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Slavery in the Bible


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#1 Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:05 AM

Due to the infamy of New World slavery, particularly the plantation slavery practiced in North America between the 17th and 19th centuries, the terms ’slave’ and ’slavery’ invariably invoke images of precisely that form of servitude. Readers both Christian and non-Christian alike recoil from any passage of the Bible in which these words appear. It is wrongly assumed that any reference to ’slaves’ or ’slavery’ in the Bible necessarily refers to the New World ‘chattel slavery’ of the plantations. This is simply not the case.

The following article is an examination of the various forms of servitude described in the Bible. It addresses the topic as it is presented in the Old and New Testaments, within their historical and cultural background, together with the Biblical instruction regarding servitude in its various forms. Considerable use has been made of Glenn Miller’s excellent studies of servitude in the Old and New Testaments.

The Definition Of Slavery

Various forms of servitude existed in the Ancient Near East, all of which are described in the Bible and most of which are commonly translated ’slavery’ (largely inaccurately). In the list which follows they are described in general terms without reference to the specific manner in which they were addressed by different ANE law codes:

* Chattel slavery

* Indentured service

* Bride sale

* Vassalage
Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

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target="_blank">Apologetics

#2 Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:06 AM

Chattel slavery

A dehumanising form of servitude which was identical to that practiced on the plantations, and most properly termed ’slavery’ in its most negative sense. The individual was mere property in the same sense as a piece of furniture and not recognised as a human being. The individual had no kinship rights, no marriage rights, no property rights, personal legal rights relating to physical protection and protection from breach of contract, no freedom of movement, and no access to liberty.

Because the individual was property in the truest sense, the master was not accountable in any way for his treatment of the individual. He was no more accountable for beating or killing his slave than he was for breaking his own chair. The individual could be bought or sold at the discretion of the master. Chattel slavery was always involuntary, coercive, and terminal (the individual was a slave until death, with no means of obtaining liberty).

‘A [chattel] slave was property. The slaveowner’s rights over his slave-property were total, covering the person as well as the labor of the slave. The slave was kinless, stripped of his or her old social identity in the process of capture, sale and deracination, and denied to capacity to forge new bonds of kinship through marriage alliance. These are the three basic components of [chattel] slavery.’


Whilst chattel slavery was present in the ANE, it was not the only form of servitude and it was not the dominant form of servitude:

‘In brief, most varieties of slavery did not exhibit the three elements that were dominant in the New World: slaves as property and commodities; their use exclusively as labor; and their lack of freedom…’


‘Freedom in the ancient Near East was a relative, not an absolute state, as the ambiguity of the term for “slave” in all the region’s languages illustrates. “Slave” could be used to refer to a subordinate in the social ladder. Thus the subjects of a king were called his “slaves,” even though they were free citizens.

The king himself, if a vassal, was the “slave” of his emperor; kings, emperors, and commoners alike were “slaves” of the gods. Even a social inferior, when addressing a social superior, referred to himself out of politeness as “your slave.” There were, moreover, a plethora of servile conditions that were not regarded as slavery, such as son, daughter, wife, serf, or human pledge.’


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#3 Fortigurn

Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:07 AM

Indentured service

A mutually contracted servitude into which the individual entered voluntarily. They sold themselves into the ownership of a master to whom they owed money (or a master who paid off the debts they owed to another person), and payed off their debt with service. The individual was considered the property of their master in the sense that they were now within their master’s custody and could not leave until the contract has been fulfilled.

They could be inherited by the next generation if the master died before the contract was fulfilled. They were not dehumanized. The individual held kinship rights, marriage rights, personal legal rights relating to physical protection and protection from breach of contract, freedom of movement, and access to liberty by paying their debt (either through service, or with money). Parents sometimes sold their sons or daughters into indentured service to pay off a family debt.

The master was accountable to the law for his treatment of the servant, and could not treat them as furniture. The term of servitude was limited to the duration agreed to settle the debt. They could also be released by another individual paying the debts for which they were serving (an act usually performed by a kinsman). Because the servant had property rights and economic rights, it was possible for them to gain sufficient money to redeem themselves by paying their debt and thus ending the contract early.

Such servants were not in the same position as chattel slaves, and are better described as ‘indentured servants, or ‘bond servants’ rather than ’slaves’:

‘Guterbock refers to ’slaves in the strict sense,’ apparently referring to chattel slaves such as those of classical antiquity. This characterization may have been valid for house slaves whose master could treat them as he wished when they were at fault, but it is less suitable when they were capable of owning property and could pay betrothal money or fines.

The meaning ’servant’ seems more appropriate, or perhaps the designation ‘semi-free‘. It comprises every person who is subject to orders or dependent on another but nonetheless has a certain independence within his own sphere of active.’


The most frequently mentioned method of enslavement [Neo-Sumerian, UR III] was sale of children by their parents. Most are women, evidently widows, selling a daughter; in one instance a mother and grandmother sell a boy…There are also examples of self sale. All these case clearly arose from poverty; it is not stated, however, whether debt was specifically at issue.’

‘Most slaves owned by Assyrians in Assur and in Anatolia seem to have been (originally) debt slaves–free persons sold into slavery by a parent, a husband, an elder sister, or by themselves.‘

‘Most of the recorded cases of entry of free persons into slavery [in Emar] are by reason of debt or famine or both… A common practice was for a financier to pay off the various creditors in return for the debtor becoming his slave.’

‘”A person would either enter into slavery or be sold by a parent or relative. Persons sold their wives, grandchildren, brother (with his wife and child), sister, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, nephews and niece… Many of the documents emphasize that the transaction is voluntary.’

‘On the other hand, mention is made of free people who are sold into slavery as a result of the famine conditions and the critical economic situation of the populations [Canaan].’


Sometimes the poor would volunteer themselves as bondservants to wealthy families or royal households, in order to obtain for themselves a superior standard of living and enjoy permanent financial security:

‘Sales of wives, children, relatives, or oneself, due to financial duress, are a recurrent feature of the Nuzi socio-economic scene… A somewhat different case is that of male and female foreigners, called hapiru (immigrants) who gave themselves in slavery to private individuals or the palace administration. Poverty was the cause of these agreements…’


'Yet many slaves in ancient societies…were more secure and economically better off than the mass of the free poor, whose employment was irregular, low-grade and badly paid… It was not unknown for free men to sell themselves into slavery to escape poverty and debt, or even to take up posts of responsibility in the domestic sphere.’


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

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target="_blank">Apologetics

#4 Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:08 AM

Bride sale

Strictly speaking this was not a form of servitude, since the daughter being sold was not sold as a servant, nor did she perform servile duties, though her custody status changed so that she belonged the household to which she was sold rather than belonging to her parents. When a daughter was sold, the sale constituted a marriage contract intended to place the daughter in a position of financial security and a superior socio-economic position:

‘In the ancient world, a father, driven by poverty, might sell his daughter into a well-to-do family in order to ensure her future security. The sale presupposes marriage to the master or his son. Documents recording legal arrangements of this kind have survived from Nuzi.

