in modern English society. The actions which they assume would be scouted as scarcely conceivable. Our notions of property, of service, and of the position of woman are quite different. And yet how many things there are even now, commonly accepted indeed as right and proper, which are no more defensible on the highest grounds than these practices of Israel in the wilderness. There are practices among Christians now, considered proper enough according to the present notions of society, and yet the day is assuredly coming when they too will seem as strange and abhorrent as the practice of a man selling his daughter to be a maid-servant. Things done without scruple, even by enlightened Christians, are far enough from what Christ would have them be. And all that can be reached is to regulate and mitigate what there is not sufficient enlightenment of conscience to abolish.

II. THE EVIDENT DESIRE TO BE JUST TO ALL THE INDIVIDUALS CONCERNED IN THESE REGULATIONS. The purchased individual must have his benefit by liberation in the seventh year; and yet the master is to be treated justly too by the recognition of the woman whom, as it were, he had lent to be a companion to the slave. So also if the slave has a notion of staying, he is compelled to treat it as a serious matter, and not play fast or loose either with master or companion. She who had been, as it were, a concubine, becomes by his desire to stay, lifted to the full privileges of a wife; and to leave then would be a wrong to her as well as the master. The principle holds good all through human society—whatsoever we want in the way of temporal advantages we must take with certain limitations. Whatever benefit there might be in buying a slave must be taken along with the limitation of the seventh year. If the slave chose to have a companion, he must make up his mind how to treat her at the six years' end; either to have liberty and lose her or keep her with life-long bondage. We should choose our position in this world, looking steadily for the guidance of infinite wisdom in our choice. If we be sure of that, then all advantages will be golden to us, and we shall not for a moment think of grumbling because of the disadvantages that must inevitably accompany them.

III. Still though there is a desire here to be just to all, IT IS EVIDENTLY THE WEAK AND UNFORTUNATE WHO ARE CHIEFLY THOUGHT OF. It is for the sake of the slave and the despised woman that these regulations are here specified. The strong in such circumstances are as a rule well able—only too well able—to look after themselves. It is the glorious mark, again and again appearing in God' s dealings, that he loves to bring the enslaved nearer to liberty, the degraded nearer to the normal elevation of humanity.—Y.

Exodus 21:12-17

Capital offences.

As we look through the penalties specified for wrong-doing in chaps, 21; 22; we notice that they are divisible into two great classes. Some offences are punished by death, and others by some sort of compensation for the injury done. The graduated terms of imprisonment with which we are familiar, were not of course possible to the Israelites, and if possible, perhaps would not have seemed desirable. We notice that in this chapter five capital offences are specified; there were doubtless many besides; but these are enough to show the principles on which Jehovah acted in taking away the life of the offender.

I. THE MURDERER PROPER. In Exodus 20:1-26. we find the general command not to kill; and here is the instruction for the Israelites what to do with the man who deliberately and maliciously took away the life of a fellow-man. This, it is plain, was done under special authority and for special reasons. It was Jehovah' s regulation for his people in their then circumstances; but we must not quote it as applicable to the punishment of the murderer generally. If on the authority of this passage we are bound to punish the murderer by death, obviously we are bound to punish him who reviles his parents, in the same way. There were reasons then for putting the murderer to death which do not now apply. The principle underlying the enactment seems to be that murder is cue of the crimes which must be followed by the severest penalty man is disposed to inflict. So long as the infliction of a death penalty at all harmonises with the general consciousness of men, it is plain that any lesser penalty for murder is inadequate. But if once we get to the position—and it is to be hoped we are ever getting nearer to it—that only the sternest necessity justifies taking human life away, we shall then substitute perpetual imprisonment as the extreme penalty. We shall all feel then that murder is assuredly a crime which should condemn the perpetrator to life-long seclusion from the society of his fellow-men.

