Comparing biblical slavery with the slavery of recent centuries
Slavery. It is a function of a sin ridden imperfect human race. When we hear of people being slaves the reality of what that means has a dramatic range. There was the inhuman harshness of Egyptian domination over Israel and the enslavement of Africans a few hundred years ago. Then there were the Roman and Greek versions of slavery. There was the indentured servitude of several cultures. In all cases, it is easy for us who live in the 21st century to look back and wonder why. We think we know better. Here’s the problem – at this very moment, cruel and heartless slavery still exists. It includes the abuse of minors, sex trafficking and other forms of inhuman behavior. We know that God has allowed it to occur among his chosen people. What kind was it, and why did He allow it?
Sometimes you wish you had different words to describe circumstances.
Depending on the time in history and depending on the culture, the word "slavery" is a good example. Go back to the time when Israel was enslaved in Egypt and we begin a good comparison. Israel developed as a nation within Egypt because of Joseph’s society-saving actions to prepare for seven years of famine. His family was respectfully moved to Egypt and flourished. Generations later, the Egyptian king became afraid of their numbers. His solution was to enslave them – the whole nation. That slavery became cruel and heartless. With God’s power, Moses led Israel out of their cruel bondage and they became independent. The slavery they experienced was the horrible and heartless kind we think of when we hear the word slave.
Why would God permit such a thing?
It might be surprising to note that under the Laws God gave Israel, they were allowed to have slaves of their own. There are two primary reasons why:
- All of society worked that way. Those who did not have land or flocks had to sustain themselves. Those who had debts or loss had to get by. There were no steady 9 to 5 jobs then; instead, there was servitude. I place myself in your service and my family has food and shelter.
- God was specific in His Laws about NOT treating slaves the way Israel was treated in Egypt. If you were a slave in Israel, you rested on the Sabbath Day and were considered part of the household. There were Laws that prohibited slaves from being abused. With its required compassionate treatment, this slavery conjures a very different meaning that is still hard but not cruel.
Check out our September 7, 2020 podcast, “Why did God Allow Slavery in the Bible?” for more. We expand on the Old Testament biblical principles and digest the New Testament perspective on the matter. We also address modern 21st century slavery which, believe it or not, is a massive, rampant, world-wide problem. Slavery is and always has been a big issue. Listen in to gain a strong biblical perspective so you can stand more firmly in such an evil day!
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