The Torah stipulates that the girl must be treated as a free woman; should the designated husband take an additional wife, he is still obligated to support her. A breach of faith gains her her freedom, and the master receives no compensation for the purchase price.’


‘Second, a father arranged for the marriage of his daughter by finding a suitable husband for her and negotiating the terms of the marriage.’


The money paid for the daughter by the master was the ‘mohar’, or ‘bride price’, rather than the purchase price for the daugther as property:

‘When parents deemed their child to be approaching marriageable age, the father of the groom would contact the parents of the potential spouse and negotiate the terms of the marriage, specifically the nature and size of the mohar, “marriage present”.’

‘While some have interpreted the mohar as a purchase price, it is preferable to see it as a deposit delivered to the parents of the bride to promote the stability of the marriage and to strengthen the links between the families of those being married.’


‘For the groom’s family, the contract concerned payment of the bride-price, which was a considerable sum of silver in the Old Babylonian period. The bride-price was an act of good faith, insuring the grooms’ right to the bride.’

‘Both the bride-price and the dowry could be paid in installments until the first child was born, at which time the balance of both payments was due. The marriage was legally finalized, and the mother assumed the legal rights of ‘wife’.’


The daughter entered the master’s household as an adopted daughter belonging to the master’s family, and was contracted as the wife of either the master or one of the master’s sons. The man who purchased her was called her master because she had entered his custody and was not free to leave that custody without fulfilling the marriage contract, but she did not perform servile duties, unlike a son or daughter sold as an indentured servant. Her master was accountable to the law for his treatment of her, she had the legal status of a free woman, and children born to her were automatically free (unlike the children born to a slave):

The Torah stipulates that the girl must be treated as a free woman; should the designated husband take an additional wife, he is still obligated to support her. A breach of faith gains her her freedom, and the master receives no compensation for the purchase price.’


If for some reason the master chose not to marry her, or failed to provide a son to marry her as stipulated in the contract, he was considered to be in breach of contract, and was subject to various penalties:

‘If the groom died or had a change of heart, his father could insist that the bride be given to one of the groom’s brothers if one were available and of age. That is, the bride married into her husband’s family–she did not marry an individual.’


The daughter purchased in a ‘bride sale’ enjoyed kinship rights, marriage rights, personal legal rights relating to physical protection and protection from breach of contract, freedom of movement, and access to liberty through the fulfillment of her marriage contract.
Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#5 Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:09 AM

Vassalage

Powerful states placed the entire population of weaker states under vassalage, a form of servitude which bound the subordinate state to serve the dominant state. A ’suzerainty treaty’ was draw up, binding the members of the vassal state to certain conditions of service to the suzerain (the dominant state), which included providing physical labour for construction works, maintaining diplomatic loyalty to the suzerain, providing military support when the suzerain went to war, and supplying tribute to the suzerain in the form of materials and products (such as gold, livestock and manufactured goods):

'Suzerainty treaty

In the ancient near East, a treaty between political unequals, the suzerain or paramount ruler and the vassal or subservient power. (A treaty between equals is a parity treaty.) The purpose of suzerainty treaties, originating in the Hittite Empire of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500–1200 B.C.E.), was to guarantee that a smaller state remained the faithful ally of the empire and did not pursue an independent foreign policy. Starting with Elias Bickerman in 1951, scholars have compared the resemblance of biblical literature to these suzerainty treaties, which share a common structure known as the covenant formulary.’


Suzerainty treaties were usually renewed from one generation to the next, with the suzerain sending the treaty to the new king, prince, or governor to acknowledge. In this case they often contained a historical preamble describing the origin of the treaty, the obedience of the previous ruler, and exhorting the current ruler to follow his good example:

‘Aziras[2] was the grandfather of you, Duppi- Tessub. He rebelled against my father, but submitted again to my father. When the kings of Nuhassi land[3] and the kings of Kinza[4] rebelled against my father, Aziras did not rebel. As he was bound by treaty, he remained bound by treaty. As my father fought against his enemies, in the same manner fought Aziras.

Aziras remained loyal toward my father [as his overlord] and did not incite my father’s anger. My father was loyal toward Aziras and his country; he did not undertake any unjust action against him or incite his or his country’s anger in any way. 300 (shekels of) refined and first- class gold, the tribute which my father had imposed upon your father, he brought year for year; he never refused it.

[2] The king of Amurru who is well known from the Amarna letters.
[3] The region between Halba (Aleppo) and die Orontes River.
[4] Qadesh on the Orontes, today Tdl Nebi Mendo.’


A description of the obligations of the vassal state was always included:

‘The tribute which was imposed upon your grandfather and your father— they presented 300 shekels of good, refined first-class gold weighed with standard weights—you shall present them likewise. Do not turn your eyes to anyone else! Your fathers presented tribute to Egypt; you [shall not do that!]‘

‘With my friend you shall be friend, and with my enemy you shall be enemy.’

‘As I, the Sun, am loyal toward you, do you extend military help to the Sun and the Hatti land. If an evil rumor originates in the Hatti land that someone is to rise in revolt against the Sun and you hear it, leave with your foot soldiers and your charioteers and go immediately to the aid of the king of the Hatti land!

But if you are not able to leave yourself, dispatch either your son or your brother together with your foot soldiers (and) your charioteers to the aid of the king of the Hatti land! If you do not dispatch your son (or) your brother with your foot soldiers (and) your charioteers to the aid of the king of the Hatti land, you act in disregard of the gods of the oath.’


Vassalage in the ANE differed from later Western Medieval vassalage in that the suzerain treaty was made between two entire states, rather than between individuals (such as the lord and his serf, as in the case of Medieval vassalage). This meant that the population of the vassal state was not relocated, and continued to govern itself according to its own laws, with its political infrastructure left intact.

As a subordinate state now within the territory of a larger dominant state, its local rulers acknowledged the supremacy of the suzerain by submitting to the suzerainty treaty, and even though these local rulers were usually kings or princes, they were considered ’slaves’ of the suzerain in the sense that they were subordinate to him and at his command.

In the following letters from governors of vassal states subject to Egypt, the local rulers identify themselves as ’slaves’ of Pharoah, though they were not his personal property, lived hundreds of kilometres outside Egypt, and ruled local states and provinces:

‘These Canaanite princes also speak of themselves as being Pharaoh’s “SLAVES” (which, in a sense they were, as vassals serving their Lord):

‘To: Pharaoh, ruler of the heavens and earth
From: Biridiya, governor of Meggido

I AM YOUR SLAVE, and I renew my covenant with you as my pharaoh by bowing before you seven times seven times.’

