View Exodus 21 in the note window.
The laws recorded in this chapter relate to the fifth and sixth
commandments; and though not accommodated to our constitution,
especially in point of servitude yet are of great use for the
explanation of the moral law, and the rules of natural justice.
- Here are several enlargements upon the fifth commandment, which
concerns particular relations.
- The duty of masters towards their servants, their men servants
ver. 2 - 6.
and maid - servants, ver. 7 - 11.
- The punishment of disobedient children that strike their parents,
or curse them, ver. 17.
- Upon the sixth commandment, which forbids all violence offered to
the person of man. Here is,
- Concerning murder, ver. 12 - 14.
- Man - stealing, ver, 16.
- Assault and battery, ver. 18, 19.
- Correcting a servant, ver. 20, 21
- Hurting a woman with child, ver. 22, 23.
- The law of retaliation, ver. 24, 25.
- Maiming a servant, ver. 26, 27.
- An ox goring, ver. 26 - 32.
- Damage by opening a pit, ver. 33, 34.
- Cattle fighting, ver 35, 36.
1: The first verse is the general title of the laws contained in this
and the two following chapters. Their government being purely a theocracy;
that which in other states is to be settled by human prudence, was directed
among them by a divine appointment. These laws are called judgments;
because their magistrates were to give judgment according to them. In the
doubtful cases that had hitherto occurred, Moses had particularly
enquired of God, but now God gave him statutes in general, by which to
determine particular cases. He begins with the laws concerning
servants, commanding mercy and moderation towards them. The Israelites
had lately been servants themselves, and now they were become not only their
own matters, but masters of servants too; lest they should abuse their
servants as they themselves had been abused, provision was made for the mild
and gentle usage of servants.
2: If thou buy an Hebrew servant - Either sold by him or his parents
through poverty, or by the judges for his crimes, yet even such a one was to
continue in slavery but seven years at the most.
6: For ever - As long as he lives, or till the year of Jubilee.
8: Who hath betrothed her to himself - For a concubine, or secondary
Wife. Not that Masters always took Maid - servants on these terms.
9: After the manner of daughters - He shall give her a portion, as to
20: Direction is given what should be done, if a servant died by his
master's correction. This servant must not be an Israelite, but a
Gentile slave, as the Negroes to our planters; and it is supposed that
he smite him with a rod, and not with any thing that was likely to give a
mortal wound, yet if he died under his hand, he should be punished for
his cruelty, at the discretion of the judges, upon consideration of
24: Eye for eye - The execution of this law is not put into the hands
of private persons, as if every man might avenge himself, which would
introduce universal confusion. The tradition of the elders seems to have
put this corrupt gloss upon it. But magistrates had an eye to this rule in
punishing offenders, and doing right to those that are injured.