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Exodus 20:8-11

Context

20:8 “Remember 1  the Sabbath 2  day to set it apart as holy. 3  20:9 For six days 4  you may labor 5  and do all your work, 6  20:10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; on it 7  you shall not do any work, you, 8  or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your cattle, or the resident foreigner who is in your gates. 9  20:11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

Exodus 21:2-11

Context
Hebrew Servants

21:2 10 “If you buy 11  a Hebrew servant, 12  he is to serve you for six years, but in the seventh year he will go out free 13  without paying anything. 14  21:3 If he came 15  in by himself 16  he will go out by himself; if he had 17  a wife when he came in, then his wife will go out with him. 21:4 If his master gave 18  him a wife, and she bore sons or daughters, the wife and the children will belong to her master, and he will go out by himself. 21:5 But if the servant should declare, 19  ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out 20  free,’ 21:6 then his master must bring him to the judges, 21  and he will bring him to the door or the doorposts, and his master will pierce his ear with an awl, and he shall serve him forever. 22 

21:7 “If a man sells his daughter 23  as a female servant, 24  she will not go out as the male servants do. 21:8 If she does not please 25  her master, who has designated her 26  for himself, then he must let her be redeemed. 27  He has no right 28  to sell her to a foreign nation, because he has dealt deceitfully 29  with her. 21:9 If he designated her for his son, then he will deal with her according to the customary rights 30  of daughters. 21:10 If he takes another wife, 31  he must not diminish the first one’s food, 32  her clothing, or her marital rights. 33  21:11 If he does not provide her with these three things, then she will go out free, without paying money. 34 

Exodus 21:20-21

Context

21:20 “If a man strikes his male servant or his female servant with a staff so that he or she 35  dies as a result of the blow, 36  he will surely be punished. 37  21:21 However, if the injured servant 38  survives one or two days, the owner 39  will not be punished, for he has suffered the loss. 40 

Exodus 21:26-27

Context

21:26 “If a man strikes the eye of his male servant or his female servant so that he destroys it, 41  he will let the servant 42  go free 43  as compensation for the eye. 21:27 If he knocks out the tooth of his male servant or his female servant, he will let the servant 44  go free as compensation for the tooth.

Exodus 23:10-12

Context
Sabbaths and Feasts

23:10 45 “For six years 46  you are to sow your land and gather in its produce. 23:11 But in the seventh year 47  you must let it lie fallow and leave it alone so that the poor of your people may eat, and what they leave any animal in the field 48  may eat; you must do likewise with your vineyard and your olive grove. 23:12 For six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you must cease, in order that your ox and your donkey may rest and that your female servant’s son and any hired help 49  may refresh themselves. 50 

Leviticus 25:39-55

Context

25:39 “‘If your brother becomes impoverished with regard to you so that he sells himself to you, you must not subject him to slave service. 51  25:40 He must be with you as a hired worker, as a resident foreigner; 52  he must serve with you until the year of jubilee, 25:41 but then 53  he may go free, 54  he and his children with him, and may return to his family and to the property of his ancestors. 55  25:42 Since they are my servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt, they must not be sold in a slave sale. 56  25:43 You must not rule over him harshly, 57  but you must fear your God.

25:44 “‘As for your male and female slaves 58  who may belong to you – you may buy male and female slaves from the nations all around you. 59  25:45 Also you may buy slaves 60  from the children of the foreigners who reside with you, and from their families that are 61  with you, whom they have fathered in your land, they may become your property. 25:46 You may give them as inheritance to your children after you to possess as property. You may enslave them perpetually. However, as for your brothers the Israelites, no man may rule over his brother harshly. 62 

25:47 “‘If a resident foreigner who is with you prospers 63  and your brother becomes impoverished with regard to him so that 64  he sells himself to a resident foreigner who is with you or to a member 65  of a foreigner’s family, 25:48 after he has sold himself he retains a right of redemption. 66  One of his brothers may redeem him, 25:49 or his uncle or his cousin 67  may redeem him, or anyone of the rest of his blood relatives – his family 68  – may redeem him, or if 69  he prospers he may redeem himself. 25:50 He must calculate with the one who bought him the number of years 70  from the year he sold himself to him until the jubilee year, and the cost of his sale must correspond to the number of years, according to the rate of wages a hired worker would have earned while with him. 71  25:51 If there are still many years, in keeping with them 72  he must refund most of the cost of his purchase for his redemption, 25:52 but if only a few years remain 73  until the jubilee, he must calculate for himself in keeping with the remaining years and refund it for his redemption. 25:53 He must be with the one who bought him 74  like a yearly hired worker. 75  The one who bought him 76  must not rule over him harshly in your sight. 25:54 If, however, 77  he is not redeemed in these ways, he must go free 78  in the jubilee year, he and his children with him, 25:55 because the Israelites are my own servants; 79  they are my servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 15:12-18

