Exodus 21: Slaves, Murders and Oxen


This chapter is a series of rules for judging conflicts between people regard slave ownerships (rights of owner and of slave), punishments and lenience for murder, manslaughter and bodily injury, and what to do if an ox is involved with either a murder, manslaughter or bodily injury.

In other words:

The rules governing slave ownership, bodily injury and/or murder and trouble with oxen are laid out.

Most interesting rules regarding slaves:

That slaves can choose to remain slaves if they want. Terms of slavery are set at 6 years, except for women who are slaves forever. Unless of course, her master fails to provide food, water and clothing for her. In which case, she is free to go. If you take out an eye of a slave or a tooth, the slave can go free. Other bodily injury is handled under the rules below.

Most interesting rules regarding murder, injury and manslaughter:

The punishment for murder is death. However, if you kill a slave and it is yours, you will be punished (but not by death), unless the slave is only injured, in which case, that’s ok. If you hurt a pregnant woman and cause a miscarriage, you have to pay her husband for his loss. If you don’t abide by the judge’s rulings and take revenge on your own, you will be considered guilty and will lose an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Most interesting Oxen rules:

If your ox kills a person and you had trouble with the ox before, not only will the ox be stoned, so will you. So make sure you keep your trouble animals locked up.  If you make a pit and someone’s ox falls in, pay them for the ox and the body of the ox is now yours.  If two ox fight and one wins, the owners of both ox kill the remaining ox and split up the meat.

Confusing bit:

Killing a slave is not ok. Injuring them is ok, unless you take out an eye or a tooth, in which case, the slave can now go free. What I don’t understand is why losing an eye or a tooth is worse than any other injury. (Exodus 21: 26,27)

Moral Lesson:

Trust in the rule of law. Don’t seek revenge on your own. (Exodus 21: 23,24)
Be fair when trying to resolve conflicts. (Exodus 21)