Selling Daughter in the Bible


How do we respond to concerns about the passage from Exodus 21:7 that refers to the selling of a daughter into slavery.

I ask because I just saw on the new that someone put up a billboard in Kim Davis’ hometown (Kim Davis being the woman that would not sign SSM licenses) stating that since we can no longer sell out daughters for three goats and a cow it means that we have already redefined marriage.

I already know that this passage has nothing to do with marriage, but I am wondering how you might respond to someone bring up this passage in the first place. There are ideas that I have, but maybe someone has something I haven’t thought of.

Thank you.


How ever the daughter wasn’t being sold to marry another daughter.
An arranged marriage was never to the same sex
Under age marriages were not same sex etc…


I believe that this Biblical passage of selling daughters to men shows that we have defined marriage in many ways throughout time and throughout different cultures. It has never been a static concept.


Marriage has changed in many ways over time, and in fact, the modern Western practice of “falling in love” is historically very recent.

What has never changed is the nature of marriage itself: it has always been male and female, with a view to propagating the next generation (even if in specific instances that couldn’t happen).



Some things in the Old Testament were overridden by the New Testament.
But the New Testament (St. Paul to the Romans, I believe) condemns homosexuality.


How do we respond to concerns about the passage from Exodus 21:7 that refers to the selling of a daughter into slavery.

“Until a girl reaches puberty, the Torah gives her father the right to “sell” her as a bondswoman, but, as the passage itself and the teachings of the Sages make clear, the right is given him for her benefit. He is permitted to “sell” her because the sale is expected to result in her marriage to either her master or his son. In fact, if neither of the two marries her, the Torah regards it as a betrayal of the girl (v. 8). If one of them chooses to marry her, the purchase price received by the father will constitute betrothal money, by means of which she will become consecrated to either of them, equivalent to the ring that is currently used to effect betrothal. Ordinarily, a father should not exercise his right of betrothal while is daughter is still a child (Kiddushin 18b), but in the case of this passage he may do so because it is an opportunity to provide for her future that would otherwise not be available to her (R’ Hirsch).
The girl goes free without payment in one of three ways: (a) at the end of six years, (b) upon the advent of the Jubilee Year, and © when her puberty begins.” - Stone Edition of the Chumash, p. 419.

If I recall correctly, the father is either destitute, bankrupt, or terminally ill, and this is a mechanism for him to provide a better life for his daughter.


For Catholics and some other Christians, St Paul does. But other Christians have a different interpretation. This however is not the place to discuss the different interpretations various Christian groups have of St Paul and homosexuality.


First, I do not think Catholics are required to believe that everything permitted under the Law of Moses was a perfect expression of the will of God. I think the Old Testament makes it clear that some actions are morally evil and will be judged by God, even though the Law of Moses doesn’t punish them.

For example, I think the Old Testament specifically teaches that slaves should be treated as equals in Job 31:13-15 – “If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant, when they brought a complaint against me; what then shall I do when God rises up? When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?”

From this, I think it is clear that the unequal treatment of slaves was a moral crime under the Old Testament, but the Law of Moses does not punish all violations of the moral law, and I don’t think it was intended to.

Similarly, I think divorce goes unpunished in the Law of Moses, but is forbidden by the rest of the Old Testament: “Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” Malachi 2:15-16

To summarize up to this point, I think the Law of Moses is a civil law that does not intend to punish all moral crimes. I think it was more basic than that. But I don’t think its provisions imply that all things not punished are therefore okay. As examples, I think the certificate of divorce and the unequal treatment of slaves are not punished in this civil code but are forbidden as moral crimes in other parts of the Old Testament.

Jesus also seems to imply that the certificate of divorce permitted under the Law of Moses was not completely God’s will:

“Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” – “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:7-8.

Perhaps a similar sentiment applies for the selling of one’s daughter under the Law of Moses. Does that seem reasonable?

Let me know if that is helpful.

Hebrews 8:7 says, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second.”

I think that may help us see that the Law of Moses was in some sense not a perfect law. If it is true that God did not intend to use it to forbid all sinful actions and endorse all good ones, but to govern a bronze-age populace until the Messiah came, then perhaps this selling one’s daughter issue helps us see one way in which it was not without fault.


Couple things. Here is the commentary on the passage from the Navarre Bible:
*Slavery was part of the way society was organized at that time. The rules collected here are designed to avoid abuses regarding slaves. In the parellel text of Deuteronomy 15:12-18, Israel’s bondage in Egypt is recalled to justify kindly treatment of slaves.

“Hebrew” (v.2): this is the second time this term appears in the Bible (cf. Gen. 14:13); it may possibly refer to a particular social class, the disinherited; but it is almost certain that it is a word for a member of the people of God, the brothers (cf. Deut 15:12).

The rite of boring a hole in the ear (which might seem barbaric nowadays) was used to show that a person now had a right to share in all the privileges of the family. It needs to be remembered that slavery in Israel always took account of the dignity of the person; it cannot be equated to Roman slavery or the enslavement of Africans in the Americas.

