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Parashat Mishpatim

Ordinances for the Covenant

21 “Now these are the ordinances which you will set before them.

“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve for six years, and in the seventh he is to go free, without payment. If he comes in by himself, he is to go out by himself. If he was married, then his wife will go out with him. If his master gave him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children will be her master’s, and he will go free by himself.

“But if the servant plainly states, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children, and I will not go out free,’ then his master is to bring him to God,[a] then take him to a door or to a doorpost. His master is to pierce his ear through with an awl, and he will serve him forever.

“If a man sells his daughter to be a maidservant, she is not to go free as the male servants do. If she does not please her master who has selected her for himself, then he is to allow her to be redeemed. He will have no power to sell her to a foreign people, seeing as he has dealt deceitfully toward her. If he betroths her to his son, he must give her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife, he is not to diminish her food, her clothing, or her marriage rights. 11 If he does not provide these three to her, then she is to go free without payment.

12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies must surely be put to death. 13 But if he did not hunt him down, yet God caused it to happen, then I will appoint for you a place where he may run. 14 If a man presumes to kill his neighbor with craftiness, you are to take him from My altar and put him to death.

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

16 “Anyone who steals a person and sells him, or is found with him under his hand, must surely be put to death.

17 “Whoever curses his father or his mother must surely be put to death.

18 “If people quarrel, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and the other does not die but lies in bed, 19 if he rises again and walks around on his staff, then the one that struck him he will be cleared. But he must pay for the loss of his time and help him to be thoroughly healed.

20 “If a man strikes his male or female servant with a staff, who dies by his hand, he must surely be punished. 21 Notwithstanding, if the servant gets up in a day or two he will not be punished, for he is his property.[b]

22 “If men fight, and hit a pregnant woman so that her child is born early, yet no harm follows, the one who hit her is to be strictly fined, according to what the woman’s husband demands of him. He must pay as the judges determine. 23 But if any harm follows,[c] then you are to penalize life for life, 24 eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, blow for blow.

26 “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave and destroys it, he must let him go free for the sake of his eyesight. 27 If he strikes out his slave’s tooth, he must let him go free for the sake of his tooth.

28 “If an ox gores a man or a woman so that they die, the ox must surely be stoned, and its meat is not to be eaten, but the owner of the ox will be cleared. 29 If the ox was given to goring in times past, and a warning has been given to its owner, yet he has not kept it pent up, and it has killed a man or a woman, then the ox must be stoned and its owner must also be put to death. 30 If instead a ransom is placed on him, then he is to pay for the redemption of his life whatever is demanded. 31 Whether it has gored a son or daughter, this rule is to be applied to him. 32 If the ox gores a male or female slave, he is to pay 30 shekels of silver to their master, and the ox is to be stoned.

33 “If one uncovers a pit or digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in, 34 the owner of the pit must pay compensation. He is to give money to the owner, and the dead animal will be his.

35 “If one man’s ox hurts another’s ox so that it dies, they are to sell the live ox and divide the price. They are also to divide the dead one. 36 Or if it becomes known that the ox was given to violence in times past, and its owner has not kept it pent up, he must surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal will be his own. 37 [d] If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he is to pay five oxen for one ox or four sheep for one sheep.


  1. Exodus 21:6 Heb. Elohim, lit. “God, gods, princes or judges.”
  2. Exodus 21:21 Lit. money.
  3. Exodus 21:23 i.e., a miscarriage.
  4. Exodus 21:37 Traditional Christian texts number Ex. 21:37-22:30 as Ex. 22:1-31.