Context
Release of Debt Slaves

15:12 If your fellow Hebrew 80  – whether male or female 81  – is sold to you and serves you for six years, then in the seventh year you must let that servant 82  go free. 83  15:13 If you set them free, you must not send them away empty-handed. 15:14 You must supply them generously 84  from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress – as the Lord your God has blessed you, you must give to them. 15:15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore, I am commanding you to do this thing today. 15:16 However, if the servant 85  says to you, “I do not want to leave 86  you,” because he loves you and your household, since he is well off with you, 15:17 you shall take an awl and pierce a hole through his ear to the door. 87  Then he will become your servant permanently (this applies to your female servant as well). 15:18 You should not consider it difficult to let him go free, for he will have served you for six years, twice 88  the time of a hired worker; the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.

Deuteronomy 23:15

Context
Purity in the Treatment of the Nonprivileged

23:15 You must not return an escaped slave to his master when he has run away to you. 89 

1 tn The text uses the infinitive absolute זָכוֹר (zakhor) for the commandment for the Sabbath day, which is the sign of the Sinaitic Covenant. The infinitive absolute functions in place of the emphatic imperative here (see GKC 346 §113.bb); the absolute stresses the basic verbal idea of the root – remembering. The verb includes the mental activity of recalling and pondering as well as the consequent actions for such remembering.

2 tn The word “Sabbath” is clearly connected to the verb שָׁבַת (shavat, “to cease, desist, rest”). There are all kinds of theories as to the origin of the day, most notably in the Babylonian world, but the differences are striking in so far as the pagan world had these days filled with magic. Nevertheless, the pagan world does bear witness to a tradition of a regular day set aside for special sacrifices. See, for example, H. W. Wolff, “The Day of Rest in the Old Testament,” LTQ 7 (1972): 65-76; H. Routtenberg, “The Laws of Sabbath: Biblical Sources,” Dor le Dor 6 (1977): 41-43, 99-101, 153-55, 204-6; G. Robinson, “The Idea of Rest in the OT and the Search for the Basic Character of Sabbath,” ZAW 92 (1980): 32-42; and M. Tsevat, “The Basic Meaning of the Biblical Sabbath,” ZAW 84 (1972): 447-59.

3 tn The Piel infinitive construct provides the purpose of remembering the Sabbath day – to set it apart, to make it distinct from the other days. Verses 9 and 10 explain in part how this was to be done. To set this day apart as holy taught Israel the difference between the holy and the profane, that there was something higher than daily life. If an Israelite bent down to the ground laboring all week, the Sabbath called his attention to the heavens, to pattern life after the Creator (B. Jacob, Exodus, 569-70).

4 tn The text has simply “six days,” but this is an adverbial accusative of time, answering how long they were to work (GKC 374 §118.k).

5 tn The imperfect tense has traditionally been rendered as a commandment, “you will labor.” But the point of this commandment is the prohibition of work on the seventh day. The permission nuance of the imperfect works well here.

6 tn This is the occupation, or business of the work week.

7 tn The phrase “on it” has been supplied for clarity.

8 sn The wife is omitted in the list, not that she was considered unimportant, nor that she was excluded from the rest, but rather in reflecting her high status. She was not man’s servant, not lesser than the man, but included with the man as an equal before God. The “you” of the commandments is addressed to the Israelites individually, male and female, just as God in the Garden of Eden held both the man and the woman responsible for their individual sins (see B. Jacob, Exodus, 567-68).

9 sn The Sabbath day was the sign of the Sinaitic Covenant. It required Israel to cease from ordinary labors and devote the day to God. It required Israel to enter into the life of God, to share his Sabbath. It gave them a chance to recall the work of the Creator. But in the NT the apostolic teaching for the Church does not make one day holier than another, but calls for the entire life to be sanctified to God. This teaching is an application of the meaning of entering into the Sabbath of God. The book of Hebrews declares that those who believe in Christ cease from their works and enter into his Sabbath rest. For a Christian keeping Saturday holy is not a requirement from the NT; it may be a good and valuable thing to have a day of rest and refreshment, but it is not a binding law for the Church. The principle of setting aside time to worship and serve the Lord has been carried forward, but the strict regulations have not.

