Exodus 21:7
And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.
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(7) If a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant.—The right of selling their children into slavery was regarded in ancient times as inherent in the patria potestas, and was practised largely by many nations (Herod. v. 6; Heyne, Opusc., vol. iv., p. 125). Among the Hebrews such sales were, comparatively speaking, rare; but still they occasionally took place, in consequence of extreme poverty (Nehemiah 5:5). Women sold in this way might claim their freedom at the end of six years if they chose (Deuteronomy 15:17); but if purchased to be wives, they received a further protection. If the intention were carried out, they were to be entitled to the status of wives during their whole lifetime, even though their husbands contracted further marriages (Exodus 21:10). If, instead of becoming the wife of her purchaser, a woman was made over by him to his son, she was to enjoy all the rights of a daughter (Exodus 21:9). If the purchaser declined to act in either of these two ways, he was compelled to take one of two other courses. Either he must get another Hebrew to discharge his obligation of marriage (Exodus 21:8), or he must return the maid intact to her father, without making any demand for the restitution of the purchase-money (Exodus 21:11). These provisions afforded a considerable protection to the slave-concubine, who might otherwise have been liable to grievous wrong and oppression.

Exodus 21:7. If a man sell his daughter — A Hebrew, as appears by the opposition of one of a strange nation, Exodus 21:8. To be a maid-servant — Which was allowed in cases of extreme necessity; she shall not go out as the men-servants do — Gaining her liberty after a servitude of six years, but upon better terms, as being one of the weaker and more helpless sex.

21:1-11 The laws in this chapter relate to the fifth and sixth commandments; and though they differ from our times and customs, nor are they binding on us, yet they explain the moral law, and the rules of natural justice. The servant, in the state of servitude, was an emblem of that state of bondage to sin, Satan, and the law, which man is brought into by robbing God of his glory, by the transgression of his precepts. Likewise in being made free, he was an emblem of that liberty wherewith Christ, the Son of God, makes free from bondage his people, who are free indeed; and made so freely, without money and without price, of free grace.A man might, in accordance with existing custom, sell his daughter to another man with a view to her becoming an inferior wife, or concubine. In this case, she was not "to go out," like the bondman; that is, she was not to be dismissed at the end of the sixth year. But women who were bound in any other way, would appear to have been under the same conditions as bondmen. See Deuteronomy 15:17. 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.

A man, i.e. a Hebrew, as appears by the opposition of one of a strange nation, Exodus 21:8.

For a man to

sell his daughter to be a maid-servant was allowed in case of extreme necessity, because of the hardness of their hearts.

She shall not go out as the men-servants do, but upon better terms, as being one of the weaker and more helpless sex.

Quest. How doth this agree with Deu 15:17,

Also unto thy maid-servant thou shalt do likewise?

Answ. 1. Distinguish persons. She, Deu 15:17 was sold by herself, and that to mere servitude; this here was sold by her father, not only for service, but in order to her marriage, as the following verses sufficiently imply.

2. Distinguish things. The likeness between men-servants and maid-servants was only in the rites used, in case she consented to perpetual servitude. The difference here is, in case they both were made free, in which case she had some privileges, which here follow.

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant,.... That is, if an Israelite, as the Targum of Jonathan, sells his little daughter, as the same Targum, and so Jarchi and Aben Ezra, one that is under age, that is not arrived to the age of twelve years and a day, and this through poverty; he not being able to support himself and his family, puts his daughter out to service, or rather sells her to be a servant:

she shall not go out as the menservants do; that are sold, before described; or rather, according to the Targum,"as the Canaanitish servants go out, who are made free, because of a tooth, or an eye, (the loss of them, Exodus 21:26) but in the years of release, and with the signs (of puberty), and in the jubilee, and at the death of their masters, with redemption of silver,''so Jarchi.

And if a man {f} sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

(f) Forced either by poverty, or else with the intent that the master should marry her.

7. if a man sell his daughter] as he easily might do, either from actual poverty, or because he was in such circumstances that it would be more advantageous for his daughter to be the concubine of a well-to-do neighbour than to marry a man in her own social position.

maidservant] better, bondwoman (RVm.), or female slave: ‘maid-servant’ has associations which are not at all those of ancient Hebrew society. Here the word (’âmâh) denotes in particular a female slave bought not only to do household work, but also to be her master’s concubine. Cf. the same word in Genesis 21:10 ff. (of Hagar), Jdg 9:18 (of Gideon’s concubine; see Exodus 8:31), Exodus 19:19.

as the male slaves do] v. 2.

7–11. Hebrew female slaves. The law for female slaves is different. A female slave does not receive her freedom at the end of six years (v. 7); still, she cannot be sold to a non-Israelite; and if her master, before actually taking her as his concubine, finds he does not like her she must be redeemed (v. 8). If her master has bought her for his son she must have the usual rights of a daughter (v. 9). If her master take another concubine, she is in no respect to be defrauded of her food, dress, and conjugal rights (v. 10): if these be withheld, her freedom must be given her unconditionally (v. 11). The reason for the different treatment of female slaves is to be found in the fact that a female slave was as a rule (v. 8) her master’s concubine; she stood consequently to her master in a relation which could not suitably be terminated at the end of six years. Concubinage was common among the ancient Hebrews (among the patriarchs, Genesis 16:3; Genesis 22:24; Genesis 30:3; Genesis 30:9; Genesis 36:12; in the time of the Judges, Jdg 8:31; Jdg 9:18; Jdg 19:1 ff.; and among the early kings, 2 Samuel 3:7; 2 Samuel 5:13; 2 Samuel 15:16; 2 Samuel 21:11; 1 Kings 11:3), as it was also among the Babylonians in the age of Ḥammurabi (Code, §§ 144–71[186]), and as it is still in Mohammedan countries (see e.g. Lane, Modern Egyptians, i. 122, 227, 232 f.).

[186] Cf. the interesting case attested by two contemporary contract-tablets (Pinches, OT. in the Light of Ass. and Bab. records and legends, p. 174 f.; Cook, Moses and Ḥamm. p. 113 f.): a man marries his wife’s sister, to become her waiting-maid.

Verse 7. - If a man sell his daughter to be a maid-servant. Among ancient nations the father' s rights over his children were generally regarded as including the right to sell them for slaves. In civilised nations the right was seldom exercised; but what restrained men was rather a sentiment of pride than any doubt of such sales being proper. Many barbarous nations, like the Thracians (Herod. 5:6), made a regular practice of selling their daughters. Even at Athens there was a time when sales of children had been common (Plut. Vit. Solon. § 13). Existing custom, it is clear, sanctioned such sales among the Hebrews, and what the law now did was to step in and mitigate the evil consequences. (Compare the comment on verse 2.) These were greatest in the case of females. Usually they were bought to be made the concubines, or secondary wives of their masters. If this intention were carried out, then they were to be entitled to their status and maintenance as wives during their lifetime, even though their husband took another (legitimate) wife (ver. 10). If the retention was not carried out, either the man was to marry her to one of his sons (ver. 9), or he was to sell his rights over her altogether with his obligations to another Hebrew; or he was to send her back at once intact to her father' s house, without making any claim on him to refund the purchase-money. These provisos may not have furnished a remedy against all the wrongs of a weak, and, no doubt, an oppressed class; but they were important mitigations of the existing usages, and protected the slave-concubine to a considerable extent. Exodus 21:7The 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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