‘To Pharaoh, ruler of the heavens and earth
From: Labayu, governor of Shechem

I AM YOUR SLAVE, who is less than the dust under your feet, and I renew my covenant with you as my pharaoh by bowing before you seven times seven times…I am, and always have been, loyal to pharaoh. I am neither a traitor nor a rebel. I pay tribute on time, and I obey every order which the representative of pharaoh here in Canaan gives me…”


The term ’slave’ is used here to indicate vassalage, not chattel slavery or even indentured service. Members of the vassal state were likewise regarded as ’slaves’ in the sense that they were under servitude to their suzerain, though they continued to live their lives as they had before, retaining their existing kinship rights, marriage rights, property rights, contract rights, economic rights, legal rights and protection, freedom of movement, and personal liberty.

The only real change was that they now had to supply an additional tax for the suzerain (usually an annual tribute), and could be drafted en masse by the suzerain for labour projects and military campaigns. In the latter case, they were relocated to the site of the labour project or the suzerain’s army, and their personal liberty was infringed.

Whist vassalage through suzerainty treaties was always to the greater advantage of the suzerain, the vassal state also benefitted from the contract. The suzerainty treaty actually bound the suzerain with certain obligations towards the vassal state, requiring the suzerain to care for his subjects and provide military protection for them from their enemies. Suzerainty treaties usually described the suzerain’s historical care of the vassal state, and even the personal care provided by the suzerain for the subordinate ruler.

In the following Akkadian-Hittite suzerainty treaty the suzerain reminds the ruler of the vassal state of the care which had been provided for him, promises to secure and maintain not only his rulership but that of his son after him, and appeals to these services as the moral basis of the ruler’s obligation to serve the suzerain in return:

‘When your father died, in accordance with your father’s word I did not drop you. Since your father had mentioned to me your name with great praise, I sought after you. To be sure, you were sick and ailing, but although you were ailing, I, the Sun, put you in the place of your father and took your brothers (and) sisters and the Amurru land in oath for you.’

‘When I, the Sun, sought after you in accordance with your father’s word and put you in your father’s place, I took you in oath for the king of the Hatti land, the Hatti land, and for my sons and grandsons. So honor the oath (of loyalty) to the king and the king’s king And I, the king, will be loyal toward you, Duppi- Tessub. When you take a wife, and when you beget an heir, he shall be king in the Amurru land likewise. And just as I shall be loyal toward you, even so shall I be loyal toward your son.’


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#6 Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:10 AM

In the Bible: Chattel Slavery

Chattel slaves had no kinship rights, no marriage rights, no personal legal rights relating to physical protection and protection from breach of contract, no freedom of movement, and no access to liberty. Because the individual was property in the truest sense, the master was not accountable in any way for his treatment of the individual. He was no more accountable for beating or killing his slave than he was for breaking his own chair. The individual could be bought or sold at the discretion of the master. Chattel slavery was always involuntary, coercive, and terminal (the individual was a slave until death, with no means of obtaining liberty).

Israel did not make chattel slaves of defeated nations, and the Law of Moses made no provision for any kind of mass service aside from vassalage. Plantation style slavery was impossible for the Israelite in any case, as family groups did not have the capacity to house, secure, and provide for large groups of chattel slaves. Chattel slaves were expensive because they had no capacity to sustain themselves, and had to be fed and clothed at the expense of their master.

Even Abraham’s servants, before the Law of Moses, were certainly not chattel slaves, despite being born in his own house, else he could not have afforded to keep them and certainly could never have risked arming them and using them for war (Genesis 14:14-15). Large scale chattel slavery was totally impossible for the nomad. Abraham’s servants, though born in his house, were not chattel slaves. One of them (Eliezer), was not only master of his household (Genesis 24:2), but was also his heir (Genesis 15:3). This is not the position of a chattel slave.

Chattel slavery did not exist under the Law of Moses. There was no form of servitude under the Law of Moses which placed them in the legal position of chattel slaves. Legislation maintained kinship rights (Exodus 21:3, 9, Leviticus 25:41, 47-49, 54, providing for Hebrew indentured servants), marriage rights (Exodus 21:4, 10-11, providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage), personal legal rights relating to physical protection and protection from breach of contract (Exodus 21:8, providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage, Exodus 21:20-21, 26-27, providing for Hebrew or foreign servants of any kind, and Leviticus 25:39-41, providing for Hebrew indentured servants), freedom of movement, and access to liberty (Exodus 21:8, 11, providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage, Leviticus 25:40-45, 48, 54, providing for Hebrew intendured servants, and Deuteronomy 15:1, 12; 23:15, providing for Hebrew or foreign servants of any kind).

Though several forms of servitude existed under the Law of Moses, in every case all rights were maintained unless voluntarily relinquished (Exodus 21:5-6, Deuteronomy 15:16-17).

The Law of Moses commanded that servants, of whatever origin (Gentile or Hebrew), were to be treated as human beings who were part of the family and community. Unlike any other ANE society, the Law of Moses commanded that servants enjoy at least one day a week free from every kind of labour, participating in the Sabbath day of rest together with the free members of the community:

Exodus 20:
10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; on it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your cattle, or the resident foreigner who is in your gates.

Deuteronomy 5:
14 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. On that day you must not do any work, you, your son, your daughter, your male slave, your female slave, your ox, your donkey, any other animal, or the foreigner who lives with you, so that your male and female slaves, like yourself, may have rest.


The commandment in Deuteronomy 5:14 specifies that one reason for this injunction is that male and female servants may enjoy the same privilege of leisure as their free masters. This commandment was unique to the Law of Moses. No other ANE society provided its slaves, servants, or even hired workers, with a legally protected day of rest every 6 days. In addition, the Law of Moses required that servants be incorporated into the community festive activities. One was the thanksgiving feast in memorial of God’s deliverance:

Deuteronomy 12:
12 You shall rejoice in the presence of the Lord your God, along with your sons, daughters, male and female servants, and the Levites in your villages (since they have no allotment or inheritance with you).


Another was the grain harvest festival:

Deuteronomy 16:
10 Then you are to celebrate the Festival of Weeks before the Lord your God with the voluntary offering that you will bring, in proportion to how he has blessed you.
11 You shall rejoice before him - you, your son, your daughter, your male and female slaves, the Levites in your villages, the resident foreigners, the orphans, and the widows among you - in the place where the Lord chooses to locate his name.
12 Furthermore, remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and so be careful to observe these statutes.


It is worth noting that the text specifically reminds the Hebrews to observe the commandment to include their servants in this festival, on the basis that they were once slaves in Egypt, and should therefore take care of those less fortunate than themselves.

The Festival of Temporary Shelters (celebrated at the grain and grape harvest), was another community feast in which servants were commanded to be included:

Deuteronomy 16:
13 You must celebrate the Festival of Temporary Shelters for seven days, at the time of the grain and grape harvest.
14 You are to rejoice in your festival, you, your son, your daughter, your male and female slaves, the Levites, the resident foreigners, the orphans, and the widows who are in your villages.


