Exodus 21

Israelite slaves

1 These are the laws that you must put in front of the Israelites:

2 If you buy an Israelite slave, he must work for you for six years. But in the seventh year he will become a free man. He can leave you. He does not have to pay you any money. 3 If he came to you alone, he is free to leave alone. If he came with a wife, she can also leave with him. 4 But if the master has given a wife to the slave, she belongs to her master. If she has children, they also belong to her master. The slave must then leave by himself, without his wife and children.

5 But perhaps the slave may say, “I love my master, my wife and my children. I will not go away as a free man!” 6 Then his master must take the slave to stand in front of the judges. He must lead the slave to stand beside the door, or the wood that holds the door. Then the master must push the sharp point of a tool through the slave's ear. After that, he will serve his master for all his life.

21:6to stand in front of the judges or to stand in front of God.

7 Perhaps a man may sell his daughter to someone as a slave. She is not free to leave her master after six years, as the male slaves are. 8 Her master has chosen her for himself. If she does not make her master happy, he must let her family buy her back from him. He cannot sell her to a foreign person. He has not done what he promised to her. 9 If the master had chosen the girl to marry his son, he must take care of her like his own daughter. 10 If the master marries another woman as well, he must still take care of the first woman. He must continue to give her food and clothes. He must not refuse to sleep with her. 11 If he does not do these three things, she may leave him. She does not have to pay him any money.

21:8The master is buying the female slave to take care of her. Perhaps he has promised to marry her. Her own family are too poor to take care of her themselves.

When people attack other people

12 Perhaps a person may hit another person so that he dies. You must punish the murderer with death. 13 But perhaps he had not decided to kill the other person. Perhaps God let it happen. Then the man should run away to a safe place that I will choose for you. 14 But if he already decided to kill the other person, he is a murderer. You must punish him with death. Even if he runs to my altar as a safe place, take him away from there and kill him.

15 If someone attacks his father or his mother, you must punish him with death.

16 If someone catches another person to sell him, you must punish him with death. Kill him even if you find him when he has not yet sold the man that he caught.

17 If someone curses his father or his mother, you must punish him with death.

18 Perhaps two men argue and they fight one another. One man might hit the other man with a stone or with his fist. The man that he hit might not die but he might have to stay in bed for some time. 19 After that, he may get up. He may be able to walk about outside, if he uses a stick. Then the man who hit him is not guilty. But he must pay the man that he has hurt. He must pay him for the time that he has not been able to work. He must also make sure that the man becomes completely well again.

20 Perhaps a master may hit his male slave or his female slave with a stick. If the slave dies because of this, you must punish the master. 21 But if the slave is still alive after one or two days, do not punish his master. The master has already lost the slave's work for that time.

22 When two men fight together, perhaps one of them may hit a pregnant woman. As a result of the fight, she may give birth to her child before the right time. If the man has not hurt the woman very much, he must pay money to her husband. He must pay the amount of money that the husband demands. A judge must agree that the money for his punishment is fair. 23 But if the man has hurt the woman a lot, you must punish him as he deserves: Take a life for a life, 24 an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot. 25 You must give him a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise.

21:25If someone is guilty, they must punish him as he deserves. If a man kills someone, the man must die. Every part of the person that the man has hurt, they must hurt that part of the man. A ‘burn’ is a mark on the body that fire causes. A ‘wound’ is a place where someone has cut the skin. A ‘bruise’ is a mark on the skin where someone has hit a person.

26 If a master hits the eye of his male slave or his female slave, he might destroy it. Then he must let the slave go away as a free person to pay for the loss of their eye. 27 If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, he must also let the slave go away to pay for the loss of the tooth.

Rules about animals

28 Perhaps a bull may attack someone so that the person dies. Then you must throw stones at the bull to kill it. You must not eat the meat from that bull. But do not punish the owner of the bull. 29 But perhaps that bull has attacked people before. Perhaps someone warned the owner about this, but the man did not keep the bull in a safe place. If that happens, and the bull kills someone, you must kill the bull. You must also punish the bull's owner with death. 30 But if the dead person's family demands money, the man can give them money instead of his life. He must pay them what they ask for. 31 This law is the same if the bull attacks someone's son or their daughter. 32 If it attacks a male slave or a female slave, the man must pay 30 silver coins to the slave's master. You must also throw stones at the bull to kill it.

33 If a man digs a hole in the ground, he must cover it. If he leaves a hole open, a cow or a donkey might fall into it. 34 Then the man who dug the hole must pay for the loss of the animal. He must pay money to the animal's owner, but he may keep the dead animal for himself.

35 If one man's bull attacks another man's bull, it may die. Then they must sell the bull that is still alive. Each man can take half of the money and half of the dead bull as well. 36 But perhaps that bull has attacked other animals before. If its owner knows that and he did not do anything, he must pay for the dead bull. He should have kept his bull in a safe place. So he must pay the owner of the dead bull, but he can keep the dead animal for himself.