SLAVERY

The Law Library of Congress features a section about Slavery and Indentured Servants (https://memory.loc.gov/ammem/awhhtml/awlaw3/slavery.html). By studying that category carefully, one is able to understand that slaves were not always of African descent as modern America has been led to believe.

Laws listed there lend credence to recent research by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh in a book called WHITE CARGO. The book has proffered outlandish evidence, but who can say it is false?  Have the majority of Americans missed the facts because they were deliberately suppressed in our history books?

The New York Times Sunday Book Review had only favorable comments about the new release—stating in particular that the book uses vast irrefutable documentation (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/books/review/Lau-t.html).

WHITE CARGO is meticulously sourced and footnoted — which is wise, given its contentious material — but it is never dry or academic. Quotations from 17th- and 18th-century letters, diaries and newspapers lend authenticity as well as color. Excerpts from wills, stating how white servants should be passed down along with livestock and furniture, say more than any textbook explanation could. The authors are not only historians, but also natural storytellers with a fine sense of drama and character.

Reminiscent of a period of time in Bible history when slavery was practiced among God’s chosen people, the New World was ripe for such abuses. Throughout history men from every nation have abused the poor, the widow, and the orphaned. In her youth, America was no exception.

Distinguish a bondservant (Greek: doulos [NT: 1401]), who was a slave, from a hired servant (Greek: diakonos [NT: 1249]), who was not a slave.

THE BOND SERVANT OR SLAVE
What were the Laws of Moses concerning bondservants or slaves (Exo. 21:1-11Exo. 21:20-21Exo. 21:26-27Exo. 21:32Lev. 19:20-22Lev. 25:6Lev. 25:10Lev. 25:35-55Deut. 15:121418; Deut. 24:7)?

Kidnapping was forbidden. This obviously included the kidnapping of slaves (Deut. 21:10-14Deut. 24:71 Tim. 1:10Rev. 18:13).

Fugitive slaves were not to be returned to their masters (Deut. 23:15-16). David was erroneously accused of being a fugitive slave in 1 Samuel 25:10.  In both Old Testament and New, there are instances of fugitive slaves. Hagar was commanded by an angel to return to Sarah (Sarai), her owner (Gen. 16:9). Later in 1 Kings 2:39-41, Shemei is tempted to leave the sanctuary city to search for runaway slaves. Paul interceded for Onesimus, a runaway slave, who was converted to Christianity (Philemon 15-21).

What were the rights and duties of those born to a master (Gen. 14:14Gen. 17:1327Exo. 21:4-11Prov. 29:21Eccl. 2:7Jer. 2:14)?

From the beginning, slaves were bought and sold (Gen. 17:1327Gen. 37:2836Gen. 39:17Deut. 28:68Esther 7:4Eze. 27:13Joel 3:6Amos 8:6Rev. 18:13).

Captives of war became slaves (Deut. 20:14Deut. 21:10-142 Kings 5:22 Chro. 28:8; 2 Chro. 28:10; Lam. 5:13).

Captive bondservants were shared by priests and Levites (Num. 31:28-47).

Thieves were punished by being made bondservants or slaves (Gen. 43:18Exod. 22:3).

Defaulting debtors were made slaves (Lev. 25:39Matt. 18:25), and the children of defaulting debtors were also sold as slaves (2 Kings 4:1-7).

In some cases there was a voluntary servitude of bondservants (Lev. 25:47Deut. 15:16-17Josh. 9:11-21).

Slaves or bondservants were often given as dowry (Gen. 29:24Gen. 29:1ff).

Some priests owned slaves (Lev. 22:11Mark 14:66).  And even slaves owned slaves (2 Sam. 9:10).

The master could marry a slave, or give slaves in marriage (Exo. 21:7-10Deut. 21:10-141 Chro. 2:34-35). Slaves often served as both bondservant and wife (Genesis 16:1-26Genesis 30:39).

Abraham’s slaves were even used as soldiers (Gen. 14:14). When God made the covenant with Abraham, every male in his house, even his servants, had to be circumcised (Gen. 17:1327Exo. 12:44).

The Law of Moses said servants must enjoy religious privileges with the master’s household (Deut. 12:1218Deut. 16:1114Deut. 29:10-11). It was required that servants have rest on the Sabbath (Exo. 20:10Exo. 23:12Deut. 5:14).

In the New Testament, slaves had equal status with other disciples of Jesus (1 Cor. 7:21-221 Cor. 12:13Gal. 3:28Eph. 6:8).

Kindness to bondservants was commanded (Lev. 25:43Eph. 6:9).

As a national punishment for the disobedience of Israel, bond service was threatened (Deut. 28:68Joel 3:7-8). The degrading influence of bondage was exemplified by cowardice (Exo. 14:11-12Exo. 16:3Judges 5:16-18Judges 5:23).

How was the emancipation of slaves accomplished (Ezra 1:1-4Jer. 34:8-221 Cor. 7:21). The freed men were called “Libertines” in Acts 6:9.

Because some men are evil, cruelty to slaves was a problem.  The original Israelites (light skinned people–descendants of Shem) were slaves under the Egyptian Pharaoh (Exo. 1:8-22Exo. 2:1-4Acts 7:19Acts 7:34).  One example of cruelty to slaves appears in 1 Samuel 30:13 where a sick slave was abandoned to die.

Men also showed kindness to their servants. One example is the Roman centurion in Matthew 8:8-13 and Luke 7:2-10). The apostle Paul showed kindness to the runaway slave in Philemon 21.