The inclusion in these feasts of servants and socially disadvantaged groups such as the resident foreigners, orphans, and widows demonstrates that these individuals were not to be marginalised by the community, but included with the free community, and provided with the same benefits as equal citizens. This explicit emphasis on the humanity of servants encouraged strong personal and emotional bonds between servants and the households they served, and prevented them from being viewed as mere chattels or being dehumanized, as they frequently were in other ANE socities.

Priests under the Law of Moses had no income other than that which they received from the community tithe (a tax of ten percent of the community’s produce), and from certain of the offerings made under the sacrificial code. Ordinarily, the food of the offerings was permitted to be eaten only by the priests. Since it had been ritually sanctified, it could not be eaten by a non-priest. A priest could not offer it to his guest, his lodger, or his hired worker:

Leviticus 22:
10 “‘No lay person may eat anything holy. Neither a priest’s lodger nor a hired laborer may eat anything holy,


However, both an indentured servant owned by the priest, or a servant who was born in his own house, were permitted to eat of the food which was ordinarily reserved only for the priest:

Leviticus 22:
11 but if a priest buys a person with his own money, that person may eat the holy offerings, and those born in the priest’s own house may eat his food.


This remarkable law provided uniquely for the servant of the priest, treating their welfare as equally important as that of the priest himself. The servant had the right to share the ritually sanctified food which was otherwise reserved only for the priest, who belonged to the most privileged class in the community.
Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#7 Fortigurn

Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:11 AM

Masters were accountable to the law for their treatment of all their servants, whether fellow Hebrews or foreigners (Exodus 21:20-21, 26-27), and the death of a servant caused by a domestic animal had to be compensated (Exodus 21:32), though the death of a freeman caused by a domestic animal did not have to be compensated unless the animal was previously known to be dangerous (Exodus 21:28-29). These laws were far superior to the laws of other ANE societies, most of which permitted chattel slavery, and provided little or no protection for servants of any kind.

For example, the Law of Moses placed an equal value on the life of the slave as on the life of a free born man, which the Code of Hammurabi did not do:

* The Code of Hammurabi exacted no penalty for the murder of a slave, but the Law of Moses proscribed the death penalty for the murder of any man (Exodus 21:12)

* The Code of Hammurabi exacted no penalty for injuring a slave, but the Law of Moses required a master to set his slave free if he inflicted permanent injury (Exodus 21:26-27)

* The Code of Hammurabi held the life of a slave to be of less value than the life of a free born man, but the Law of Moses valued them equally (Exodus 21:12, 19)

No servant under the Law of Moses, of whatever status (Hebrew or foreigner), was subjected to the terms of ANE or New World chattel slavery:

‘A [chattel] slave was property. The slaveowner’s rights over his slave-property were total, covering the person as well as the labor of the slave. The slave was kinless, stripped of his or her old social identity in the process of capture, sale and deracination, and denied to capacity to forge new bonds of kinship through marriage alliance. These are the three basic components of [chattel] slavery.’


‘Guterbock refers to ’slaves in the strict sense,’ apparently referring to chattel slaves such as those of classical antiquity. This characterization may have been valid for house slaves whose master could treat them as he wished when they were at fault, but it is less suitable when they were capable of owning property and could pay betrothal money or fines. The meaning ‘servant‘ seems more appropriate, or perhaps the designation ’semi-free’. It comprises every person who is subject to orders or dependent on another but nonetheless has a certain independence within his own sphere of active. [sic]‘


Several laws in the Law of Moses which applied to servitude are unique, having no counterpart in any other ANE society:

* Servants were protected from injury by their masters, and were set free if they were injured

* Murdering a slave incurred the death penalty

* It was illegal to capture individuals and place them in coercive servitude as property (chattel slavery)

* Any servant who ran away from their master automatically gained their liberty and were free to live wherever they chose; not only was it illegal to return them to their master, it was also forbidden to oppress them in any way

Under the Law of Moses, the master who struck his servant and knocked out an eye or tooth, had to let the servant go free (Exodus 21:26-27), a law understood by the Jews as referring to any permanent injury. In contrast, under the Code of Hammurabi a man who struck an even ex-slave and knocked out their eye or tooth had only to pay a monetary fine, and there was no penalty for injuring a slave at all. Other ANE law codes also failed to provide any such protection for servants and slaves:

‘The above prescription is hugely instructive, in comparison to the ANE: In some ANE codes, a master could literally put out the eyes of his slaves![HI:HANEL, e.g., at Mari, 1:383; at Nuzi, 1:586]. This represents a MASSIVE departure from ‘conventional morality’ of the day!’

‘The ANE, however, did NOT have the same ‘respect’ for the face of slaves–besides eye-gouging, they resorted to branding, cutting of the ears, mutilating the nose, etc– IN THE LAW CODES!. These practices are NOT in Israel’s law codes, and they are implied to be prohibited by the focus on penalties for striking the face.’


This law-the protection of slaves from maltreatment by their masters-is found nowhere else in the entire existing corpus of ancient Near Eastern legislation. It represents a qualitative transformation in social and human values and expresses itself once again in the provisions of verses 26-27.’


‘Although slaves were viewed as the property of heads of households, the latter were not free to brutalize or abuse even non-Israelite members of the household. On the contrary, explicit prohibitions of the oppression/exploitation of slaves appear repeatedly in the Mosaic legislation. In two most remarkable texts, Leviticus 19:34 and Deuteronomy 10:19, Yahweh charges all Israelites to love (’aheb) aliens (gerim) who reside in their midst, that is, the foreign members of their households, like they do themselves and to treat these outsiders with the same respect they show their ethnic countrymen.’


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

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#8 Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:12 AM

Under the Law of Moses, murdering a slave incurred the death penalty:

Exodus 21:
20 “If a man strikes his male servant or his female servant with a staff so that he or she dies as a result of the blow, he will surely be punished.


The term for ‘punished’ here is ‘avenged’, indicating the standard ‘lex talionis’, the law of equivalent retribution (Deuteronomy 19:21, ‘principle will be a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, and a foot for a foot’). The earliest Jewish commentaries on the passage makes this clear:

‘And when a man hath smitten his Kenaanite man‑servant or maid‑servant with a staff, and he die the same day under his hand, he shall be judged with the judgment of death by the sword.'


‘And when a man smiteth his servant or his handmaid with a staff, and he die under his hand, condemned he shall be condemned.’


Modern commentaries agree:

‘He must be avenged The master is criminally liable and faces execution, in keeping with the law of verse… The verb n-k-m is popularly taken to signify “revenge.” Actually, it means “to avenge,” that is, to vindicate, or redress, the imbalance of justice. Its use in the Bible is overwhelmingly with God as the subject, and in such cases it always serves the ends of justice. It is employed in particular in situations in which normal judicial procedures are not effective or cannot be implemented.’


