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September 07, 2020

Ep.1142: Why Did God Allow Slavery in the Bible?

Comparing biblical slavery with the slavery of recent centuries

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What were the rules for God's treatment of servants?

What is the psychological bondage of today's human trafficking?

How does slavery in the Old Testament differ from that in the New Testament?

Theme Scripture: Exodus 12:43-44

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?

Continue Reading

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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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15 replies
  1. David the Kohathite
    David the Kohathite says:

    I challenge your statement that God permits slavery. Look at these verses:
    Exo 12:49 KJV One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
    Exo 23:9 KJV Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
    Lev 19:34 KJV But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
    Lev 23:22 KJV And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
    Lev 24:22 KJV Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.
    Lev 25:35 KJV And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.
    I know that there are provisions for the purchase of bondsmen of the children of sojourners. But these bondsmen were still protected by the same laws that the israelites had to live under. Furthermore if I am not mistaken, bondsmen were released at the jubilee.

    • Christian Questions
      Christian Questions says:

      Hi, David – thank you very much for writing. Hopefully you have had a chance to listen to the whole podcast, because we are essentially saying the same thing. Biblical slavery can hardly be compared to that found in the pagan nations at the time, or our modern day examples of slavery and human trafficking. That is the point of this podcast and is worthy of study. You bring out excellent scriptures to prove the point. – Christian Questions

    • Corinne
      Corinne says:

      I’m currently studying the book of Exodus, David, I’m curious about how you read from chapter 12 to 23 and missed Exodus 21:20-21?

      20 “If a man beats his male or female slave with a club and the slave dies as a result, the owner must be punished. 21 But if the slave recovers within a day or two, then the owner shall not be punished, since the slave is his property.”

      These are the verses that led me to this commentary. This article has some good points but doesn’t explain why God would allow the beating of one’s slaves.

      • Christian Questions
        Christian Questions says:

        (Maybe this is helpful, quoting from the CQ Rewind Show Notes from this episode) There was an inherent warning against abusing slaves. Exodus 21:26–27: “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye. And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on account of his tooth.” Devastating injuries and abuse were not permitted for any slave. There were guidelines and limits to what they were allowed to do to another person. Regarding Exodus 21:20-21, Matthew Poole commentary says: “With a rod; a fit and usual instrument for correction, whereby it is implied, that if he killed him with a sword, or any such weapon, he was to die for it. Under his hand, i.e. whilst the master is correcting him. He shall be surely punished; not with death, for then it would have been said so, as it is before and after; but as the magistrate or judge shall think fit, according to the diversity of circumstances; and therefore, no particular punishment is set down.” – Christian Questions

  2. Aarrii Elle akaandres bonifa io
    Aarrii Elle akaandres bonifa io says:

    it is nice to find a way to alleviate ailments ? or sins ? wrongs ? suffering? Yup thank you. Salutations.. bravo.
    Of course i mock and I do ask for your understanding .!?

    Whether the family of the SLAVE ate or were fed after a slave was sold into servitude paid for the bread and butter is not the question. The point is and only to be looked at .. were there slaves !?? No protesting , no condemnation NO FREEDOM GIVEN TO SLAVES ….. !!!!! slavery was allowed. Slaves do not walk along side their masters.. they walk behind them or are WALK ON ( trodden underfoot ) . please . please do conserve your empathy to the master or slave owners ENRICHING the family of the slave who now ate a meal or two !! I will e as forward to say the family pet lives better and is treated more lovingly than ANY SLAVE now or when Christ walked on earth.

    • MR Simon
      MR Simon says:

      God says you could beat a slave and if they died after two days then you would not be held responsible. The Bible tells you how to sell and buy slaves. To bury your head over the subject says so much how Christians are prepared to ignore the bad parts of the Bible, you are looking the other way.

      • Christian Questions
        Christian Questions says:

        When examining what the Bible has to say about slavery, it is a mistake to take one passage and ignore the many passages that give important details of how servitude was to be administered. For example, when someone incurred a debt they could not repay, after making every effort to repay, an individual could become the servant of the one who was owed the debt. (See Leviticus 25:39-42) He was to be treated as a hired worker, not as a bond servant. These debtors were not to be treated harshly. The Law stated, “Thou shalt not rule over them with rigour, but thou shalt fear God.” (Leviticus 25:43) The word “rigour” is the same word used to describe how the Israelites were treated in Egypt (Exodus 1:13). From their Egyptian experience, the Israelites were to learn sympathy for one another, even for those serving.