II. THE SMITER OF FATHER OR MOTHER. Here we see how different are the principles underlying Divine law from those underlying human law. In a modern English court of justice the smiting of a parent might perhaps receive the highest penalty incurred for the commission of an assault; but it would never be exalted into a special offence. But God in his government of Israel makes an offence against a parent to be one of the first magnitude. The severe penalty specified here corresponds with the position occupied in the Decalogue by the commandment to honour parents. God we see is ever saying and doing things to set great honour on the family, and indicate great expectations from it. It has been a boldly proclaimed principle in all ages, never more proclaimed than now, and often with great arrogance and intolerance, that individuals and families exist for the State. But here in the state that is under God' s special governance provision is made that, in its punishments, that state shall honour parental authority and dignity. And of course when once smiting a parent was made into such a serious offence, it was but carrying the principle out to a logical and necessary conclusion to make the curse as great an offence. Generally, indeed, the rebellious reviling word of the lips would do more injury, inflict more pain, and be more promotive of insubordination than the blow of the hand. In the light of this enactment we see how much God expects from the parental relation. One, who in the Divine order of things, stood so high that smiting or cursing him was made a capital offence, must have been a man to whom Jehovah looked for great services, great contributions to the Divine glory, and to the prosperity of Israel.

III. THE MAN-STEALER. Within the compass of the same chapter we find provision made for recognised and openly practised customs of servitude, and also for a kind of slavery which by the penalty attached to the procuring of it is indicated as one of the worst of crimes. There was slavery and slavery. There was the buying of men in such sort as is indicated in Exodus 20:2; there was also such stealing and selling as we find an actual instance of in Genesis 37:28. Such crimes were evidently only too possible, and once committed, it might be very hard to discover the criminal or restore the captive to liberty. There was perhaps many a Joseph—and when we consider his sufferings, and the sufferings of his father, we shall not wonder at the penalty attached to the crime. Then suppose an Israelite were to sell a brother Israelite to some band of Midian merchantmen, who would take him into a far country, what would the upshot be? Not only would he be lost to loving kindred, and shut out from the sight, of his dear native land, but excluded from religious privileges. God had brought out Israel from, the house of bondage, that in freedom, necessary freedom, they might find him their God, and become, in many privileges, his people. What a monstrous thing then for an Israelite, through cupidity or revenge, to sell away his brother from peculiar, from unique possibilities! He would not find in any other land the things which God intended him to have at home.

IV. THE KNOWING OWNER OF A DANGEROUS BEAST. (Genesis 37:29.) Here is the sound principle—a principle which goes deep in its application—that a man is responsible for all foreseen consequences of an act which it is in his power to prevent. Examine the illustrative instances mentioned. A man is the owner of a pushing ox, well known to be a brute of vicious and uncertain temper. The owner indeed has been made specially acquainted with the fact. He can then take one of the two courses, either put sufficient watch over the beast, as not knowing when it may be dangerous to human life and limb, or else in sheer recklessness determine to take the chance of all keeping right. How plain it is that a man of such a heedless spirit is not fit to have free course among his fellow-men! A human life, be it that of the veriest stranger, a mere waif and stray, or say that of an old man on the very verge of the grave, is of much more account than the life of an ox, though it be in the very prime of its strength and usefulness. The property even of a millionaire must perish sooner than the life of the poorest be imperilled. The owner of the ox is looked to here, just because the brute itself cannot be looked to. The master would not be held responsible for the action of a human servant as for that of a brute beast. And is it not plain that the announcement of this penalty here has a very stringent application to all self indulgence? When a man is told that his course of action, however profitable, however pleasant to himself, has been actually injurious to some and is likely to be injurious to others, what is he to do? If he would do as Christ wishes him—the Christ who came to fulfil the law and the prophets—he would straightway refrain from that course of action. Commercial profits and temporal pleasures will be dearly purchased by us, if one day we have to stand before the throne of him who judges righteous judgment, to answer for selfish, reckless trifling with the best interests of our neighbours The owner of the ox may say, "Let people keep out of my animal' s way and guard themselves." God, we see, did not admit that principle with regard to the pushing ox; nor will he with regard to our pushing business habits or our pushing pleasures—our reckless resolution to get all we can for ourselves, at whatever risk of loss to those who may come in our way.

