I recently heard a YouTube presentation in which the host asked this question, “The Bible is to be the moral book, how then is slavery permissible?” John Cedars, My top 10 most IMMORAL bible verses, Cedars’ vlog no. 124 7/4/16
The verse he is referring to is found in Leviticus 25:44-45 which states,
“As for your male and female slaves, whom you may have-you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you.”
To view slavery in the Bible up against slavery in our recent history is to not accurately handle the word of God, 2 Timothy 2:15. Slavery, in the history of Israel, was not hard physical labor with daily beatings, but to be treated as a member of the household. The Bible displays many verses in which the Israelites were told how to treat their slaves with respect. (Notice I said in Israel’s history, not Egypt’s or any other nation).
In Exodus 20:10 the slave was to have the Sabbath off, and Deuteronomy 5:14 says, “so that your male servant and female servant may rest as well as you,”
In Exodus 21:1-11 there are laws of humane treatment for the slaves.
In Exodus 21:26-27 states if the owner does hit a slave and they lose their sight or a tooth, they are to be set free!
Deuteronomy 23:15-16 even has a law that if a slave escapes they could live in any city of their choice and they were not to be mistreated nor taken back to their owner.
Exodus 21:20 is a law that if the master kills them then he will be punished.
In Genesis 15:2-3 it shows us, If the owner did not have children the servant would even become their heir!
These verses show the loving care God has towards one who is a slave. The ones who wrongly treat their slaves were not acting as God would have them, but in their own free will chose to be harsh, but it was never God’s intent. Even in the New testament masters are told to treat their slaves with love and respect. Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 4:1, tell masters not to threaten and to give the the slave what is just and equal.
Upon further study I realized the slavery in Israel in the Old Testament was nothing like our recent history. The great king David was said to be king Saul’s servant in 1 Samuel 17:32, 1 Samuel 19:4, and 1 Samuel 29:3, and was married to the king’s daughter, sat at the king’s table daily and was the king’s son Jonathan’s best friend. And don’t forget Joseph who was sold into slavery and ended up being number 2 in Egypt, Pharaoh said in Genesis 41:40, “You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.” What these verses show us is that in their day a slave was a trusted and respected member of the family, not mistreated as we have seen in our history.
The Bible is not immoral because slavery was allowed, but just, because God, in His infinite wisdom, knew people were always going to have slaves or be enslaved. Slavery has actually been around since Noah’s children when he predicted it in Genesis 9:25 and will be around even in the last days, as mentioned in Revelation 18:13.
We must not forget that the Bible was first a history book of Israel and secondly a history of Jesus and the early church, and yes a moral compass to those who choose to follow. If the slave owners in our recent history were true followers of the Bible they would have seen God’s ways and not have treated another human being with such disrespect