slavery

slavery

The total subjection of one person to another. Aside from crown and temple slavery, slave labor played a minor role in the ancient Near East, for privately owned slaves functioned more as domestic servants than as an agricultural or industrial labor force. The chief source of crown and temple slaves was captives of war (1Kgs 9:21; Num 31:25-47; Josh 9:23), while that of private slaves was defaulting debtors and their families (Exod 22:2; 2Kgs 4:1) or indigents who resorted to voluntary self-sale (Lev 25:39; Exod 21:5-6; Deut 15:16-17). Although the Bible acknowledges the slave’s status as the property of the master (Exod 21:32; Lev 25:46), it seeks to restrict the master’s power over the slave. The master was punished for excessive use of authorized force leading to the immediate death or permanent maiming of the slave (Exod 21:20; Exod 25-26:20). The slave was part of the master’s household (Lev 22:11) and was required to rest on the Sabbath (Exod 20:10; Deut 5:14) and to participate in religious observances (Gen 17:13; Exod 12:44; Lev 22:11; Deut 12:12; Deut 12:18; Deut 16:11; Deut 16:14). Biblical law also prohibited extradition of slaves and granted them asylum (Deut 23:16-17; but cf. 1Kgs 2:39-40). The servitude of a Hebrew debt-slave was limited to six years (Exod 21:2; Deut 15:12; Jer 34:14). Slavery continued in the Roman Empire in NT times, and many slaves became Christians (Col 3:22-24; 1Tim 6:1-2). Although the institution of slavery as such is not condemned in the NT, Paul urged Philemon to treat his slave Onesimus as a brother rather than as a slave (Phlm 1:15-16).

1Kgs 9:21

21their descendants who were still left in the land, whom the Israelites were unable to destroy completely—these Solomon conscripted for slave labor, and so the ... View more

Num 31:25-47

Disposition of Captives and Booty
25The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,26“You and Eleazar the priest and the heads of the ancestral houses of the congregation make ... View more

Josh 9:23

23Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall always be slaves, hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.”

Exod 22:2

2(4) When the animal, whether ox or donkey or sheep, is found alive in the thief's possession, the thief shall pay double.

2Kgs 4:1

Elisha and the Widow's Oil
1Now the wife of a member of the company of prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servan ... View more

Lev 25:39

39If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves.

Exod 21:5-6

5But if the slave declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person,”6then his master shall bring him before God. He shall ... View more

Deut 15:16-17

16But if he says to you, “I will not go out from you,” because he loves you and your household, since he is well off with you,17then you shall take an awl and t ... View more

Exod 21:32

32If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall pay to the slaveowner thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

Lev 25:46

46You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelit ... View more

Exod 21:20

20When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished.

Exod 25-26:20

Offerings for the Tabernacle
1The Lord said to Moses:2Tell the Israelites to take for me an offering; from all whose hearts prompt them to give you shall receiv ... View more

Lev 22:11

11but if a priest acquires anyone by purchase, the person may eat of them; and those that are born in his house may eat of his food.

Exod 20:10

10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or ... View more

Deut 5:14

14But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox o ... View more

Gen 17:13

13Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.

Exod 12:44

44but any slave who has been purchased may eat of it after he has been circumcised;

Lev 22:11

11but if a priest acquires anyone by purchase, the person may eat of them; and those that are born in his house may eat of his food.

Deut 12:12

12And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you together with your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, and the Levites who reside in you ... View more

Deut 12:18

18these you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God at the place that the Lord your God will choose, you together with your son and your daughter, your m ... View more

Deut 16:11

11Rejoice before the Lord your God—you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levites resident in your towns, as well as the strange ... View more

Deut 16:14

14Rejoice during your festival, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, as well as the Levites, the strangers, the orphans, and the w ... View more

Deut 23:16-17

16They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them.17None of the d ... View more

1Kgs 2:39-40

39But it happened at the end of three years that two of Shimei's slaves ran away to King Achish son of Maacah of Gath. When it was told Shimei, “Your slaves are ... View more

Exod 21:2

2When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt.

Deut 15:12

12If a member of your community, whether a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and works for you six years, in the seventh year you shall set that pers ... View more

Jer 34:14

14“Every seventh year each of you must set free any Hebrews who have been sold to you and have served you six years; you must set them free from your service.” ... View more

Col 3:22-24

22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.23Whatever you ... View more

1Tim 6:1-2

1Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed.2Those wh ... View more

Phlm 1:15-16

15Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever,16no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a belo ... View more

 NEH Logo
Bible Odyssey has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.