V. From the instances given, we may easily infer WHAT OTHER OFFENCES OF THE SAME KIND WOULD BE PUNISHED IN THE SAME WAY. Wherever there was anything peculiarly presumptuous or daring, there the occasion for death seems to have been found. That which most deeply affects the constitution of society is to be treated with the greatest severity. One man might kill another; but because it was misadventure, he would escape with temporary inconvenience. Another man, for no more than the utterance of the tongue, has to die the death. Thus, even in a scheme of government which had so much to do with outward acts as had God' s government of Israel, we have regulations which got their severity almost entirely from the evidenced state of heart on the part of the transgressor. In purely human laws the magnitude of the actual offence is always taken into account; there must be some tangible injury to person or property. But it is the very glory of these illustrative penalties here, that cursing father or mother is punished with as much severity as the actual taking away of life. How true it is from these five instances that God' s thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as our ways!—Y.

Exodus 21:22-25

The requirement of strict equivalents in making compensation for injuries.

The particular illustration here is confessedly obscure; but there can hardly be a mistake as to the principle illustrated, viz; that when injury is inflicted on the person, the very best should be done that can be done to make an adequate compensation. When property is taken it can often be restored or things put practically as they were before; but when the person is seriously injured, there is then no possibility of exact restoration. Hence the injurer might be inclined to say that because he could not do everything by way of compensation he was at liberty to do nothing. But the requirement comes in to stop him from such easy-going reflections. Eve for eye is wanted. You must do your best to restore what you have destroyed. Obviously the purpose of the regulation is, not to justify or aid in anything like revenge, but to make men be contented with the best they can get in substitution for the injury that has been done. The regulation of course was never meant to be interpreted literally, any more than our Lord' s counsel that he who had been smitten on the right cheek, should turn the other to the smiter. What good would it do literally to render an eye for an eye? That would be great loss to the person injuring and not the slightest gain to the person injured. Persistent requirement of compensation is to be distinguished from a passionate seeking for revenge. And be it noted that this requirement of compensation is not to be omitted under any erroneous notions of what weakness and self-denial may compel from us as Christians. We must keep to the principle underlying the regulation here, as well as to that other glorious and beautiful principle which our Lord ]aid down in quoting this regulation (Matthew 5:39). He spoke to stop revenge. But surely he would have been the first to say, on needful occasion, that reckless men must not be suffered to inflict injury on the supposition that Christians would not resent it. Certainly we are not to seek compensation for injuries or punishment of those who injure simply to gratify private feelings, or get a private advantage. But if conscience is clear as to its being for the public good, we must be very urgent and pertinacious in demanding compensation. We may be sure our Master would ever have us contend with all meekness and gentleness, but also with all bravery and stedfastness for all that is right. But the thing of most importance to be learnt from this regulation is, that the most precious things attainable by us are beyond human malice or carelessness to spoil in the slightest degree. The treasures God loves to make the peculiar possession of his children are such as eye has not seen. The eye may be lost, and yet the enjoyment of these treasures remain—nay more, the very loss of the natural may increase the susceptibility of the spiritual in us. The very crippling of the body may help us to make wonderful advances towards the perfect man in Christ Jesus.—Y.

HOMILIES BY G. A. GOODHART

Exodus 21:5, Exodus 21:6

Mine ears hast thou opened.

