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Civil Laws

21 Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them:

Laws About Servants

If you purchase a Hebrew servant, he is to serve for six years, but in the seventh he may go free without paying anything. If he comes in by himself, he will go out by himself. If he is married when he comes in, then his wife will go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children will belong to her master, and the servant will go out by himself. But if the servant formally declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children. I do not want to go out free,” then his master shall bring him to the judges.[a] His master shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and he shall bore through his ear with an awl. Then he shall serve him for the rest of his life.

If a man sells his daughter to be a female servant, she may not be sent out of the household as the male servants may be. If she does not please her master who has married her, then he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has not kept his commitment to her. If he marries her to his son, he must deal with her as he would deal with a daughter. 10 If he takes a second wife for himself, he must not diminish the food, the clothing, or the marital rights[b] of the first wife. 11 If he does not do these three things for her, she may go free without paying any money.

Laws About Injuries

12 Anyone who strikes a man so that he dies must certainly be put to death. 13 However, if this was not done intentionally but rather was an act of God, for that kind of case I will appoint a place among you to which that man can flee. 14 But if a man plots and kills his neighbor deliberately, you shall take him from my altar, so that he may be put to death.

15 Anyone who strikes his father or his mother must certainly be put to death.

16 If anyone kidnaps someone and sells him, or if the kidnapped person is found in his possession, the kidnapper must certainly be put to death.

17 Anyone who curses his father or his mother must certainly be put to death.

18 If men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and the victim does not die but is confined to bed— 19 if the victim gets up and can walk around outside with his staff, then the one who struck him shall not be punished, but he must pay for the victim’s lost work time while he is recuperating, until he is completely healed.

20 If a man strikes his male or his female servant with a club,[c] and the servant dies at his hand, he must certainly be punished. 21 However, if the servant gets up after a day or two,[d] the man shall not be punished, for the servant was his property.

22 If men are fighting and they injure a pregnant woman so that the child comes out, yet no harm follows, they must certainly be fined as much as the woman’s husband demands and the judges approve. 23 But if any harm follows, then you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, and bruise for bruise.

26 If a man strikes his male or female servant’s eye and destroys it, he must let the servant go free as payment for the eye. 27 If he knocks out his male or female servant’s tooth, he must let the servant go free as payment for the tooth.

28 If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox must be stoned to death, and its flesh must not be eaten, but the owner of the ox will not be held responsible. 29 If the ox, however, had a habit of goring in the past, and its owner had been warned, but he did not keep it confined, and it then kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner shall also be put to death. 30 But if a redemption payment is imposed on the owner instead of the death penalty, he must pay whatever is imposed on him to save his life. 31 This is also the ruling that applies to him if the ox has gored someone’s son or daughter. 32 But if the ox gores a male servant or a female servant, thirty shekels of silver shall be given to the servant’s owner, and the ox is to be stoned to death.

33 If a man uncovers a cistern,[e] or if a man digs a cistern and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the cistern shall pay for the loss in full. He shall give money to the owner of the animal, and the dead animal shall be his.

35 If one man’s ox injures his neighbor’s ox, so that it dies, they shall sell the live ox and divide the money they got for it, and they shall also divide the dead animal. 36 But if it was known that the ox was in the habit of goring in the past, and its owner has not kept it confined, he must pay ox for ox, and the dead animal will be his.


  1. Exodus 21:6 Or God. The Hebrew word is elohim, which usually means God, but see John 10:35.
  2. Exodus 21:10 The meaning of the Hebrew word translated marital rights is uncertain.
  3. Exodus 21:20 Or staff
  4. Exodus 21:21 Or survives a day or two
  5. Exodus 21:33 Or pit