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. 21:1-11; Exo. 21:20-21; Exo. 21:26-27; Exo. 21:32; Lev. 19:20-22; Lev. 25:6; Lev. 25:10; Lev. 25:35-55; Deut. 15:12, 14, 18; Deut. 24:7)?
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).
Captive bondservants were shared by priests and Levites (Num. 31:28-47).
The Law of Moses said servants must enjoy religious privileges with the master’s household (Deut. 12:12, 18; Deut. 16:11, 14; Deut. 29:10-11). It was required that servants have rest on the Sabbath (Exo. 20:10; Exo. 23:12; Deut. 5:14).
As a national punishment for the disobedience of Israel, bond service was threatened (Deut. 28:68; Joel 3:7-8). The degrading influence of bondage was exemplified by cowardice (Exo. 14:11-12; Exo. 16:3; Judges 5:16-18; Judges 5:23).
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. 1:8-22; Exo. 2:1-4; Acts 7:19; Acts 7:34). One example of cruelty to slaves appears in 1 Samuel 30:13 where a sick slave was abandoned to die.
INSTANCES OF SLAVERY
Joseph was sold as a slave by his own brothers (Gen. 37:26-28; Gen. 37:36), and the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years (Exo. 1:10-22; Exo. 5:7-14; Deut. 6:12, Deut. 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).
What is a tribute of bond-service? The five tribes of the Canaanites, which the children of Israel were not able to drive out, were put to bond-service. King Solomon, like other kings of Israel, made the foreigners do the most laborious part of the public works, while the Israelites were generally exempt. In addition, when the kings returned from wars, they caused works to be done in all the cities of Israel, but did not employ one Israelite. The hands of the captives, which other kings had taken in wars, built those things.
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. 25:42, 55; Psalms 116:16; Matt. 24:45-51; Luke 12:35-48; Luke 17:7-9; John 8:32-35; Rom. 6:16-22; 1 Cor. 4:1; 1 Cor. 7:21-23; Gal. 5:13; 1 Pet. 2:16; 2 Pet. 2:19; Rev. 7:3).
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. 12:18; 2 Sam. 15:15; 2 Sam. 15:21). Ziba had been a faithful servant of King Saul and was likewise faithful to David (2 Sam., chapter 9).
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).
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 16:9-10; 2 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. 13:28-29; 2 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. 25:24-30; Luke 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. 21:33-41; Mark 12:1-9).
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. 30:31-32; 2 Chr. 2:10) or in money (Matt. 20:2).
(from Nave’s Topical Bible, Electronic Database Copyright © 1990 by Biblesoft, Inc. and TriStar Publishing)