Cut and Paste Info on Slavery

by Matt Slick
11/14/2019

 

See also the section on Slavery.

  1. Slavery, types of
    1. chattel slavery, plantation slavery, forced labor, child labor, temporarary indentured servitude, punishment for crime, prisoners of war, selling children to pay debts,
  2. Biblical teaching on Slavery
    1. When a slave was freed, he was to receive gifts that enabled him to survive economically (Deut. 15:14).
    2. A slave could voluntarily decide to stay as a slave (Deut. 15:16-17)
    3. ​The slave was required to participate in religious observances (Gen. 17:13; Exodus 12:44; Lev. 22:11).
    4. A slave could inherit property (Gen. 15:3)
    5. A master who punished his slave who then died, was to be punished himself (Exodus 21:20).
    6. ​The slave was a member of the master's household (Lev. 22:11).
    7. ​The slave was required to rest on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10; Deut. 5:14).
    8. A person could sell himself into slavery (Lev. 25:39; Deut. 15:12)
    9. An escaped slave was not to be returned as was property (Deut. 23:15–16)
    10. A slave could become free after six years of service (Exodus 21:2; Deut. 15:12), in the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:10, 13), the marriage of the master's son or if refused was then set free (Exodus 21:7-11), due to injury (Exodus 21:26-27), and by purchasing his own freedom (Lev. 25:47).
    11. Could go to war (Genesis 14:14)
    12. Could inherit property (Genesis 15:2-3)
    13. Could be in control of entire households (Gen. 24:2)
    14. Slaves were sometimes trusted advisors (1 Sam. 9:5-10)
    15. Slaves as property (Lev 25:46 See also Ex 21:32; Lev 25:39-42 Fellow Israelites were not to be regarded as property.)
    16. Kidnapping someone to make them a slave was prohibited (Amos 1:6) and was punishable by death (Deut. 24:7; Exod. 21:16
    17. Slaves could be acquired from the nations around Israel (Lev. 25:44-46; Ecc. 2:7)
    18. People taken in a time of war could be slaves (numbers 31:9-11, 32-35; Deut. 20:11-14; 21:10-14)
  3. Does the Bible approve of slavery?
    1. The Bible does not approve of slavery. It permits it. God allowed slavery to exist in both the Old and New Testament times. But this does not mean that slavery was system that God wanted. Slavery was an invention of fallen man - not of God. Nevertheless, God allowed it to exist the way He allows other things to exist that He does not approve of such as murder, lying, rape, theft, etc.  And, the Bible provides restrictions on slavery including treating them fairly (Lev. 25:43, 53).
  4. Beating a slave
    1. Corporal punishment was a common practice in the Ancient Near East.  Both free and slaves were subject to it (Deut. 25:1-3; Exod. 21:20-21; Prov. 22:15; 23:13-14; 26:3). So, there was equal punishment between slaves and non-slaves. Furthermore, a rod is not a lethal weapon. In the context of the Ancient Near East, it was meant as an instrument of discipline. The application of the rod by the master upon the slave who did not die, but had been disciplined, was an indication not of homicide, but of disciplinary intention. The master was then given the benefit of the doubt. But if the slave died, it was considered a homicide, and the master was to be executed (Exod. 21:12). If the slave was injured by losing an eye or a tooth, the slave was to be set free (Exodus 21:26-27). This strongly supports the idea that it was not okay to beat slaves arbitrarily or harshly.
  5. Chattel Slavery
    1. Where chattel slavery meant that the person who is serving as a slave had no rights at all, biblical slavery was different. Should a slave escape his abusing master, he was not to be returned as was property (Deut. 23:15-16). Upon being freed, a slave was to receive gifts that enable him to survive economically (Deut. 15:14). Slaves were members of the masters household (Lev. 22:11), who could inherit property (Gen. 15:2-3), and be in control of entire households (Gen. 24:2). Slaves were not to be treated severely (Lev. 25:43, 53) and punishment that resulted in the death of the slave could result in the execution of the master (Exodus 21:20). So, though slavery was a reality in the ancient Near East, the kind that was recorded in the Bible was not chattel slavery, the kind that was practiced in the Americas not so long ago.
  6. Rights and privileges of slaves
    1. Scripture says the slave was a member of the Masters household (Lev. 22:11), was required to rest on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10; Deut. 5:14), and participate in religious observances (Gen. 17:13; Exodus 12:44; Lev. 22:11). Biblically, property was to be returned to the owner. But the extradition of slaves was prohibited, and they were granted asylum (Deut. 23: 16-17), revealing that they were not property in the chattel sense. The servitude of the Hebrew debts labeled limited to six years (Ex. 21:2; Deut. 15:12). This is vastly different than the chattel slavery of the United States and Europe not so long ago.
