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Laws for Living

21 Then God said to Moses, “These are the laws for living that you will give to the Israelites:

“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he will serve you for six years. In the seventh year you are to set him free. And he will have to pay nothing. He might not be married when he becomes your slave. Then he must leave without a wife. The man might be married when he becomes your slave. Then he may take his wife with him. The slave’s master might give him a wife, and she might give birth to sons or daughters. Then the woman and her children will belong to the master. When the slave is set free, only he may leave.

“But the slave might say, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ Then the slave’s master will take him to God. The master will take him to a door or doorframe. And he will punch a hole through the slave’s ear using a sharp tool. Then the slave will serve that master all his life.

“A man might sell his daughter as a slave. There are rules for setting her free. They are different from the rules for setting the men slaves free. Maybe the master wanted to marry her but then decided he was not pleased with her. He must let one of her close relatives buy her back. He has no right to sell her to foreigners. This is because he has treated her unfairly. The man who bought her might promise to let the woman marry his son. Then he must treat her as a daughter. 10 The man who bought her might marry another woman. Then he must not keep his slave woman from having food or clothing or physical relations. 11 If he does not give her these three things, she may go free. She owes him no money.

Injuries

12 “Anyone who hits a person and kills him must be put to death. 13 But if a person kills someone accidentally, God allowed that to happen. So the person must go to a place I will choose. 14 A person might plan and murder another person on purpose. Put him to death, even if he has run to my altar for safety.

15 “Anyone who hits his father or his mother must be put to death.

16 “A person might kidnap someone. Then he either sells him as a slave or still has him when he is caught. That person must be put to death.

17 “Anyone who says cruel things to his father or mother must be put to death.

18 “Two men might argue. And one might hit the other with a rock or with his fist. The hurt man might not be killed. But he might have to stay in bed. 19 Later he might be able to get up. And he might be able to walk around outside with his walking stick. Then the one who hit him is not to be punished. But he must pay the injured man for the loss of his time. And he must support the injured man until he is completely healed.

20 “A man might beat his male or female slave with a stick. And the slave might die on the spot. Then the owner must be punished. 21 But the slave might get well after a day or two. Then that owner will not be punished since the slave belongs to him.

22 “Two men might be fighting, and they might hit a pregnant woman so that the baby comes out. But there is no further injury. Then the man who caused the injury must pay money. He must pay what the woman’s husband says and the court allows. 23 But if there is further injury, then the punishment is that life must be paid for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth. It is also hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound and bruise for bruise.

26 “A man might hit his male or female slave in the eye. And the eye might be blinded. Then the man is to free the slave to pay for the eye. 27 A master might knock out a tooth of his male or female slave. Then the man is to free the slave to pay for the tooth.

28 “A man’s bull might kill a man or woman. Then you must kill that bull with stones. You should not eat the bull. But the owner of the bull is not guilty. 29 But the bull might have hurt people in the past. The owner might have been warned. If he did not keep it in a pen and then it kills a man or woman, the bull must be killed with stones. And the owner must also be put to death. 30 But the family of the dead man might accept money. Then the man who owned the bull may buy back his life. But he must pay whatever is demanded. 31 Use this same law if the bull kills a person’s son or daughter. 32 But the bull might kill a male or female slave. Then the owner must pay the master the price for a new slave. That is 12 ounces of silver. And the bull must also be killed with stones.

33 “A man might take the cover off a pit. Or he might dig one and not cover it. Another man’s ox or donkey might come and fall into it. 34 The owner of the pit must pay the owner of the animal for his loss. The dead animal will belong to the one who pays.

35 “One man’s bull might kill another man’s bull. Then they must sell the bull that is alive. Both men get half of the money. And both men will also get half of the bull that was killed. 36 A man’s bull might have hurt other animals in the past. But the owner might not have kept it in a pen. Then that owner must pay bull for bull. And the dead animal is his.

21 “These are the laws(A) you are to set before them:

Hebrew Servants(B)(C)

“If you buy a Hebrew servant,(D) he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free,(E) without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’(F) then his master must take him before the judges.[a](G) He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce(H) his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.(I)

“If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself,[b] he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights.(J) 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

Personal Injuries

12 “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death.(K) 13 However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place(L) I will designate. 14 But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately,(M) that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.(N)

15 “Anyone who attacks[c] their father or mother is to be put to death.

16 “Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death,(O) whether the victim has been sold(P) or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.

17 “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.(Q)

18 “If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist[d] and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, 19 the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.

20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.(R)

22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[e] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands(S) and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life,(T) 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth,(U) hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

26 “An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. 27 And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.

28 “If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death,(V) and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. 29 If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up(W) and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death. 30 However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded.(X) 31 This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. 32 If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels[f](Y) of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.

33 “If anyone uncovers a pit(Z) or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the one who opened the pit must pay the owner for the loss and take the dead animal in exchange.

35 “If anyone’s bull injures someone else’s bull and it dies, the two parties are to sell the live one and divide both the money and the dead animal equally. 36 However, if it was known that the bull had the habit of goring, yet the owner did not keep it penned up,(AA) the owner must pay, animal for animal, and take the dead animal in exchange.

Footnotes

  1. Exodus 21:6 Or before God
  2. Exodus 21:8 Or master so that he does not choose her
  3. Exodus 21:15 Or kills
  4. Exodus 21:18 Or with a tool
  5. Exodus 21:22 Or she has a miscarriage
  6. Exodus 21:32 That is, about 12 ounces or about 345 grams

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