Exodus 21:16
And he that steals a man, and sells him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Exodus 21:16. He that stealeth a man — Whether he keep him in his own hands for his own use, or sell him, still it is a theft of a heinous kind, and the man-stealer deserves death. It appears from 1 Timothy 1:9-10, that this law was not meant to be of a merely temporary nature, but of standing force.21:12-21 God, who by his providence gives and maintains life, by his law protects it. A wilful murderer shall be taken even from God's altar. But God provided cities of refuge to protect those whose unhappiness it was, and not their fault, to cause the death of another; for such as by accident, when a man is doing a lawful act, without intent of hurt, happens to kill another. Let children hear the sentence of God's word upon the ungrateful and disobedient; and remember that God will certainly requite it, if they have ever cursed their parents, even in their hearts, or have lifted up their hands against them, except they repent, and flee for refuge to the Saviour. And let parents hence learn to be very careful in training up their children, setting them a good example, especially in the government of their passions, and in praying for them; taking heed not to provoke them to wrath. Through poverty the Israelites sometimes sold themselves or their children; magistrates sold some persons for their crimes, and creditors were in some cases allowed to sell their debtors who could not pay. But man-stealing, the object of which is to force another into slavery, is ranked in the New Testament with the greatest crimes. Care is here taken, that satisfaction be made for hurt done to a person, though death do not follow. The gospel teaches masters to forbear, and to moderate threatenings, Eph 6:9, considering with Job, What shall I do, when God riseth up? Job 31:13,14.The following offences were to be punished with death:

Striking a parent, compare Deuteronomy 27:16.

Cursing a parent, compare the marginal references.

Kidnapping, whether with a view to retain the person stolen, or to sell him, compare the marginal references.

Ex 21:7-36. Laws for Maidservants.

7-11. if a man sell his daughter—Hebrew girls might be redeemed for a reasonable sum. But in the event of her parents or friends being unable to pay the redemption money, her owner was not at liberty to sell her elsewhere. Should she have been betrothed to him or his son, and either change their minds, a maintenance must be provided for her suitable to her condition as his intended wife, or her freedom instantly granted.

i.e. In the manstealer’s hand; q.d. though he keep him in his own hands for his own use; for still it is a theft, and he is made that man’s slave, and it is in his power to sell him to another when he pleaseth, and therefore deserves death. And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him,.... One of the children of Israel, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, and so the Septuagint version: but though this law was given to the Israelites primarily, yet was made for men stealers in general, as the apostle observes, who plainly has reference to it, 1 Timothy 1:9,

or if he be found in his hand; before the selling of him, as Jarchi notes, since he stole him in order to sell him, he was guilty of death, as follows:

he shall surely be put to death; with strangling, as the same Jewish writer remarks, as on the preceding verse; and Jarchi sets it down as a rule, that all death in the law, simply expressed, is strangling.

And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. Man-stealing. Cf. Deuteronomy 24:7, where the present law is merely expanded, and recast in Deuteronomic phraseology.

a man] in Deuteronomy 24:7, expressly limited to an Israelite: so LXX Targ. add here, ‘of the children of Israel.’ No doubt this interprets correctly the intention of the law.

and selleth him] into a foreign country is probably what is thought (cf. v. 8). This would not only sever the victim cruelly from his own people, and his own religion (1 Samuel 26:19), but also expose him to many risks of death. The Phoenicians (Amos 1:9, and, at a later time, Joel 3:4-6), to say nothing of other nations (Genesis 37:36), would be ready purchasers of slaves.

or if he be found in his hand] i.e. if he has not yet actually sold him.

shall be put to death] The same punishment in Ḥamm. § 14. At Athens, the ἀνδραποδιστής, who enslaved a free man, or enticed away another person’s slave, was punished with death (Hermann, Griech. Antiq. iii. §§ xii. 12; lxii. 12: cf. Demosth. Phil. i. p. 53 end, § 47; Xen. Memor. i. 2. 62): among the Romans both the seller and the buyer of a free-born citizen were punished with death (Kn.).Verse 16. - He that stealeth a man. Kidnapping, or stealing men to make them slaves, was a very early and very wide-spread crime. Joseph' s brothers must be regarded as having committed it (Genesis 37:28); and there are many traces of it in the remains of antiquity. (See Herod. 4:183; Strab. 7. p. 467; Sueton. Octav. § 32; etc.) Most kidnapping was of foreigners; and this was a practice of which the laws of states took no cognizance, though a certain disrepute may have attached to it. But the kidnapping of a fellow-country-man was generally punished with severity. At Athens it was a capital offence. At Rome it made a man infamous. We may gather from Deuteronomy 24:7, that the Mosaic law was especially levelled against this lena of the crime, though the words of the present passage are general, and forbid the crime altogether. Man-stealing, in the general sense, is now regarded as an offence by the chief civilised states of Europe and America, and is punished by confiscation of the stolen goods, and sometimes by imprisonment of the man-stealers. The daughter of an Israelite, who had been sold by her father as a maid-servant (לאמה), i.e., as the sequel shows, as a housekeeper and concubine, stood in a different relation to her master's house. She was not to go out like the men-servants, i.e., not to be sent away as free at the end of six years of service; but the three following regulations, which are introduced by אם (Exodus 21:8), ואם (Exodus 21:9), and ואם (Exodus 21:11), were to be observed with regard to her. In the first place (Exodus 21:8), "if she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed." The לא before יעדהּ is one of the fifteen cases in which לא has been marked in the Masoretic text as standing for לו; and it cannot possibly signify not in the passage before us. For if it were to be taken as a negative, "that he do not appoint her," sc., as a concubine for himself, the pronoun לו would certainly not be omitted. הפדּהּ (for הפדּהּ, see Ges. 53, Note 6), to let her be redeemed, i.e., to allow another Israelite to buy her as a concubine; for there can hardly have been any thought of redemption on the part of the father, as it would no doubt be poverty alone that caused him to sell his daughter (Leviticus 25:39). But "to sell her unto a strange nation (i.e., to any one but a Hebrew), he shall have no power, if he acts unfaithfully towards her," i.e., if he do not grant her the promised marriage. In the second place (Exodus 21:9, Exodus 21:10), "if he appoint her as his son's wife, he shall act towards her according to the rights of daughters," i.e., treat her as a daughter; "and if he take him (the son) another (wife), - whether because the son was no longer satisfied, or because the father gave the son another wife in addition to her - "her food (שׁאר flesh as the chief article of food, instead of לחם, bread, because the lawgiver had persons of property in his mind, who were in a position to keep concubines), her raiment, and her duty of marriage he shall not diminish," i.e., the claims which she had as a daughter for support, and as his son's wife for conjugal rights, were not to be neglected; he was not to allow his son, therefore, to put her away or treat her badly. With this explanation the difficulties connected with every other are avoided. For instance, if we refer the words of Exodus 21:9 to the son, and understand them as meaning, "if the son should take another wife," we introduce a change of subject without anything to indicate it. If, on the other hand, we regard them as meaning, "if the father (the purchaser) should take to himself another wife," this ought to have come before Exodus 21:9. In the third place (Exodus 21:11), "if he do not (do not grant) these three unto her, she shall go out for nothing, without money." "These three" are food, clothing, and conjugal rights, which are mentioned just before; not "si eam non desponderit sibi nec filio, nec redimi sit passus" (Rabbins and others), nor "if he did not give her to his son as a concubine, but diminished her," as Knobel explains it.
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