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Exodus Chapter 21
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Laws: The Hebrew Slave
21:1 These are the laws that you must set before [the Israelites]:
21:2 If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years, but in the seventh year, he is to be set free without liability.
21:3 If he was unmarried when he entered service, he shall leave by himself. But if he was a married man, his wife shall leave with him.
21:4 If his master gives him a wife, and she bears sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall remain her master's property. [The slave] shall leave by himself.
21:5 If the slave declares, 'I am fond of my master, my wife and my children; I do not want to go free,'
21:6 his master must bring him to the courts. Standing [the slave] next to the door or doorpost, his master shall pierce his ear with an awl. [The slave] shall then serve [his master] forever.

The Hebrew Maidservant
21:7 If a man sells his daughter as a maidservant, she shall not be freed as male servants are released.
21:8 Her master should provisionally designate her as his bride, and if she is not pleasing to him, he must let her be redeemed. He is considered to have broken faith with her, and he therefore does not have the right to sell her to anyone else.
21:9 If [the master] designates her as a bride for his son, she must be treated exactly the same as any other girl.
21:10 [Similarly], if [the master] marries another wife, he may not diminish [this one's] allowance, clothing or conjugal rights.
21:11 If none of the above three are done [to the girl], then she shall be released without liability or payment.

Manslaughter
21:12 If one person strikes another and [the victim] dies, [the murderer] must be put to death.
21:13 If he did not plan to kill [his victim], but God caused it to happen, then I will provide a place where [the killer] can find refuge.

Murder
21:14 If a person plots against his neighbor to kill him intentionally, then you must even take him from My altar to put him to death.

Injuring a Parent
21:15 Whoever intentionally injures his father or mother shall be put to death.

Kidnapping
21:16 If one person kidnaps and sells another, and [the victim] is seen in his hand, then [the kidnapper] shall be put to death.

Cursing a Parent
21:17 Whoever curses his father or mother shall be put to death.

Personal Injury
21:18 [This is the law] when two men fight, and one hits the other with a stone or with [his] fist. If [the victim] does not die, but becomes bedridden,
21:19 and then gets up and can walk under his own power, the one who struck him shall be acquitted. Still, he must pay for [the victim's] loss of work, and must provide for his complete cure.

Killing of Slaves
21:20 If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod, and [the slave] dies under his hand, [the death] must be avenged.
21:21 However, if [the slave] survives for a day or two, then, since he is [his master's] property, [his death] shall not be avenged.

Personal Damages
21:22 [This is the law] when two men fight and [accidentally] harm a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry. If there is no fatal injury [to the woman], then [the guilty party] must pay a [monetary] penalty. The woman's husband must sue for it, and [the amount] is then determined by the courts.
21:23 However, if there is a fatal injury [to the woman], then he must pay full compensation for her life.
21:24 Full compensation must be paid for the loss of an eye, a tooth, a hand or a foot.
21:25 Full compensation must [also] be paid for a burn, a wound, or a bruise.

Injury to Slaves
21:26 If a person strikes his male or female slave in the eye and blinds it, he shall set [the slave] free in compensation for his eye.
21:27 [Similarly,] if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female slave, he must set [the slave] free in compensation for his tooth.

The Killer Ox
21:28 If an ox gores a man or woman, and [the victim] dies, the ox must be stoned to death, and its flesh may not be eaten. The owner of the ox, however, shall not be punished.
21:29 But if the ox was in the habit of goring on previous occasions, and the owner was warned but did not take precautions, then, if it kills a man or woman, the ox must be stoned, and its owner shall also [deserve to] die.
21:30 Nevertheless, an atonement fine must be imposed on him, and he must pay whatever is imposed on him as a redemption for his life.
21:31 This law also applies if [the ox] gores a minor boy or a minor girl.
21:32 If the ox gores a male or female slave, [its owner] must give thirty silver shekels to [the slave's] master, and the bull must be stoned.

A Hole in the Ground
21:33 [This is the law] if a person digs a hole in the ground, or uncovers a hole, and does not cover it over. If an ox or donkey falls into it,
21:34 the one responsible for the hole must make restitution, restoring the full value [of the animal] to its owner. The dead animal remains the property [of its owner].

Damage by Goring
21:35 If one person's ox injures the ox of another person, and it dies, they shall sell the live ox and divide the money received for it. They shall also divide the dead animal.
21:36 However, if the ox was known to be in the habit of goring on previous occasions, and its owner did not take precautions, then he must pay the full value of [the dead] ox. The dead animal remains the property of [its owner].

Penalties for Stealing
21:37 If a person steals an ox or sheep and then slaughters or sells it, he must repay five oxen for each ox, and four sheep for each sheep.



Commentary:

Hebrew slave
  One who was sold for robbery; see Exodus 22:2 (Mekhilta; Rashi). See Leviticus 25:39, Deuteronomy 15:12.

wife
  A gentile slave woman (Mekhilta; Rashi).

the courts
  (Targum ; Mekhilta; Rashi). The word Elohim denotes God, but it also denotes judges or courts; see Exodus 22:7, 22:8, 22:27, 1 Samuel 2:25, Judges 5:8, Psalms 82:1,6, 138:1. In this case, a court composed of three judges is required (Yad, Avadim 3:9).