“The second case involved a master striking his slave, male or female. Since the slave did not die immediately as a result of this act of using the rod (not a lethal weapon, however) but tarried for “a day or two” (v. 21), the master was given the benefit of the doubt; he was judged to have struck the slave with disciplinary and not homicidal intentions. This law is unprecedented in the ancient world where a master could treat his slave as he pleased.

When this law is considered alongside the law in vv. 26-27, which acted to control brutality against slaves at the point where it hurt the master, viz., his pocketbook, a whole new statement of the value and worth of the personhood of the slave is introduced. Thus if the master struck a slave severely enough only to injure one of his members, he lost his total investment immediately in that the slave won total freedom; or if he struck severely enough to kill the slave immediately, he was tried for capital punishment (vv. 18-19). The aim of this law was not to place the slave at the master’s mercy but to restrict the master’s power over him (cf. similar laws in the Code of Hammurabi 196-97, 200).’


Under the Law of Hammurabi, the death penalty was not enforced on a master murdering his own slave. The only penalty enforced for the death of a slave was if the slave died as a result of mistreatment in prison, in which case a fine was imposed:

* 116. If the prisoner die in prison from blows or maltreatment, the master of the prisoner shall convict the merchant before the judge. If he was a free-born man, the son of the merchant shall be put to death; if it was a slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina of gold, and all that the master of the prisoner gave he shall forfeit.

Under the Law of Moses, it was illegal to capture individuals and place them in coercive servitude as property (chattel slavery). The punishment for such a crime was death:

Exodus 21:
16 “Whoever kidnaps someone and sells him, or is caught still holding him, must surely be put to death.

Deuteronomy 24:
7 If a man is found kidnapping a person from among his fellow Israelites, and regards him as mere property and sells him, that kidnapper must die. In this way you will purge evil from among you.


In contrast, the Law of Hammurabi only punished the kidnap of a minor son of a freeman, and offered no protection for anyone captured and placed in coercive slavery:

* 14. If any one steal the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.

Under the Law of Moses, any servant who ran away from their master automatically gained their liberty and were free to live wherever they chose. Not only was it illegal to return them to their master, it was also forbidden to oppress them in any way:

Deuteronomy 23:
15 You must not return an escaped slave to his master when he has run away to you.
16 Indeed, he may live among you in any place he chooses, in whichever of your villages he prefers; you must not oppress him.


The Hebrew word here translated slave is ‘ebed’, and refers generally to any servant, no matter what form of servitude they were under, and regardless of their nationality. This is arguably the most remarkable law regarding servants in the entire Law of Moses. No other ANE society had any such law, and most contemporary societies actually punished those who protected or supported runaway slaves. The Law of Hammurabi was particularly vindictive regarding this matter, enforcing the death penalty on anyone who sheltered a runaway slave, or who even concealed knowledge of their whereabouts:

* 16. If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or of a freedman, and does not bring it out at the public proclamation of the major domus, the master of the house shall be put to death.

* 17. If any one find runaway male or female slaves in the open country and bring them to their masters, the master of the slaves shall pay him two shekels of silver.

* 18. If the slave will not give the name of the master, the finder shall bring him to the palace; a further investigation must follow, and the slave shall be returned to his master.

* 19. If he hold the slaves in his house, and they are caught there, he shall be put to death.

Other ANE law codes were equally cruel, and the Law of Moses stands out as uniquely humanitarian:

‘Wherever slavery existed, there were slaves who escaped from their masters. Ancient Near Eastern law forbade harboring runaway slaves, and international treaties regularly required allied states to extradite them. The present law, in contrast, permits escaped slaves to settle wherever they wish in the land of Israel and forbids returning them to their masters or enslaving them in Israel.’


A slave could also be freed by running away. According to Deuteronomy, a runaway slave is not to be returned to its master. He should be sheltered if he wishes or allowed to go free, and he must not be taken advantage of (Deut 23:16-17). This provision is strikingly different from the laws of slavery in the surrounding nations and is explained as due to Israel’s own history of slaves. It would have the effect of turning slavery into a voluntary institution.’


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
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#9 Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:13 AM

In the Bible: Indentured Servitude

Indentured servitude did exist under the Law of Moses, and both fellow Hebrews and foreigners could be contracted as indentured servants. They sold themselves into the ownership of a master to whom they owed money (or a master who paid off the debts they owed to another person), and payed off their debt with service. Indentured servants under the Law of Moses held kinship rights, marriage rights, personal legal rights relating to physical protection and protection from breach of contract, freedom of movement, and access to liberty by paying their debt (either through service, or with money).

Unlike the other ANE societies, the Law of Moses did not permit family members to sell each other into indentured service to recover family debts. The head of the household sold himself into indentured service, and whilst his family certainly joined him as members of the master’s household, they were not the property of the master as the man himself was, and nor were they contracted to serve.

The Law of Moses went to great lengths to reduce the necessity of indentured service for the payment of debt, providing various means by which an impoverished man could profit from the sale of his property or land, without losing it permanently. Hebrews were not to charge interest when loaning money to other Hebrews (Deuteronomy 23:19), which reduced the possibility of large debts accruing. In other ANE cultures there was no limit on interest rates, which often resulted in unpayable debts:

‘Pentateuchal prescriptions are meant to mitigate the causes of and need for such bondservice. Resident aliens, orphans and widows are not to be abused, oppressed or deprived of justice. When money is lent to the poor, they are not to be charged interest. (Elsewhere in the ancient Near East exorbitant interest rates on loans were the chief cause of people being sold into slavery).’


Every fifty years, in the Jubilee year, the property or land which a man had sold to relieve himself from debt, returned to his possession without penalty (Leviticus 25:8-10, 13-14). An impoverished man could sell his land to a fellow Hebrew for a sum equal to the value of the produce it would generate in the years left until the next Jubilee (Leviticus 25:15-16), and the land would return to him in the Jubilee year.

Even before the Jubilee year, a man’s property or land was to be repurchased for him by a kinsman (Leviticus 25:25), or could even be repurchased by the man himself if he obtained sufficient funds to do so (Leviticus 25:26-27). This repurchase was considered a compulsory acquisition which the new owner of the land was not permitted to refuse (Leviticus 25:23-24). In any case, the land would return to the man in the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25:13).

The exception was a residential house in a walled city, which could be redeemed within a year but no later, and did not return to the original owner in the Jubilee (Leviticus 25:29-30). Residential houses outside the urban area, however, were protected by both the permanent availability of redemption and the compulsory return in the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25:31), which clearly favoured the less wealthy rural dwellers over the more wealthy and financially secure urban dwellers.

