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Exodus 21 The Voice (VOICE)

After God gives Israel the Ten Directives, He gives them other instructions that derive from the first ten. They do not cover every situation but provide guidance for how God’s people should live.

21 Eternal One (to Moses): These are other rules and guiding principles that you must present to the Israelites:

If you purchase a male Hebrew slave, he will be your servant for six years only. When the seventh year arrives, he will go free without having to pay a price for his freedom.

In Moses’ day, slavery exists everywhere in the world, and slaves are the first to be given protection under these guiding principles or judgments.

If you acquire a slave who is not married, then he will depart as a single man. But if you acquire a man who is married, then his wife will also leave when he goes free.

If his master provides a wife for him, and the wife gives him sons and daughters, then both the wife and the children belong to the master, and only the slave will leave the master’s service when the seventh year arrives.

But if the seventh year arrives and the slave freely renounces his right to freedom, saying, “My heart is full of love for my master, my wife, and my children. I will not leave my master’s service as a free man,” then his master will present him to the True God.[a] Next his master will escort him to the doorway and pierce his ear against the doorpost with an awl. Then everyone will know this slave will serve his master for life.

Women are to be treated differently. If a man decides to sell his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed as male slaves are when the seventh year arrives. If for any reason she does not please her master who handpicked her for a wife, then he is to allow her to be bought by another. He has no right to sell her to a foreign people because he has broken the agreement with her.

If the master chooses her as a wife for his son, then the master must treat her just as he would his own daughter.

10 If the master decides he wants to marry an additional wife, then he must not reduce his slave-wife’s food or clothing or any other marital rights. 11 If he does not provide these three things for her, then she is free to leave without owing him any money for her freedom.

12 If a man attacks another and the victim dies from the attack, then the attacker must be put to death. 13 But if God allows a person to die at the hands of another who never intended to kill him in the first place, then I will appoint a place where he can run and take refuge from those who would exact revenge. 14 But if a man plans an attack and cunningly kills his victim, then he will find no refuge at my altar. Take him from there and put him to death.

15 Also, anyone who strikes one of his parents must be put to death.

16 Anyone who kidnaps another—whether he has already sold his victim or still has him when he is caught—must be put to death.

17 And anyone who curses either of his parents must be put to death.[b]

18 If people are engaged in an argument and one hits the other with a rock or his fist, and the victim does not die but is bedridden for a time and unable to work, 19 then the one who struck him will not be punished as long as the injured party recovers enough to be able to get out of bed and walk around with the help of his staff; however, he must pay his victim for lost time and wages, and make sure he has the care he needs until he recovers. 20 If a person hits his male or female slave with a rod, and the slave dies because of the blow, then that person must be punished. 21 But if the slave survives a couple of days, then there will be no penalty because the slave belongs to the master.

22 If two men are fighting with each other and happen to hit a pregnant woman during the quarrel causing her to give birth prematurely (but no other harm is done), then the one who hit her must pay whatever fine the judges determine based upon the amount demanded by the woman’s husband.

23 But if any further harm comes, then the standard for the punishment is reciprocal justice: a life for a life, 24 an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,[c] a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, 25 a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise.

26 If anyone hits one of his slaves (male or female) in the eye and blinds him in that eye, then the master is to free the slave to compensate for the loss of the eye. 27 If anyone hits one of his slaves (male or female) and knocks out a tooth, then the master is to free the slave to compensate for the loss of the tooth.

28 If a bull gores a man or woman and the injury leads to the victim’s death, then the bull must be put to death by stoning. No one is allowed to eat the bull meat, and the owner of the bull has no further liability. 29 But if a bull has gored people before and its owner is aware of the problem but has not confined it, and if that bull kills a man or woman, then the bull must be stoned and the owner must also be put to death.

30 There is an exception. If the relatives of the dead demand money instead of his life, then the owner of the bull may redeem his life in exchange for whatever is required of him. 31 The same rule applies whether the bull gores someone’s son or daughter. 32 If the bull gores a slave (male or female), then the owner of the bull is to give the dead slave’s master 12 ounces of silver, and the bull must be stoned.

33 If someone uncovers an old pit or digs a new pit and leaves it uncovered, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 then the person who owns the pit will be held responsible and must compensate the owner for the full cost of the animal; but the dead animal at the bottom of the pit belongs to the man who owns it.

35 If a person’s bull injures another’s bull and it dies, then together they must sell the living bull and split the money equally; they must also divide the dead bull equally. 36 Now if the bull already has a reputation for goring and the owner has not confined it, then the owner of the living bull must pay a healthy bull for the dead one, but he may keep the dead bull for himself.


  1. 21:6 Greek manuscripts read, “to the lawcourt of God.”
  2. 21:17 Mark 7:10
  3. 21:24 Matthew 5:38
The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

Exodus 21 New International Version (NIV)

21 “These are the laws you are to set before them:

Hebrew Servants

“If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges.[a] He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

“If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself,[b] he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

Personal Injuries

12 “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. 13 However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. 14 But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.

15 “Anyone who attacks[c] their father or mother is to be put to death.

16 “Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.

17 “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

18 “If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist[d] and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, 19 the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.

20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely[e] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, 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, bruise for bruise.

26 “An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. 27 And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.

28 “If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. 29 If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death. 30 However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded. 31 This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. 32 If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels[f] of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.

33 “If anyone uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the one who opened the pit must pay the owner for the loss and take the dead animal in exchange.

35 “If anyone’s bull injures someone else’s bull and it dies, the two parties are to sell the live one and divide both the money and the dead animal equally. 36 However, if it was known that the bull had the habit of goring, yet the owner did not keep it penned up, the owner must pay, animal for animal, and take the dead animal in exchange.


  1. Exodus 21:6 Or before God
  2. Exodus 21:8 Or master so that he does not choose her
  3. Exodus 21:15 Or kills
  4. Exodus 21:18 Or with a tool
  5. Exodus 21:22 Or she has a miscarriage
  6. Exodus 21:32 That is, about 12 ounces or about 345 grams
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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