What Does the Bible Say About Slavery? Does it Condone It?

by Jack Wellman on July 2, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

Does the Bible teach against slavery?  Does the Old Testament or New Testament condone slavery?  What does the Bible say about slavery?

Abolition of Slavery Started With Christianity

Long before the end of the Civil War in the United States, William Wilberforce began the effort to abolish slavery in the British Empire.  In 1788 Wilberforce presented to the House of Commons one hundred petitions to end slavery and in 1792 it finally passed 230 to 85. Sadly, the House reversed its vote in 1793 due to growing fears of the French Revolution that same year.  In 1807 the Abolition of the Slave Trade Bill finally became law and it was declared illegal to buy or sell human beings throughout the entire British Empire.  Wilberforce and the abolitionists cited biblical Scripture as sufficient reason to declare slavery sin.  The two main verses mentioned were Acts 17:26 which says, And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling placeand Genesis 1:26 which reads, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image,) in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Clearly William Wilberforce and the abolitionists saw Christianity and slavery and incompatible.

John Wesley’s last letter to William Wilberforce, who was converted under Wesley’s ministry, urged Wilberforce to end this “villainy” against men of different color. Christians were the first abolitionists to speak up and try to free the slaves.  The fact that men and women were made in the image of God and that God had determined their boundaries clearly established that slavery was immoral and that humans were not intended to be bought or sold like livestock.  It took almost 60 years and a Civil War to end slavery in the United States.  The vast majority of American abolitionists at the time where Christians and most saw slavery as a scourge on society calling it sinful and a blight on society.

What Does The Bible Say About Slavery

God not only forbids slavery, He gives them the death penalty for it.

The Old Testament on Slavery

People might be surprised to learn that the Bible does not condone slavery at all, even in the Old Testament as many falsely claim. Even in the first laws that God gave, God abhorred the capturing of people to make them slaves.  Exodus 21:16 states, Anyone who kidnaps someone is to be put to death, whether the victim has been sold or is still in the kidnapper’s possession.” God not only forbids slavery, He gives them the death penalty for it. That’s how serious God sees slavery as.  Slavery is no different than kidnapping to God.  But what about the slaves mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament?

Leviticus 25:39-43 says, “If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service. He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee.  He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers.  For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale. You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God.  Here God says that a poor person sells their self to get out of debt but they are not to be subjected to them in service as a slave.  They are also be freed after the year of the Jubilee.  God calls them “My servants” and they are not to be sold in a slave sale. How clear is that?

In Exodus 21:2 it states, “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.” Here it says that if you buy a Hebrew servant, they are not to be considered a slave, and even after they buy this servant they are to go free in the seventh year “without paying anything.”  That is nothing like a slave at all.   Incidentally, the term slavery in the Hebrew does not mean what we think of slavery today.   The word slave in the Old Testament actually refers to a position of being subordinate in the social ladder of the society.  Any Hebrew scholar knows this.  For example Abraham had servants.  In the majority of places that slaves are mentioned in the Old Testament this is the proper context.  To know that, one must read the entire chapter or better yet, the entire book to find out what the contextual meaning of the word slavery (better rendered “subordinate”) means.

The New Testament on Slavery 

Paul speaks about slavery in the New Testament.  The Romans were big on slaves but Paul clearly did not like it.  In 1 Corinthians 7:21-23 he writes, Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.   You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.” Paul said that “if you can gain your freedom, do so” and in verse 23 he says, “do not become slaves of human beings.”  There is little doubt Paul detested slavery and wanted everyone to get out of it as soon as possible and desired no one to live in slavery.

Paul wrote a letter to Philemon which is one of the books of the New Testament.  Philemon was a wealthy Colossian who likely had many slaves.  He was a citizen of Rome and was not the only one with slaves.  It appears that Philemon had slaves before his conversion but he also did not treat them harshly.  Many slaves were endeared as members of family.  Philemon was not alone in owning slaves because nearly one-third of the entire population of Rome were slaves.  Paul‘s letter to Philemon was to display God‘s not being any respecter of persons by saying to Philemon that he should have a relationship with his slave Onesimus like a  brotherly relationship in Christ, just as Paul was to Philemon.  Paul also addressed Onesimus to tell him that he had a duty to return to his master Philemon.  Paul emphasizes God’s teachings in the Old Testament that He is no respecter of persons in regard to their position or estate in life.  The letter of Philemon gives believers the model with which to characterize what mutual love and respect should be embodied among the church membership.  If you read the book of Philemon you will see that both Paul and Philemon loved Onesimus, regardless of him being a slave.  Paul reflects this brotherly relationship in not using his apostolic authority to order Onesimus to go back to Philemon but to have him to do so out of love and respect for authority and as an example of being in submission to Philemon

