[b-hebrew] Exo 21:21 - does the slave live or die?

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Oct 31 09:14:26 EDT 2008

Look at the context, particularly the previous two verses. There the person
at fault had to pay for the modern equivalent of lost wages and doctor's

In the case of the slave, the lost wages and doctor's fees come out of the
master's pocket. But if the slave dies, then he should be avenged. Other
verses indicate that if the slave is permanently injured, he is to be set

So the total context indicates that the "standing" refers to recovery from
the beating, not malingering a couple of days before expiring.

The text is not that ambiguous, when taken in context.

As for the "right" to beat a slave, that is hardly a right if the master has
to pay the price for recovery, or loss of the slave if permanently injured,
or a sentence of death if the slave dies.

Karl W. Randolph.

On Fri, Oct 31, 2008 at 3:08 AM, Jim Courter <jim.courter at gmail.com> wrote:

> I am overseeing a revision of a German translation where I commented on the
> present translation of Exo 21:20-21 (the German is at the end of for those
> who know German): "If a master beats his slave with a stick so much that he
> dies on the spot, the owner must be punished. But if the slave stays alive
> for a day or two the owner should not be punished; the loss of his
> possession is punishment enough. The same goes for female slaves". The
> Hebrew translated in the German as - "stays alive" is ya'amod (someone
> please send me a list of the transliteration guidelines). I commented that
> this word is ambiguous here and should be translated differently as I
> explain under interpretation 2 which follows. Of course, two very different
> conclusions can be drawn from the way this is translated: 1. The owner will
> not be punished at all if his badly-beaten slave is confined to a bed for a
> day or two then dies (since he must not have intended to kill him)  2. The
> owner will not be executed if the slave is back on his feet after a day or
> two.
> I commented on this translation that since interpretation 2 is possible and
> presents a more 'humane' scenario the translation should be changed. The
> Hebrew seems to be ambiguously worded, but the question is what the passage
> really means. The reviser who is checking my comments does not agree with
> me, citing most other translations (except NIV) and some commentaries she
> is
> using.
> Then there is the question about what the Hebrew "for he is his money"
> means. With interpretation 1 the slave has a right to beat his slave as
> badly as he wants as long as the slave doesn't die right away. He'll just
> not have the slave any more when he dies and be out financially because his
> investment is gone. This is how the German translation finishes verse 21.
> With interpretation 2 the owner has a right to beat his slave so badly he
> has to be in bed for a day or two, but he will miss out on the slave's work
> for that long.
> Jim Courter

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