Home Doctrine Why Did God Allow Slavery in the Bible?

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

Comparing biblical slavery with the slavery of recent centuries

Why Did God Allow Slavery in the Bible?

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?

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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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  1. 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.

    1. 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


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