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Exodus 21:28-36

Context
Laws about Animals

21:28 1 “If an ox 2  gores a man or a woman so that either dies, 3  then the ox must surely 4  be stoned and its flesh must not be eaten, but the owner of the ox will be acquitted. 21:29 But if the ox had the habit of goring, and its owner was warned, 5  and he did not take the necessary precautions, 6  and then it killed a man or a woman, the ox must be stoned and the man must be put to death. 21:30 If a ransom is set for him, 7  then he must pay the redemption for his life according to whatever amount was set for him. 21:31 If the ox 8  gores a son or a daughter, the owner 9  will be dealt with according to this rule. 10  21:32 If the ox gores a male servant or a female servant, the owner 11  must pay thirty shekels of silver, 12  and the ox must be stoned. 13 

21:33 “If a man opens a pit or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 21:34 the owner of the pit must repay 14  the loss. He must give money 15  to its owner, and the dead animal 16  will become his. 21:35 If the ox of one man injures the ox of his neighbor so that it dies, then they will sell the live ox and divide its proceeds, 17  and they will also divide the dead ox. 18  21:36 Or if it is known that the ox had the habit of goring, and its owner did not take the necessary precautions, he must surely pay 19  ox for ox, and the dead animal will become his. 20 

1 sn The point that this section of the laws makes is that one must ensure the safety of others by controlling the circumstances.

2 tn Traditionally “ox,” but “bull” would also be suitable. The term may refer to one of any variety of large cattle.

3 tn Heb “and he dies”; KJV “that they die”; NAB, NASB “to death.”

4 tn The text uses סָקוֹל יִסָּקֵל (saqol yissaqel), a Qal infinitive absolute with a Niphal imperfect. The infinitive intensifies the imperfect, which here has an obligatory nuance or is a future of instruction.

5 tn The Hophal perfect has the idea of “attested, testified against.”

6 tn Heb “he was not keeping it” or perhaps guarding or watching it (referring to the ox).

7 sn The family of the victim would set the amount for the ransom of the man guilty of criminal neglect. This practice was common in the ancient world, rare in Israel. If the family allowed the substitute price, then the man would be able to redeem his life.

8 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the ox) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

9 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the owner) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

10 tn Heb “according to this judgment it shall be done to him.”

11 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the owner) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

12 sn A shekel was a unit for measure by means of a scale. Both the weight and the value of a shekel of silver are hard to determine. “Though there is no certainty, the shekel is said to weigh about 11,5 grams” (C. Houtman, Exodus, 3:181). Over four hundred years earlier, Joseph was sold into Egypt for 20 shekels. The free Israelite citizen was worth about 50 shekels (Lev 27:3f.).

13 sn See further B. S. Jackson, “The Goring Ox Again [Ex. 21,28-36],” JJP 18 (1974): 55-94.

14 tn The verb is a Piel imperfect from שָׁלַם (shalam); it has the idea of making payment in full, making recompense, repaying. These imperfects could be given a future tense translation as imperfects of instruction, but in the property cases an obligatory imperfect fits better – this is what he is bound or obliged to do – what he must do.

15 tn Heb “silver.”

16 tn Here the term “animal” has been supplied.

17 tn Literally “its silver” or “silver for it.”

18 tn Heb “divide the dead.” The noun “ox” has been supplied.

19 tn The construction now uses the same Piel imperfect (v. 34) but adds the infinitive absolute to it for emphasis.

20 sn The point of this section (21:28-36) seems to be that one must ensure the safety of others by controlling one’s property and possessions. This section pertained to neglect with animals, but the message would have applied to similar situations. The people of God were to take heed to ensure the well-being of others, and if there was a problem, it had to be made right.



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