In the event that a Hebrew became so impoverished that he had sold his property or land, his fellow Hebrew were forbidden to take advantage of his position. They were to provide care and support for him even if he was in debt to them, and money was to be loaned to him without interest:

Leviticus 25:
35 “‘If your brother becomes impoverished and is indebted to you, you must support him; he must live with you like a foreign resident.
36 Do not take interest or profit from him, but you must fear your God and your brother must live with you.
37 You must not lend him your money at interest and you must not sell him food for profit.


This protected the Hebrew debtor from being sold into slavery or indentured service against his will, an act which his debtor had no right to do. The only way for the Hebrew debtor to enter indentured service to pay his debts was by his own choice. Even when this occurred his fellow Hebrews were to treat him as an employee, and were forbidden to treat him as a chattel slave (’you must not subject him to slave service’, verse 39, a term different from that used of the hired employee or the indentured servant). Both he and his family would be released in the Jubilee year:

Leviticus 25:
39 “‘If your brother becomes impoverished with regard to you so that he sells himself to you, you must not subject him to slave service.
40 He must be with you as a hired worker, as a resident foreigner; he must serve with you until the year of jubilee,
41 but then he may go free, he and his children with him, and may return to his family and to the property of his ancestors.
42 Since they are my servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt, they must not be sold in a slave sale.
43 You must not rule over him harshly, but you must fear your God.


Importantly, the Hebrew who purchased his fellow Hebrew as an indentured servant was not permitted to sell him to another person to recover their debt (’they must not be sold in a slave sale’, verse 42), and had to remain in the custody of the Hebrew who had purchased them. This ensured that the man remained within the Hebrew community, which provided him with legal protection from abuse, and prevented him from being sold to a foreign nation. All Hebrew indentured servants were explicitly protected by law from harsh treatment at the hands of their masters (’You must not rule over him harshly’, Leviticus 25:43, ‘no man may rule over his brother harshly’, Leviticus 25:46, ‘The one who bought him must not rule over him harshly in your sight’, Leviticus 25:53).

This was in direct contrast to the Law of Hammurabi, which permitted a master to give away his servants for forced labour or lease them out to another master, who could sublease them or even sell them:

* 118. If he give a male or female slave away for forced labor, and the merchant sublease them, or sell them for money, no objection can be raised.

In the event that a Hebrew man sold himself to a resident foreigner, he could be repurchased from the foreigner by a kinsman at a price calculated on his value as a hired employee, and recompensate his kinsman either through monetary payment or service, during which time he was to be treated as a hired employee and not taken advantage of by his kinsman (Leviticus 25:47-53).

If he was unable to be redeemed from the resident foreigner, he would nevertheless be released with his family in the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25:54-55). Of course, there would be many cases in which the Jubilee year was still very far off, and it would seem pointless for a 30 year old man to sell himself into service (even as a hired employee), hoping for release in another 40 years time, since he would be unlikely to live that long. But the Law of Moses not only provided the Jubilee as a year of debt cancellation. All financial debts were automatically canceled every seven years:

Deuteronomy 15:
1 At the end of every seven years you must declare a cancellation of debts.
2 This is the nature of the cancellation: Every creditor must remit what he has loaned to another person; he must not force payment from his fellow Israelite, for it is to be recognized as “the Lord’s cancellation of debts.”


This legislation ensured that the impoverished Israelite would never have more than seven years to wait before his debts were canceled, whether or not he could pay them. Given this extremely generous provision in the Law, it was natural that creditors would be reluctant to lend money to their less wealthy fellow Hebrews, knowing that the closer the seventh year was the less chance there was of them being repaid.

However, the Law explicitly required the wealthy to lend to those in need, regardless of the close proximity of the year of debt cancellation:

Deuteronomy 15:
7 If a fellow Israelite from one of your villages in the land that the Lord your God is giving you should be poor, you must not harden your heart or be insensitive to his impoverished condition.
8 Instead, you must be sure to open your hand to him and generously lend him whatever he needs.
9 Be careful lest you entertain the wicked thought that the seventh year, the year of cancellation of debts, has almost arrived, and your attitude be wrong toward your impoverished fellow Israelite and you do not lend him anything; he will cry out to the Lord against you and you will be regarded as having sinned.
10 You must by all means lend to him and not be upset by doing it, for because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you attempt.


The Law of Hammurabi required debt cancellation after only three years instead of six, but the terms were not as favourable:

* 117. If any one fail to meet a claim for debt, and sell himself, his wife, his son, and daughter for money or give them away to forced labor: they shall work for three years in the house of the man who bought them, or the proprietor, and in the fourth year they shall be set free.

Firstly, the Law of Hammurabi lacked the many safeguards included in the Law of Moses to prevent the debtor having to resort to indentured service in the first place. Secondly, the Law of Hammurabi did not require its citizens to provide and care for those who were in debt without insisting they become indentured servants, as the Law of Moses did (Leviticus 25:35-37).

Thirdly, debtor was compelled by law to enter indentured service if he could not pay his debt, which was not required by the Law of Moses. Fourthly, a man could sell his family members as indentured servants whilst he remained free, whilst the Law of Moses expected the man who was the head of the household to sell himself into indentured service, and whilst his family certainly joined him as members of the master’s household, they were not the property of the master as the man himself was.

Fifthly, the Law of Hammurabi permitted a man to give his family members away to forced labour in exchange for debt cancellation, which was not permitted under the Law of Moses, and subjected the family members to the conditions of chattel slaves without the legal protections enjoyed by the Hebrew indentured servant. But of course, the Law of Hammurabi had no such laws providing for the protection of the indentured servant as the Law of Moses had.

Not only did the Law of Moses protect the Hebrew indentured servant from exploitation and permanent debt, when the servant was released in the year of debt cancellation the master was required to present them with a substantial gift of property from his own belongings, in order to help him recover from his poverty:

Deuteronomy 15:
13 If you set them free, you must not send them away empty-handed.
14 You must supply them generously from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress – as the Lord your God has blessed you, you must give to them.
15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore, I am commanding you to do this thing today.


At the end of the seven years, therefore, the indentured servant not only had his debt canceled (no matter how large it had been), but he actually made a substantial profit from his service. No other ANE law code required such extraordinary generosity from those who purchased an indentured servant.

One other way for a Hebrew to become an indentured servant to another Hebrew was through theft. If a thief could not repay what he had stolen, he was subjected to indentured service until he had paid for the property he had stolen (’A thief must surely make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he will be sold for his theft’, Exodus 22:3). Yet both the seventh year of release and the Jubilee year applied even to the thief, so that he could not become responsible for a debt he could never repay.

The laws for servants who were non-Hebrews were slightly different. For them there was no automatic release, either in the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25:44-46), or the seventh year of debt cancellation (Deuteronomy 15:3). These foreign indentured servants were outside the covenant community, and did not receive the benefit of debt cancellation. The Hebrews were permitted to pass them on as an inheritance to the next generation until their debts were repaid, which is the meaning of ‘olam’ in Leviticus 25:46 (translated ‘perpetually’). The text does not mean they were permanent possessions, but is an explanation as to why they do not go out at the seventh year of release or the Jubilee as the Hebrews do (the reason being that their debts are not canceled).

