Slavery: Is it Really in the Bible?

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Slavery: Is it Really in the Bible?

Post  Dragon Tamer on Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:07 pm

It came to my attention recently that there is a great deal of confusion about what the Bible does or doesn't say about various topics, so I'm opening this discussion to combat the widespread misunderstandings on the subject.

To start off with, an example that comes up frequently with critics of the Bible: slavery.

Now first of all, yes, slavery is mentioned in the Bible. It was permitted in the Mosaic laws, and it is even referred to in the New Testament.

HOWEVER...

The slavery of that day was radically different from what we mean when we use the term today. For example, in the Old Testament it was punishable by death to be what we today call a slave trader (i.e. one who captures slaves for sale and/or buys and sells them for profit). And if a slave ran away, again, a master who chased after him and brought him back by force would, by law, forfeit his life.

Also, slavery under the Mosaic laws had an expiration date. Every seven years there was to be a Year of Jubilee, in which all land was returned to its original owners (so that the wealthier families couldn't buy up all the land permanently and monopolize the food supply), and all "slaves" would be set free. So selling oneself into slavery - which was often done to cover a major debt - was really more like indentured servitude. You traded X number of years of service for room, board, and some money. At the end, you were set free.

However, if you wanted to stay on with your master; if you decided, "I'm better off working for him than I was working for me," then you had the option of staying with him for life. He would take you to the front door of the house, and there he would pierce your ear as a sign that you had chosen to stay of your own free will.

So, there you have it. Yes, the word slavery is used in the Bible. And not always in a bad way. But it is generally a system so diametrically opposite of what we call slavery today and to defy the very definition of the word. In truth, it's pretty much only translated that way in English for want of a more precise equivalent.
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