10 sn See H. L. Elleson, “The Hebrew Slave: A Study in Early Israelite Society,” EvQ 45 (1973): 30-35; N. P. Lemche, “The Manumission of Slaves – The Fallow Year – The Sabbatical Year – The Jobel Year,” VT 26 (1976): 38-59, and “The ‘Hebrew Slave,’ Comments on the Slave Law – Ex. 21:2-11,” VT 25 (1975): 129-44.

11 tn The verbs in both the conditional clause and the following ruling are imperfect tense: “If you buy…then he will serve.” The second imperfect tense (the ruling) could be taken either as a specific future or an obligatory imperfect. Gesenius explains how the verb works in the conditional clauses here (see GKC 497 §159.bb).

12 sn The interpretation of “Hebrew” in this verse is uncertain: (l) a gentilic ending, (2) a fellow Israelite, (3) or a class of mercenaries of the population (see W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:431). It seems likely that the term describes someone born a Hebrew, as opposed to a foreigner (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 210). The literature on this includes: M. P. Gray, “The Habiru-Hebrew Problem,” HUCA 29 (1958): 135-202.

13 sn The word חָפְשִׁי (khofshi) means “free.” It is possible that there is some connection between this word and a technical term used in other cultures for a social class of emancipated slaves who were freemen again (see I. Mendelsohn, “New Light on the Hupsu,” BASOR 139 [1955]: 9-11).

14 tn The adverb חִנָּם (hinnam) means “gratis, free”; it is related to the verb “to be gracious, show favor” and the noun “grace.”

15 tn The tense is imperfect, but in the conditional clause it clearly refers to action that is anterior to the action in the next clause. Heb “if he comes in single, he goes out single,” that is, “if he came in single, he will go out single.”

16 tn Heb “with his back” meaning “alone.”

17 tn The phrase says, “if he was the possessor of a wife”; the noun בַּעַל (baal) can mean “possessor” or “husband.” If there was a wife, she shared his fortunes or his servitude; if he entered with her, she would accompany him when he left.

18 sn The slave would not have the right or the means to acquire a wife. Thus, the idea of the master’s “giving” him a wife is clear – the master would have to pay the bride price and make the provision. In this case, the wife and the children are actually the possession of the master unless the slave were to pay the bride price – but he is a slave because he got into debt. The law assumes that the master was better able to provide for this woman than the freed slave and that it was most important to keep the children with the mother.

19 tn The imperfect with the infinitive absolute means that the declaration is unambiguous, that the servant will clearly affirm that he wants to stay with the master. Gesenius says that in a case like this the infinitive emphasizes the importance of the condition on which some consequence depends (GKC 342-43 §113.o).

20 tn Or taken as a desiderative imperfect, it would say, “I do not want to go out free.”

21 tn The word is הָאֱלֹהִים (haelohim). S. R. Driver (Exodus, 211) says the phrase means “to God,” namely the nearest sanctuary in order that the oath and the ritual might be made solemn, although he does say that it would be done by human judges. That the reference is to Yahweh God is the view also of F. C. Fensham, “New Light on Exodus 21:7 and 22:7 from the Laws of Eshnunna,” JBL 78 (1959): 160-61. Cf. also ASV, NAB, NASB, NCV, NRSV, NLT. Others have made a stronger case that it refers to judges who acted on behalf of God; see C. Gordon, “אלהים in its Reputed Meaning of Rulers, Judges,” JBL 54 (1935): 134-44; and A. E. Draffkorn, “Ilani/Elohim,” JBL 76 (1957): 216-24; cf. KJV, NIV.

22 tn Or “till his life’s end” (as in the idiom: “serve him for good”).

23 sn This paragraph is troubling to modern readers, but given the way that marriages were contracted and the way people lived in the ancient world, it was a good provision for people who might want to find a better life for their daughter. On the subject in general for this chapter, see W. M. Swartley, Slavery, Sabbath, War, and Women, 31-64.

24 tn The word אָמָה (’amah) refers to a female servant who would eventually become a concubine or wife; the sale price included the amount for the service as well as the bride price (see B. Jacob, Exodus, 621). The arrangement recognized her honor as an Israelite woman, one who could be a wife, even though she entered the household in service. The marriage was not automatic, as the conditions show, but her treatment was safeguarded come what may. The law was a way, then, for a poor man to provide a better life for a daughter.

