This particular subject was on my mind for quite some time. I thought I would post here and I know this is a sensitive subject.
I believe everyone condemns slavery and it is considered as one of the worst social evil. Moreover when slavery is practiced for sex (slaves for sex) it’s sickening. I think everyone on this forum will object the idea of selling a female as a sex slave. Now here is my difficulty. Overall Bible (OT and NT) do not condemn this as a sin, but in fact endorse this concept with certain guidelines. At the same time Bible condemns numerous acts and commands us not to do certain things viz. stealing (a simple one).
Given below are a few verses (I understand there is lot of passages in the OT that deals with slaves) that I really struggle with and why such an act is endorsed from a Biblical point of view.
‘As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you. ‘Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession. ‘You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.
The above passage clearly suggests that slaves (human beings) are just like any other commodity that you can buy/sell and you can even pass on to your children like a real estate or a house.
Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them: “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. “If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. “If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. “But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.
Above passage give instructions how to deal with a Hebrew slave and we see the difference in treatment between a Hebrew salve and a foreign slave. But the irony is that one could make a Hebrew slave a permanent slave just by keeping his wife and children.
“If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do. “If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfairness to her. “If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters.
“If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. “If he will not do these three things for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.
Verse 7 suggests that a man can sell his daughter for money. The subsequent verse says that the purchaser does not have the authority to sell her to a foreigner. I am not sure what exactly displeasing means, I am assuming not fulfilling the physical desire of the man who bought her. Finally the slave could leave without any penalty if the purchaser does not take care of her. Per my understanding this is selling a female for money and it seems for man’s physical pleasure. Probably the concept of dowry might have come from this practice.
“If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. “If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.
This clearly suggests that the owner of the slave can beat him or her as long as they don’t die. So one could beat a salve to whatever extend they want.
The New Testament also suggests that the practice of slavery existed during that time.
Ephesians 6:5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ;
1 Timothy 6:1-2 All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against. Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.
Finally I am not a Bible scholar but I read Bible as it is and try to understand plainly. If anyone has any thoughts around this subject please share.