INSTANCES OF SLAVERY
Joseph was sold as a slave by his own brothers (Gen. 37:26-28Gen. 37:36), and the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years (Exo. 1:10-22Exo. 5:7-14Deut. 6:12Deut. 6:21).

The Gibeonites deceived Joshua and Caleb and agreed to be servants to keep from being conquered and killed by Israel (Joshua 9:22-27).

The Canaanites, “And all the people that were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which were not of the children of Israel, 21 Their children that were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not able utterly to destroy, upon those did Solomon levy a tribute of bondservice unto this day” (1 Kings 9:20-21).

The Jews in Babylon were servants to the King of Babylon (2 Chro. 36:20; and the book of Esther, chapters 1-10).  However, they eventually were emancipated (2 Chro. 36:23; Ezra 1:1-4).

FIGURATIVE INSTANCES OF GOOD SLAVES appear in both Old Testament and New (Lev. 25:4255Psalms 116:16Matt. 24:45-51Luke 12:35-48Luke 17:7-9John 8:32-35Rom. 6:16-221 Cor. 4:11 Cor. 7:21-23Gal. 5:131 Pet. 2:162 Pet. 2:19Rev. 7:3).

Other examples of good and faithful servants are:
Joseph was a good servant to his masters in Egypt (Gen. 39:2-20Gen. 41:9-57Acts 7:10).

Elisha was a faithful servant to Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-11), and the servants of Abraham were faithful to him (Gen. 24:1ff). Boaz servants were faithful (Ruth 2:4) as well as those of Jonathan (1 Sam. 14:7).

Even though Nabal was an evil man, he and his wife Abigail had faithful servants (1 Sam. 25:14-17).  King David also had faithful servants (2 Sam. 12:182 Sam. 15:152 Sam. 15:21). Ziba had been a faithful servant of King Saul and was likewise faithful to David (2 Sam., chapter 9).

Naaman was a faithful servant to the king but he also had a little servant girl who was faithful to him and his wife (2 Kings 5:2-32 Kings 5:13).

Nehemiah and his servants were faithful to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem (Neh. 4:16Neh. 4:23).

The Roman centurion who requested that Jesus heal his servant, made a statement about his own faithful servants, showing his great faith in Jesus’ power to heal (Matt. 8:9-10).

Cornelius called two of his faithful household servants to send them to Joppa to fetch Peter (Acts 10:7).

In times past, Onesimus had been unfaithful to Philemon, but after his conversion, he was profitable both to Paul and to Philemon (Phile. 11-12).

The faithful servants in the parable of the pounds and the parable of the talents were rewarded and commended (Matt. 25:14-23Luke 19:12-19).

Some servants were wicked and unfaithful to their masters.  Jeroboam was unfaithful to King Solomon in 1 Kings 11:26. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha lied and took money and goods not intended for him in 2 Kings 5:20-27. Zimri conspired against his master, the king and slew him (1 Kings 16:9-102 Kings 9:31).  We are not told why Onesimus fled from Philemon, but Paul saw fit to take him back after he was converted (Phile. 11). The servants of Abraham and Lot strove together about where the sheep and cattle would graze in Genesis 13:7.  The servants of Abimelech violently took away a well belonging to Abraham in Genesis 21:25.  In order to gain advantage with King David, Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, conspired against his master when King David fled from Absalom.  He told David his master planned to take the kingdom for himself when in reality, Mephibosheth was lame and could not follow David without help. (2 Sam. 16:1-4 compare with 2 Sam. 19:26-27).  Absalom was the son of David and thus “servant to the king of Israel,” but he conspired against his father to take the kingdom for himself (2 Sam. 13:28-292 Sam. 14:30).  Shimei, a former servant of King Saul, cursed David and threw dust and stones at him as he fled from Absalom (1 Kings 2:39). Certain servants of Joash, grandson of Athaliah (2 Kings 11:2) rose up and slew him (2 Kings 12:19-21). Amon’s servants rose up against him and killed him, but the people of the land executed those servants and made Josiah his son king in his stead (2 Kings 21:23-24). The servants of Job rejected him in his troubles and would not come to help him when he called (Job 19:15-16).  In the parable of the talents and the parable of the pounds there was one wicked and unfaithful servant (Matt. 25:24-30Luke 19:20-26). Finally, in the parable of the vineyard, husbandmen to whom the owner had leased the vineyard, slew the servants of the owner and even his own son with the intent of confiscating the vineyard for themselves (Matt. 21:33-41Mark 12:1-9).

HIRED SERVANTS
Jacob was a hired servant for Laban (Gen. 29:15Gen. 30:26), and re-employed more than once (Gen. 30:27-34Gen. 31:6-7Gen. 31:41).

PARABLES ABOUT HIRED SERVANTS
There were hired laborers of a vineyard in Matthew 20:1-15.  The father of the prodigal son had hired servants in Luke 15:17 and Luke 15:19. The rebellious son was hired to feed the pigs in Luke 15:15-19.  In at least one case, treatment of hired servants was more considerate than that of slaves (Lev. 25:53-55). As was the custom, hired servants await employment in the marketplace (Matt. 20:1-3). Wages could be paid in produce or commodities (Gen. 30:31-322 Chr. 2:10) or in money (Matt. 20:2).

(from Nave’s Topical Bible, Electronic Database Copyright © 1990 by Biblesoft, Inc. and TriStar Publishing)

2 thoughts on “SLAVERY

    1. Is it really only in America that the poor were enslaved? World history shows that oppression of the poor existed in every nation, and as the Statue of Liberty attests, the New World first began to be populated by those running from such oppression.

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