Christianity’s Contributions: Slavery abolished (Part 2)

As we continue to examine the impact of Christianity on culture, one of the most enduring is the abolition of slavery.  What is surprising to many is that the Bible allows slavery in the Old and New Testament.  Why was it permissible?  Let’s focus on the Old Testament.

If someone was owed money, God’s people, the Israelites, were to pay their debt.  If they could not, they were to work off their debt until it was paid.  That was the form that slavery took.  However, it was not a bondage for all time that their family would endure as well.  God set up the Sabbath year every 7 years.

All Hebrews, enslaved for debt that they incurred, were freed in the 7th year, the Sabbath Year (Deuteronomy 15:12-15, 18).  In other words, after 6 years of working, all debts were cancelled.  (Notice the parallel to God’s creation of 6 days of work and a day of rest–the Sabbath.)  A Hebrew could choose to stay a slave after the Sabbath year,  (Deuteronomy 15:16-17), but ultimately they were free.

Foreign slaves who were prisoners of war were allowed (Leviticus 25:44-46) but they could be freed.  This was accomplished by purchasing their freedom (Leviticus 25:29) or being redeemed by a relative (Leviticus 25:47-55).  Foreign women could be married but were not be sex slaves (Deuteronomy 21:13).

Ultimately, people need to understand that the Bible was written by God to people who lived in a reality of slavery.  Instead of killing the enemy in war, the prisoners could be taken as slave labor but could be freed.  The debtor needed to pay their debt.  The slavery that was practiced and is still practiced today in some parts was not allowed by God.  The next blog will focus on the New Testament and the reality of slavery.

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