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 is 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 leave with him. 4 But if his master gives him a wife, she is her master's slave. And if she has had children, they are also her master's slaves. Only the husband can leave the master.

5 But perhaps the slave may say: “I love my master, my wife and my children. I will not go away like a free man!” 6 Then his master must take him in front of the judges. He must lead him to the door, or to the edge of the door. There the master must push the sharp point of a tool through the slave's ear. Then he will always be his master's slave.

7 Perhaps a man may sell his daughter as a slave. She is not free to leave her master, as the male slaves are, after six years. Her master has chosen her for himself. 8 If he does not like her, he must let someone from her family buy her from him. He cannot sell her to a foreign person. He has not done what he promised to her. 9 If the man chooses the girl to be his son's wife, she must become like his daughter.

10 If the man marries another woman, he must not forget the first woman. He must continue to give her food and clothes. He must be kind to her because she is still his wife. 11 If he does not do these three things, she can leave him. She does not have to pay him any money.

When people attack other people

12 Perhaps a person will hit another person and kill him. This is murder. The person who does it must die. 13 But perhaps he did not want to do it, but God let it happen. Then the man must run away to a place that I will show him. 14 But a man may decide to kill another man. Then you must take him away from my table and you must kill him.

15 You must kill anyone who attacks his father or his mother.

16 You must kill anyone who steals another person. He might sell him or keep him.

You must kill the bad man when you catch him.

17 You must kill anyone who curses his father or his mother.

18 Perhaps two men may quarrel. One man hits the other man with a stone or with his fist.

The second man does not die but he has to stay in bed. 19 Then he gets up and walks about outside, with his stick. Then nobody will judge the first man. But he must pay the man whom he hurt. This man cannot work until he is completely well again.

20 Perhaps a man may hit his male or female slave with a stick. If the slave dies because of this, you must punish the man. 21 But if the slave becomes well again after one or two days, do not punish the man. The slave is his own.

22 When two men fight together, perhaps one man may hit a woman. That woman may be with child. Then she gives birth to her child before the right time. If the cruel man has not hurt the child, he must pay money to her husband. He must pay the amount of money that the husband asks. A judge must agree that the amount is fair. 23 But if the man has hurt the child, you must take a life for a life. 24 You must take an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. You must take a hand for a hand or a foot for a foot. 25 You must take a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise.’

21:25If the cruel man has hurt the child, they must hurt him too. If the child dies, the man must die. Every part of the child 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 man hits the eye of a male or female slave, he may destroy the eye. Then he must let the slave go away free because of his bad eye. 27 Perhaps a man may knock out the tooth of a male or female slave. Then he must let the slave go away free, because of his lost tooth.

28 Perhaps a male cow may attack a person and kill him. Then you must throw stones at the male cow until it dies. You must not eat the meat from that male cow. But do not punish the master of the male cow. 29 But perhaps that male cow has attacked people before. Perhaps someone has told his master about this, but the man has not listened. He has not kept the male cow in a safe place and the animal has killed a person. Then you must throw stones at the animal but you must also kill his master. 30 But if the dead person's family demands money, the man can give money instead of his life. 31 This law is true if the male cow attacks a son or a daughter. 32 If it attacks a male or female slave, the animal's master must pay 30 silver coins. He must give it to the slave's master and he must kill the animal.

33 If a man finds a hole, he must cover it. If he digs a hole, he must cover it. If he does not do this, a cow or a donkey may 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 master but he can keep the dead animal for himself.

35 If one man's male cow attacks another man's male cow, it may die. Then they must sell the animal that is alive. Each man can have half of the money and half of the dead animal. 36 But perhaps that male cow has attacked another animal before. Someone has told the animal's master about this, but he has not listened. He has not kept the animal in a safe place. So he must pay the other man for the loss of his animal. But he can keep the dead animal for himself.