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# 07600 :  Slavery and Bible

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.

Leviticus 25:44-46

‘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.

Exodus 21:1-6

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.

Exodus 21:7-11

“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.

Exodus 21:20-21

“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. 

Post by : tom_s  View Profile    since : 6 Aug 2014

Reply by : tom_s   View Profile   Since : 7 Aug 2014 7:44:52 PM Close

1 John 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness

So anyone who transgresses law practices sin. Just to be clear I did not say this is sin from a Biblical point of view. In fact that's what I am struggling with and my original question, why such an act is not condemned as a sin rather endorsed? Well I could tell to myself to shut up and God does whatever He likes or pleases. I have been thinking that way for a long time. But whenever I read these passages, I can't comprehend.

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Reply by : guide   View Profile   Since : 7 Aug 2014 8:35:47 PM Close


What does the NT say about slavery?


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Reply by : guide   View Profile   Since : 8 Aug 2014 9:03:43 PM Close

1 Timothy 6: 1-2 are instructions to those slaves who became Christians and those masters who became Christians. We need to see the display of godliness by both the believing slaves and the believing masters. The practice of slavery and the behaviour of the unbelieving slaves and the unbelieving masters could not be changed.

The NT does not condone slavery but the above reference is exhortation to the believing slaves and masters that gives a new dimention to the slave - master relationship..

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Reply by : tom_s   View Profile   Since : 11 Aug 2014 3:34:20 PM Close

Thanks guide and what you mentioned is in fact I am struggling with, why such an act/custom not condemned, at the same time numerous other things are forbidden.

Thanks rick for the details

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Reply by : guide   View Profile   Since : 11 Aug 2014 10:47:47 PM Close

Verse 2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.

There is evil in this world and the exhortaion is " Ro 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good".


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