April 19, 2019

So That's Where "Eye for Eye" Comes from!

Exodus 21

7 Comments | Listen | Print

Laws About Slaves

“Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave,1 he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If 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. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.

“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her2 for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.

12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. 13 But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. 14 But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.

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

16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.

17 “Whoever curses3 his father or his mother shall be put to death.

18 “When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, 19 then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed.

20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.

22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm,4 then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

26 “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. 27 If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.

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. 29 But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him. 31 If it gores a man's son or daughter, he shall be dealt with according to this same rule. 32 If the ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels5 of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

Laws About Restitution

33 “When a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restoration. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his.

35 “When one man's ox butts another's, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and share its price, and the dead beast also they shall share. 36 Or if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall repay ox for ox, and the dead beast shall be his.


[1] 21:2 Or servant; the Hebrew term ‘ebed designates a range of social and economic roles; also verses 5, 6, 7, 20, 21, 26, 27, 32 (see Preface)
[2] 21:8 Or so that he has not designated her
[3] 21:17 Or dishonors; Septuagint reviles
[4] 21:23 Or so that her children come out and it is clear who was to blame, he shall be fined as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he alone shall pay. 23If it is unclear who was to blame . . .
[5] 21:32 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams

So That's Where "Eye for Eye" Comes from!

Key Verse | Exodus 21:23-25

"But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."

Bio | Liz Coppage

I was the OOPS baby. My oldest brother was sixteen when I was born, and I was nine when he made me an aunt! Once 18, I drank a lot, then off to Texas A&M I went. That's where I became an Aggie and met my husband. More importantly, that's where I became a true believer in Christ! Aggies are for a lifetime, but walking with Christ is forever. My life has had some true joys and some major struggles. Through it all, I grasp Christ's love more and more each day!

Central Truth

EVERY human life has great value in God's creation. This means each man, woman, and child. This includes the unborn, the elderly, the crippled, and the brain-damaged. Because of His love for us, through Christ, we should love all people like He does.

Devotional | Exodus 21

When I was assigned Exodus 21 as my JTJ Scripture, I was nervous because I wasn't sure what that passage was. But wow! God never fails! It's the first chapter after the Ten...

When I was assigned Exodus 21 as my JTJ Scripture, I was nervous because I wasn't sure what that passage was. But wow! God never fails! It's the first chapter after the Ten Commandments. Isn't it likely to be pretty important, too?!

Because I used to be a tax accountant, I thought about how tax forms have descriptions on each line. First, you read the line-by-line instructions. Next, you read the tax publications, tax laws, and then tax regulations. Each item has more details than the previous one.

Likewise, Exodus 21 has line-by-line instructions for some of the Ten Commandments. Thankfully, God is nothing close to our tax agencies! He's not trying to make us follow any laws (or pay any money). Instead, He's trying to provide more and more detailed operating instructions for the men and women He has made. Why? Because He designed us and because He loves us SO much!

All the Exodus 21 rules are to protect people—sometimes the community generally and sometimes individuals. When we don't follow the instructions, things will go wrong—sometimes right away and sometimes over time. Exodus 21 contains basic rules about human life:

  • Verses 1-11 address fairness in the culture of the time. In our culture, think about fairness toward family, those who work next to and below you, your bosses, and those who serve you in your personal life. In the Christian life, think about John 13:34, where Jesus says, "[J]ust as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
  • Verses 12-36 talk about major unfairness, leading to property damage, personal injury, and death! This includes assaults, accidental killings, murders, and even mistreatment of parents. God sees all of these as major offenses, even if our culture sometimes does not. How these offenses are treated impacts the direction a nation will go!

Whether the offense is considered major or not, Jesus died for the sins of the world on the cross (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). So should we even care about Exodus 21? Yes! Christians sin. We need help from the operating instructions—God's Word—to grasp the problem and to be pointed to forgiveness in Christ, the only solution.

See Comments

Discussion Questions

1. Exodus 21:15, 17 deal with honoring father and mother. How are you doing in your family? What if your parent(s) aren't nice or are unbelievers? What if they are sick, disabled, or mentally ill? Are you honoring your father and mother in these situations? ALSO, since we are members of the family of Christ, how does this instruction apply to our church family? How can you help them in their faith? Do you have any additional ways to help?

2. How does God show that He loves all people in this chapter?

3. How should the verses of Exodus 21 impact you today? Where does God want you to draw the line in your relationships and activities with believers and unbelievers?

