Slavery in the bible, a letter to the skeptic

Bible-and-Handcuffs

While debating a skeptic on whether or not the God of the bible is good, I was asked if I morally agreed with the practice of slavery. In my mind I was thinking of the slavery that the Israelites endured for 400 years in Egypt or more recently the slavery that Africans were forced into for nearly 400 years. My reply was, “I do not morally agree with the practice of slavery.” He then presents his argument for why he believes the bible, “unambiguously condones and supports” slavery. Admittedly, I was taken back by his well supported response. In fact, I couldn’t offer a retort of my own so I asked for some time to look into the topic to develop a clear concise and unbiased perspective on the subject matter.

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Time out, I need to regroup.

(Side note, in any instance where you are baffled by a statement someone makes while questioning your faith, try not to get angry or chalk it up to, “oh I just have faith that God is good and I don’t understand all of His ways.” In most instances there is a good counterargument. After being stumped, it becomes your obligation as a follower of Christ to find the answer to their perplexing argument. There is nothing wrong with being stumped it is simply a stumbling block placed in front of you meant to strengthen your faith and bring enlightenment to you. It is God pushing you toward the location of truth. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed or let God down. The information you obtain could be useful for ministering to someone in the future. There is no way you will know everything at any given moment, so always remain humble and patient, wisdom comes with time and God’s preparation.)

While researching the topic I found that the modern and common view on slavery is not the only form of slavery. There are many, but for the sake of this article I will only address two as they are the only ones with relevancy.

childhood-animated-movie-heroines_153407_16The first of the two is the form of slavery that we are all most familiar with, which is enslavement or forced labor. Forced labor is any work or services which people are forced to do against their will under the threat of some form of punishment. This is what comes to mind when the subject of slavery is brought up and what the skeptic was referring to.

self sale

The second of the two, is a form of slavery called contractual slavery. In ancient times voluntary slavery was commonplace. If an individual had no means to provide for his or herself, they would partake in “self-sale”. They would work for their “masters” and in turn would be provided for.

Now that we understand that there is a different less volatile and cruel form of slavery we can deduce that this is the one that the bible speaks of and condones right? Wrong.

 

wrong

To simply apply this method without diving deeper into the subject matter, would be unfounded, unreasonable, and unjustifiable. Especially with the abundance of evidence that seems to tower in favor of the, “God is an unjust God” perspective. Not only that, but the bible is always 100 percent honest and upfront about itself, so we do not need to sugar coat things to protect the image of the word of God. So lets search scripture to see exactly what it is that God condones and supports.

Three books were mentioned in this discussion I had. One of which was Leviticus, specifically chapter 25 verses 44-46, the skeptic stated, “This sets the ground rules for how you may buy slaves from surrounding nations, and how you may keep them forever, and bequeath them to your children.” The key word here is buy. Most of us figure in order to buy something someone must be selling the merchandise to us and because this merchandise happens to be people, we conclude that Israelites were told by God they could purchase someone who was enslaved. But when we search scripture we find that God would not allow this. Exodus is a book in the bible written before Leviticus and in Exodus 21:16 God says, “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.” Here, we see that God does not condone forced labor, He condemns it. Therefore the conclusion to be drawn is that God instructed the Israelites in Leviticus 25 to purchase those who were destitute not enslaved. Furthermore, in Exodus chapter 23 verse 9, God commands, “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” So be it a fellow Israelite or foreigner, slaves were not to be treated harshly.

(Side note: It is a common perspective that taking a bible verse from one place in the bible and asserting that the verse accommodates a passage elsewhere in the bible is something that is done to twist the word of God to fit a predetermined narrative. I disagree, verses are brought up from elsewhere in the bible to illustrate God’s perspective in context, to display the overall picture. The reason why this is okay is because God asserts that He is unchanging several times throughout the bible. For example, Numbers 23:19, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” With this in mind we can deduce that what God states in one place holds ground in another.)

The second book mentioned was Exodus. The passages called into question are chapter 21 verses 2-6 and 20-21.

Exodus 21:2-6 is believed to be a passage where God condones and supports an Israelite coercing someone into being their slave forever because it states, “And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free… he shall serve him for ever.” This is clearly not a matter of coercion or God condoning the behavior, but to put this argument to rest it is later stated in chapter 23 verse 8, “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent.” This clearly illustrates God’s ill will towards coercion and it is well known that the God of the bible hates all forms of lying, Proverbs 12:22, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.

Now Exodus 21 verses 20-21 is possibly the most controversial passage in regards to this subject matter, as it seemingly supports the beating of a slave as long as the slave does not die within a day or two. Based off of the verse I listed earlier Exodus 23:9 we can conclude that this is not God giving anyone the right to beat a slave willy nilly, just because they felt like it. With that being said, we can assume foul play was involved on the behalf of the slave and consequently disciplinary action was taken. It is also stated in Exodus 21:26-27, “…if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.” So now we see that God does not condone beating a slave to death or even to the point of injury. God if anything is condoning defending oneself or disciplining against a nefarious act of a servant.

The last book mentioned was 1 Peter. The verse called into question was 1 Peter 2:18. This passage was used to declare that even in the new testament God condoned slavery, which is supposed to rule out the, “oh that was in the old testament” response. At this point we now understand that God did not condone the oppressive enslavement of an individual, He condoned the sale of oneself in order to be provided for.

All of these arguments made were taken out of context. Any singular passage from any book in the world can be taken out of context and twisted to fit and opposing narrative. People often say, “owning a person is immoral period no matter what” and that perspective makes up part of the foundation for why they don’t believe in God, even though it does not disprove God’s existence the slightest bit. But if God doesn’t exist and this universe created itself, wouldn’t owning a dog be considered slavery since we all developed from the same life form, or is it okay because they aren’t as intellectually developed as humans? The God of the bible is good and without Him there is no such thing!

