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AWL. A sharp, piercing tool (Exod.21.6; Deut.15.17).

AWL, KJV AUL (מַרְצֵעַ, H5345, traditionally understood as a masc. participle, maqtal, form derived from the verb רָצַע, H8361, which appears with the noun in Exodus 21:6, while the noun is found alone in Deuteronomy 15:17. In both contexts the term is used for the boring or puncturing of a slave’s ear lobe as a mark of ownership and possible loss of legal status. A similar custom appears to have been practiced in Mesopotamia. The restricted use of the noun may be due to the instrument’s being ritual or forensic in nature. It has no cognate in the other contemporary Sem. languages.

Awls or punches of this type that have been excavated are about six inches in length and have a conical point. The more frequent verb “to bore” is נָקַב, H5918, cognate to Akkad. naqābu, and involves the use of augers, etc. on wood, metal, and stone, as in 2 Kings 12:9, et al.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

martsea`: "Bore his ear through with an awl" (Ex 21:6; De 15:17). The ear was pierced as being the organ of hearing, thus signifying the servant’s promise of obedience. See Bore.

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