Slavery in the bible and slavery in history

(MariusBuzokas) #1

Hi all i have come to question what about slavery in Old testament and New Testamen? And what about slavery in the USA at that time? Normaly they give the bible to read it or were seremones on slavery to slaves. I would like more on this topic comments or even information to read it. Thank you so much.

(SeanO) #2

@Natamari_Smirnovab Thank you for your question. Here are two previous Connect threads discussing this very issue that will hopefully give you some good answers and food for thought. May the Lord grant you wisdom as you study and seek His face. Do these threads spark any follow up questions or further thoughts?

(MariusBuzokas) #3

Thank you so much SeanO.

(Carson Weitnauer) #4

Hi @Natamari_Smirnovab,

After reviewing the discussions we’ve already had in Connect about this question, please do follow-up with any additional questions you have! This is an important topic to discuss and there are many layers and angles to consider.

(MariusBuzokas) #5

Hi CarsonWeitnauer thank you.I would like comments on this verse of the bible how you explain to some person?
If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free. “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’
Exodus 21:4‭-‬5 NIV

It looks that he himself with his wife and kids cant be free. I would like hear some toughts on this. Thank you.

(SeanO) #6

@Natamari_Smirnovab That is a good question. Here is a specific response to that passage and a thought about contextualization. I really think the following is a fundamental idea to understand: “As in much of the Bible, God’s word in Exodus did not abolish the existing social and economic order, but instructed God’s people how to live with justice and compassion in their present circumstances.” TOW Project

Specific Response to Exodus 21:4-5

Answers in Genesis Article

“Regarding Exodus 21:4, if he (the bondservant) is willing to walk away from his wife and kids, then it is his own fault. And he would be the one in defiance of the law of marriage. He has every right to stay with his family. On the other hand, his wife, since she is a servant as well, must repay her debt until she can go free. Otherwise, a woman could be deceitful by racking up debt and then selling herself into slavery to have her debts covered, only to marry someone with a short time left on his term, and then go free with him. That would be cruel to the master who was trying to help her out. So this provision is to protect those who are trying to help people out of their debt.”

The Importance of Context - Historical and Literary

"Knowledge of the social and legal realities of the ancient Near East, often available only through study of other cultures, such as those of Mesopotamia, are critical for a full understanding of the world of biblical law. As I have tried to demonstrate, some apparent contradictions can be resolved once we understand the range of cases that could be discussed, and once we see that different laws could be addressing different cases. Other differences are real, but explicable as the results of the varying foci of the collections in which they are found.

Many readings of the legal texts in the Bible, both ancient and modern, are in fact acontextual, not attuned to the real world the laws were addressing and not aware of the range of legal precedents and realities open to the legislator. It is important to build our edifices on the basis of full knowledge of both textual and historical realities." Rabbi Dr. Zev Farber

(MariusBuzokas) #7

Thank you SeanO thats very interesting. I think this has a very deep and broad study. I appreciate your answer. May you know some book on this topic? Thank you

(SeanO) #8

@Natamari_Smirnovab Paul Copan has some good resources on this topic. I would start by reading the following three articles. The first is an overview of slavery in the OT, the second deals with troubling passages about slavery in the OT and third addresses slavery in the NT. If you still have questions, you could get Copan’s book, which I have not read, that has a few chapters on slavery. Though I am uncertain whether the book adds anything not mentioned in the articles already.

@CarsonWeitnauer may know some other resources.

OT Slavery Part I

OT Slavery Part 2

NT Views on Slavery

Does the Bible excuse American slavery?
Making sense of God's moral character in the Old Testament
Old Testament God
(Carson Weitnauer) #9

Hi @Natamari_Smirnovab,

As Sean did, I would recommend @Paul_Copan’s book Is God A Moral Monster?. The second Enrichment Journal article, linked to above, recaps much of what I had written up!

A few background notes:

  1. The Pentateuch teaches the equality of all people because all people are made in God’s image.

Here’s Copan:

In other ancient Near Eastern cultures, it was the king who was the image of their god on earth—and certainly not the slave. By contrast, Genesis 1:26–27 affirms that all human beings are God’s image-bearers. This doctrine serves as the basis for affirming the dignity and rights of every human.

  1. The Israelites are to avoid oppressing one another - this is what God delivered them from in Egypt.

As the ESV Study Bible explains:

Israelites are to remember what life was like in Egypt and to avoid oppressing one another in the same manner (see Lev. 25:35–46). Although the restitution for slaves is governed by their social situation, their identity as full human beings, rather than mere possessions, is assumed, since they are not included in the laws governing the loss of property (see Ex. 21:33–22:15).

  1. The idea of ‘servanthood’ needs to be understood in its Ancient Near Eastern context. We don’t want to project back into the idea of the Old Testament’s ‘servanthood’ the barbaric experience of American chattel slavery.

As Copan explains:

Think of a sports player today who gets “traded” to another team, to which he “belongs.” Yes, teams have “owners,” but we’re hardly talking about slavery here! Rather, these are formal contractual agreements, which is what we find in Old Testament servanthood/employee arrangements.

  1. Becoming a servant was a way to enable people to get food in the short-term by committing their labor for the long-term.


In Israel, becoming a voluntary servant was commonly a starvation-prevention measure; a person had no collateral other than himself, which meant either service or death.

  1. God’s goal in the OT law was that there be no poverty or servanthood. Copan points to Deuteronomy 15:1-18 to make this point.

  2. What we are reading in Exodus 21 is case law: “if such and such a scenario arises, then this is how to proceed."

Coming to this particular passage, Copan summarizes three options for a man whose employer arranges a marriage between him and a female employee:

  1. He waits for his wife and kids to pay off their debt while he works elsewhere. But then, he is separated from his family and needs to provide for himself.
  2. He works on his own and helps pay off the debt for his wife and kids; but this is a very poor person in an agrarian society, so quite hard to pull off.
  3. He voluntarily makes a permanent commitment to work for his employer to have a stable family life and job.

Seen in this light, this isn’t a harsh passage, but actually a way of ensuring a minimum standard of care to govern a situation of extreme hardship - the kind of economic situation when people are most likely to be abused and taken advantage of.

(MariusBuzokas) #10

Thank you CarsonWeitnauer :slight_smile:

(Paul Copan) #11

Glad my material could be of use, Carson, et al. Thanks!



(Jimmy Sellers) #12

I know the original question was slavery in the Bible and history I thought I might interject that slavery is still alive and well. Here is a link to an interesting web page: the data is from 2016 but this site says that 40 million people are modern day slaves.

(MariusBuzokas) #13

Thank you Jimmy_Sellers very usefull information.

(Jimmy Sellers) #14

Sorry for the dribbles of info but I thought this quote from NT Wrights Gifford lecture was appropriate particularly if you view the attached bar graph and take note that laptops, tablets and cell phone are that bulk of the “at risk products” the G20 consumes I think it a bit ironic and for me this makes the Wright quote right on time. :grinning:

What in ancient times took money and slaves was now available to the moderns, the enlighten ones, the ones who know how things work, we live in the new epicurean paradise made a available my progress and with a cost born by others. (The Gifford lectures 2018)

(Carson Weitnauer) #15

Hi @Natamari_Smirnovab,

Here’s another resource on the Bible and slavery that I’ve found to be insightful. It is from the Jude3 Project run by Lisa Fields.