Ordinances for the People
21 “Now these are the ordinances (laws) which you shall set before the Israelites:
2 “If you purchase a Hebrew servant [because of his debt or poverty], he shall serve six years, and in the seventh [year] he shall leave as a free man, paying nothing.(A) 3 If he came [to you] alone, he shall leave alone; if he came married, then his wife shall leave with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife, and she gives birth to sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall leave [your service] alone. 5 But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not leave as a free man,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God [that is, to the judges who act in God’s name], then he shall bring him to the door or doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl (strong needle); and he shall serve him for life.
7 “If a man sells his daughter to be a female servant, she shall not go free [after six years] as male servants do. 8 If she does not please her master who has chosen her for himself [as a wife], he shall let her be redeemed [by her family]. He does not have the authority to sell her to a foreign people, because he has been unfair to her. 9 If her master chooses her [as a wife] for his son, he shall act toward her as if she were legally his daughter. 10 If her master marries another wife, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her privilege as a wife. 11 If he does not do these three things for her, then shall she leave free, without payment of money.
12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies must be put to death. 13 However, [a]if he did not lie in wait [for him], but God allowed him to fall into his hand, then I will establish for you a [b]place to which he may escape [for protection until duly tried].(B) 14 But if a man acts intentionally against another and kills him by [design through] treachery, you are to take him from My altar [to which he may have fled for protection], so that he may be put to death.
15 “Whoever strikes his father or his mother must be put to death.
16 “Whoever kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or is found with him in his possession, must be put to death.
17 “Whoever [c]curses his father or his mother or treats them contemptuously must be put to death.
18 “If men quarrel and one strikes another with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to bed, 19 if he gets up and walks around leaning on his cane, then the one who struck him shall be left [physically] unpunished; he must only pay for his loss of time [at work], and the costs [of treatment and recuperation] until he is thoroughly healed.
20 “If a man strikes his male or his female servant with a staff and the servant dies at his hand, he must be punished. 21 If, however, the servant survives for a day or two, the offender shall not be punished, for the [injured] servant is his own property.
22 “If men fight with each other and injure a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely [and the baby lives], yet there is no further injury, the one who hurt her must be punished with a fine [paid] to the woman’s husband, as much as the judges decide. 23 But if there is any further injury, then you shall require [as a penalty] life for life, 24 [d]eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
26 “If a man hits the eye of his male servant or female servant and it is destroyed, he must let the servant go free because of [the loss of] the eye. 27 And if he knocks out the tooth of his male servant or female servant, he must let the servant go free because of [the loss of] the tooth.
28 “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox must be stoned and its meat shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be cleared [of responsibility]. 29 But if the ox has tried to gore on a previous occasion, and its owner has been warned, but has not kept it confined and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner shall be put to death as well. 30 If a ransom is demanded of him [in return for his life], then he shall give whatever is demanded for the redemption of his life. 31 If the ox has gored another’s son or daughter, he shall be dealt with according to this same rule. 32 If the ox gores a male or a female servant, the owner shall give to the servant’s master thirty shekels of silver [the purchase price for a slave], and the ox shall be stoned.
33 “If a man leaves a pit open, or digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to the animal’s owner, but the dead [animal] shall be his.
35 “If one man’s ox injures another’s so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the proceeds equally; they shall also divide the dead ox [between them]. 36 Or if it is known that the ox was previously in the habit of goring, and its owner has not kept it confined, he must make restitution of ox for ox, and the dead [animal] shall be his.
- Exodus 21:13 I.e. if the act causing the death of another was unintentional.
- Exodus 21:13 I.e. after the children of Israel possessed the promised land, six cities of refuge were established.
- Exodus 21:17 The one who dishonors his parents in this way also dishonors God by violating God’s created order of honor.
- Exodus 21:24 The concept of reciprocal punishment for a wrongful injury is applied mainly to special cases not already covered by more complex laws.