Exodus 21:26-27

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Exodus 21

Law Analysis overview

26 “If a man strikes his servant’s eye, or his maid’s eye, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. 27 If he strikes out his male servant’s tooth, or his female servant’s tooth, he shall let the servant go free for his tooth’s sake. Exodus 21:26-27WEB


The Command

This passage contains a positive command, a statute, directed toward Israel: "If a man strikes his servant and permanently injures his servant's eye or tooth, he shall let the servant go free.".


This command is part of the Civil/Judicial Law.

This law fits in with other laws related to Human Judicial Response.

It contributes to an understanding of Slavery.


This command is understood to represent an abiding obligation on modern government.

Notes on Interpretation/Application

Eye or Tooth

This command is commonly interpreted in such a way that it is applicable to all permanent incapacitations, and not only to damaged eyes and teeth. That is to say, if a master strikes his slave and breaks his slaves fingers or legs, then the slave should go free.

Retributive Justice not Waived

This command is understood not to supersede other passages offering protection for persons. By the above passage, the slave should be set free. However, this does not say anything to indicate that it should negate or waive the protection given to the slave by Leviticus 24:19-20 and Deuteronomy 19:15-20. In addition to being freed for the sake of his injuries, should the slave choose to press charges and should there be sufficient testimony to pursue the matter, the master could receive a retributive beating as penalty for the injuries done to his slave (not to exceed the maximum beating as per Deuteronomy 25:1-3 -- see Lex talionis (eye for an eye)).