Some Notes:

The English language has no gender-neutral pronouns. So when the words man, he, him, etc are used, they mean "Generic human being" unless the context specifically says otherwise. Only women get words devoted just to them.

Thou, Thee, and Thine are singular pronouns. You and Your are plural in the 16th Century English the King James Bible was translated into. This actually makes the message clearer than our habit of using "you" as both a singular and a plural.

In many scriptures I have changed the King James (English) spelling to American spelling (labour=labor, for example. I understand those in England still spell it with a u). Also, in some scriptures I have changed the "-eth" to a simple "s." Spelling standards weren't set in English until the mid 1800's, well after the translating of the KJV. So I see no problem with making these simple changes that don't affect the meaning of the scripture but make it easier for our modern mouths and ears to deal with.

Exodus 21a- Hebrew Servants

Exodus 21:1 Now these are the laws which thou shall set before them.

These are the laws for Israel to live by.

2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, he will serve you for six years. In the seventh he shall go out free without paying anything.

Leviticus 25:39 And if thy brother that lives by thee become poor, and be sold to thee, thou shall not force him to serve as a bondservant:

40 But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubilee.

41 And then shall he leave thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return to his own family, and to his ancestral property.

42 For they are my servants, which I brought up out of the land of Egypt. They shall not be sold as bondmen.

43 Thou shall not rule over him harshley, but shalt fear thy God. ...

... 47 And if a immigrant or visitor become rich by thee, and thy brother that lives by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the visitor or immigrant by thee, or to the stranger's family:

48 After that he is sold he may be bought again, one of his brothers may pay his bill to free him.

49 Either his uncle, or his uncle's son, may buy him back, or any that is a near relative to him of his family may buy him back. Or if he can, he can pay his own bill to free himself.

50 And he shall negotiate with him that bought him from the year that he was sold to him to the year of Jubilee. The price of his sale shall be according to the number of years until Jubilee figured by the price of a hired hand.

51 If there are still a lot of years, he shall use the money he was given to pay a larger price.

52 And if there are only a few years left until the year of Jubilee, then he shall figure with his owner a smaller price for his freedom.

53 He will be just like a yearly hired servant, and the nation will make sure the master will not rule harshly over him.

54 And if he isn't bought back in these years, then he shall go free in the year of jubilee, both he, and his children with him.

55 For the children of Israel are My servants whom I brought up out of the land of Egypt. I am the I AM your God.

Deuteronomy 15:12 And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold to thee, and serve thee six years, then in the seventh year thou will let him go free from thee.

13 And when thou send him out free from thee, thou will not let him go away empty.

14 Thou will give to him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy threshing floor, and out of thy winepress, of whatever the I AM thy God has blessed thee with, thou will give to him.

15 And thou shall remember that thou was a slave in the land of Egypt, and the I AM thy God freed thee. So I command thee this thing today. ...

… 18 It shall not seem unfair to thee, when thou send him away free from thee, for he has been worth a double hired servant to thee, by serving thee six years. And the I AM thy God shall bless thee in all that thou do.

This was God's way of providing for the poor. Instead of taking people’s money by force (IRS) and then giving it to whoever the bullies in power (government) think deserve it (welfare), He allowed those in poverty to sell themselves to a prosperous neighbor- what we would call "indentured servitude."

Sell their labor, really, since it appears they still had the option of living at their own house sometimes.

This preserved the poor person's dignity. They were not "charity cases," but working, capable members of society.

After no more than six years he was allowed to go free without paying anything extra. His debt was fulfilled. This limit on time-served kept people from going so deep in debt that there was no hope for freedom.

Also, in Deuteronomy, God told the masters to give the leaving servants gifts to get their new life started with.

Exodus 21:3 If he sold only himself, he will leave by himself. If he sold his wife and himself at the same time, they shall both be freed at the same time.

Exodus 21:4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him children, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and the servant shall be freed by himself.

If the man married a fellow servant while working for his neighbor, his wife and her children stayed with their master when the man’s service time was up.

Exodus 21:5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children. I will not go out free.

6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or to the door post, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl, and he shall serve him forever.

Deuteronomy 15: 16 And it shall be, if he say to thee, "I don't want to go away from thee." because he loves thee and thine house, because he is well with thee;

17 Then thou shall take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant forever. And also to thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.

The poor person had the option of simply staying employed by his rich neighbor for life.

This really isn’t very different than common employment like we have today.

Every family was given land when Israel entered Canaan and that land wasn’t allowed to permanently leave the family. So, a poor man had his own land where he could grow his own garden, crops, and animals, but had the option of working for a boss instead, or in addition to, his own land.


Exodus 21:7 And if a man sells his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go free as the menservants do.

Women are different than men and so had different rules.

If a man bought a maidservant, he was promising to marry her or to have his son marry her.

This was a financial aid to her family.

If they fell on hard times, instead of having to resort to prostituting their girls to feed them, or putting them at physical risk by hiring them out, they would arrange a marriage for her and receive the dowry early. Then her new family was to take care of her like a daughter born in the house. Her family doesn’t have to worry about her well-being anymore.

Exodus 21:8 If she doesn't please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he will let her be bought back. He has not power to sell her to a strange nation, since he has dealt deceitfully with her.

She could only go back to her own family, like in a divorce. Under no circumstances could she be sold.

Exodus 21: 9 And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall treat her like a daughter.

10 If he marries another wife, the first wife's food, clothes, and sexual relations, he can't lesson.

She is in all cases to be treated like a full-fledged member of the family with full wife-rights.

Exodus 21:11 And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without paying money.

If the head of the household decides she is just not going to fit into the family he has to let her go back to her own family without any fees or price. The dowry doesn't have to be paid back. She is free.

Harming Slaves

Exodus 21:20 And if a man hit his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die by his hand, he shall be surely punished.

Punishment for killing your slave. This is very different than American slavery where there was no punishment for murdering your slave, where slaves were nothing but property, just like cows. God grants even the poorest in Israel the dignity of personhood.

Exodus 21:21 But if he is just bed ridden a day or two, he shall not be punished because he is his property.

An injured slave costs the slave holder money since he has to feed and house him while not getting any work, so he has already paid damages, in a way. 

Colossians 4:1 Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Ephesians 6:9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

These New Testament commands applied to slave holders in the Roman Empire, but today are applied to bosses. If you hire someone to work for you, treat them justly and fairly because in God's eyes you are the same. He loves that employee as much as the employer and you will have to answer to Him.