Definition of Slavery
“The word 'slavery' is such a powerful word today in our society because of the slavery reminded to us by those in rather recent United States history who had family members enslaved as a type of forced labor against their will. Scholars in the ANE have often abandoned the use of the general term 'slavery' in descriptions of the many diverse forms of master-servant that are manifest in the ancient world. There are very few 'true' slave societies in the world (with Rome and Greek being two of the major ones!), and ancient Israel will be seen to be outside this classification as well (in legislation, not practice). "Scholars do not agree on a definition of "slavery." The term has been used at various times for a wide range of institutions, including plantation slavery, forced labor, the drudgery of factories and sweatshops, child labor, semi-voluntary prostitution, bride-price marriage, child adoption for payment, and paid-for surrogate motherhood. Somewhere within this range, the literal meaning of "slavery" shifts into metaphorical meaning, but it is not entirely clear at what point. A similar problem arises when we look at other cultures. The reason is that the term "Slavery" is evocative rather than analytical, calling to mind a loose bundle of diagnostic features. These features are mainly derived from the most recent direct Western experience with slavery that of the southern United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. The present Western image of slavery has been haphazardly constructed out of the representations of that experience in nineteenth-century abolitionist literature, and later novels, textbooks, and films… From a global cross-cultural and historical perspective, however, New World slavery was a unique conjunction of features… In brief, most varieties of slavery did not exhibit the three elements that were dominant in the New World: slaves as property and commodities; their use exclusively as labor; and their lack of freedom… "Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology (4 vols), David Levinson and Melvin Ember (eds), HenryHolt:1996: 4:1190f
Slavery in the Old Testament
Slavery was a deeply rooted part of the economy and social structure of the ancient Near E and of the Graeco-Roman world. There were many ways a person could become a slave.
The specific case of slavery is more complex than first appears…there is no monolithic 'institution' of slavery in the bible–e.g. the Old Testament has SEVERAL models of what might be called 'slavery' and much of what passed as slavery in the Ancient Near East (ANE) is no longer considered such in socio-economic understandings of the period and area. The Old Testament tells about slavery from military conquest (Numbers 31:7-35; Deuteronomy 20:10-18; 2 Chronicles 28:8-15); how people could be bought and sold as slaves (Exodus 21:26-27; Leviticus 24:17); how people would sell their children to pay debt (2 Kings 4:1-7); obtain a slave as a gift (Gen 29:24) ; inherit a slave (Leviticus 25:46); and of how children of slaves became property of the master even if the father later became a free man (Exodus 21:4; Leviticus 25:54). One of the main reasons a person would become a slave was insolvency (bankruptcy), a person who was in default of payment for his debts laws of Exodus ( 21:2-4 ) and Deuteronomy ( 15:12 ). One of the reasons for insolvency was the high rates of interest charged in the ancient world (kind of like the rates for some credit cards today). The Israelites were protected, in theory at least, from this by legislation, written in Exodus, and repeated in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, which forbade them to charge interest of their fellow Israelites.
In the Old Testament God does endorse, encourage, and justify forced labor as an option instead of having Israel go into battle against those enemies who first attacked them. God told the Israelites once they marched to a city that prior to their attack that they would; “… make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you[Israelites]. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city.” (Deuteronomy 20:10-11) This endorsement of forced labor by God was strictly and only for the Israelites to make to those people who had attacked them as an alternative to waging war with proven enemies and at that timeframe only and it was for no one else and nowhere else in the Bible is forced labor slavery endorsed for anyone else in either the Old or New Testaments. Also, the Old and New Testaments are written and thus God will not ever endorse, encourage, and justify forced labor slavery to anyone ever again.
Reading the Bible in context you will see that God gave specific commands to protect slaves that the Israelites had. You may say as reading Exodus 21:20-21 out of context that a slave owner is, “essentially permitted to beat a slave as severely as he would like, so long as he does not kill the slave” and shall suffer no repercussions. Note that reading Exodus 21:20-21 in context if a “slave recovers after a day or two” there is no punishment yet if longer than a day or two, there would be punishment. How many cuts and bruises do you get that heal in a day or two? When I get a small cut or bruise I normally take about a week to heal and even longer if they are sever cuts and bruises. So if the slave had injuries which lasted longer than a day or two, the person inflecting the injuries would be punished. Why would God give such a requirement if He has “no problem” with one man owning another as property?
Note too that God commands the Israelites to allow that if a slave leaves his master, that the slave be given refuge and not returned to the master. A slave could leave his/her master at any time and by God’s commandment, the slave was to not be returned to his/her master. If God has “no problem” with one man owning another as property, why would God command that a slave be not returned to his/her master if the slave left? “If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over to his master. Let him live among you wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses. Do not oppress him.” (Deuteronomy 23.15-16) Note that God made no reference to which slave be it an Israelite slave or otherwise.