Edited by Fortigurn, 01 November 2009 - 11:17 AM.

Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#10 Fortigurn

Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:16 AM

However, the Law of Moses still maintained their personal legal rights relating to physical protection (Exodus 21:20-21, 26-27), freedom of movement, and access to liberty (Deuteronomy 23:15-16). Any bondservant purchased from the Gentiles had the right to flee their master, and receive the protection of the Law of Moses if they did so:

Deuteronomy 23:
15 You must not return an escaped slave to his master when he has run away to you.
16 Indeed, he may live among you in any place he chooses, in whichever of your villages he prefers; you must not oppress him.


Thus even for bondservants purchased from the Gentiles, servitude was not a permanent institution.

Importantly, the Law of Moses made no provision for any slave trade. It was permissible to purchase men and women who voluntarily sold themselves into indentured service, but not to sell them (Exodus 21:2, Leviticus 25:39, 42, 45, Deuteronomy 15:12). Taking men and women and enslaving them against their will, or selling them into slavery, was expressly forbidden on pain of death (Exodus 21:16, Deuteronomy 24:7).

It is a simple fact that obedience to two of the commandments regulating servitude within the Law of Moses would have prevented every form of slave trade in which Western civilization became involved. The South American, East and West Indian, and African slave trades would have been totally prevented if Western societies had passed laws expressly forbidding involuntary slavery and sale on the one hand (such as Exodus 21:16, Deuteronomy 24:7), and granting an escaped slave their full liberty and freedom of movement whilst forbidding the community to return them to their master or take advantage of their marginalized position (such as Deuteronomy 23:15-16). Although many Christians campaigned against slavery for centuries, laws in Western society unfortunately did not become as civilized as the Law of Moses in this regard until around the 19th century.
Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#11 Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:18 AM

In the Bible: Bride sale

Strictly speaking this was not a form of servitude, since when a daughter was ’sold’, the ’sale’ actually constituted a marriage contract intended to place the daughter in a position of financial security and a superior socio-economic position:

‘Older views held that Mesopotamian marriage was basically a commercial arrangement in which the groom purchased the bride, and it is true that extant texts are interested in the economic relations that were being forged by the new union. But it is not helpful to see marriage as purchase because the bride’s family too usually presented gifts to the groom’s family; instead, marriage seems more a change in status for both parties, like adoption.‘


The daughter entered the master’s household as an adopted daughter belonging to the master’s family, and was contracted as the wife of either the master or one of the master’s sons. She did not become the property of her ‘master’, nor was she an indentured servant:

‘The mōhar was a sum of money or its equivalent, which the fiance paid to the girl’s father as a compensation to the family. It was not, strictly speaking, the purchase price, but the customary wedding money.’


‘For the groom’s family, the contract concerned payment of the bride-price, which was a considerable sum of silver in the Old Babylonian period. The bride-price was an act of good faith, insuring the grooms’ right to the bride.’

‘Both the bride-price and the dowry could be paid in installments until the first child was born, at which time the balance of both payments was due. The marriage was legally finalized, and the mother assumed the legal rights of ‘wife’.’


Until the daughter’s marriage was finalized, she remained in the master’s household and custody:

Exodus 21:
7 “If a man sells his daughter as a female servant, she will not go out as the male servants do.


The word here translated ‘female servant’ is the word ‘amah’. It is not the word for a chattel slave, or even the word for a hired employee, and although it is a word used for a female servant, it is not used in that sense here but in the sense of one who is under obligation to a master:

The Hebrew term ‘amah used here, does not mean a slave girl in the usual sense, since her status is quite different from that of the male slave. The following laws safeguard her rights and protect her from sexual exploitation.’


She does not ‘go out as the male servants do’, because she is not free to leave until the marriage has been completed and her contract has been fulfilled:

‘The sale presupposes marriage to the master or his son. Documents recording legal arrangements of this kind have survived from Nuzi.’


The parents of the bride had given their consent to what amounted to an adoption of their daughter by her prospective bridegroom and his household. They had agreed to a riksa4tim, “a contract concerning their daughter,” [51] after receipt of a bride-price.

[51] Westbrook, Old Babylonian Marriage Law, p. 31.’

However, this is not to say that she was to be considered chattel, or that the marriage agreement was treated in the same light as the sale of land or other property.’


The man who purchased her was called her master because she had entered his custody and was not free to leave that custody without fulfilling the marriage contract, but she did not perform servile duties, unlike a son or daughter sold as an indentured servant. Her master was accountable to the law for his treatment of her, she had the legal status of a free woman, and children born to her were automatically free (unlike the children born to a slave). If she had been contracted to his son, the master was to treat her as his own daughter, even before the marriage took place:

Exodus 21:
9 And if he designated her for his son, then he will deal with her after the manner of daughters.


If the master failed to marry her as he had promised he was considered in breach of the contract, and the daughter was free to be redeemed by her family. The master had no right to retain her or to sell her to recover the cost of the ‘bride price’:

Exodus 21:
8 If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to a foreign nation, because he has dealt deceitfully with her.


Finally, if the man to whom she was married took another wife, he was not to neglect the woman who had been contracted to him. If his support for her diminished, she was free to leave him and had no further contractural obligations:

Exodus 21:
10 If he takes another wife, he must not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marital rights.
11 And if he does not provide her with these three things, then she will go out free, without paying money.


The Torah stipulates that the girl must be treated as a free woman; should the designated husband take an additional wife, he is still obligated to support her. A breach of faith gains her her freedom, and the master receives no compensation for the purchase price.’


There is nothing in the entire passage about this daughter being sold into perpetual slavery. The passage speaks of a marriage contract between a freeman’s daughter and another freeman or his son, with a list of obligations to be fulfilled by both parties, and a careful legal protection of the woman’s rights if the contract is breached or if her husband does not provide sufficient care for her:

‘Though an owner may be unhappy with a female slave he has bought for himself, he is to permit her to be freed by the payment of a price, apparently by her family, or he is to make provision for her to remain within his own family, perhaps as a daughter-in-law. Despite his own dissatisfaction with her, he has no right to sell her to “a strange family”, a family unknown to her, perhaps even one outside the covenant community of Israel. If he keeps her within his own family, yet takes another woman as his own wife or concubine, he is not to deny her the basic rights which his purchase of her for himself guaranteed in the first place.’

If the owner refuses to provide the female slave with these fundamental rights, he waives his claim of possession, and she is free to go her own way. The provisions here stipulated for such a woman make it very likely that she was not sold into slavery for general purposes, but only as a bride, and therefore with provisions restricting her owner-husband concerning her welfare if he should become dissatisfied with the union. Mendelsohn has cited Nuzian sale contracts which almost exactly parallel the Exodus provisions. Such an interpretation makes clear why the provisions for such a slavebride are given in sequence to the “guiding principles” for the protection of the male temporary slave: the slave-bride had special rights, too, and if they were violated, she too could go free.’


