How do we reconcile non-Hebrew slaves being given different treatment than their Jewish counterpart? For example, they weren’t allowed to be freed. And also, the beating of one inch of your life verse-- I’m not sure if it was permitted to beat a Hebrew slave, so they may be equal in this regard. I’m still having trouble with that verse. this wasn’t commanded but I wonder why it was permitted.


Hi Ann,
Good question. Could you give me the references for the verses that troubled you - then it can be addressed.

Paul Copan’s book “Is God a moral monster” is a good resource in understanding this issue and if you are truly troubled by this, I would highly recommend that you read it. There are some youtube videos by him on this topic also.

As an initial point let me say just this - the word translated ‘slave’ from Hebrew is best understood as ‘bond-servant’ or indentured servant today. This is because our understanding of the word ‘slave’ is coloured by the inhuman excesses practised by modern day and ancient day slave traders. Paul, on the other hand had no problems calling himself a ‘slave’ (doulos) of Christ.

Once you provide the verses, others more capable of explaining might be able to help you in this topic.


Hello @Tnt77 I’m assuming you are talking about Leviticus 25:44-46 which are the inherited slaves. So to answer the easy question first yes the Hebrew slaves were allowed to be beaten. Here is a passage from about it.

Both Jewish and Gentile slaves had many of the same rights

There was no differentiation between Jewish slaves and non-Jewish slaves in several areas. Both were under the same law (Numbers 15:15–16), could be beaten as punishment (Deut. 25:1-3; Exod. 21:20-21; Prov. 22:15; 23:13-14; 26:3), could not be murdered (Leviticus 24:21–22), and were to be treated properly (Exodus 23:9). They would be set free if they were injured (Exodus 21:26-27). Furthermore, they were not considered property in the same sense as an ox or coat because escaped slaves were not to be returned (Deut. 23:15-16) as was property (Exodus 23:4; Deut. 22:1–4).

The bible verses given here that they had a lot of the same rights. When it comes to inherited slaves who are non-Jews the best answer I’ve heard thus far is by who explains it like this.

No Intermingling allowed

I suspect that the Gentile slaves’ permanent condition was because God wanted to keep the people of Israel intact so the Messiah can be born through them as had been prophesied (Num. 24:17; 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Deut. 18:15-19; Daniel 9:24-27). But the existence of slaves within the Jewish culture had the potential of thwarting the messianic line through intermarriage and the introduction of false gods from those who were captives. This would explain why all slaves were required to follow Jewish religious practices (Gen. 17:13; Exodus 12:44; Lev. 22:11). Therefore, non-Jewish slaves were not to be set free and thereby intermingle with the people of Israel. In light of this, it would make sense why non-Jewish slaves could be kept as slaves permanently, and Jewish families could inherit them. But, since they were not considered strict property, it must be that the work they produced was considered the property of the master.

This all would make sense if captives from war and non-jews still wanted to worship their gods in spite of living in Israel. In ancient culture, if a man who was Jewish married a woman who wasn’t Jewish the children are still considered Jews because the head of the household determines the faith. This means if a male slave were to marry a Jewish woman and he doesn’t believe in the faith of the people their household will more than likely fall to false gods. This has nothing to do with ethnicity but everything to do with culture and background. This is why females slaves are allowed to marry Jewish men and have to be treated like a Jewish daughter once they are married to that man. Same for captive women who went to in marriage.

I hoped this helped some and ask more questions if we need to dive deeper into the text.

God Bless :slight_smile:

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Thank you for your response.
I’m having trouble with the wording in this passage. Someone suggested you were allowed to treat non Jewish slaves more harshly but only gave exemptions to their fellow kinsmen.

Leviticus 25:44-46
“‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46
You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

The to be treated properly passages are directed to a sojourner, not for a slave. I’m not an atheist or anything, but I am struggling with these difficult passages.

Thank you. I will look into Copan’s book. Someone else recommended this one to me: Did the Old Testament Endorse Slavery? By Dr. Joshua Bowen.

I don’t know if anyone’s heard of it. Hopefully it’s good on this subject.

I looked up Copan’s book, it dealt with mostly Hebrew servants which didn’t answer what I was struggling with but it brought up an interesting quote from Job 31:13-15

I see where it says not to rule over fellow Israelites ruthlessly but I don’t see where it suggests that means you can rule that way over non-Hebrew slaves. In the passages I gave yes it’s about foreigners and sojourners. But you have to remember that God calls the Hebrews foreigners and sojourners as well.

Duet 10:17-19
17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who is unbiased and takes no bribe, 18 who justly treats the orphan and widow, and who loves resident foreigners, giving them food and clothing. 19 So you must love the resident foreigner because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

Non-Hebrew slaves are still foreigners even if they are slaves. So I do not believe there is reason to think that they are to be mistreated any worse than a Hebrew slave.

Here is a video on this that explains things a bit deeper. I hope this helps.

Here also is a link that goes into detail about the foreign slaves. While it is comparing slavery in Islam to Slavery in the Old Testament it gives a good background on the wording of the verses.

God Bless :slight_smile:

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