By the way, this is an excellent analogy of the relationship between employer and employee.  Paul was showing respect for authority in asking Onesimus to return to Philemon voluntarily as being in submission and compliance with Roman law.  Paul writes in Philemon that Christians are to live in “humility [and] value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Paul models Christian relationships even in the way that he addressed Philemon as a dear friend.  Paul considered Philemon as a co-heir and fellow worker and thus not trying to exalt himself over Philemon.  In this regard Christians ought to consider believers as beloved friends, co-heirs, co-workers, and co-equals.  This is evidenced by Paul calling Philemon’s wife (most likely) a “sister” and Philemon’s son a “fellow soldier.”

Paul uses love in modeling his relationships to pastors and to the church.  He even models that of being a father figure to them.  This implies that of being in a family-like relationship and his relationship to Onesimus, a slave, was like that of a brother which denotes an affectionate attachment and one of brotherly love.  Paul regarded Onesimus as a child of his.  By Paul’s use of such powerful language, even though Onesimus was a slave owned by Philemon, Paul referred to him as a son.  By reading Philemon you can see by Paul’s words that his love was deep for Onesimus and was evidenced by Paul’s statement that by his sending Onesimus he was sending “my very heart” back to Philemon.  This is like the attachment that a father has for a son that is departing so Paul never treated Onesimus as a slave.  The similarity of this family-like love relationship is displayed by Paul’s regarding Onesimus as a brother in the faith and a son to a father.  How heartbreaking this must have been to Paul since Onesimus had been attending to the needs of Paul while he was imprisoned.  Onesimus and Paul must have formed a strong, loving relationship with one another. By the way, Paul was not being presumptuous and never tried to use his apostolic authority in trying to keep Onesimus with him, even though he could have. To me, love is not presumptuous and not assuming; it is courteous, caring, and compassionate.

Conclusion

We can see that God abhorred slavery and in fact forbid it in the Old Testament.  The New Testament mentions slaves as if they were family and Paul clearly did not like it and said do not become slaves of human beings.”   Many slaves eventually gained their freedom and could become Roman citizens with all the rights afforded to that privilege.  Slavery was often a temporary situation.  Neither God nor the Bible condone slavery. Quite the opposite is true.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert July 2, 2012 at 11:50 am

Jack,
A great explanation of a very often misunderstood topic. A fine job, my friend. God bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Jack Wellman July 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Thank you so much my friend. I believe that the Bible was actually the very catalyst for ending slavery, contrary to what some atheists and Christian antagonists say.

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john agalaba July 2, 2012 at 3:04 pm

very educative

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Jack Wellman July 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Thank you so much sir. As I investigated the entire Bible over this issue, I learned much, so ultimately, all credit is to God and His Word.

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taffy_j July 3, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Well done, Jack. I am a bit troubled, though some of the other verses in Exodus 21. While Exodus 21:16 clearly tell what should happen to a person who kidnap a person, why is the other verses so tolerant about slavery? for example, verse 20 specifically called slave “properties.” and even verse 2 seems to condone the buying/selling of servants. Nowhere in Exodus does it specifically says that man should not hold others as slave. Can you explain this?

Thanks

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Jack Wellman July 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Hello again Taffy J. Thanks my friend. Verse 2 of Exodus 20 says, “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free,without paying anything.” The fact is these are not slaves but servants in the Hebrew. I don’t know which translation you are reading it from. Notice that they go free in the 7th year and a servant and slave are not the same thing at all.

Slave and servant are essentially the same here. Beside the fact that as it says in verse 20-21, “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.” A slave just as a servant was, was considered property that they bought and besides, this verse protects them from injustice as they are not to be beaten. This was a widespread and common practice of slavery in the British Empire and in the Southern States prior to the Civil War.

If someone became indebted, they sold themselves as a slave and this is how they came to be slaves but they were commanded by God to not be mistreated. This actually helped them as they had no money to provide for family, no food to eat or shelter but the master provided these in exchange for labor.

Does this help? Clearly, the Bible doesn’t condone slavery but makes a way to survive for a person to sell themselves to a master to keep from starving to death and these were not slaves taken by force but who voluntarily submitted to being sold. See the difference between this and the Antebellum and Great Britain practice? The extinguishing of slavery was motivated by the Word of God.

