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What the Bible says about 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.
God blessed Abraham by giving him lots of slaves ("servants" in the KJV), insisting that all the male slaves be circumscised.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Some of Jesus's parables seem to approve of slavery and beating slaves.
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
When buying slaves, be sure to follow God's instructions. Espeically 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.
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
If thou buy a Hebrew servant.... Exodus 21:2
But don't get caught stealing a slave, or you'll be put to death.
And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman be sold unto thee....
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....
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.
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
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 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.
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
If your ox gores ("pushes" in the KJV) someone's slave, pay the slave owner thirty shekels of silver.
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 the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant;
he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver. Exodus 21:32
Sell poor thiefs 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.
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
The New Testament's epistles approve of slavery and command slaves to obey their masters.
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
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
- Every Jot and Tittle
- Commandments about Slavery
- Contradictions about ...
- What the Quran says about ...
- Dwindling in Unbelief
- Piers Morgan:
The Bible is flawed and should be amended
- The Brick Testament
- Instructions for Slaves
- Slavery in the Bible
- Christian Response
- Annotated Skeptic's Annotated Bible