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Exodus 21:1-11 Hebrew Slaves

Slavery is a difficult subject in many cultures worldwide. The practice of slavery and the slave trade existed long before Israel became a nation. Slavery was a topic the Hebrew Israelites would have been very familiar with because they were slaves in Egypt before being delivered by YeHoVaH. As former slaves themselves, Moses was given strict instructions about Hebrews purchasing Hebrews as slaves and rules governing the treatment of Hebrew slaves.

In this teaching, we will examine the rules given, who they were to be applied to, and how they were to be applied.

Ex 21:1 Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.

Judgements – 04941 מִשְׁפָּט mishpat {mish-pawt'}

Meaning:  1) judgment, justice, ordinance 1a) judgment 1a1) act of deciding a case 1a2) place, court, seat of judgment 1a3) process, procedure, litigation (before judges) 1a4) case, cause (presented for judgment) 1a5) sentence, decision (of judgment) 1a6) execution (of judgment) 1a7) time (of judgment) 1b) justice, right, rectitude (attributes of God or man) 1c) ordinance 1d) decision (in law) 1e) right, privilege, due (legal) 1f) proper, fitting, measure, fitness, custom, manner, plan

Usage:  AV - judgment 296, manner 38, right 18, cause 12, ordinance 11, lawful 7, order 5, worthy 3, fashion 3, custom 2, discretion 2, law 2, measure 2, sentence 2, misc 18; 421

Ex 21:2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

Under normal circumstances, a Hebrew person would not become a slave. If they obeyed the Commandments and worked the land, they had been given, they would prosper.

To buy a Hebrew slave one would have to sell the Hebrew slave.

A Hebrew could become a slave in a variety of ways, each having its own law or ordinance. For the sake of this portion of Exodus we will deal only with buying a Hebrew slave.

First, we must qualify the term Hebrew. 

Hebrew – 05680 עִבְרִי `Ibriy {ib-ree'}

Meaning:  Hebrew = "one from beyond" n pr 1) a designation of the patriarchs and the Israelites adj 2) a designation of the patriarchs and the Israelites

Origin:  patronymic from 05677;

Usage:  AV - Hebrew 29, Hebrew woman 2, Hebrew + 0376 1, Hebrewess 1, Hebrew man 1; 34

 Who were Hebrews? 

Descendants of Eber. 

  • Abraham is the first person in Scripture to be a called a Hebrew.
  • Abraham was a descendent of Eber whose name means …

05677 עֵבֶר `Eber {ay'-ber}

Meaning:  Eber or Heber = "the region beyond" 1) son of Salah, great grandson of Shem, father of Peleg and Joktan 2) a Gadite chief 3) a Benjamite, son of Elpaal and descendant of Sharahaim 4) a Benjamite, son of Shashak 5) a priest in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua

Usage:  AV - Eber 13, Heber 2; 15

Hebrews bought and sold Hebrews.

Ishmaelites were Hebrew.

Ge 16:15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.

Midianites were Hebrew. 

  • Ge 25:1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
  • Ge 25:2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.
  • Ge 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.
  • Ge 25:20 And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan-aram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.
  • Ge 25:21 And Isaac entreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.
  • Ge 25:24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
  • Ge 25:25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau/Edom.
  • Ge 25:26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob/Israel: and

Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.

Edomites were Hebrews.

Dt 23:7 Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother: thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land.

Hebrews sold Joseph, the Hebrew, to Potiphar, the Egyptian.

Servant – 05650 עֶבֶד `ebed {eh'-bed} 

Meaning:  1) slave, servant 1a) slave, servant, man-servant 1b) subjects 1c) servants, worshippers (of God) 1d) servant (in special sense as prophets, Levites etc) 1e) servant (of Israel) 1f) servant (as form of address between equals) 

Usage:  AV - servant 744, manservant 23, bondman 21, bondage 10, bondservant 1, on all sides 1; 800

Servant (Heb. ebed, servant, slave, Gr. doulos, bondslave, servant). While the Hebrew and Greek words are very common in the Bible, the English word slave is found only twice (Jer 2:14; Rev 18:13), and the word slavery does not occur at all in KJV, because both the Hebrew and the Greek word involved are more often rendered "servant."

The Hebrew slave pays for his freedom with six years of labor unless he is redeemed before that period, or it is the year of Jubilee.

Slaves among the Hebrews were more kindly treated than slaves among other nations, since the Law laid down rules governing their treatment. 

Dt 15:12 And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. 

Dt 15:13 And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: 

Dt 15:14 Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. 

Dt 15:15 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.

Lev 25:39 And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: Lev 25:40 But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubilee: 

Lev 25:41 And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. 

If the Hebrew became poor, or circumstances came upon him whereas he needed to care for himself and his family, he could sell himself as a slave for a period of time.

Ex 21:3 If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.

If he was married, his wife and children would come with him, and the master would be responsible to take care of them as well.

Ex 21:4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.

The wife and the children born to her would belong to the master, indicating the wife was not a Hebrew woman that was given to the slave.

Ex 21:5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:

The slave who had earned his freedom chose to remain a slave and therefore had to enter into a legal binding agreement giving the master rights over him, thus denying his freedom and, in a sense, his Hebrew identity.

Ex 21:6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.

Ex 21:7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

If a Hebrew man shall sell his Hebrew daughter, she is to be treated differently than a Hebrew man.

The passage indicates the purpose of the sale is for the intent of marriage.

She can be sold as a wife to the man who bought her, or a wife for the son, but could not be sold.

Ex 21:8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.

After the purchase, the buyer finds something wrong with her and is not pleased with her as a wife. 

Please not –07451 רַע ra` {rah}

Meaning:  adj 1) bad, evil 1a) bad, disagreeable, malignant 1b) bad, unpleasant, evil (giving pain, unhappiness, misery) 1c) evil, displeasing 1d) bad (of its kind - land, water, etc) 1e) bad (of value) 1f) worse than, worst (comparison) 1g) sad, unhappy 1h) evil (hurtful), bad 13, trouble 10, sore 9, affliction 6, ill 5, adversity 4, favoured 3, harm 3, naught 3, noisome 2, grievous 2, sad 2, misc 34; 663

Please not – 05869 עַיִן `ayin {ah'-yin}

Meaning:  1) eye 1a) eye 1a1) of physical eye 1a2) as showing mental qualities 1a3) of mental and spiritual faculties (fig.) 2) spring, fountain

Usage:  AV - eye 495, sight 216, seem 19, colour 12, fountain 11, well 11, face 10, pleased + 03190 10, presence 8, displeased + 03415 8, before 8, pleased + 03474 4, conceit 4, think 4, misc 66; 887

Ex 21:9 And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.

Ex 21:10 If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.

Ex 21:11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

It seems, if he does not take her as a wife, nor gives her to his son as a wife, she can go free after her service time is completed.

Last Updated on October 19, 2021 by

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