25 tn Heb “and if unpleasant (רָעָה, raah) in the eyes of her master.”

26 tn The verb יָעַד (yaad) does not mean “betroth, espouse” as some of the earlier translations had it, but “to designate.” When he bought the girl, he designated her for himself, giving her and her family certain expectations.

27 tn The verb is a Hiphil perfect with vav (ו) consecutive from פָדָה (padah, “to redeem”). Here in the apodosis the form is equivalent to an imperfect: “let someone redeem her” – perhaps her father if he can, or another. U. Cassuto says it can also mean she can redeem herself and dissolve the relationship (Exodus, 268).

28 tn Heb “he has no authority/power,” for the verb means “rule, have dominion.”

29 sn The deceit is in not making her his wife or concubine as the arrangement had stipulated.

30 tn Or “after the manner of” (KJV, ASV); NRSV “shall deal with her as with a daughter.”

31 tn “wife” has been supplied.

32 tn The translation of “food” does not quite do justice to the Hebrew word. It is “flesh.” The issue here is that the family she was to marry into is wealthy, they ate meat. She was not just to be given the basic food the ordinary people ate, but the fine foods that this family ate.

33 sn See S. Paul, “Exodus 21:10, A Threefold Maintenance Clause,” JNES 28 (1969): 48-53. Paul suggests that the third element listed is not marital rights but ointments since Sumerian and Akkadian texts list food, clothing, and oil as the necessities of life. The translation of “marital rights” is far from certain, since the word occurs only here. The point is that the woman was to be cared for with all that was required for a woman in that situation.

34 sn The lessons of slavery and service are designed to bring justice to existing customs in antiquity. The message is: Those in slavery for one reason or another should have the hope of freedom and the choice of service (vv. 2-6). For the rulings on the daughter, the message could be: Women, who were often at the mercy of their husbands or masters, must not be trapped in an unfortunate situation, but be treated well by their masters or husbands (vv. 7-11). God is preventing people who have power over others from abusing it.

35 tn Heb “so that he”; the words “or she” have been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

36 tn Heb “under his hand.”

37 tn Heb “will be avenged” (how is not specified).

38 tn Heb “if he”; the referent (the servant struck and injured in the previous verse) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

39 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the owner of the injured servant) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

40 tn This last clause is a free paraphrase of the Hebrew, “for he is his money” (so KJV, ASV); NASB “his property.” It seems that if the slave survives a couple of days, it is probable that the master was punishing him and not intending to kill him. If he then dies, there is no penalty other than that the owner loses the slave who is his property – he suffers the loss.

41 tn The form וְשִׁחֲתָהּ (vÿshikhatah) is the Piel perfect with the vav (ל) consecutive, rendered “and destroys it.” The verb is a strong one, meaning “to ruin, completely destroy.”

42 tn Heb “him”; the referent (the male or female servant) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

43 sn Interestingly, the verb used here for “let him go” is the same verb throughout the first part of the book for “release” of the Israelites from slavery. Here, an Israelite will have to release the injured slave.

44 tn Heb “him”; the referent (the male or female servant) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

45 sn This section concerns religious duties of the people of God as they worship by giving thanks to God for their blessings. The principles here are: God requires his people to allow the poor to share in their bounty (10-11); God requires his people to provide times of rest and refreshment for those who labor for them (12); God requires allegiance to himself (13); God requires his people to come before him in gratitude and share their bounty (14-17); God requires that his people safeguard proper worship forms (18-19).

46 tn Heb “and six years”; this is an adverbial accusative telling how long they can work their land. The following references to years and days in vv. 10-12 function similarly.

47 tn Heb “and the seventh year”; an adverbial accusative with a disjunctive vav (ו).

48 tn Heb “living thing/creature/beast of the field.” A general term for animals, usually wild animals, including predators (cf. v. 29; Gen 2:19-20; Lev 26:22; Deut 7:22; 1 Sam 17:46; Job 5:22-23; Ezek 29:5; 34:5).

49 tn Heb “alien,” or “resident foreigner.” Such an individual would have traveled out of need and depended on the goodwill of the people around him. The rendering “hired help” assumes that the foreigner is mentioned in this context because he is working for an Israelite and will benefit from the Sabbath rest, along with his employer.

