- personal injuries which cause the death of someone (Exodus 21:12-17)
- personal injury which results from fighting (Exodus 21:18-27), and
- personal injuries involving animals. (Exodus 21:28-36)
Exodus 21:12-17 Deliberate manslaughter was punishable by death. Man was made in the image of God, and occupies a special place in God's plan. Therefore it was not a trivial thing for someone to kill another person. However, the fact is that sometimes things happen which result in the death of a person, when the one responsible had no intention of causing death. In this case, the person was instructed to flee to what was called 'a city of refuge'. These cities were designated as such by God, in order that an accidental killing would not result in a ceaseless round of additional deaths as devastated family members or relatives of the victim sought to even the score by exacting their own revenge. Instead, the one who had caused the death of another accidentally could flee to one of these cities of refuge and have the case decided fairly by an impartial judge, who would hear both sides of the story.
Provision was being made for such cities, which would be located throughout the land which Israel had been given by God. Eventually, there were six cities designated as cities of refuge. The accused, if found innocent by the judges, was to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the current high priest. After that, he could return to his own city. However, if he left the city of refuge before that point, and was found elsewhere, an avenger of blood could kill him without being guilty of murder. [For more information regarding the cities of refuge, take a look at Numbers 35:6-32, Deuteronomy 19:1-13 and Joshua 20:1-9]
Deliberate murder, on the other hand, was not to be tolerated. A man who had killed someone deliberately and then sought refuge by remaining near God's altar, was to be taken away to be put to death. The sense of the passage is 'even if he is taking refuge at my altar, if he committed a premeditated murder, take him away to be put to death'. It should be noted that no one could be put to death for murder without the testimony of at least two witnesses.
Anyone who attacked his parents would also be put to death. Even the calling down of curses upon parents would result in death, probably because the idea behind the curse was to bring death to that parent. Such disrespect for parents violated the fifth and sixth commandments (Exodus 20:12-13) and had to be punished.
Similar disregard for a kidnapped person's life indicated a violation of the sixth and eighth commandments to not (possibly) murder or steal. A kidnap victim could easily be injured or killed in the process of being kidnapped or sold to another person.
In both cases there is an obvious disregard for the person's life and for the image of God reflected in that person. The penalties are severe, because the implications behind the act are rebellion against God and careless attitude toward the life which God has given to each person. Not to mention the fact that you couldn't have a stable society if people felt free to kidnap others or kill the ones who had brought them into the world.