Exodus 21:1-11

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.