  7. Slaves as property
    1. Property was to be returned (Exodus 23:4; Deut. 22:1–4) but escaped slaves were not to be returned (Deut. 23:15–16). If a slave is property and property is to be returned, then slaves are to be returned. But since the Bible says slaves were not to be returned, then they're not considered property; at least, not in the same sense as a horse, a table, and a book our property.  Furthermore, "...when property is spoken of, oxen, sheep, &c., the term owner is always used, master never; when servants and masters are spoken of, master is always used, owner never." (Ex. Allen, Isaac. Is Slavery Sanctioned by the Bible? (p. 13). Kindle Edition)
  8. Verses Examined
    1. Exodus 21:7, female slaves treated different than male slaves
      1. "Exodus 21:7, if a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do." The reason a female slave was treated differently than a male slave in the context of Exodus 21:7, is due to the issue of marriage. Women were to be married early and produce children as was the Jewish custom based on God telling Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:22). Women who are not married were often considered cursed and could bring shame on the family. In addition, daughters who were placed into slavery were sometimes expected to marry a member of that household in which she served. This was yet another way for a father to find a husband for his daughter in the Ancient Near East culture.  In the context, the female 'slave' could be redeemed (v. 8), could not be sold to foreign people (v. 8) and could marry the master's son (v. 9). But if she did not marry the son, her food and clothing could not then be reduced (v. 10). And, if these conditions were not met, she was to go free. No such requirements were made of a male slave.
    2. Exodus 21:20-17, beating a slave
      1. Corporal punishment was a common practice in the Ancient Near East.  Both free and slaves were subject to it (Deut. 25:1-3; Exod. 21:20-21; Prov. 22:15; 23:13-14; 26:3). So, there was equal punishment between slaves and non-slaves. Furthermore, a rod is not a lethal weapon. In the context of the Ancient Near East, it was meant as an instrument of discipline. The application of the rod by the master upon the slave who did not die, but had been disciplined, was an indication not of homicide, but of disciplinary action. The master was then given the benefit of the doubt. But if the slave died, it was considered a homicide, and the master was to be executed (Exod. 21:12). If the slave was injured by losing an eye or a tooth, the slave was to be set free (Exodus 21:26-27). This strongly supports the idea that it was not okay to beat slaves arbitrarily. The injury to the Master was due to the lack of work from the slave which is why so many translations say "for the slave is his money." 
    3. 2 Kings 4:1
      1. 2 Kings 4:1, creditor taking children.  In the Old Testament context, when a debt could not be paid, possessions were first sold to pay the debt. If that was not sufficient, a person could enter into indentured servitude until the debt was paid or until the year of Jubilee when he would be set free (Lev. 25:40; Deut. 15:12).  The goal of this arrangement was not oppression, but economic fidelity and responsibility. Debts were to be paid. Throwing someone in prison did not allow that.
    4. Leviticus 25:44-46
      1. Leviticus 25:44-46 and perpetual slaves. Where Jewish slaves were to be set free the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:10, 13), non-Jewish slaves were kept perpetually. But, they were not considered property the way an ox or a cloak would have been since property was be returned to the owner (Exodus 23:4; Deut. 22:1–4), but escaped slaves were not (Deut. 23:15-16). Therefore, it makes sense to say that the work produced by the slaves was considered property. Furthermore, both Jew and non-Jewish slaves were under the same law (Numbers 15:15–16). Both could be beaten as punishment (Deut. 25:1-3; Exod. 21:20-21; Prov. 22:15; 23:13-14; 26:3), but not murdered (Leviticus 24:21–22). Both were to be treated properly (Exodus 23:9). Both were freed if they were injured (Exodus 21:26-27). Finally, since Gentile slaves were often obtained via war, they were not to be set free lest they intermingle the people of Israel and threaten the messianic line through whom Christ was born.

         

 

 

 

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.