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Bible Commentaries

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Exodus 21

Verse 1

Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.

The first verse is the general title of the laws contained in this and the two following chapters. Their government being purely a theocracy; that which in other states is to be settled by human prudence, was directed among them by a divine appointment. These laws are called judgments; because their magistrates were to give judgment according to them. In the doubtful cases that had hitherto occurred, Moses had particularly enquired of God, but now God gave him statutes in general, by which to determine particular cases. He begins with the laws concerning servants, commanding mercy and moderation towards them. The Israelites had lately been servants themselves, and now they were become not only their own matters, but masters of servants too; lest they should abuse their servants as they themselves had been abused, provision was made for the mild and gentle usage of servants.

Verse 2

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

If thou buy an Hebrew servant — Either sold by him or his parents through poverty, or by the judges for his crimes, yet even such a one was to continue in slavery but seven years at the most.

Verse 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 aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

For ever — As long as he lives, or till the year of Jubilee.

Verse 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.

Who hath betrothed her to himself — For a concubine, or secondary Wife. Not that Masters always took Maid-servants on these terms.

Verse 9

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

After the manner of daughters — He shall give her a portion, as to a daughter.

Verse 20

And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.

Direction is given what should be done, if a servant died by his master's correction. This servant must not be an Israelite, but a Gentile slave, as the Negroes to our planters; and it is supposed that he smite him with a rod, and not with any thing that was likely to give a mortal wound, yet if he died under his hand, he should be punished for his cruelty, at the discretion of the judges, upon consideration of circumstances.

Verse 24

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Eye for eye — The execution of this law is not put into the hands of private persons, as if every man might avenge himself, which would introduce universal confusion. The tradition of the elders seems to have put this corrupt gloss upon it. But magistrates had an eye to this rule in punishing offenders, and doing right to those that are injured.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Exodus 21". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wen/exodus-21.html. 1765.