The law regarding the time of release of a Hebrew slave, and whether the slave should be let free empty handed or not, is treated differently in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus:

  • Exodus 21:2: straightforward 6 years, no gifts prescribed

    ² When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing.

  • Deuteronomy 15:1,12-14: context implies the release happens at Sabbatical year (every 7 years), so they may be released in fewer than 7 years, with gifts

    15 The Sabbatical Year

    ¹ At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release.


    ¹² If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. ¹³ And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed.

  • Leviticus 25:8,39-41: release happens at the Year of Jubilee (every 49 years), no gifts prescribed

    The Year of Jubilee

    ⁸ “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years.


    Kindness for Poor Brothers


    ³⁹ “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: ⁴⁰ he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. ⁴¹ Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers.

While the omission of gifts in Exodus and Leviticus can be defended by saying they are complementary with Deuteronomy, it is not so easy to reconcile the timing of the release, which in contrast can easily be reconciled with source criticism (that the different collections of law come from different authors in different times and places); see this article for an example on how source criticism is applied to Torah legislation.

Question: What is the best reconciliation strategy used by single-author interpretation of the Pentateuch (eg. Moses)?


1 Answer 1


The slave either serves no more than seven years . . . .

. . . . or else, goes free in the year of Jubilee.

Whichever is the sooner.

I don't see any need to 'reconcile' anything.

The conditions are not contradictory.

  • 1
    Logically makes sense. I wonder why Jewish scholars (and possibly Christian ones too) make a big deal out of this. Jan 5, 2021 at 16:14
  • 1
    @GratefulDisciple They are all so keen to discredit scripture, and to discredit Moses (despite, or maybe because, that Jesus speaks of 'Moses' in connection with scripture) it is always the first thing they home in on. (Instead of actually reading the details.)
    – Nigel J
    Jan 5, 2021 at 16:17
  • 1
    Good simple answer - uncomplicated. +1
    – Dottard
    Jan 5, 2021 at 19:22

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