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taffy_j July 5, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Ok so I agreed with several of your points (apart from one part that was a bit confusing as you said that a servant and a slave are not the same, then in the next line you said that a servant and a slave is the same). So, are we now agreeing that – contrary to what you had suggested – Exodus 20:16 does not forbiding slavery. It is just forbidding kidnapping persons and sell them into slavery; correct? One question: I am not as knowledgeable about the bible as you so I am asking: is there anywhere in the bible that specifically forbid slavery – something like saying “slavery is wrong and no one shoud keep another individual as a slave?” The only scriptures that i know are scriptures that tell how to treat a slave – not that you should not keep slaves.

Awaiting your usual insightful response.

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Jack Wellman July 6, 2012 at 10:18 am

Thank you again. I believe that a slave is like property and can never be returned and can be abused or misused but the Bible forbids beating of servants and allows them to be freed after a certain time.

The Bible clearly shows that we are to love one another and in the New and Better Covenant, we are to go above and beyond. The Bible does not specifically forbid a lot of things because it would be enormous. It doesn’t say “Thou shalt not commit abortion” but the command is covered by the Ten Commandments and so is the forbidding of slavery by you shall love your neighbor as yourself and Jesus said that this is the Law and the Prophets. Acts 17:26 says, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” and this indicates that God determines where they should live and one person from another should not be taken to another to serve them, just like the law that God said kidnapping is illegal. If taking a person by kidnapping is the same as taking a slave by force and away from their home or nation, then what is it? There is not a “thou shalt not” for every possible human action because just look at the human law books. There are literally millions of them when clearly if we obeyed the Ten Commandments, slavery and crime in general is covered.

I don’t know if it was an insightful response or not but it is the best that I could do friend. Thank you so much.

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taffy_j July 7, 2012 at 12:17 am

But Jack, if the bible does not forbid certain things, how can we be saying that, biblically, it is forbidden? The bible did not say “Thou shall not commit abortion” so, biblically, there is no forbidding of abortion. The bible say “thou shall not commit adultery” so it forbids it. It say ” a man should not lie with another man” so it forbids homosexuality. It’s really as simple as that. The bible regulates how slaves are to be treated; no where does it remotely suggest that keeping a slave is wrong or bad. While I understand that by your morals (and for many of us) slavery is wrong, I am struggling to understand why you say the bible forbids it when the bible clearly didnt.

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Jack Wellman July 7, 2012 at 9:41 am

The commandment “Though shall not kill” forbids abortion because just the other day a man was charged with double vehicular homicide because he killed the mother and her unborn child. The Bible can not possible cover every single thing so I am struggling too with the explanations I have already given. Slavery is closer to servitude as I had explained. Suicide is not forbidden so in your reasonings it must be okay since it is not mentioned as forbidden in the Bible..and robbing a bank is not explicitly mentioned, so its okay too in logic here. I give up. Take care.

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taffy_j July 7, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Jack
But contrast Exodus 21:12 with Exodus 21:22 – these two scriptures seem to rebut the claim that “thou shall not murder” forbids abortion. In Exodus 21:12, it is clear that if a man kills another, then the punishment is death. But Exodus 21:22 clearly shows that if a man kills an unborn then the punishment is not death. This is coming directly from the bible – not what someone interprets from it. So, biblically, there is clearly a difference between an unborn and a man. Again, I will agree that our morals will help us to view abortion (and other things) as wrong, but if we claim that it is wrong biblically, then there is no evidence of this.
Regards!

Jack Wellman July 7, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I do not know what Bible you are reading but you must read the entire chapter. Exod 21:22-24 says, “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely [there is no loss of life here so why did you say it was killed?] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. [so it wasn't a serious injury and no baby was killed here] In 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” Clearly if the baby dies then that life taken demands the life of the one who killed the unborn.

Why did you misquote the verse and I quote you by saying, “Exodus 21:22 clearly shows that if a man kills an unborn then the punishment is not death.” Wrong. Why say this when it says if no serious injury occurs and it only causes premature birth? You are wrong in quoting it. You not only took Scripture out of context, you gave the wrong intent and Ex 21:22 says nothing of a baby dying.