All that was said was with Love and compassion. God bless!

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16 thoughts on “Slavery in the bible, a letter to the skeptic

  1. Good post, Julian! Slaves were treated like animals throughout the ancient world, but God raised the standard for Israel, requiring all slaves to be set free in a Jubilee year. That was quite revolutionary!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely but not only that God commanded Israel to treat their slaves well and not treat them with rigor. I’m getting negative feedback already from skeptics. It is amazing how they truly just CAN NOT SEE the truth in the word.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good post Julian — another good section of Scripture on the issue is the Book of Philemon. Onesimus is not only a slave, but a thief and a slave who ran away from his master Philemon and is therefore eligible for serious punishment.

    Paul urges Philemon to not only forgive Onesimus but also treat him like a brother and says if Philemon thinks he is owed something for it, chalk it up to the debt Philemon owes to Paul who apparently lead him to Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. What a lot of skeptics fail to realize is that God set a standard for his people and it was to love support and help people not to enslave others. Most people who don’t want to follow God try their best to only see the negative in something that He says. Thanks a lot for sharing this, I actually haven’t come across this story in the bible and I’ll be sure to look further into it just to armor myself more haha!!

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  3. Julian this was a great post – you obviously spent a lot time researching this topic. To be honest, I have always wondered about this topic but I never researched it – It was awesome and very eye opening.
    I think Non Christians and Christians take verses out of their context and use them in the wrong way to prove their point.
    I read that it’s important when reading the Bible to stick with the 20/ 20 rule 20 lines above and 20 lines below the verse you are referencing
    Thanks for the knowledge on a very important topic
    God bless

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The topic of slavery is sooooo controversial especially among atheists they love to use the slavery thing to claim that the God of the bible is an unjust God, but every time they reference slavery it is always out of context and separate from Gods previously established perspective on slavery in the first place. But wow I am so elated to know that I was able to teach you something. makes me feel like the work I put in is actually for a reason! thank you so much for reading. this was a long one to so hahaha I’m glad you took the time out to check it out!!! hahaha now lets get back to you teaching me stuff lol!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Julian, you are right and this is one topic I never researched but often thought about ~ if it’s okay with you I am going to re-blog it on my blog – it’s too amazing to not share with as many people as possible –
        I have not learned how to reblog yet but I will ask Courtney to help me LOL LOL : )
        LOL I am humbled that I am able to teach you “stuff” … but I am sure there is more you can teach me – So glad you are my brother in Christ !! God bless

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha wooowwww that is so awesome hahahaha I got a reblog that’s a great feeling truly it is. I am still getting people trying to debate me on this article saying it doesn’t prove anything. I guess when you believe what you want you fight to remain ignorant of the truth. Thank you so much for reblogging and reading and liking and commenting hahahaha. Your an awesome sister to have! And I’m humbled to receive such wonderful remarks and admiration from you!!!

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      3. YAY !!! So happy you are so excited !!
        I LOVED your blog and you will always have people who can’t see the truth – sometimes because it’s just easier to think that God is against people which is so totally wrong !!
        As you know I teach Apologetics to Christian students but in the real world I have had a few agnostics and atheists who I have shared apologetics with tell me it doesn’t change anything for them !
        Always breaks my heart but I just keep praying for them !! God’s word never falls void so one day when the Holy Spirit is moving I hope they will open their eyes and see God.
        You are an awesome brother – thank YOU for all the encouragement and kind words – I believe encouraging is probably one of your many spiritual gifts !!
        God bless : )

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Wow you know what maybe your right about the gift for encouraging people thing wow I never thought of encouraging that way. Maybe I’ll write about that soon thank you so much for shedding light on that. And yeah there are so many people that are like borderline believers they just need that one bit of info to shift their perspectives. I pray all the time for some of my friends and family to finally turn to the right side. But all we can do is plant the seeds God will make them grow eventually and prayerfully in due time they will believe and receive salvation and an eternity of true life!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. You’re more than welcome – there is a spiritual gifts test you can take on line – you and Rebekah should take it – it’s awesome to see how we are all so different and God has given aux all unique talents to use for His glory
        Here is the link https://www.lifeway.com/lwc/files/lwcF_PDF_Discover_Your_Spiritual_Gifts.pdf
        YES you should definitely do a blog on it – that would be great – now I am encouraging you LOL LOL 😊
        As for planting seeds you are so right – keep shining your light for Jesus others will see it and want to know what is different about you …
        and want what you have !!!

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  4. I am taking a little break from my Apologetics 101 Series to re-blog an amazing post that is SO important for all Christians to have the knowledge of which is the reference to slavery in the Bible.

    I know you will enjoy this one and glean the amazing wisdom I did after reading it !! Enjoy !! Also check out his other blogs on Julian for Jesus …
    More Apologetics 101 coming soon !!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on savedbygrace2009 and commented:
    I am taking a little break from my Apologetics 101 Series to re-blog an amazing post that is SO important for all Christians to have the knowledge of which is the reference to slavery in the Bible.

    I know you will enjoy this one and glean the amazing wisdom I did after reading it !! Enjoy !! Also check out his other blogs on Julian for Jesus …
    More Apologetics 101 coming soon !!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. OOPS so sorry about the above comment LOL it was supposed to be the top of my re-blog for your Slavery in the Bible Post …
    I have never re-blogged before – can you tell ?? LOL LOL LOL !!
    Luckily Courtney took over and did it for me now it’s re-blogged !! YAY !!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We were laughing over here too …
        Courtney said, “Wait ! Mom what did you do?” LOL I said I have no idea I have never re-blogged before LOL
        I am honored to be able to post your blog on mine – I loved it !!

        Liked by 1 person

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