Slaves and War Brides: Exodus 21:10–11 and Deuteronomy 21:10–14

slaves war brides

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2) Exod 21:10–11 and Deut 21:10–14: Slavery and war captivity were facts of life in the Ancient Near East. These laws from God protected those most vulnerable to exploitation. As a result, married former slaves and war brides shared the rights of free Israelite women.[1]

If their husbands failed to meet their moral and legal obligations and divorce occurred, these women received freedom without a reduction of their status.[2]



Since women seized in war typically suffer sexual assault, forbidding consummation for a month and making the women unattractive discouraged men from taking them.[3]

An unmarried woman captured in this way could mourn the loss of her people before being forced into a new community.[4]

Shaving her head and allowing new hair to grow, trimming her nails, and changing her clothing also signified the shedding of a former life and taking on a new status as a member of the nation of Israel.[5]

This reminded her spouse not to treat her as a foreigner or slave.[6] Deuteronomy 21:14 says, “You shall not deal tyrannically (amar) with her.”[7]

By the time of Christ, rabbis taught that these obligations also applied to free women and to men (m. Ketuboth 5:6–8).[8]

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Read Exod 21:10–11 and Deut 21:10–14. What were the rights of slaves and war captives, women who were highly vulnerable to exploitation? Why would this regulation prevent battlefield rape? How does this express God’s concern for all women and men?




Go to God Hates Violence (Mal 2:13–16)

[Related posts include An Anguishing Process (Gen 3:16); A Renewed Covenant (Gen 3:20); Eve Acquires a Man (Gen 4:1); God Hates Violence (Mal 2:13–16); It is Good Not to Touch (1 Cor 7:1‒5); Marital Separation (1 Cor 7:10–11); Concerning Mixed Marriages (1 Cor 7:12–13); Contagious Holiness (1 Cor 7:14); Dissolution of Marriage (1 Cor 7:15–16); and Living Together with Understanding (1 Pet 3:7–9)]

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 8: Pain and Desire (Genesis 3:16, 20)]


[1] Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Deut 21:10–4.

[2]Duane L. Christensen, Deuteronomy 21:10–34:12 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 2002), 475.

[3] Christensen, Deuteronomy 21:10–34:12, 475.

[4] Block, Deuteronomy, 496.

[5]Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 281.

[6] Block, Deuteronomy, 496.

[7] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “עָמַר” (amar), BDB, 771,

[8] Instone-Brewer, David, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context, 196.