Jehovah`s Witness/Slavery in Exodus
QUESTION: Hello Sister T. I was reading in the book of Exodus about how the people should treat their slaves,and how if the slave couples who had children would lose the child to their master. Was slavery okay back then?
Also somewhere I read about how it was okay to stone a child to death if that child became unruly as long as a group of elders or members determined it was okay. Seems a little hard for me to comprehend these actions. Isn't killing wrong under any circumstance?
ANSWER: Hello Kevin,
There was slavery permitted in Bible times but it wasn't the oppressive slavery that you find today when people are kidnapped and treated unfairly. like in the movie Roots, or similiar.
● Kidnapping a man and then selling him was punishable by death. (Exodus 21:16) However, if despite all the provisions made to prevent poverty, an Israelite found himself deeply in debt, perhaps as a result of poor management, he could sell himself as a slave. In some cases he might even be able to earn a surplus by which he could redeem himself. Leviticus 25:47-52.
● This was not the oppressive kind of slavery that has been common in many lands through the ages. Leviticus 25:39, 40 says: “In case your brother grows poor alongside you and he has to sell himself to you, you must not use him as a worker in slavish service. He should prove to be with you like a hired laborer, like a settler.” So this was a loving provision to care for Israel’s poorest.
● A person found guilty of stealing who was unable to make full restitution according to the Law could be sold as a slave and in this way pay off his debt. (Exodus 22:3) When he had worked off the debt, he could go free.
● Cruel and abusive slavery was not allowed under God’s Law to Israel. While masters were allowed to discipline their slaves, excesses were forbidden. A slave killed by his master was to be avenged. (Exodus 21:20) If the slave was maimed, losing a tooth or an eye, he was set free. Exodus 21:26, 27.
● The maximum time that any Israelite would have to serve as a slave was six years. (Exodus 21:2) Hebrew slaves were set free in the seventh year of their service. The Law demanded that every 50 years all Israelite slaves were to be set free nationwide, regardless of how long the individual had been a slave. Leviticus 25:40, 41.
● When a slave was released, the master was required to be generous toward him. Deuteronomy 15:13, 14 says: “In case you should send him out from you as one set free, you must not send him out empty-handed. You should surely equip him with something from your flock and your threshing floor and your oil and winepress.”
Later, in the days of Jesus and his apostles, slavery was an entrenched practice in the Roman Empire. As Christianity spread, it was inevitable that individuals who were slaves and others who were slave owners would come in contact with the good news and become Christians. Neither Jesus Christ himself nor his apostles preached a gospel of social liberation, as if trying to reform the existing system. Rather, both slaves and slave owners were admonished to love one another as spiritual brothers. Colossians 4:1; 1 Timothy 6:2.
As is the case with every Bible-related question, the issue of slavery must be considered in context. A careful examination of the Scriptures reveals that God deplores the mistreatment of humans.
Such an examination also reveals that the kind of slavery practiced by God’s people in the Bible is not the cruel and abusive slavery that is envisioned by most people today. And the Bible shows that God will deliver us from all forms of slavery in due time. Then, all mankind will enjoy true freedom. Isaiah 65:21, 22.
Children were to regard their parents with the greatest respect. The rod of parental authority was firmly exercised. (Pr 22:15) It was to be used in love, but discipline was severe for the disobedient child, the rod at times being literal. (Pr 13:24; 23:13, 14) A child who cursed or struck his parents could be put to death. (Le 20:9; Ex 21:15) An incurably rebellious older son was to be stoned. (De 21:18-21) In fact, the first commandment with a promise was the fifth of the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother, . . . in order that your days may prove long and it may go well with you on the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you." De 5:16; Eph 6:2, 3.
Well as regards your thoughts about what the Bible says, God is the one who authored the Bible so any imperfect human's thoughts about what they think is harsh really can't be compared with God's, when a human thinks he knows better than God they might as well say they don't need God, and that's why we are in the situation we are in now and why this system is so messed up, because others think they know better than God.
“‘For the thoughts of you people are not my thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8, 9) Jehovah is perfect, and his thoughts and ways are unreachably high. Even his mercy is on a level that we humans can never hope to attain.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: What about the part about losing your child to the slave owner if the child was born while they were slaves? That the couple could go free ,but the child was to remain the property of the master. I don't think beating anybody falls under "love thy neighbor" If it was okay then,why not now?
You quoted the fifth commandment about honoring your mother and father, what about the commandment that says thou shall not kill? Are there exceptions I'm not aware of?
You say why not today? Well for one we are no longer under the Mosaic Law, when Jesus died he abolished the Mosaic Law. (Ro 10:4; Col 2:14) That's why not now.....
If God was all for oppressive slavery then he would not have had Moses lead his people out from the oppressive slavery of Pharaoh.
The sixth commandment was You must not murder.....not thou shall not kill. There's a difference, because people were put to death for different things in the Mosaic Law....
“In case you should buy a Hebrew slave, he will be a slave six years, but in the seventh he will go out as one set free without charge. 3 If he should come in by himself, by himself he will go out. If he is the owner of a wife, then his wife must go out with him. 4 If his master should give him a wife and she does bear him sons or daughters, the wife and her children will become her master’s and he will go out by himself. 5 But if the slave should insistently say, ‘I really love my master, my wife and my sons; I do not want to go out as one set free,’ 6 then his master must bring him near to the [true] God and must bring him up against the door or the doorpost; and his master must pierce his ear through with an awl, and he must be his slave to time indefinite"
Clearly the Bible answers your question, if he came with a wife he left with his wife, and that would include children. But if he came alone and the Master gave the slave a wife and they had children, then the children and wife would remain with the Master if the slave decided to leave after his time was up, but if he loved his master, wife and kids, he could stay on. That also shows that it wasn't an oppressive slavery as we think of slavery today. What slave who was being treated bad would love his master?
There were some things that God permitted, not instituted, back then that he does not now. Like having more then one wife was not instituted by God, but it was obviously permitted and laws were put in place regarding it...same with the slavery back then.