Did God Condone Slavery?

Context determines the understanding of so everything. The other day I was told the Bible condoned slavery. Several scriptures were cited on which this understanding was based. At that moment I knew it didn’t but I couldn’t speak to those specific scriptures. I also knew that those scriptures were used to justify slavery in the name of Christianity in this country. I told her to consider until I could better discuss this that “I believe everything in the Bible is true but not everything is God’s truth.” I meant I believed it was a true accounting but not reflective of God’s principles, intent, or standards.

God’s principles are the truths “that serve as the foundation for His system of belief or behavior or for His chain of reasoning.”

So I went back to those scriptures to read ithem in context.  Then I went to an Orthodox  Jewish website to get the Judaic perspective. Sometimes we lay our Western perspective on the statements made or things done by other cultures. This usually leads to a misunderstanding and fallacious arguments. This is the site if you would like to read it for yourself. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/slavery.html

How is the word slave defined? The word slave is translated from the word Hebrew eved and that means worker or servant.

Leviticus addressed several categories of slavery. The one that pertains to non-Hebrew servants are called aliens. So what is the status of non-Hebrew slaves (servants). (If you go to this website there are a few Biblical reference that you may be unfamiliar with. These books carry different names in the English Bible but the content is unchanged.)

  1. Member of the household and share in the household benefits.
  2. Property of master forever unless the person is redeemed or freedom is bought
  3. Must adhere to Mosaic law
  4. May purchase property of their own
  5. May inherit the master’s estate
  6. Can purchase own self’s freedom
  7. Killing of a slave is punishable in the same way killing a freeman would be punished even if the master kills him.
  8. Master may not rule ruthlessly over slaves
  9. Master shall not mistreat them; shall not wound them 
  10. The workload should never exceed physical strength
  11. A fugitive slave must not be returned to his master
  12. No one can be kidnapped and sold into slavery. That’s a capital offense.

There were consequences to the master who violated these rules.

As you read this list I hope you see that the practice of slavery as we know it and as we observe it in other cultures was not the intent of God. He specifically set forth guidelines that with the exception of being owned for whatever reason, the person was not to be mistreated and is cared for by the master as other family members are treated. One of the Hebrew theologians even said that slavery was not God’s plan because we were created in His image and He would not desire to enslave His ultimate creation. My paraphrase.

As you might expect, there were periods where even the Hebrews wanted to behave like the other nations but that was eventually stopped and slavery became basically extinct in that culture.

So the question is why was slavery even allowed?

God knew Israel would eventually forget that they had been slaves and treated terribly at the hands of the Egyptians. Therefore, He gave them rules that would remind them of that experience. I believe God basically said, “If you are going to participate in this, this is the responsibility you have for caring for this person.”

So I can say emphatically, “No,  God does not condone slavery.”

This is a man made construct born out of the evil hearts of mankind.






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