Slavery not usually considered a desirable condition. The Israelites as a people were just casting the slough of it, and God helps them in their social ordinances by emphasising the value of freedom. None the less, even here, a higher state than mere freedom is suggested; voluntary servitude may be preferred to liberty, and is very near akin to sonship. Consider:—

I. THE PREFERENCE. Naturally, to a slave freedom is an object. Slavery was a misfortune or a punishment resulting from debt or misconduct (cf. Le Exodus 25:39; Exodus 22:3). Thus viewed God only permitted it to continue at most for six years. Every Hebrew had been redeemed by him; and therefore permanent slavery to man would have been an infringement of his rights of ownership. Temporary serfdom under the conditions which he imposed secured his rights and the privileges of those whom he had redeemed [cf. the right of a tenant to sublet a house by arrangement with the actual owner]. The relation between a serf and his employer was thus carefully defined and limited; in so far as they were linked together by a purely external bond, that bond ceased to exist at the close of six years' servitude. During six years, however, a firmer bond might have been formed and strengthened. Possession of the slave' s body does not carry with it the possession of his affections; they cannot be bought and sold, but they may be won. If the owner during six years could find bands to bind the heart (Hosea 11:4); in such case, the serf desiring it, a permanent relation might be established. It is not the abnegation of freedom, it is the exercise of freedom to choose for oneself; if a man was so bound to his employer that he preferred continuing in his service, God was willing to endorse such a preference with his consent. Nowadays, the relation of servant and employer is still more temporary than of old. At the same time, now as ever, love can prevail to win the affections and so weave by means of them a permanent and enduring bond. Love transmutes the conditions of servitude. It changes them into something which is preferable to freedom. The cords of a man bind more firmly than any other cords; but they do not confine or fetter.

II. THE SIGN OF THE PREFERENCE. The servant who wished to remain a servant was to be brought before the judges (Elohim), the representatives of God. As God' s ministers they were empowered to permit the satisfaction of his desire. The ear pierced against the door post was the outward sign of this sacrament of servitude. Henceforth the man by his own desire was permanently united to the family of his employer. The pierced ear testified to the pierced heart. The sign of slavery was the badge of love.

III. SERVANTS OF GOD. The relation of the slave to his employer is analogous to the relation between the natural man and God. All men are his servants—debtors who cannot pay their debts. The relation however may be of a temporary character; God seeks to make it permanent by winning our hearts and our affections. Work for him in this world we must, willingly or unwillingly. He would have us willing servants; compulsory service has no moral value. "The ears opened" (Psalms 40:6), in token of the heart won, are of more value than sacrifice and offering. Are we such willing servants? (Isaiah 1:5). He is willing to "open our ears," to take us as his own for ever, but we must also ourselves be willing:—"He hath opened mine ears and I was not rebellious." Slavery is a state of imperfection; but so also is the miscalled liberty of independence; the only perfect state for man is that "service which is perfect freedom."—G.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/exodus-21.html. 1897.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.
sell
Nehemiah 5:5
go out
2,3
Reciprocal: Genesis 31:15 - sold us;  Deuteronomy 21:14 - thou shalt;  Isaiah 50:1 - or which

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/exodus-21.html.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

7.Sell his daughter — This might occur because of extreme poverty and want. Nehemiah 5:5. The verses following show that this kind of a sale was contemplated as essentially a betrothal; but they also serve to exhibit the inferior position in which women were held as compared with men. They might be sold by their parents for maidservants, and so take the place of concubines in the family of the purchaser. But this statute was attended by the following provisions: (1.) A maidservant, thus acquired, was not to obtain her freedom in the seventh year, like the men-servants of Exodus 21:2. (2.) She could not be sold into a strange nation. (3.) She might be redeemed, either by her father, were he able, or by another Hebrew who desired her for a concubine. (4.) Her master might betroth her to his son, and in that case she was to be treated by him as a daughter. (5.) Her rights as a concubine were not to be changed by his taking another woman into the same relation. (6.) If her rights were withheld she was entitled to freedom. On the whole these laws, though far below the standard of Christian ethics, were mild and tolerant for the time.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 21:7". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/exodus-21.html. 1874-1909.