The support of slavery
We all know that the Bible never condemns slavery, but does it support it? Let’s see the facts using the Bible.
People are possessions:
Thy bond-men and thy bond-maids which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you: of them shall ye buy bond-men and bond-maids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land. And they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession, they shall be your bond-man forever
What is it to bond someone? Simple: a restraint that confines or restricts freedom (especially something used to tie down or restrain a prisoner). A Slave.
Let’s start by asking if god told Moses to do this or if this was a rule of Moses and not of god. Of course, we need to point out the obvious first: according to biblical scholars it is “understood that Moses wrote this“. All right, I should stop now since we are obviously working on nothing since “understood” proves nothing, but for the sake of argument let’s say that Moses wrote this. When reading the Bible it becomes clear that god is commanding Moses to do the things as shown above (Leviticus 25:38). Basically you cannot have Hebrew slaves but it is OK to abuse the strangers from other countries. Rewinding a little I found under Leviticus 25:17: “You shall not wrong one another“. Of course “one another” applies only to the Hebrew chosen few here, or god would be contradicting himself.
Is it really OK for a god, the same one that loves all humans equal (or so the book says), the same one who says “love one another” to command such a sickening act? I don’t think so. But then, why do Christians keep insisting that all humans were created equal if this shows the contrary? But let’s give god the benefit of the doubt for now and pretend that Moses may have made this up because it was convenient to have slaves and because it is always convenient to blame the wrongs on someone or something else (in this case god). Of course it makes a lot more sense to think that Moses invented this set of rules for his own benefit and the benefit of his people and made it appear as if it was the will of god and you better do what he says or else (something about stoning and death).
According to Religious Tolerance Rabbi M.J. Raphall (circa 1861) justified human slavery on the basis of the 10th commandment. It places slaves
… under the same protection as any other species of lawful property… That the Ten Commandments are the word of G-d, and as such, of the very highest authority, is acknowledged by Christians as well as by Jews… How dare you, in the face of the sanction and protection afforded to slave property in the Ten Commandments– how dare you denounce slaveholding as a sin? When you remember that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job– the men with whom the Almighty conversed, with whose names he emphatically connects his own most holy name, and to whom He vouchsafed to give the character of ‘perfect, upright, fearing G-d and eschewing evil’ (Job 1:8)– that all these men were slaveholders, does it not strike you that you are guilty of something very little short of blasphemy?
Hmmmm… OK, Rabbis take this seriously. On the other hand and speaking of Christians, we know as a fact that passages in the Bible have historically been used by both pro-slavery advocates and slavery abolitionists to support their respective views. Of course: this is how the Bible is usually used (by picking the convenient parts and forgetting the ones that would throw this system down like a weak house of cards) so let’s move on now. By the way, the “they shall be your bond-man forever” never happened or at least I am unaware of the people of Israel today owning Palestinian slaves but who knows…
At least there is nothing about beating up a slave.
You can beat up your slave:
When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished; for the slave is his money
—Exodus 21:20-21 (RSV)
OK, Exodus is part of the Pentateuch so here we go again with Moses. Here we see that if you punish your slave too much and kill him or her, you will be punished by god (put to death?). How humanitarian, we’re those the slave rights of that time? But if the slave does not die and is only horribly injured, then it’s OK. You can even use another human being as currency! All right, it’s not like you can have Hebrew slaves…
You can buy Hebrew slaves:
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before god. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever
—Exodus 21:2-6 (NLT)
OK, I’ll back down a little here since Hebrew slaves are to be treated quite differently:
If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service. He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee. He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers. For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale. You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God
OK. Moses again of course. The Jubilee is 7 Sabbaths or every 49 years but Exodus limits the time to over six years and the Hebrew slave has to be treated as a worker. The rules about getting married prior to being a slave or while a slave are plain weird but then, the slave has the option to sell himself to the owner already knowing the rules and I’m sure nothing bad happens to the females since god said to not wrong one another…
Women Hebrew slaves required to please the man who bought her:
When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment
—Exodus 21:7-11 (NLT)
All right, we do get to see a great advance in women rights though (although she cannot be freed after six years): “If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her”. He cannot sell her to foreigners, cool! I do wonder what they mean by pleasing… It also says that the slave girl can marry the owner’s son which makes me wonder: If she pleased the owner in a sexual way and then married the owner’s son but had already pleased the owner, and the owner’s son found out about this, should she not be stoned to death? Moses allegedly also wrote the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 22:13-21 to be exact), and said “kill females if they marry after loss of virginity” (in more ancient words). In case we still want to think that god has nothing to do with advocating slavery and that these extremely primitive rules we’re set up by primitive people and people alone, we can surely say that Jesus would never allow slavery!
Well… yes and no, it depends on how you see it:
Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their masters worthy of all honor, that the name of god and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit
—1 Timothy 6:1-2
This is in the new testament and although these are not the words of Jesus, they are the words of Timothy who was a student of the apostle Paul (the guy that wrote almost all the new testament except for a few books, and the guy we know to never have been a direct disciple of Jesus). So Timothy is writting out of his own point of view here or was influenced by Paul. I’m sure they never got this from Jesus…
Probably not, but…:
The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes
OK, It is unlikely that Timothy got this from Jesus since Luke is written no sooner than 70 AD, Peter never knew Jesus and actually started writing his letters long before the gospels we’re out there.
Now, although Jesus is surely not condemning slavery here, he is actually using slaves as an example. None of this adds up. Can’t he have added “but slavery is wrong and will bring many problems in the future”? I mean, he is god, he knows the future! Acknowledging slavery cannot come from an all knowing, all perfect god that knows that people actually suffer when their liberties are taken away. What would have been proof of a book inspired by a perfect god on the other hand is if Jesus had condemned slavery and had impulsed the virtues of human rights. That would have saved a lot of problems in this world including the american civil war. It is too obvious by now that this is just another example on why this book is not the perfect book of the perfect god. I would imagine that if you we’re in direct contact with the all knowing, all powerful god, you would be a little more advanced for the time, in the sense of hugely advanced compared to the other crazy middle easterns instead of cutting off foreskins and burning animals because god likes the smell of flesh (although evidence points that they did this not for god, but for free fully cooked meals provided by the god fearing masses. The “religious authority” got the best beef once a week!). What Jesus says is good in general, but not impressive and surely not condemning of real issues, such as poverty (he disregarded it when he said that the poor will always be with us instead of enlightening us with a system that may actually work, or at least saying “thy politicians shall not be corrupt, stand up for your rights”, etc.) or slavery. Instead, we learned how to bend over even more. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, give to Hitler what… Really? Did Jesus not know that Nero would blame the Christians for the roman fire and persecute them? Can’t the son of god who is god at the same time not tell us how to prevent future disasters? REAL disasters? Before Jesus we have all these nomads running around and doing stupid things and killing everybody under commandment of god, the same one that prior to the many slaughters gave them a couple of rocks with ten commandments. One of them supposedly said “though shall not kill”, but it was given to our unproved and forever improbable Moses. We shall analyze why the god of the bible brakes his rules so much in another paper and maybe come up with some magic that proves that god is unchangeable in spite of the all changeable one in the bible. Or not.