Slavery & The Bible – Notes

Slavery & The Bible – Notes

Most of the time when the topic of slavery in the Bible is discussed, it is being used as an accusation against how God allowed slavery in the Bible.  However, in biblical times, slavery was much different than the pre-civil war slavery.

Here are some points to ponder (from the lecture “Does God Condone Slavery?” by Paul Copan).  

1.  Slavery in the Bible was a contract for hire – for about 7 years (was common).

2.  It involved lending money & in order to pay-back a person become a servant to pay-off debt.

3.  Consider the language that we currently use with sports players / athletes (and they are NOT degraded).  For example. there are team owners, sport casters, etc…that use words like traded, got dealt with, punished, suspended, bargain, negotiations, not worth it, underpaid, incentives) this language does not mean that a person is merely property but involves a contractual arrangement.

4.  Slavery was a last resort and was VOLUNTARILY servitude.  After crops die, no income so need time to recoup losses.  A 7 year cap.

5.  Leviticus 25 – read, this is not pre-civil war south.  People were kidnapped in pre-civil war slavery!!  This was forced upon them but not in the Bible!!

6.  If you sold yourself into slavery, you would have food, shelter and safety.  After 7 years over so, ability to move back into previous family setting.  Also, many laws for the poor.

7.  For example, the book of Ruth.  Servitude sent off with provisions, like receiving a severance package from employer.  There were rules that regulated servitude.

8.  There was a safety net for the poorest.  For example, no loan sharks.

9.  Dignity of servants – forced labor was punishable by death

10.  Servants had rights

11.  Job – him and servants both from the womb (equality as a person).

12.  Law of Moses – 3 provisions, if this was followed, there would have been no slavery in U.S

  1. a. Exodus 21 – injured servant by master, to be released immediately from employer.
  2. b. Law of Moses had anti-kidnapping laws. – Exodus 21, Duet 24, he who kidnaps a man, put to death. Human theft NOT permitted.
  3. c. Slave ran away – allowed to settle in any city and enjoy protection in Israel.

13. Exodus 21 – strike a man servant, punished but survives no punishment.

14. Exodus 23 – 6 years service, 7 years can go.  Anti-women baised? Passage   is not singling out gender.  For example, if a man with military service gets  married, can’t get out just because married.  Need to pay off debt first.

15. Levi 25 – acquire slaves from pagan nations –  (Levi 19 – Israel told to love the stranger in the land) & Ex 21 not abuse those in servitude / applies to all, to treat kindly the aliens in their midst as they too were aliens in Egypt.

16.  Acquire – does not necessary mean to sell as property.  Used in Gen 4:1, Gen 14:19, Boaz acquires Ruth as his wife (she was fully equal, partner with Boaz) even though she was a foreigner.

17.  Levi 25:47 – if a alien earned enough money they could purchase their own freedom.  Not bound in that condition.

18.  1 Chronicle 2:34-35, aliens can become fully equal.  Caleb’s descendent

19.  Servants’ offspring received inheritance rights.

20.  Non-Israelites not to acquire land so needed other people needed to acquire household servants to earn a living.

21.  New Testament – Neither jew or greek, slave or free – with Jesus, all equal.

22.  Luke 4 – Jesus opposed all the oppressed

23.  Masters are accountable to a heavenly master.

24.  Paul refers to slaves as kingsmen, fellow workers, despite different social status.

25.  Philemon (New Testament book) – discusses a runaway slave.

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