Slavery in the Bible?

The Bible does acknowledge the reality of slavery in those times. A person could be taken as a slave if he was a prisoner of war, if he couldn’t pay a debt, if he stole something that he couldn’t repay, etc. However, there were laws governing how slaves could be treated and also ways they could gain their freedom. It’s important to realize that we view the subject through the lens of American slavery, with its incredible cruelty. To be a slave in Bible times was more like being a modern-day servant. In fact, the Bible uses the word “bondservant” when referring to slaves, and instructs masters to treat them kindly (Eph. 6:5–9). The apostle Paul speaks of Christians as being “slaves” of God and of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:22; 1 Cor. 7:22).

Deuteronomy 23:15 “You shall not give back to his master the slave who has escaped from his master to you.”

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3 Responses to Slavery in the Bible?

  1. Danny says:

    You know, confusion like this would be cleared up if people just read the King James Bible. It only has the word “slave” two times in it. The rest of the time it is “servant” or “bondservant”. There is no term in there as well of “slavery”–it is instead “bondage” as “forced subjugation” which may include but is not limited to slavery. The term “slave” is also really risky since Satanists use that term derisively of us Christians, saying we are slaves to God, and ignorantly assuming instead that they are the free ones. It is odd that something as old as the KJB would clear up modern confusion like this but it’s certainly much clearer and better than the NKJV that you use. Just get back to the good old Book and you wouldn’t have to face this kind of ignorance!

  2. kimsal says:

    So Exodus 21 doesn’t count? Slaves beaten to death (but only after 2 days) is acceptable?

  3. Stanley Avery says:

    Ray- In my line of work, I have extensively researched the extant surviving Roman 1st century laws regarding slavery. Briefly, it all makes the NT passages perfectly sensible and charitable: Slave marriage, property and wealth were sanctioned, but manumission, or “freeing” was very complex and limited. Often, young men would involuntarily become slave-owners, through inheritance. After 21, they were allowed to manumit less than 2/3 of their slaves, after which they were still bound to him for ten or more years, as contributing members of the household, with increased rights. To simply abandon a slave to himself was very cruel and disreputable, and doomed them to be re-enslaved, often as government mining slaves with very short lives. Email me for more details.

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