Slavery in the New Testament
Christ and the apostles in regard to the slave society in which they lived reminded their converts who were slaves to obey their masters reminding them that their work being done is as for the Lord rather than for men; letting them know that from the Lord they will receive the reward of the inheritance. (Ephesians 6:1-9; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 6:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13-25). Paul further suggested that a runaway Christian slave voluntarily return to his master so to help the master become a Christian (Philemon 1:8-25).
Nowhere was it suggested that Christians give up their slaves, but masters were exhorted to treat their slaves with kindness and consideration (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1) beyond what was commanded in the Old Testament. In short, the institution of slavery was not condemned, but its abuses were. The apostles’ attitude is best explained by the unique way in which Romans of the 1st century a.d. treated their slaves, and released them in great numbers.
There is one form of slavery which is highly justified, encouraged, and fully endorsed found in the New Testament. This form of slavery isn’t people owning people as property as GoodWithout_God’s claim; moreover, it’s the relationship between God and a disciple of God once a person repents of his sin and accepts Christ Jesus as full payment for his sins (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; Romans 16:18). We are to be: “… slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” (Ephesians 6:6)
You ask what the will of God is? “`YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)
This is the slavery which the Bible fully encourages and endorses. This form of slavery is purely up to the individual’s choosing in becoming a slave to God.
Summary about GoodWithout_God’s Claim about Slavery the Bible
Please notice that God gave you and me the power to choose what we want to do and requested that we follow the Ten Commandments. Well, God gave our ancestors (those people who wrote and were written about in the Bible) the same power to choose and requested them to follow the Ten Commandments too. Notice a pattern? God leaves it up to us to choose to do the right thing or not… notice we cannot even do the right thing today because we fail in so many ways; hunger all over the world, sicknesses due to our overindulgent ways, sex trafficking, pornography, slander, fortification, and other forms of slavery all because you and I (and everyone else) don’t put enough love into God and our fellow human beings. Instead, we focus mainly on ourselves and our own pleasures.
Clearly the Bible is the bloodiest book in all history with it not covering up any of mankind’s shortcomings, plainly describing mankind’s selfishness and quest for power. Many of the people who wrote the Bible were put to death resulting from their work on it and forfeiting their lives for their belief in it. The Holy Bible is also the most precious book on earth giving to us in its New Testament the good news of Jesus Christ who with His blood, freely paid the price for your and my sins so that if only we place our trust in Him, that we will be saved from our sins for ever and ever. God leaves it up to you and me to choose to accept Him as our master or not. God does not force Himself upon anyone.
Clearly for GoodWithout_God from Twitter to make the claim that people owning people as property is justified, encouraged, and endorsed as something correct and proper to do in the Bible shows that he has not read the Bible in context if at all. Nor can GoodWithout_God from twitter believe without taking the Bible out of context, that the Bible says that it is okay to have people being brought and sold like current day sex slave markets of young boys and girls, men and women of all ages. The Bible makes it very clear that people being bought and sold and owned as property is wrong (Matthew 22:34-40).
GoodWithout_God in making the claim that the Bible justifies, encourages, and endorses people owning people as property is okay with God is either a purely and totally ignorant claim founded off of what someone has told him rather than him actually taking some time to properly research it like I did or he is a totally adulterated callous and deceitful man trying to deceive people with lies about the Bible; taking it out of context, hoping that people hearing him will not read it for themselves and discover the truth.
For anyone to hear and believe such rubbish about the Bible endorsing, encouraging, and justifying people to own people as property is just pure chosen foolish ignorance of anyone who chooses to believe it without actually reading the Bible in context. The truth is clearly written in the Bible for everyone who cares about truth to read it on their own. Don’t just take my word for the Bible’s stance on slavery. I suggest that you actually read the Bible yourself but don’t do it unless you read it all and that you read it all in context. If you are only taking someone else’s word for it, even if it is my word you are taking for it, you are not fully taking into consideration the truth. You should not have apathy to truth. Your life on earth is far too short for you to spend eternity being wrong because you chose to believe a lie.
Yes, the Bible includes a lot of information about slavery. Like the news we see and hear today on TV and radio, the Bible tells about how wicked mankind can be when it comes to wanting to control people and control wealth in various ways including the wickedness of people owning and treating people as property. The Bible, never justifies slavery of people owning and treating people as property. The Bible only endorses, encourages, and justifies slavery between God as Master and you and me as slaves to Him if we choose to be a slave to Him.
Thank you GoodWithout_God for your sharing your claim with me which brought me to research what the Bible actually states about slavery. I hope you choose to read the Bible in context, repent of your sins and accept Christ Jesus as full payment for your sins thus becoming a slave to Christ Jesus. God bless you.