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#12 Fortigurn

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:19 AM

In the Bible: Vassalage

Powerful states placed the entire population of weaker states under vassalage, a form of servitude which bound the subordinate state to serve the dominant state. A ’suzerainty treaty’ was draw up, binding the members of the vassal state to certain conditions of service to the suzerain (the dominant state), which included providing physical labour for construction works, maintaining diplomatic loyalty to the suzerain, providing military support when the suzerain went to war, and supplying tribute to the suzerain in the form of materials and products (such as gold, livestock and manufactured goods):

‘Suzerainty treaty

In the ancient near East, a treaty between political unequals, the suzerain or paramount ruler and the vassal or subservient power. (A treaty between equals is a parity treaty.) The purpose of suzerainty treaties, originating in the Hittite Empire of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500–1200 B.C.E.), was to guarantee that a smaller state remained the faithful ally of the empire and did not pursue an independent foreign policy. Starting with Elias Bickerman in 1951, scholars have compared the resemblance of biblical literature to these suzerainty treaties, which share a common structure known as the covenant formulary.’


This was arguably the least rigorous and most advantageous form of servitude in the ANE, since it involved an agreement between two states, and generally affected the daily life of the individual member of the community very little. Members of the vassal state were regarded as ’slaves’ in the sense that they were under servitude to their suzerain and their liberties were ultimately dependent on him, though they continued to live their lives as they had before, retaining their existing kinship rights, marriage rights, property rights, contract rights, economic rights, legal rights and protection, freedom of movement, and personal liberty.

The only real change was that they now had to supply an additional tax for the suzerain (usually an annual tribute), and could be drafted en masse by the suzerain for labour projects and military campaigns. In the latter case, they were relocated to the site of the labour project or the suzerain’s army, and their personal liberty was infringed.

Whist vassalage through suzerainty treaties was always to the greater advantage of the suzerain, the vassal state also benefitted from the contract. The suzerainty treaty actually bound the suzerain with certain obligations towards the vassal state, requiring the suzerain to care for his subjects and provide military protection for them from their enemies. Suzerainty treaties usually described the suzerain’s historical care of the vassal state, and even the personal care provided by the suzerain for the subordinate ruler. The treaty sometimes even mentioned the obligation of the suzerain to ‘love’ the vassal:

‘Beginning outside the Old Testament, we may point to texts from the 18th to the 7th centuries BC, in which we find the term love used to describe the loyalty and friendship joining independent kings, sovereign and vassal, king and subject. However, a similar love also binds sovereign and vassal. The Pharaoh is expected to love his vassal.’

‘To love Pharaoh is to serve him and to remain faithful to the status of vassal…Continuing down to the first millennium, we find this terminology still in use. A vassal mst [sic] still love his sovereign. The vassals convoked by Esarhaddon to insure loyalty to his successor Assurbanipal are told: “You will love as yourselves Assurbanipal.” In another text we find a similar declaration under oath: “…the king of Assyria, our lord, we will love.”‘

(Pp.104-105, William L. Moran, “The Ancient Near Eastern Background of the Love of God in Deuteronomy.” Frederick E. Greenspahn, Editor. Essential Papers on Israel and the Ancient Near East. New York. New York University Press. 1991 ISBN 0-8147-3037-X. Originally published in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 1963. Vol 25, pp.77-87)’


Vassalage existed under the Law of Moses, and cities which surrendered to the Hebrews were normatively placed under vassalage:

‘There existed two types of covenants in Israel, as well as in the ancient Near East. The promissory covenants bound the suzerain (master) to the vassal (servant) unconditionally. The obligatory covenants, also known as the suzerainty treaties, bound the vassal (servant) to be faithfully obedient to the suzerain (master).’


Deuteronomy 20:
10 When you approach a city to wage war against it, offer it terms of peace.
11 If it accepts your terms and submits to you, all the people found in it will become your slaves.


The text here from the New English Translation does not adequately describe the situation, since the passage actually uses the Hebrew word ‘mas’, referring explicitly to vassals who are placed under tribute, and the Hebrew phrase here is actually ‘become as a vassal and will serve you’. This does not describe the personal enslavement of the individuals of the city, to be sold among the Hebrews as household slaves, but refers to the city being placed under vassalage to Israel. The citizens would retain their city and place of residence, continuing their lives as they had before, with the difference that now they were required to supply tribute (usually through a tax of money or goods), and service in the form of manual labour (it appears that the Hebrews did not require military service of their vassals). They retained their personal liberty and property, but were now subject to Hebrew law, tribute, and service.

This same term (’mas’), is also used for the ‘taskmasters’ who were set over the Hebrew slaves by the Egyptians (Exodus 1:11), and also for the Israelites who were conscripted by the king of Israel into civil service for public works (2 Samuel 20:24, 1 Kings 4:6; 5:13-14; 9:15, 21; 12:18, 2 Chronicles 10:18), proving that it did not involve entire populations being broken up and sold as chattel slaves or even as indentured servants, nor did it involve a loss of personal liberty or property. The Hebrews are recorded as having subjected a number of cities and states to vassalge (Joshua 9:3-27; 16:10; 17:13, Judges 1:28, 30-35), and are also recorded as having fulfiled their obligations to the suzerainty treaty by protecting their vassals from military attack by hostile forces.

In the following passage, the Israelites come to the military aid of the Gibeonites, their vassals:

Joshua 10:
6 The men of Gibeon sent this message to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, “Do not abandon your subjects! Rescue us! Help us! For all the Amorite kings living in the hill country are attacking us.“
7 So Joshua and his whole army, including the bravest warriors, marched up from Gilgal.


Unlike usual ANE suzerainty treaties however, the Hebrews did not require their vassal to attack their enemies, or to raise armies in defence of Israel. Nor did they even require their vassals to raise armies in their own self defence. Their vassals enjoyed the benefits of Hebrew military protection without the disadvantage of having to contribute to it themselves.

Suzerainty treaties always included clauses invoking the vengeance of the gods on the vassals if they did not obey the terms of the treaty, but remarkably the Hebrew suzerainty treaty actually placed the burden of Divine punishment for breach of treaty on the Hebrews, not their vassals. When the Gibeonites were persecuted and murdered by one of the families of the tribe of Benjamin, God punished the Hebrew nation for their breach of the suzerainty treaty (2 Samuel 21:1), and the king of Israel was required to compensate the Gibeonites for their loss (2 Samuel 21:2-9). This demonstrates that the Hebrew suzerainty treaty placed a higher order of obligation on the suzerain (in this case Israel), than it did on the vassal (in this case the Gibeonites), a situation unique in the ANE.
Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics




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