I feel that this discussion is about over for you only want to attack the Word of God without substantiation and make it look contradictory when it clearly is not. Do you truly seek to know God and discover salvation or just kick against the Stone of Offense for Jesus has warnings about such things and I wish no one such harm on you or anyone not saved (Matt 21:44). Rev 20:11-15 is the end fate for all those who reject the Word of God and I most certainly have no desire to see anyone come to this.

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Robert Driskell July 7, 2012 at 10:01 am

All,
There is a great book out there that addresses this subject handily. It’s call “Is God A Moral Monster” by Paul Copan. Very enlightening reading for anyone interested.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Andrew July 13, 2012 at 7:51 am

Great article Mr.Wellman.These articles are a great way to dispel atheist myths.

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Jack Wellman July 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Thank you so much Andrew. I appreciate that. Anything we can do to hopefully equip us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. Another stumbling block is why God sent Israel to destroy entire nations, including children. Let me say that these nations were into child sacrifice. Eventually, in the valley of Gehenna, the Israelites who did not entirely take out these nations had their false religions resulting in even the nation of Israel sacrificing their own children in the fire to sacrifice to a false/pagan God. The entire nation had to be wiped out to keep such abominable religions away from Israel and really the rest of the world. Any children that died are present with the Lord anyway and most certainly would be better off than such a terrible culture where they were tossing their children into the fire. Can you imagine that?

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Verbal February 16, 2013 at 3:57 pm

“Thy bond-men and thy bond-maids which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you: of them shall ye buy bond-men and bond-maids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land. And they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession, they shall be your bond-man forever.”
—Leviticus 25:44-46

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Verbal February 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps . . . When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:13-18, ESV translation)

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Robert O. Adair March 24, 2013 at 11:26 pm

You have done a great job with this, Jack! Your reference to Philemon is right on target. One scripture which seems to overlooked is “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3: 10-13 KJV. This states the Christian ideal. Unfortunately, we live in a less than ideal society, such a political program was hard to put into practice in a pagan dominated society. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, it didn’t mean Christians could just do anything they wished. They were, perhaps 20% of the population. What they could do about slavery was pass laws to mitigate its evils. One such law was to abolish the right of slave owners to kill a slve just because it displeased him.

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Jack Wellman March 26, 2013 at 11:19 am

Thank you Doctor Adair. Coming from you, that means a lot. What most non-believers don’t understand is that the Bible does not condone slavery and in fact, as in the case of William Wilberforce, they are a positive change-agent for the better in this world, and this included the fight for an end to slavery. The battle to end slavery was began by and still is being fought for by Christians and so for non-believers to say that the Bible is pro-slavery is an incorrect assessment and interpretation of the Bible.

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Robert O. Adair March 24, 2013 at 11:43 pm

I have touched on this sublect in my article Why Christians Didn’t Fight For Their Rights on Yahoo Contributors:

In the 7th and 8th centuries, Christian rulers abolished slavery in their countries. The long struggle for freedom and personhood is beyond the scope of this article. Souless Secularism can never grasp that these are spiritual problems. They wish to throw Jesus in the ash heap. But Oh! how he spoke to the hearts of the peasants of his day to tell them that they were worth more than a cheap pair of shoes. ” Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” Matthew 6:26. Or this: ” Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7 KJV

Freedom, Rights are founded on spiritual values. The Secularist viewpoint reduces people to a bunch of chemical and physical processes. What then “Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?/ What the long reaches of the peaks of song,/ The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?” (Markham). Where is the love of beauty, Honor Hope beyond the drear gates of death? If babies are brutally murdered by the tens of millions, people tortured and dehumanized, what basis is there besides sheer prejudice for opposing this? Only if “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 KJV.

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Jack Wellman March 28, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Amen Dr. Adair. As I touched on this on another post, the Nazis wanted to take Jews’ property and expel them from Germany. They wanted to drive Slavs out of Eastern Europe and take their land. Out of a selfish desire for power, they visited hideous violence on Jews and Slavs, using a scientific justification that dehumanized these people. Millions of Jews and Slavs died and it was based upon this same reasoning sir, the “scientific” justification of slavery also rested on notions of racial superiority. The enslavement of black Africans in recent centuries was justified by the claim that they were racially inferior to white Europeans and Americans. Some even claimed that slavery was a civilizing and Christianizing institution. In reality, it was a violent institution promoted in the interest of cheap labor. Here again we see scientific and moral justifications for a violent and dehumanizing practice.