4. According to Exodus 21:23-25, Psalm 139:13-16, and Luke 1:24-56, when does human life begin? At what point of pregnancy would a mother mourn the loss of an unborn baby? If you are mourning or struggling with guilt, please let a Watermark staff member know (214.361.2275). They will not only help you understand how much God loves you, but can walk you through recovery from guilt or other feelings you may be dealing with.

7 Comments available

Jay Caruso about 1 year ago

But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." When I read this part here it doesn’t give me any reason for forgiveness and there should unless I messed the point

greg jones about 1 year ago

Exodus 21 slave laws and Leviticus 25 slave laws do not sound like laws that are expected to be kept at the same time by the same people. Tradition says Moses wrote both books. Many Bible scholars today believe the writings came from different authors at different times in Israel’s history.

I was raised in the one author tradition. With that tradition came this paradigm: God is____to fill in the blank read your Bible. I don’t think the paradigm is necessarily wrong but can be incomplete. It reads the word God is but is deaf to the inspiration that comes from is God, such as is God saying.

Sue’s second comment resonated with me, I totally get her “somehow”. Sometimes those somehow moments can feel more disconcerting than enlightening though.

Great devotional on Exodus 21.

Sue Bohlin about 1 year ago

Beloved JTJ family,

As we look forward to observing the profound horror of Christ’s passion and death for us, followed by the marvelous glory of His resurrection, may I offer a couple of thoughts?

First, there is a 2000-year-old Easter morning tradition among believers. We greet each other with a special Resurrection Day verbal handshake:

“The Lord has risen!” “He has risen indeed!”

This happens in churches, cultures, and tongues around the world. When you hear someone say “The Lord has risen!” Or “Christ has risen!” don’t give them a fist-bump or say, “Yeah!” The right response is “He is risen indeed!” Listen for it at your church service.

Also, this blog post might be helpful this week, “What Difference Does the Resurrection Make?”: https://blogs.bible.org/engage/sue_bohlin/what_difference_does_the_resurrection_make

Sue Bohlin about 1 year ago

Ya dun good, Liz, bless you! Showing the parallel to tax laws and forms is especially appropriate this week following April 15!

I’m grateful the Lord has been showing me that He formalizes rules for dealing with things already in existence such as Sabbath rest and priests. He’s not introducing laws for brand new things, as if here in Exodus He suddenly tells His people that red traffic lights mean stop and green means go! His laws putting boundaries on slavery and personal injury are His kindness on display because those are manifestations of the brokenness of life in a fallen world.

Somehow up till now I had not fully recognized this and wondered why God seemed to be saying that owning slaves and taking multiple wives was OK with Him. But broken man came up with those bad ideas, not God!

Hugh Stephenson about 1 year ago

Why does God have all these rules? Why can’t I do what I want as long as I am not hurting anyone? Can’t I be my “true self”? Can’t we just go back to “don’t eat from that tree?”

2 Timothy 3:16 - Here are my answers to myself (in reverse order)

Bad news - Paradise is lost. The apple can’t be “uneaten”. Good news - Instantly after Eve ate, God promised a redeemer (Genesis 3:!5).

Good news - My true self is that I am made in the image of God, (Genesis 1:26-27). Unequaled joy awaits my surrender.

Bad news - “Whatever I want” leads me death, (Proverbs 14:12). Good News - Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)

Good news - God establishes boundaries because He loves us and KNOWS what is best for us. His rules are for our good and His glory.

Michael Scaman about 1 year ago

Capital punishment for causing a miscarriage here should give someone pause if they minimize the life of a preborn

The payment value of a slave of 30 pieces of silver here reminds us of the low valuation of the bounty put on Jesus related to his betrayal. Jesus betrayal foretold in Psalm 109 and one of the long ‘super epic Psalms’


Michael Scaman about 1 year ago

After the 10 commandments the first detailed discussion about the laws is the altar. That’s not surprising because it bears on worship.

The discussion jumps abruptly into slavery. Maybe surprising to us, but this was a people who were slaves. Hebrews were set free from slavery and so protections are put in place so they should only be slaves at worse temporarily. I don’t take this as an approval for slavery, more of a restraint. Slavery is an evil but restraints are put on it. If you are the master, there are protections against egregious mistreatment and masters are accountable.

Enjoying freedom such as the Exodus partly means protections from loss of freedom and also not becoming the harsh taskmasters for others

View More Comments

Download The App

  • Jointhejourney app store
  • Jointhejourney play store