“He shall deal with her as with a daughter” (v.9): literally, “in accordance with the statute of daughters”. It seems that women had certain rights of inheritance and honour within the family. The rules in vv. 7-11 clearly tend to favor the status of women, who were frequently disadvantaged in that part of the world.

The New Testament contains clear pointers to the abolition of slavery, such as St. Paul’s advice to Philemon to treat his slave “as a beloved brother” (Philem 16).*In keeping with the comment that this was more about regulating slavery rather than endorsing it ontologically, I would look at the Church’s Interpretation of the Bible in the Church document, which reads:
*The writings of the Old Testament contain certain “imperfect and provisional” elements (“Dei Verbum,” 15), which the divine pedagogy could not eliminate right away.*So we try to see in the imperfect methods of the OT what those things meant to the persons involved and how they, albeit imperfectly, point toward the more glorious truths (the anti-types) of the New Testament.


We have certainly changed what marriage is over the years since the goat days. Generally it has become more respectful of people’s rights and liberties. We no longer have arranged marriages and force people to get married. We have made it an act of the will and less about responsibility and more about love and romance ( a very modern concept). But the general trend is to be more and more respectful of the individual’s rights.

So it seems that we should also respect the individual’s rights to not be coerced into doing something they don’t believe in.

All that Kim Davis did was exercise her right to not be coerced. We should respect her individual rights as we demand in all other aspects of life.

I am sure that the people who did not get a marriage license could simply have gone elsewhere to get one and there would have been no big deal.

But people love watching other people being coerced into doing things they don’t like. They want to see her squirm and that’s what they got.

There is room in a big world for same sex couples, for people who don’t want to be forced to give them licenses, for people who want to give them licenses, for people who want to redefine marriage and for people who like it the way it is. It’s a big world and we can very easily live without coercing other people into doing things they don’t want to do.

I would ask the people who raised the sign, why do they want to coerce people into doing things they don’t believe in?

It is one thing for the government to tell you what you can’t do. It is another thing entirely for the government to tell you what you MUST do. That is a terribly slippery slope.


Why would I sell my daughter or give any right to anybody who is older then 7 (10 max) years to marry her? Thats sick. Marriage is between two people around the same age as me or her to grow old together and learn life together, a father daughter, mother son relationship/marrige is twisted sick and a form of abuse because it never lets the child grow up and learn on his/her own. :eek: yuck, nasty.


That is a very modern concept actually. Marriage was in the past actually a business arrangement having little to do with Love, Romance, Couples development etc. It was simply an economic arrangement to deal with the economic realities of raising children. It was also not a right. It was a social contract - a responsibility that people would call you out on if you didn’t live up to - all derived from the needs of children, which were seen as a gift from God.

When people talk about marriage ‘rights’ they are referring to a few tax breaks and legal issues that are unique to married people. The whole controversy comes from a few folks that used a legal argument to get their inheritance based on an argument of marriage inequality. Then there are those that want to normalize gay behavior by forcing it to be defined as socially acceptable, and if you don’t agree you will be coerced into accepting it under penalty of fines and jail time.


This commentary says:

Verse 7

If a man sell his daughter - This the Jews allowed no man to do but in extreme distress - when he had no goods, either movable or immovable left, even to the clothes on his back; and he had this permission only while she was unmarriageable. It may appear at first view strange that such a law should have been given; but let it be remembered, that this servitude could extend, at the utmost, only to six years; and that it was nearly the same as in some cases of apprenticeship among us, where the parents bind the child for seven years, and have from the master so much per week during that period.

You may be interested in watching the following discussion about Exodus 21:7-11:

It is talked about perhaps as a ‘debt’ or ‘dowry’


“7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has designated her** for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.” Ex. 21:7-11 (ESV)

The idea seems to be that a man buys a woman and designates her for himself in marriage. He could also designate her for his son. A father might sell his daughter because he was in desperate financial straits.

As far as the morality of this is concerned, there’s no question that Western society would consider such a thing incredibly evil. God, apparently, does not. It appears that God has a drastically different view of morality than natural human beings do. Incidentally, there are other commands in the Torah that would also be considered incredibly evil by Western society.

So either Western society is dead wrong about morality or God is dead wrong. Something to think about! :)**


Actually, Jesus (Who is God, of course!) had some comments about divorce law in the Torah. Rather critical comments. Something about “Moses allowed this because of the hardness of your hearts.”

Not everything in the Law was commanded by God. We are told directly that Moses thought up a lot of it; this isn’t a secret. Also, some onerous parts of the Law are directly said to be punishments on Israel, because of events like Baal-Peor; many of these were removed by Jesus.

Please read the Bible carefully, before you go around declaring that God loves slavery.


There’s another thread topic similar to this one you may find interesting


Its this one.


Where in Scripture does it say that Moses thought up a lot of it? The very reason why no jot/tittle of the Torah can pass away is because it was commanded by God!

Right, but what does that say about the nature of God? Also, what do you make of the book of Revelation?

closed #19

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit