This is the first chapter of what is called “the Book of the Covenant” (Exo. 24:7), which is contained in Exo. 20:22 – 23:33. It contains statutes (not “commandments”) designed to govern life in Israelite society. It is comprised of 42 “judgments” (Exo. 21:1 – 23:12) and, as was stated in the summary of Exo. 20:22 – 26, it ends just like it begins—with a prohibition against idolatry (Exo. 23:13).
Chapter 21 can be outlined as follows:
• Title (21:1)
• Judgments Concerning Hebrew Servants (21:2 – 11)
• Judgments Concerning Capital Offenses (21:12 – 17)
• Judgments Concerning Physical Injury (21:18 – 27)
• Judgments Concerning Injury Through Neglect (21:28 – 36)
So begins a section known as the Book of the Covenant. It contains 42 judgments.
The first section of the Book of the Covenant concerns how male and female servants (or slaves) were to be treated.
Violent acts perpetuated against another person require capital punishment. The persons in view here are free and not servants.
Here are the judgements for violence between free people, violence done to servants, violence done to a pregnant woman which causes the loss of her baby, and bodily injury to a servant.
This passage is concerned with other things that could cause injury to a person and their livelihood. A violent ox, the loss of livestock by negligence, or one ox killing another.