0 SAB Does God Approve of Slavery?

Some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:16

Does God approve of slavery?

Yes, God approves of slavery.

Bible stories that show God's approval of slavery:

After the flood, the "just and righteous" Noah (Genesis 6:9, 7:1) got drunk, and lay around naked in his tent. When his son, Ham, saw his father in this condition, Noah cursed not Ham, but Ham's son, Canaan, and all of Canaan's descendants, saying, "A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren."

This is one of many Bible passages that have been used to justify slavery.

And he [Noah] said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. Genesis 9:25-27

God blessed Abraham by giving him lots of slaves ("servants" in the KJV), insisting that all the male slaves be circumcised.

And the LORD hath blessed my master [Abraham] greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses. Genesis 24:35

And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised. Genesis 17:12-13

When Sarah's slave Hagar flees from Sarah who is mistreating her (with Abraham's blessing), God sends an angel to tell her to go back to her abusive owner.

Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thine hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face. ... And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. Genesis 16:8-9

Abraham's favorite son Isaac was also a proud slave owner. You can tell how great he was by how many slaves he owned.

Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants. Genesis 26:12-14

God cursed the Gibeonites to be slaves of the Jews forever.

Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God. ... And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day. Joshua 9:23-27

Rules for slave owners from the Hebrew Scriptures:

Don't let any of your uncircumcised slaves eat the Passover meal.

But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. Exodus 12:44

Don't covet your neighbor's slaves. (It's one of the the Ten Commandments.)

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's. Exodus 20:17

Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Deuteronomy 5:21

When buying slaves, be sure to follow God's instructions. Especially if you are a priest, buying a poor brother, or selling your daughter.

Although special rules apply for Hebrew slaves, it's always OK to buy foreigners, who can be inherited from one generation to another forever.

If thou buy a Hebrew servant.... Exodus 21:2

And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman be sold unto thee.... Deuteronomy 15:12

If the priest buy any soul with his money.... Leviticus 22:11

And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee.... Leviticus 25:39

And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant.... Exodus 21:7

Thy bond-men and thy bond-maids which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you: of them shall ye buy bond-men and bond-maids. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land. And they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession, they shall be your bond-man forever. Leviticus 25:44-46

But don't get caught stealing a slave, or you'll be put to death.

He that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. Exodus 21:16

If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die. Deuteronomy 24:7

It's OK with God if you slowly beat your slaves to death. After all, they are your money. Just make sure that they survive at least a day or two after the beating. But try not to knock out their teeth or eyes. Otherwise you may have to set them free.

If a man smite his servant or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall be surely punished; notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money. Exodus 21:20-21

And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye's sake. And if he smite out his manservant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake. Exodus 21:26-27

If your ox gores ("pushes" in the KJV) someone's slave, pay the slave owner thirty shekels of silver.

If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver. Exodus 21:32

Sell poor thieves as slaves to pay for their theft.

If a thief ... have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. Exodus 22:2-3

If a man has sex with an engaged slave woman, scourge the woman, but don't punish the man, because she was a slave.

And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. Leviticus 19:20

Rules for obtaining slaves during wartime:

When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. Deuteronomy 20:10-11

But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself. Deuteronomy 20:14

Some of Jesus's parables seem to approve of slavery and beating slaves.

The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. Luke 12:46-47

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. Luke 17:7-9

The New Testament's epistles approve of slavery and command slaves to obey their masters.

Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. 1 Corinthians 7:21-22

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God. Ephesians 6:5

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ. Colossians 3:22

Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Colossians 4:1

Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise ... he is proud, knowing nothing.... From such withdraw thyself. 1 Timothy 6:1-5

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God. Titus 2:9-10

Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 1 Peter 2:18

No, God disapproves of slavery.

Slavery is contrary to the commandments of God.

Love your neighbors. (Don't enslave them.)

Love thy neighbor as thyself. Leviticus 19:18, Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:39

Don't do anything wrong to strangers. (Like enslave them.) Love strangers as yourself.

The stranger ... you shall not do him wrong. . . . you shall love him as yourself. Leviticus 19:33-34

Pay workers a fair (nonzero) wage for their labors.

Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning. Leviticus 19:13

Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbors service without wages, and giveth him not for his work. Jeremiah 22:13

And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against ... those that oppress the hireling in his wages. Malachi 3:5

Proclaim liberty throughout the land. (In a land of liberty, everyone is free and there are no slaves.)

Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. Leviticus 25:10

Don't oppress one another. (Slavery is the ultimate oppression.)

Ye shall not therefore oppress one another. Leviticus 25:17

Don't rob or oppress the poor. (By making them slaves.)

Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: for the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them. Proverbs 22:22-23

Thou shalt not oppress a hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: at his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it, for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee. Deuteronomy 24:14-15

Don't return runaway slaves to their owners.

You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. He shall live with you in your midst, in the place which he shall choose in one of your towns where it pleases him; you shall not mistreat him. Deuteronomy 23:15-16

Don't call anyone your master. (Except for Jesus.)

Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. Matthew 23:10

Don't serve other men. Serve only God.

Be not ye the servants of men. 1 Corinthians 7:23

Instead of fasting, God want us to set slaves free.

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? ... To undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Isaiah 58:6

But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you. Mark 10:42-43

External Links
gotQuestions.org: Does the Bible condone slavery?
Wikipedia: Christian views on slavery
Thorton Stringfellow: A Scriptural View of Slavery
A Condensed Anti-Slavery Bible Argument
No comments yet

Copyright © 1999-2024
The Skeptic's Annotated Bible

Send comments to Steve Wells
at swwells(at)gmail.com