‘These are the laws you are to set before them:
‘If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.
‘But if the servant declares, “I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,” then his master must take him before the judges.21:6 Or before God He shall take him to the door or the door-post and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
‘If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself,21:8 Or master so that he does not choose her he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.
‘Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.
‘Anyone who attacks21:15 Or kills their father or mother is to be put to death.
‘Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.
‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.
‘If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fist21:18 Or with a tool and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held liable if the other can get up and walk around outside with a staff; however, the guilty party must pay the injured person for any loss of time and see that the victim is completely healed.
‘Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.
‘If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely21:22 Or she has a miscarriage but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
‘An owner who hits a male or female slave in the eye and destroys it must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.
‘If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death. However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded. This law also applies if the bull gores a son or a daughter. If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels21:32 That is, about 345 grams of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.
‘If anyone uncovers a pit or digs one and fails to cover it and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the one who opened the pit must pay the owner for the loss and take the dead animal in exchange.
‘If anyone’s bull injures someone else’s bull and it dies, the two parties are to sell the live one and divide both the money and the dead animal equally. However, if it was known that the bull had the habit of goring, yet the owner did not keep it penned up, the owner must pay, animal for animal, and take the dead animal in exchange.
Protection of property
In Hebrew texts 22:1 is numbered 21:37, and 22:2-31 is numbered 22:1-30. ‘Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
‘If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.
‘Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft. If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession – whether ox or donkey or sheep – they must pay back double.
‘If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard.
‘If a fire breaks out and spreads into thorn-bushes so that it burns sheaves of corn or standing corn or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.
‘If anyone gives a neighbour silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbour’s house, the thief, if caught, must pay back double. But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must22:8 Or before God, and he will determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, “This is mine,” both parties are to bring their cases before the judges.22:9 Or before God The one whom the judges declare22:9 Or whom God declares guilty must pay back double to the other.
‘If anyone gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to their neighbour for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no-one is looking, the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbour did not lay hands on the other person’s property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required. But if the animal was stolen from the neighbour, restitution must be made to the owner. If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, the neighbour shall bring in the remains as evidence and shall not be required to pay for the torn animal.
‘If anyone borrows an animal from their neighbour and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, they must make restitution. But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.
‘If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.
‘Do not allow a sorceress to live.
‘Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.
‘Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed.22:20 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.
‘Do not ill-treat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
‘Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
‘If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbour’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbour has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
‘Do not blaspheme God22:28 Or Do not revile the judges or curse the ruler of your people.
‘Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats.22:29 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
‘You must give me the firstborn of your sons. Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day.
‘You are to be my holy people. So do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs.
Laws of justice and mercy
‘Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.
‘Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favouritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.
‘If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.
‘Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.
‘Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent.
‘Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.
‘For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unploughed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.
‘Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.
‘Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.
The three annual festivals
‘Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.
‘Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
‘No-one is to appear before me empty-handed.
‘Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.
‘Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.
‘Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord.
‘Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast.
‘The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning.
‘Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.
‘Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
God’s angel to prepare the way
‘See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away disease from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.