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The Law concerning Slaves


These are the ordinances that you shall set before them:

2 When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. 3If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. 5But if the slave declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person,” 6then his master shall bring him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life.

7 When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her. 9If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife. 11And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out without debt, without payment of money.

The Law concerning Violence

12 Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death. 13If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee. 14But if someone willfully attacks and kills another by treachery, you shall take the killer from my altar for execution.

15 Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death.

16 Whoever kidnaps a person, whether that person has been sold or is still held in possession, shall be put to death.

17 Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death.

18 When individuals quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or fist so that the injured party, though not dead, is confined to bed, 19but recovers and walks around outside with the help of a staff, then the assailant shall be free of liability, except to pay for the loss of time, and to arrange for full recovery.

20 When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. 21But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.

22 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. 23If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

26 When a slaveowner strikes the eye of a male or female slave, destroying it, the owner shall let the slave go, a free person, to compensate for the eye. 27If the owner knocks out a tooth of a male or female slave, the slave shall be let go, a free person, to compensate for the tooth.

Laws concerning Property

28 When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. 29If the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not restrained it, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. 30If a ransom is imposed on the owner, then the owner shall pay whatever is imposed for the redemption of the victim’s life. 31If it gores a boy or a girl, the owner shall be dealt with according to this same rule. 32If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall pay to the slaveowner thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

33 If someone leaves a pit open, or digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34the owner of the pit shall make restitution, giving money to its owner, but keeping the dead animal.

35 If someone’s ox hurts the ox of another, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the price of it; and the dead animal they shall also divide. 36But if it was known that the ox was accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not restrained it, the owner shall restore ox for ox, but keep the dead animal.

14. But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor. He expresses the same thing in different ways; for although there is a wide difference between slaying a man presumptuously 3232     “Superbire, et insidiari longe differunt.” — Lat. “Ruer sup quelqu’un par fierte et malice, et laguetter.” — Fr. and with guile, yet Moses applies them both to a willful murder; for by guile he means a wicked disposition to injure, and by the word presumptuous he designates a violent assault, when a man in hate wantonly falls upon another. And surely truculence, and violence, and all cruelty is presumptuous, (superba;) for unless a man despised his brother, he would not assail him as an enemy.

Lest by overlooking murders they should defile the land, God commands that murderers should be torn away even from His altar, whereby He signifies that they are as unworthy of divine as of human aid. For, although the sanctity of the altar might afford an asylum for the protection of those who had transgressed through imprudence, or. error, yet it would have been wrong that impunity for crimes should have been derived from hence; because the sanctuary would have been thus converted into a den of thieves, and religion would have been subjected to gross profanation. Wherefore, although criminals embracing the altar should implore God’s aid, the Law commands them to be torn away from thence to punishment, because it would have been disgraceful to abuse God’s sacred name as affording license for sin. Hence it appears how great was the folly of old in supposing that churches were honored when they were made asylums for the encouragement of evil deeds. This, indeed, was derived from the ordinary custom of the heathen; but it was a foolish imitation thus to mix up God with idols in a spurious worship; although in this respect the Gentiles served their idols more purely and virtuously than the Christians 3333     “Ceux qui se glorifioyent du titre de Chrestiente;“ those who prided themselves in the name of Christians. — Fr. served God; for they refused the right of asylum to the sacrilegious and impure, so that the temple of the Samothracians was no secure hiding-place even to Perseus, 3434     See Livy, lib. 45:5. The words quoted are from an address of a certain L. Atilius to the popular assembly of Samothracia. the king of Macedon. Livy records the following words, as having been spoken by a heathen, — “Since, at the commencement of all our sacrifices, those whose hands are not pure are enjoined to retire, will ye suffer your sanctuaries to be contaminated by the blood-stained person of a robber?” Let us, then, be ashamed of polluting our temples under the pretext of reverence for them.

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