50 tn The verb is וְיִּנָּפֵשׁ (vÿyyinnafesh); it is related to the word usually translated “soul” or “life.”

51 tn Heb “you shall not serve against him service of a slave.” A distinction is being made here between the status of slave and indentured servant.

52 tn See the note on Lev 25:6 above.

53 tn Heb “and.” The Hebrew conjunction ו (vav, “and”) can be considered to have adversative force here.

54 tn Heb “may go out from you.”

55 tn Heb “fathers.”

56 tn Or perhaps reflexive Niphal rather than passive, “they shall not sell themselves [as in] a slave sale.”

57 tn Heb “You shall not rule in him in violence”; cf. NASB “with severity”; NIV “ruthlessly.”

58 tn Heb “And your male slave and your female slave.” Smr has these as plural terms, “slaves,” not singular.

59 tn Heb “ from the nations which surround you, from them you shall buy male slave and female slave.”

60 tn The word “slaves” is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied here.

61 tn Heb “family which is” (i.e., singular rather than plural).

62 tn Heb “and your brothers, the sons of Israel, a man in his brother you shall not rule in him in violence.”

63 tn Heb “And if the hand of a foreigner and resident with you reaches” (cf. v. 26 for this idiom).

64 tn Heb “and.” The Hebrew conjunction ו (vav, “and”) can be considered to have resultative force here.

65 tn Heb “offshoot, descendant.”

66 tn Heb “right of redemption shall be to him.”

67 tn Heb “the son of his uncle.”

68 tn Heb “or from the remainder of his flesh from his family.”

69 tc The LXX, followed by the Syriac, actually has “if,” which is not in the MT.

70 tn Heb “the years.”

71 tn Heb “as days of a hired worker he shall be with him.” For this and the following verses see the explanation in P. J. Budd, Leviticus (NCBC), 358-59.

72 tn Heb “to the mouth of them.”

73 tn Heb “but if a little remains in the years.”

74 tn Heb “be with him”; the referent (the one who bought him) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

75 tn Heb “As a hired worker year in year.”

76 tn Heb “He”; the referent (the one who bought him) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

77 tn Heb “And if.”

78 tn Heb “go out.”

79 tn Heb “because to me the sons of Israel are servants.”

80 sn Elsewhere in the OT, the Israelites are called “Hebrews” (עִבְרִי, ’ivriy) by outsiders, rarely by themselves (cf. Gen 14:13; 39:14, 17; 41:12; Exod 1:15, 16, 19; 2:6, 7, 11, 13; 1 Sam 4:6; Jonah 1:9). Thus, here and in the parallel passage in Exod 21:2-6 the term עִבְרִי may designate non-Israelites, specifically a people well-known throughout the ancient Near East as ’apiru or habiru. They lived a rather vagabond lifestyle, frequently hiring themselves out as laborers or mercenary soldiers. While accounting nicely for the surprising use of the term here in an Israelite law code, the suggestion has against it the unlikelihood that a set of laws would address such a marginal people so specifically (as opposed to simply calling them aliens or the like). More likely עִבְרִי is chosen as a term to remind Israel that when they were “Hebrews,” that is, when they were in Egypt, they were slaves. Now that they are free they must not keep their fellow Israelites in economic bondage. See v. 15.

81 tn Heb “your brother, a Hebrew (male) or Hebrew (female).”

82 tn Heb “him.” The singular pronoun occurs throughout the passage.

83 tn The Hebrew text includes “from you.”

84 tn The Hebrew text uses the infinitive absolute for emphasis, which the translation indicates with “generously.”

85 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the indentured servant introduced in v. 12) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

86 tn Heb “go out from.” The imperfect verbal form indicates the desire of the subject here.

87 sn When the bondslave’s ear was drilled through to the door, the door in question was that of the master’s house. In effect, the bondslave is declaring his undying and lifelong loyalty to his creditor. The scar (or even hole) in the earlobe would testify to the community that the slave had surrendered independence and personal rights. This may be what Paul had in mind when he said “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Gal 6:17).

88 tn The Hebrew term מִשְׁנֶה (mishneh, “twice”) could mean “equivalent to” (cf. NRSV) or, more likely, “double” (cf. NAB, NIV, NLT). The idea is that a hired worker would put in only so many hours per day whereas a bondslave was available around the clock.

89 tn The Hebrew text includes “from his master,” but this would be redundant in English style.



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