In the present day, the justification of abortion similarly rests on “scientific” arguments that proclaim the unborn baby to be merely subhuman tissue. Proponents of abortion insist that they are exercising their freedom legitimately. However, they have actually dehumanized the unborn child to justify their elimination of unwanted pregnancies. The horrendous effect of these “pseudo-scientific” justifications is dehumanizing violence born of selfishness.

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Sally_T April 8, 2013 at 2:12 am

Dear Jack,
I am still struggling with this idea. You say that the bible does not condone slavery and I want to believe this is true. However:
“As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.” (Leviticus 25:44-46)
Does seem to not only condone slavery but actually seems to give permission for it, as long as there are no Jewish slaves! If God really abhors slavery, why does this passage appear in the bible at all? I agree with your comments to a previous reader about the difficulty of the bible covering everything in minute detail but cannot understand why, if slavery is wrong, then this passage, along with others about beating slaves, demanding obedience from slaves and allowing masters to sleep with their female slaves without consequences should even be in the bible at all. Would it not be better omitted, or replaced with a single line stating that one person cannot be owned by another person?
It does not make me happy to question the bible like this, I find it very troubling indeed. What are your thoughts?
Kindest regards,
Sally

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Jack Wellman April 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

Thank you for your question Sally_T. The term of bondage by Hebrew scholars indicate that the word “buy” means that if the neighboring peoples were not willing to sell their people, they could not be purchased. They also show that the word here translated “bondmen” was the word for servant, used “merely to designate them as the performers of such service.” If the claims that the Israelites actually held slaves, then they should have a word for slave which they do not. Any one that can read Hebrew, can see this, by examining the passage in the original texts.

The attempts by non-belivers which are sometimes made to prove that , of the Latin Septuagint (Latin translation of the Hebrew Scriptures), and servus of the Vulgate version, translated indifferently servant or slave, means only a hired servant, need only to be mentioned to be refuted.

It was the object of Moses, not at once to do away with slavery, but to discourage and to mitigate it. The Law would not suffer it to be forgotten that the slave was a man, and protected him in every way that was possible at the time against the injustice or cruelty of his master.

Property in foreign slaves is here distinctly permitted. It was a patriarchal custom Genesis 17:12. Such slaves might be captives taken in war (Numbers 31:6 following; Deuteronomy 20:14) whose nations were an abomination to God (i.e. were sacrificing children), or those consigned to slavery for their crimes (capital crimes, not misdemeanors & crimes for which a life sentence should have been imposed), or those purchased of foreign slave-dealers. Yet even those who were purchased were not allowed to be treated harshly and were protected by God’s covenental laws and in most cases were considered as family members.

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Drew June 19, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Would you help me reconcile these verses with what you said about slavery?

Thanks!

Leviticus 25:44
Both your male and female slaves, whom you shall have, shall be of the nations that are round about you; of them shall you buy male and female slaves.

Colossians 4:1
Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Leviticus 25;46
And you shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your slaves forever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, you shall not rule one over another with harshness.

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Jack Wellman June 21, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Thank you Drew. For one thing the quote about being good to slave from Paul in Colossians does not mean he approves of it. Paul could not change the Roman laws to rid the nation of slavery.

As for Leviticus 25:44-46 “However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.”

God is not approving of slavery but these were already indebted and they were slaves already to other nations that Israel conquered. Though several forms of servitude existed under the Law of Moses, in every case all rights were maintained unless voluntarily relinquished (Exodus 21:5-6, Deuteronomy 15:16-17).

The Law of Moses commanded that servants, of whatever origin (Gentile or Hebrew), were to be treated as human beings who were part of the family and community. Unlike any other society, the Law of Moses commanded that servants enjoy at least one day a week free from every kind of labour, participating in the Sabbath day of rest together with the free members of the community:

Legislation maintained kinship rights (Exodus 21:3, 9, Leviticus 25:41, 47-49, 54, providing for Hebrew indentured servants), marriage rights (Exodus 21:4, 10-11, providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage), personal legal rights relating to physical protection and protection from breach of contract (Exodus 21:8, providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage, Exodus 21:20-21, 26-27, providing for Hebrew or foreign servants of any kind, and Leviticus 25:39-41, providing for Hebrew indentured servants), freedom of movement, and access to liberty (Exodus 21:8, 11, providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage, Leviticus 25:40-45, 48, 54, providing for Hebrew intendured servants, and Deuteronomy 15:1, 12; 23:15, providing for Hebrew or foreign servants of any kind).

