Exodus 20:20-21 Avenging Slaves

Status
Not open for further replies.

ClayPot

Puritan Board Sophomore
“When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.
(Exodus 21:20-21 ESV)

Does anyone have any information about why a slave didn't need to be avenged if he lived a day or two after their beating? One commentator said it was because the loss of the slave was punishment enough for the owner. But that just seems to diminish the value of human life.
 

satz

Puritan Board Senior
I heard that the fact that the slave survived for more than a day showed that there was no intent to kill on the owner's part.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Calvin on the passage
20. And if a man smite his servant. Although in civil matters there was a wide distinction between slaves and free-men, still, that God may show how dear and precious men’s lives are to Him, He has no respect to persons with regard to murder; but avenges the death of a slave and a free-man in the same way, if he should die immediately of his wound. Indeed, it was a proof of gross barbarism amongst the Romans and other nations, to give to masters the power of life and death; for men are bound together by a more sacred tie, than that it should be permitted to a master to kill with impunity his wretched slave; nor are some men so set over others, as that they should exercise tyranny, or robbery, neither does reason permit that any private individual should usurp to himself the power of the sword. But, although unjust cruelty was not prohibited, as it should have been, by the laws of Rome, yet they 3737 “Les gens prudens;” their wise men. — Fr. confessed that slaves should be used like hired servants. The exception, which immediately follows, does not seem very consistent, for, if the slave should die after some time, the penalty of murder is remitted; whereas it would often be preferable to die at once of a single wound, than to perish by a lingering illness; and it might happen that the slave should be so bruised and maimed by blows, as to die some time afterwards. In this ease, the cruelty of the master would be surely greater than if he had committed the murder under the impulse of burning anger: wherefore the enactment appears to be a very unjust one. But it must be remarked, that the murder of those slaves, who had been obliged to take to their bed from their wounds, was not unpunished. Whence we gather, that it was not allowable for cruel and truculent masters to wound their slaves severely; and this is what the words expressly imply, for the smiter is only exempted from punishment when he shall have so restrained himself as that the marks of his cruelty should not appear. For that the slaves should “stand for one or two days,” 3838 A. V., “continue for a day or two.” Ainsworth, in loco: “Heb., stand, which the Greek translateth live.” is equivalent to saying, that they were perfect and sound in all their members; but if a wound had been inflicted, or there was any mutilation, the smiter was guilty of murder. None, therefore, is absolved but he who only meant to chastise his slave; and where no injury appears, it is probable that there was no intention to kill him. Whilst, then, this law prohibits bloodthirsty assaults, it by no means gives greater license to murder. The reason, which is added, must be restricted to the private loss; because a murderer would never be absolved on the pretext that he had purchased his slave with money, since the life of a man cannot be so estimated.

NASB
"If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies [fn]at his hand, he shall [fn]be punished."If, however, he [fn]survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his [fn]property.

Footnotes

Literally: under
Literally: suffer vengeance
Literally: stands
Literally: money

We have a situation here of legitimate, reasonable chastisement. Maybe a rod on the back. The slave who "stands" before his master is in such good condition that he is able to continue his duties. He's not lying in bed dying of multiple injuries.

E.g.
And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.

See also other passages of Scripture on "stood" or "stand".

for he is his money

The reference to the servant being the master's "property" or "money" may be because if there is no evidence in the servant's demeanour or body or actions that he was seriously injured - because he is walking around and continuing with his duties - it is also, additionally, extremely unlikely there was an intention to kill the slave but just to give him reasonable chastisement, because the master would lose his property/money if he killed him or her.

But this last consideration or presumption wouldn't come into play if the slave couldn't continue with his duties in the days between his beating and his death.
 

ClayPot

Puritan Board Sophomore
Calvin on the passage
20. And if a man smite his servant. Although in civil matters there was a wide distinction between slaves and free-men, still, that God may show how dear and precious men’s lives are to Him, He has no respect to persons with regard to murder; but avenges the death of a slave and a free-man in the same way, if he should die immediately of his wound. Indeed, it was a proof of gross barbarism amongst the Romans and other nations, to give to masters the power of life and death; for men are bound together by a more sacred tie, than that it should be permitted to a master to kill with impunity his wretched slave; nor are some men so set over others, as that they should exercise tyranny, or robbery, neither does reason permit that any private individual should usurp to himself the power of the sword. But, although unjust cruelty was not prohibited, as it should have been, by the laws of Rome, yet they 3737 “Les gens prudens;” their wise men. — Fr. confessed that slaves should be used like hired servants. The exception, which immediately follows, does not seem very consistent, for, if the slave should die after some time, the penalty of murder is remitted; whereas it would often be preferable to die at once of a single wound, than to perish by a lingering illness; and it might happen that the slave should be so bruised and maimed by blows, as to die some time afterwards. In this ease, the cruelty of the master would be surely greater than if he had committed the murder under the impulse of burning anger: wherefore the enactment appears to be a very unjust one. But it must be remarked, that the murder of those slaves, who had been obliged to take to their bed from their wounds, was not unpunished. Whence we gather, that it was not allowable for cruel and truculent masters to wound their slaves severely; and this is what the words expressly imply, for the smiter is only exempted from punishment when he shall have so restrained himself as that the marks of his cruelty should not appear. For that the slaves should “stand for one or two days,” 3838 A. V., “continue for a day or two.” Ainsworth, in loco: “Heb., stand, which the Greek translateth live.” is equivalent to saying, that they were perfect and sound in all their members; but if a wound had been inflicted, or there was any mutilation, the smiter was guilty of murder. None, therefore, is absolved but he who only meant to chastise his slave; and where no injury appears, it is probable that there was no intention to kill him. Whilst, then, this law prohibits bloodthirsty assaults, it by no means gives greater license to murder. The reason, which is added, must be restricted to the private loss; because a murderer would never be absolved on the pretext that he had purchased his slave with money, since the life of a man cannot be so estimated.

NASB
"If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies [fn]at his hand, he shall [fn]be punished."If, however, he [fn]survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his [fn]property.

Footnotes

Literally: under
Literally: suffer vengeance
Literally: stands
Literally: money

We have a situation here of legitimate, reasonable chastisement. Maybe a rod on the back. The slave who "stands" before his master is in such good condition that he is able to continue his duties. He's not lying in bed dying of multiple injuries.

E.g.
And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight.

See also other passages of Scripture on "stood" or "stand".

for he is his money

The reference to the servant being the master's "property" or "money" may be because if there is no evidence in the servant's demeanour or body or actions that he was seriously injured - because he is walking around and continuing with his duties - it is also, additionally, extremely unlikely there was an intention to kill the slave but just to give him reasonable chastisement, because the master would lose his property/money if he killed him or her.

But this last consideration or presumption wouldn't come into play if the slave couldn't continue with his duties in the days between his beating and his death.

Thanks Richard, that was very helpful! I looked for Calvin's comments on the passage, but couldn't seem to find them. I'm glad you did!
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top