21:1 1 “These are the decisions that you will set before them:
sn There follows now a series of rulings called “the decisions” or “the judgments” (הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים, hammishpatim). A precept is stated, and then various cases in which the law is applicable are examined. These rulings are all in harmony with the Decalogue that has just been given and can be grouped into three categories: civil or criminal laws, religious or cultic laws, and moral or humanitarian laws. The civil and criminal laws make up most of chap. 21; the next two chapters mix the other kinds of laws. Among the many studies of this section of the book are F. C. Fensham, “The Role of the Lord in the Legal Sections of the Covenant Code,” VT 26 (1976): 262–74; S. Paul, “Unrecognized Biblical Legal Idioms in Light of Comparative Akkadian Expressions,” RB 86 (1979): 231–39; M. Galston, “The Purpose of the Law According to Maimonides,” JQR 69 (1978): 27–51.