Standing the slave...
  The master must pierce the ear into the door; Deuteronomy 15:17 (see Lechem Mishneh on Yad, Avadim 3:9).

forever
  Until the jubilee; Leviticus 25:40 Mekhilta; Targum Yonathan; Kiddushin 21b; Rashi).

maidservant
  This can only be done with a minor girl (Mekhilta; Rashi). It was permitted for a man to sell his minor daughter only when he was absolutely destitute with no possible means of support (Kiddushin 20a; Yad, Avadim 4:2).

should
  (Kiddushin 19a). The master does this by declaring, 'you are my designated bride' (Yad, Avadim 4:7).

He
  The master. Also, her father may not sell her again (Hirsch; Torah Temimah). See note, this verse, 'anyone else.'

anyone else
  (Rashi; Yad, Avadim 4:10). Literally, 'to a foreign nation' (Mekhilta; Ramban). It can also denote, 'to someone unsuitable for marriage' (Hirsch). It would then be a general commandment that the father is not permitted to sell his daughter to a gentile or to anyone else who could not possibly marry her.

the master
  Or, 'the son.'

another wife
  Polygamy was permitted by Torah Law. It was only forbidden later by a ban pronounced by all European rabbis under the leadership of Rabbenu Gershom (circa 965-1028).

above three
  Redemption, marriage, or marriage to a son (Rashi). The girl then must be released automatically when she reaches puberty.

the murderer...
  See Genesis 9:6, Leviticus 24:17, Numbers 35:30.

I will provide a place...
  See Numbers 35:10-34, Deuteronomy 19:1-13, Joshua 20:1-9.

intentionally
  (Hirsch). Or, 'by foul play,' 'with premeditation,' or 'with guile.'

from My altar
  And such a murderer can certainly be removed from any refuge city (Ibn Ezra; Chizzkuni). Even if the murderer is a priest offering sacrifice, he can be taken from the altar (Mekhilta; Rashi).

Some say that in the desert, before the refuge cities were selected, the altar served as a refuge for the accidental murderer (Sforno). According to others, the altar served as a sanctuary for unpremeditated murder, but not for the premeditated crime (Abarbanel; Akedath Yitzchak; MeAm Lo'ez). See 1 Kings 2:28, 32.

injures
  Causing bleeding (Sanhedrin 84b).

seen
  By witnesses (Mekhilta; Rashi). Literally, 'found.' Cf. Deuteronomy 24:7.

Whoever curses
  See Leviticus 20:9.

fist
  (Ramban; Ibn Ezra; Septuagint; cf. Kelim 17:12; Bava Kama 90b; Isaiah 58:4). Or, 'something hard' (Saadia; Ibn Janach); 'a clod of earth' (Radak, Sherashim; Ibn Ezra on Isaiah 58:4); 'thrown stone or brick' (Rashbam; Arukh s.v. kurmiza, from Targum); or 'club' (Arukh HaShalem s.v. kurmiza).

his own power
  (Targum; Mekhilta; Rashi; Yad, Rotzeach 7:4). Or, 'and can walk with his cane' (cf. Ramban).

slave
  A gentile bought as a slave (Mekhilta; Rashi).

avenged
  Implying a death penalty for the master (Sanhedrin 52b; Rashi).

must sue for it
  (Bava Kama 43a; Rashi).

must pay full compensation...
  This is speaking of a case where a woman's assailant did not intend to kill the man with whom he was fighting (Chidushey HaRan, Sanhedrin 79b; cf. Yad, Rotze'ach 4:1). Literally, 'you must give a soul for a soul.' According to some, this is speaking of a case where the woman's assailant intended to kill the other man, and there is a dispute as to whether this expression implies the death penalty or monetary payment (Sanhedrin 79a,b).

Full compensation...
  (Mekhilta; Targum Yonathan; Bava Kama 84a; Rashi). Literally, 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot.' These expressions, however, are meant idiomatically and not literally. See Leviticus 24:19,20, Deuteronomy 19:21.

a wound
  Or, 'cut' (Rashi; Radak, Sherashim).

a bruise
  (Rashi). Or, 'a wound' (Saadia; Ibn Janach); or, 'a scrape' (Radak, Sherashim).

slave
  A gentile bought as a slave (Mekhilta; Rashi).

blinds it
  (see Bava Kama 98a; Yad, Avadim 5:8,9). Literally, 'and destroys it.'

ox
  Any bovine animal.

deserve to die
  By God's hand (Mekhilta; Rashi).

Nevertheless
  (Rashi; Bava Kama 40a; Yad, Nizkey Mamon 10:4). Literally, 'if.' Cf. Numbers 35:31.

thirty silver shekels
  Around $30.

of its owner
  (Mekhilta; Rashi; Yad, Niz'key Mamon 7:13).

its owner
  (Bava Kama 10b; Mekhilta). In both these cases, the value of the dead carcass is therefore deducted from the amount of compensation that must be paid.

four sheep
  See 2 Samuel 12:6.





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