1 "Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them:
2 "If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing.
A Hebrew servant would serve only six years then be set free in the seventh year. This was to prevent perpetual servanthood. Sometimes people would sell themselves into servanthood to repay debts. The servant would be released without "severance pay" when they left.Exodus 21:3
3 "If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him.
If the servant was married before he was purchased, when he leaves, his wife and any children born by her go with him.Exodus 21:4
4 "If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.
If he marries during his time of service, his wife and any children belong to his master even after he is freed. He can then wait for her time to be up if he wishes. But this only applied to Hebrew servants. Servants of another nationality did not fall under this rule. Servants of another nationality could be kept forever.Exodus 21:5-6
5 "But if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,'
6 "then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.
If he wants to stay with his wife and children, he can choose to serve his master forever. The servant would be taken before the judges to show this was of his own free will, then a leather punch tool was used to pierce the earlobe as an outward sign of his commitment to his master forever.Exodus 21:7-11
7 "And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do.
8 "If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her.
9 "And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters.
10 "If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights.
11 "And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.
The selling of a daughter to be a servant was the dowry for a marriage contract. She was not to be sent to work in the fields as the male servants were to do (for her own protection). If the buyer wasn't happy with her, one of her relatives could buy her marriage contract back. The buyer couldn't sell her to a foreign people.
He could buy her for his son instead of himself. If this was done he must treat her like a daughter!
If he buys her as his wife and then takes another wife, he must continue to give his first wife the same food, clothing and marriage rights as before the second marriage. If any of these things diminish, the first wife is free to leave without her contract being purchased by a relative. She must however leave without taking anything with her.Exodus 21:12-14
12 "He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.
13 "However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.
14 "But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.
If one man kills another man with premeditation he should be put to death without refuge or mercy (upholding the death penalty). If it wasn't premeditated then there were cities of refuge that God appointed for them to flee to and live until the current high priest died, then all non-premeditated crimes were forgiven.
If a relative of the deceased hunted you for vengeance, they were to be killed, but if they came across your path accidentally they had the right to seek vengeance against you. Apparently one of the things people would do was to run up and grab hold of an altar of God, because it would defile God's altar to have human blood spilled of it.Exodus 21:15
15 "And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
If you hit either your father or mother, you are to be put to death. God is very serious about honoring and respecting your parents.Exodus 21:16
16 "He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.
Kidnappers are to be put to death, whether they still have the person or have sold him to someone else. Joseph's brothers would have been put to death if this had been a law during their lifetime. Watching the news, we would see a lot of executions today!Exodus 21:17
17 "And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
If you curse either your father or mother, you are to be put to death. God is very serious about honoring and respecting your parents.Exodus 21:18-19
18 "If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to his bed,
19 "if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted. He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed.
If men fight and a man is hurt as a result but doesn't die the other man has to pay for his loss of time in whatever his profession is and he must provide and pay for any medical help and supplies. No further punishment is to be laid on him.Exodus 21:20-21
20 "And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished.
21 "Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.
If you beat your servant and he dies, you are to be punished. The Hebrew word for "punish" in verse 20 is "nawkam" which means: punish, revenge or take revenge. If the servant lives for at least 1-2 days after the beating the master will not be punished, as it would be treated as manslaughter rather than murder.Exodus 21:22-25
22 "If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman's husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
23 "But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life,
24 "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25 "burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
If a pregnant woman is hurt from men fighting and delivers prematurely, but the mother and baby are alright, the husband will decide the punishment and the judges will set a fine to be paid to the husband in addition to the punishment. If there is any harm to the mother or child, the punishment will be paid in kind.Exodus 21:26-27
26 "If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye.
27 "And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.
If a master hits a servant so that he loses a tooth or an eye, the servant is free to leave. This was to prevent excessive punishments of servants.Exodus 21:28
28 "If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted.
If an ox kills anyone, the ox is to be killed and NOT eaten, as I suspect disease (mad cow disease?) would cause such behavior. The owner is not responsible in such a case.Exodus 21:29-31
29 "But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death.
30 "If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him.
31 "Whether it has gored a son or gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him.
If the owner knew the ox had a history of killing and the owner didn't confine the ox, then both the ox and the owner were to be killed for the ox was known to murder and the owner did not prevent recurrence of the matter. This would prevent callousness on the part of the owner, an "Oh well" or a "Your loss, not mine" attitude. If the owner paid the amount set by the judges, he could redeem his own life.Exodus 21:32
32 "If the ox gores a male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
If it was a servant that was injured or killed, their master would be paid and the ox killed. 30 shekels of silver was about 4 ounces of silver, the selling price of a slave.Exodus 21:33-34
33 "And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it,
34 "the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner, but the dead animal shall be his.
If a man digs a hole or well and doesn't cover it up and an animal falls in the hole and dies, he will buy the dead animal from its owner. Again, this enforces accountability and safety.Exodus 21:35-36
35 "If one man's ox hurts another's, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the money from it; and the dead ox they shall also divide.
36 "Or if it was known that the ox tended to thrust in time past, and its owner has not kept it confined, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall be his own.
If one ox kills another ox, the live ox will be sold and the money split between both parties and the dead ox will be divided for the meat. If the owner knew the ox had a history of killing then he would have to buy a new ox to replace the dead one and keep the dead ox for himself. Oxen were expensive in those days!