Exodus 21:20-21 (ESV):

20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.

Instead of prohibiting any beating of slaves, this passage seems to be prohibiting only extreme versions where the beating results in the slave's death. This gives me the impression that there is still room for "legitimate beating" of one's slave. Is this the case? Are there valid and legitimate reasons for beating up one's slave, provided that he/she doesn't die as a result?

1 Answer 1


There is still room for "legitimate beating" of one's slave.

I think so.

Proverbs 29:19

Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond.

Proverbs 26:3

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.

Even children were disciplined with the rod in Proverbs 13:24

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

  • My schooldays (aged 8 to 11 in the 1960s in Glasgow) were characterised by daily receiving the Scottish tawse applied with vigour. Did me no harm at all and I often (though not always) deserved it.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 22, 2021 at 20:40

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