        An individual who had entered into servitude through debt could not be held for more than six years. In the seventh year he was to be released. (Exodus 21:2) The Jubilee played an important part in obtaining ones freedom. It was part of God’s Law for Israel that occurred every 50th year. In the year of Jubilee land was to be returned to its original owner, all debt was forgiven, and all servants were released. (Leviticus 25:8-22) If an individual entered servitude shortly before the Jubilee year, his time was limited to even less than six years. In this wonderful law it was clear that under God’s law servitude was never meant to be life long. It was a method for repaying debt.

        Leviticus 25:25-55 is a minute description of how servants were to be treated. The theme in these verses show that kindness and respect were fundamental. Servants were offered the opportunity of redeeming themselves out of their debt. Even family members could redeem them. It’s interesting that someone in the position of servitude could, after serving their allotted time, remain with their master permanently if they so chose. (Exodus 21:5) This suggested that conditions for servants were often favorable. This was not a system of oppression. This unique provision implied that many masters treated their servants with kindness.

        The text referred to in the question is from Exodus 21:21, 22. “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.”

        This passage shows that a servant’s life was as important as the life of a free man. The master’s life would be required if the servant died. If the servant did not die then the master’s life was not required. If the servant continued living a day or two after being beaten, and then died, his death should be attributed to another cause, other than the beating. In all these laws it is clear that God values human life. This is shown very early in the Bible. Genesis 9:6 says, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” To illustrate how much God values life consider the following verses in Exodus 21:22, 23. If a man struck a pregnant woman and she lost the child, the man’s life would be required. So even an unborn child was valued.

        Servitude as described in ancient Israel can by no means be compared to the slavery we have seen when man follows his own laws. God’s laws are just and good, and made provision for debtors to be released from their debt after a fair time of labor. We hope this helps clarify the issue. – Christian Questions

      • Jeff
        Jeff says:

        it actually doesn’t say you can beat a slave and they were not to be oppressed according to the law. To oppress them is to treat them harshly.

    • Christian Questions
      Christian Questions says:

      Unfortunately, you are correct! We must try individually to do His will and be light wherever we can. May the Lord bless your studies. – Christian Questions

  3. Jim Austin
    Jim Austin says:

    The notion that slavery was wrong came about during the Western Age of Enlightenment which developed the notion of people’s rights that was inconsistent with slavery. Since Biblical times were pre-Enlightenment, it’s hardly surprising that slavery in some form would be legitimized.

  4. RC
    RC says:

    Slavery, servent, and master in themselves are mentioned one hundred times throughout the Bible.

    But none carry as much weight as when Noah in Genisis 9:21 – 27 proclaims that Cannan and Ham and their children’s children will forever be servants to the Israelites.

    The prophecy gets fulfilled as the Jews take many a slave throughout history, including in recent years but originally Canaanites.

    At first, the Israelites tried to compromise and worship God the Father of Abraham the way the Canaanites worshiped their gods.

    God had warned them against that (Deut. 12:4, 30, 31). Then they would abandon the worship of the true God, the God the Father of Abraham. As a result, they eventually received the same judgment the Canaanites endured.

    All races and ethnic groups have taken slaves, but none more so than the Jews. This fact is a matter of recorded history beyond that of Biblical teachings.

    • MissKristanRose
      MissKristanRose says:

      And now, they’re doing it again — this time with China acting as their right hand… And the world set to become their victim.

  5. Joy from Brooklyn
    Joy from Brooklyn says:

    I am not surprised at the hate in these comments. Nope. Not even on a Christian thread.
    Some of you need to reread your Bibles.
    1. How about Romans Chapters 10 & 11. Paul’s heartfelt and heartrending prayer for Abraham’s natural seed, followed by YAHWEH’s promise through Christ to lift the veil from Israel’s eyes after “the fullness of the Gentiles comes in.” “All Israel will be saved.” Look closer at thine own sins and put your pens back in their scabbards.
    2. Noah did not curse Ham. Noah cursed Canaan only. The “fulfillment” was not the black people made slaves in America: they are descended from Cush, Ham’s other son. The fulfillment came when the children of Israel inherited the Promised Land which had been inhabited by the Canaanites.


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