TMT 058: Exodus 21:26 – 21:32

ox-plough-253403_640Who knew that learning about goring oxen laws could be so interesting!  And don’t worry if you missed the last class, this week’s class begins with a bit of a review of the previous class.  Then we continue from Exodus Ch. 21 verse 26 and make it to verse 32.  Below are the relevant verses:

Exodus Ch. 21 (NIV)

26“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. 27And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.

28“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. 29If, 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. 30However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded.31This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. 32If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.

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Comments

  1. On Exodus 21:32, you say, “I think it’s quite beautiful how well the slave is regarded.” I see it very differently. I think the fact that if a free man is killed, it’s a death penalty for the ox owner, but if its a slave, he only pays a fine, shows that the biblical God clearly does not regard slaves equal in value to free men. Do you have any response to this assessment? I think this particular verse is a clear refutation of the Bible as coming from God. The God I believe in regards all men of equal value. MJ

    • Nahum Roman Footnick thinks:

      Hi MJ,
      Thank you for your comment and listening to the podcast.

      I think we may be reading different ideas into the Torah. As I read it: If a man free person is killed by an ox who has been a habitual menace and the owner can be proven negligent… then the owner is eligible for the death penalty. Were the scenario to be the same (same ox and same owner) and they are responsible for the death of a slave, then the homicidal ox owner is obligated to pay for the loss of the slave to his slave owner and he loses his ox (which is to be stoned – and cannot be utilized). Plus, there is no indication that this is as far as the courts would rule on the homicidal ox owner’s punishment. What it is clear about is that the slave owner will recoup some of his financial loss and the ox owner himself is obligated to pay it. Keep in mind the 30 shekel price was the same fine imposed by Hammurabi for the same scenario except instead of a slave it was aristocracy (i.e. a prince) who was killed by an ox. The 30 shekel price actually raises the worth of a slave to be the same as aristocracy, a bold concept contextually speaking.

      I think we may both agree that God created everyone equal, and we probably agree that in general human life is of infinite value. But perhaps we differ in regards to the reality to a persons value within their role (or potential role) in the physical world. Do you think every person should be paid the same wage regardless of job, education, ability, experience, etc.? I do not. Some people merit more, others less. I also think that people can diminish their worth by acting evil (i.e. murder, rape, kidnapping.) While others can enhance their worth by doing good (i.e. saving lives, charity, acts of loving kindness, etc.)

      The Hebrew slave in the Torah was a slave either due to financial or criminal activity. Again, as I said in the class, “slavery” described in the Torah was not at all analogous to other cultures’ slavery (i.e. American, Asian, Middle Eastern, African). The slave’s life was dedicated to his owner, and God wants us dedicated to Him alone (hence why He wants us free.) Therefore, were the slave to be killed by a homicidal ox while he was the property of his owner, the ox’s owner MUST repay the slave owner for his loss of property. Simple, and pragmatic consequence. I don’t know a more just way to do it. Perhaps you’d prefer the ox owner simply be put to death instead of paying for the loss of property he’s responsible for? I would think that were it to be proven that his negligence and intent were murderous he would be eligible for the death penalty. Remember, all first degree murderers are eligible for the death penalty in the Torah regardless of the status of the person they murdered.

      The only reason there was no money exchanged in the preceding homicidal ox scenario was due to the fact that person was no one else’s property. Hence, nothing owed financially by the ox owner.

      Thanks again for the thought provoking question. Below are the relevant verses. ~ Nahum

      Exodus 21 (NIV) (emphasis added by me)

      12“Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. 13However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. 14But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.

      15“Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.

      16“Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.

      17“Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

      18“If people quarrel and one person hits another with a stone or with their fistd and the victim does not die but is confined to bed, 19the 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.

      20“Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

      22“If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurelye but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

      26“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. 27And an owner who knocks out the tooth of a male or female slave must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.

      28“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. 29If, 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. 30However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded. 31This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. 32If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekelsf of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.

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