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Slavery - the issue from Scriptures

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by agedman, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. agedman

    agedman Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Nov 4, 2011
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    Because this topic occurred on the History forum, I thought it expedient that the discussion occur in that forum. If the moderators desire it moved, it will be moved. :)

    In the thread on "The most evil person in America" it has been insisted that slavery was evil.

    Yet, it is clear that slavery in itself is not condemned in the Scriptures as evil, but various aspects of how the treatment and acquisition of slaves is very much discussed.

    For instance, just how is a slave acquired?

    Kidnapping is condemned both in the OT and NT.

    The OT is very specific in Exodus 21:
    16 “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.

    Paul, writing to Timothy, no doubt (imo) reflected this when writing 1 Timothy 1 (NASB):
    8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

    Where in that verse does Paul use the words "slave trader?"

    Look at the word, "kidnappers." It is the Greek word "andrapodistés" which is specifically a slave trader. The person who kidnaps and sells another (such as Joseph's brothers did) commits an act condemned by Scriptures.

    Imo, no one knew this better than John Newton, who was perhaps the very key influence in the life of William Wilberforce who was key to abolishing slavery in the British Empire.

    In what other Scriptures is slaves mentioned? Here are a few on treatment and acquisition:

    Deuteronomy 5 states that the day of rest is for everyone in the whole land - even servants.
    13 ‘Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 ‘You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.
    Because some would argue that servants were not slaves, it is important that folks understand that the word for servant (ebed) is used for both a servant and a slave. In effect, all servants were considered slaves and all slaves were considered servants.

    Exodus has some very basic governing rules about how slaves are acquired, treated, and released.
    1 “Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them:
    2 “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. 3 “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. 4 “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. 5 “But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ 6 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.
    7 “If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do. 8 “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. 9 “If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. 10 “If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. 11 “If he will not do these three things for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.

    26“If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye. 27“And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on account of his tooth.
    It is important to note that this passage deals with Hebrew slaves - not gentiles. Also, note the practice of ownership over wives, sons and daughters.

    Was there a difference between one who sells their self over debts and needs and other slaves?

    Look at Leviticus 25 to see that that person was NOT a slave but one who was to be treated as a visitor:
    39 ‘If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service. 40 ‘He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee.
    What about Gentile slaves?

    Leveticus deals with that in chapter 25:
    44 ‘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. 45 ‘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. 46 ‘You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves.
    What about NT passages?

    Colossians 4:
    1 Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.
    Galatians 3:
    27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
    And what of the book of Philemon where Paul presents the slave to the master as a fellow brother in Christ.

    What about escaped slaves - are they to be returned to their masters?

    Not according to Deuteronomy 23:
    15 “You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. 16 "He shall live with you in your midst, in the place which he shall choose in one of your towns where it pleases him; you shall not mistreat him.
    Someone may ask, didn't Paul violate this passage in Deuteronomy?

    No, look at what respect Paul treats Philemon and Onesimus:
    10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, 11 who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. 12 I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart, 13 whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel; 14 but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will. 15 For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account; 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand, I will repay it (not to mention to you that you owe to me even your own self as well). 20 Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.

    This post is not meant to be exhaustive, but to show these basic facts:

    First: slavery is not condemned in the Scriptures as evil.

    Second: the treatment of slaves should be carefully regulated, and masters held accountable for evil treatment.

    Third: slaves of countrymen (citizenship) had different outcomes than slaves from pagan lands.

    Fourth: the topic of slavery should be presented in a balanced Scriptural view and not be warped into something unscriptural and having no Scriptural foundation other than some vain imaginations.

    Perhaps others will join in posting other Scriptures on the topic.

    Isn't reading such a long post, exhausting? :type: