slaveryindexHow is slavery defined in the Bible? A good place to start is the book of Exodus, where we can establish how Yahweh defines slavery and why the Hebrews bondage/slavery to the Egyptians was deemed as “Bad” by him. Exodus tells us that the Egyptians were harsh taskmasters and caused the Hebrews to serve with “rigour”, while keeping them in cruel bondage. The story goes on to say that the Lord heard the cries of the Hebrews and saw their affliction and oppression and told them he would free them from the yoke of their bondage and execute judgment upon the Egyptians.

 

The whole story of the Passover and the Exodus is about Yahweh freeing the children of Israel from the bondage/slavery of Egypt. Not only does the story tell us how Yahweh parted the Red Sea to free the Hebrews, but it also goes into great detail about how the Egyptians were punished by Yahweh through plagues, death of the first born sons and drowning in the Red Sea. All these judgments were inflicted upon the Egyptians because the Pharaoh would not allow his Hebrew slaves to go free. Yahweh clearly had a problem with slavery when it came to the hard bondage of his chosen people, the Hebrews by the Egyptians, yet he seemed to have no such problem with the Hebrews keeping non-Hebrews in bondage in perpetuity and passing down their children as an inheritance (in fact the Bible states that he gave laws to accommodate the Hebrews in taking slaves). To this day the Jews celebrate the biblical feast of Passover in commemoration of how Yahweh broke their yoke of slavery to the Egyptians and set them free from their captivity.

 

 

Exo.1:13-14 And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.

 

Exo.3:7 & 9 And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; … Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.

 

Exo.6:5-6 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant. Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:

 

Deut.6:21 Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand:

 

 

It is obvious from the listed verses that the Biblegod does not approve of slavery/bondage when it comes to the captivity of the Hebrews under the heavy hand of the Egyptians, yet Leviticus 25 extensively covers the “God given” laws which allow slavery/bondage/servitude. What is particularly enlightening in this chapter is that the biblical slavery laws clearly make a distinction between the different types of slavery/servitude that the Biblegod allows depending on ones race/religion and gender. The Hebrew was not to be bought as a common slave/bondservant, rather he was to be considered a “Hired servant” and only made to serve his master until the year of Jubilee, then he and his children were allowed to return to their land and families (this did not apply to female slaves). On the other hand non-Hebrews were allowed to be bought and sold either from surrounding nations or of strangers in their land and used as slaves in perpetuity, also they were allowed to be passed down as an inheritance. Another important distinction written into the law is that if a poor Hebrew sells himself as a slave to a rich foreigner, he is able to be redeemed by himself or one of his brethren … this did not apply to non-Hebrews or women.

 

 

Lev.25:38-44 I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God. And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile: And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.

 

Lev.25:45-46 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.

 

Lev.25:47-49 And if a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family: After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him: Either his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself.

 

Lev.26:13 I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright.

 

 

In conclusion and answering the question of how the Bible defines slavery, it seems obvious from the text of Exodus that Yahweh’s definition of slavery is that which keeps a person in bondage to another person without the freedom to leave. The second point that needs to be addressed is the glaring bias and double standard that becomes evident when reading the biblical laws applying to slavery/servitude. One set of laws is applied to the Hebrew, while an entirely different standard is given for the non-Hebrew. The only conclusion that one can draw from this double standard, is that there is an extreme racist bias manifest in favor of the Hebrews regarding human rights. The Biblegod apparently has no problem with the keeping of non-Hebrews as slaves in harsh, perpetual servitude and only voices an objection when it is the Hebrews who are kept in the yoke of bondage. This by no means is the only example of bias when it come to biblical laws, women more often than not are caught on the short end of the stick when it come to justice and equality with men … even in slavery.

 

The obvious deduction that must be drawn from the biblical laws concerning slavery is that the Biblegod is unjust, biased and racist in his decrees on slavery.

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