Prior to Lev 25:44-46 it says, “Leviticus 25:
35 “‘If your brother becomes impoverished and is indebted to you, you must support him; he must live with you like a foreign resident.36 Do not take interest or profit from him, but you must fear your God and your brother must live with you.37 You must not lend him your money at interest and you must not sell him food for profit.” which is quite merciful.

In addition to this, every 50 years ALL slaved were set free. Importantly, the Hebrew who purchased his fellow Hebrew as an indentured servant was not permitted to sell him to another person to recover their debt (‘they must not be sold in a slave sale’, verse 42), and had to remain in the custody of the Hebrew who had purchased them. This ensured that the man remained within the Hebrew community, which provided him with legal protection from abuse, and prevented him from being sold to a foreign nation. All Hebrew indentured servants were explicitly protected by law from harsh treatment at the hands of their masters (‘You must not rule over him harshly’, Leviticus 25:43, ‘no man may rule over his brother harshly’, Leviticus 25:46, ‘The one who bought him must not rule over him harshly in your sight’, Leviticus 25:53).

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Robert O. Adair June 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Well Jack, I think you have made a very crucial comment that we must not look at these O.T. statements outside of their historical context.
But I also must wonder at the Atheistic Secular Humanists and Evolutionists who directly and indirectly deny all Metaphysical basis for absolute truth and moral principles getting excited about these issues. According to their religion, people are apes, brother to the Chimpanzee and the Gorilla. According to Darwinism, might makes right, the superior races their superiority by killing members of the inferior ones with an aim toward extermination.

He didn’t so much advocate it but he predicted it. His greatest disciples, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin carried this to its logical conclusion. Most Evolutionists cannot understand this because the study of traditional Logic is not required for most degrees in science.

If you believe in Evolutionism, you are a racist. It is intrinsic to this religion which falsely claims to be the epitome of science. I find it quite mind boggling to be told that Christianity is not moral by people who have no scruples about murdering helpless, innocent, babies in the most brutal, inhuman way possible. Peter Singer, their greatest living philosopher, tells us it’s a pity newborn babies are so cute, it interferes with killing them.

Yahoo refused to print my article pointing out that if you kidnapped someone, crushed his skull, sucked his brains out and cut him into six pieces, you would likely end up in an institution for the criminally insane. Of course this now. Better to be concerned about what happened 3,700 years ago!

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Jack Wellman June 21, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Thank you so much Dr. Adair. I am sorry I am just now replying to your comment. I had a couple of days where I worked 10-16 hour days.

I am not surprised that Yahoo! would not publish what you wrote, and knowing you, it was spot on the mark of truth and what saddens me is that the proclivity of these liberal medias is to quash the truth or at least run it thru the wringer until all semblance of veracity is stripped of it to make a weak, pablum of watered down stories that do not tell the whole or complete story.

I truly thank God sir that there are still voices crying in the wilderness like yours who are unashamedly proclaiming truth and stomping on the carpet of political correctness to not water down what is obvious and show that the Bible is indeed the Word of God and that far too many take it out of context. In effect, they take text out of context to make it a pretext…and a false one at that. Thank you sir for standing up for the truth.

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Robert O. Adair June 21, 2013 at 10:40 pm

“The bible did not say “Thou shall not commit abortion” so, biblically, there is no forbidding of abortion.”

Well Taffy, there are a couple of problems here which students of Logic will be the first to recognize. What we learn in this study is to use words carefully and with precision, being careful to recognize their context. The King James translation says “Thou shalt not Kill.” Going beyond the English to the Hebrew, we discover that there was more than one Hebrew word which meant kill. The particular one used meant taking innocent human life. More recent translations say “You shall do murder.” Murder is, according to Scripture: taking innocent human life. Sloppy readers of the Bible take this KJV mistranslation to justify eliminating the death penalty and even pacifism. But the Ten Commandments appear right before the section some times called The Judgements of Israel, a listing of various crimes for which quite often the penalty is death. Since Scripture quite clearly says in effect “You shall not take innocent human life.”, how can you justify murdering babies? Of what crimes are they guilty?

There is not one word in the Bible that says I should not chop someone’s head open with an axe, so even though the person in question has done no wrong, this is not forbidden? How about if I fill him so full of lead with my Thomson sub-machine gun, it will take eight guys to haul his coffin to the cemetery? Neither the machine gun nor certain laser weapons we have today were invented in Biblical times. Get real!

And by the way, I mean no serious criticism of the KJV, it was written for a more literate audience than our present college graduates who have been taught neither English or Logic. See Dorothy L. Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning.

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