When speaking with a bible critic or an Atheist (the bible says everyone knows God so I’ll use the word “Atheist” loosely) they will bring up the topic of slavery and how the bible endorses it. Is that true?
Does The Bible Endorse Slavery?
In our culture today the word slave (Greek word doulos) is tied up with many non-historical truths. Scholar and theologian James white would respond to Matthew Vines correcting his ignorance on this subject. Slavery, as defined in the Hebrew old testament, was different than Roman slavery, slavery in Africa and Europe in the 16th and 7th centuries. It is also different from southern slavery (Aantebellum slavery) in the 18th century. Hebrew slavery was a life-saving institution for many people and for some a last resort. Biblical slavery was the idea that someone would own another person and care, provide for their needs in return for work. Similar to our employee model in America. During biblical times there were what is called “Kinsmen Redeemers” that would make sure all slaves or servants were treated well within a clan. In other words during biblical times, taking advantage of another human life wasn’t acceptable.
Slavery in biblical times was a contractual agreement. An individual would sell himself into this position to pay a debt or provide for his needs. It was always optional and never as described by Athiest Sam Harris, simply “Farm Equipment”. Sam Harris again shows his ignorance on this subject. Every 7 years Exodus 21:2 tells us that a purchased slave would be set free. So life-long bondage was not endorsed in the bible. There were times when a slave could choose to stay with his owner for a lifetime as if it benefited him.
3 Provisions In Israel
Anti-harm laws – In Exodus 21:26,27 we see that if a slave was injured by the master then he or she would be set free immediately. If a master was ever to kill a servant the law of Moses would put that master to death (Exodus 21:20). Abuse was unacceptable during Hebrew times.
Anti-kidnapping laws – If someone kidnapped a person to sell, he would be punished by death under Mosaic law (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7). In our culture today a similar kind of action is prostitution by force as we see in our world today.
Anti-return laws – There were laws in biblical times if a slave or servant would run away. A safe harbor was created for these occasions in Israel.
Slaves In Christ
The bible calls us slaves to Christ. Paul when writing to the church in Corinth gives a picture of our bondage to Christ in a noble way. 1 Corinthians 7:22 tells us “For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise, he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.” In addition to many other verses, when Paul wrote to the church in Rome he reminded them to be free from sin and become slaves of God. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the fruit you reap leads to holiness, and the outcome is eternal life.” In the context of our relationship to God, we are his slaves. Meaning, you have been purchased, set free from sin, and cared for by him.
Biblical Hebrew slavery was voluntary and beneficial to many people during biblical times. It differed from Roman, African, and Southern slavery in early America. The bible had strict rules for biblical servants or slaves. If those rules and regulations were not followed there were consequences. To say the bible endorses slavery as was committed by the south in early America is a lack of education and false accusation. Unbiblical Slavery is still present today. It is estimated that over 27 million people in the world are forced into sex trade, sold as property etc. The New Testament teaches us to love one another as we all are made in Gods image.
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