Slavery in the Bible

The Christian Bible condones slavery explicitly in numerous passages. One of those reference often by slave owners in the Antebellum South comes from the story of Noah.

Genesis 9:24-27
9:24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
9:25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
9:26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
9:27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.


The book of Joshua also demonstrates the Christian god’s support of slavery:

9:27 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, in the place which he should choose.

In fact, there are numerous biblical instructions on how to acquire slaves, making it clear that buying people for money is perfectly acceptable.

Exodus 21:2-7
21:2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.
21:3 If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
21:4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.
21:5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free:
21:6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.
21:7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

Leviticus 22:10-11
22:10 There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing.
22:11 But if the priest buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his house: they shall eat of his meat.

Or slaves can be taken in war.

Deuteronomy 20:10-14
20:10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
20:11 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.
20:12 And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it:
20:13 And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
20:14 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; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.

Leviticus goes on to make it clear that slaves are inheritable possessions.

25:44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
25:45 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.
25:46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor.

There are also many biblical instructions on how to treat slaves. Genesis 16:6-9 says that angels will force slaves to return to their owners.

16:6 But 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.
16:7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
16:8 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.
16:9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.

Beating slaves as long as they don’t die immediately is perfectly fine.

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

Leviticus shows that slaves are property, not covered by the laws protecting other people.

19:20 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.

The New Testament doesn’t fare any better. Slavery is explicitly condoned in many places.

Luke 12:46-47
12:46 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.
12:47 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 17:7-9
17:7 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?
17:8 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?
17:9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.

1 Corinthians 7:21-22
7:21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
7:22 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.

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

Colossians 3:22 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.

1 Timothy 6:1 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.

Titus 2:9-10
2:9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;
2:10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

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

Nowhere in the Christian Bible is slavery explicitly condemned nor are any of the verses that explicitly support the practice repudiated. Of course, numerous verses are interpreted to be anti-slavery. The fact that both slavery proponents and abolitionists were able to quote scripture in support of their views demonstrates clearly that the bible is, at best, ambiguous. Surely a book intended to provide moral guidance could have found room in the Ten Commandments for “Thou shalt not own slaves.”

The rational conclusion is that the bible is an amalgamation of writings by many different men, each with his own political goals and views on morality. It is only those who hold it to be the inerrant word of their god who find themselves in the position of attempting to defend the odious passages that clearly support slavery. That attempted defense is a blatant and appalling demonstration of religious belief overriding common decency and empathy.

831 thoughts on “Slavery in the Bible

  1. fifthmonarchyman:

    Mung: Yes I think God condoned slavery.

    Just to head off any misinterpretations

    Do you think he condoned race based chattel slavery as practiced on plantations in the US in the 19th century?

    Because that’s the only form of slavery that is evil. Nice guide to morality you’ve got there.

  2. fifthmonarchyman: I think people who cavalierly equivocate over the term slavery should have to experience it till they can define it unambiguously .
    😉

    It’s not surprising that someone who dismisses slavery as “temporary and local” would mock those who oppose it. Disgusting and reprehensible, but not surprising.

  3. Patrick: Because that’s the only form of slavery that is evil.

    Do you think every form of slavery is evil?

    What about this one?

    quote:

    Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.

    end quote:
    David Hume

    peace

  4. fifthmonarchyman: Do you think every form of slavery is evil?

    What about this one?

    quote:

    Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.

    end quote:
    David Hume

    peace

    Creationist…. figure of speech… whoosh!

  5. Patrick: It’s not surprising that someone who dismisses slavery as “temporary and local” would mock those who oppose it.

    Do you honestly think recognizing that institutional slavery is not a live issue in the US today while child prostitution is means that I dismiss slavery?

    peace

  6. dazz: Creationist…. figure of speech… whoosh!

    God obsessed rebel……..non physical bondage…..whoosh!

    peace

  7. fifthmonarchyman: God obsessed rebel……..non physical bondage…..whoosh!

    peace

    I see you edited that and replaced “reality” with “bondage”. Smart move, reality is not your thing

  8. dazz: I see you edited that and replaced “reality” with “bondage”. Smart move, reality is not your thing

    I love you too.

    peace

  9. Patrick: No, it’s ridiculous when approached objectively.

    Do you think whether or not slavery is evil can be decided based on gathering and examining “objective empirical evidence”?

  10. keiths: With exemplars like Mung and fifth, who wouldn’t want to be a Christian?

    You appear to be incapable of making an actual argument.

    Yes, the Bible condones slavery. Now what? What is your conclusion, if you have one? Is it that, therefore, no one would want to be a Christian?

    Well, that conclusion is obviously false. Care to try again?

  11. Richardthughes: Read the book, dipshit

    I’ve read the book. Many times. No argument by keiths in it whatsoever. Do you know what an argument is? If so, please share with keiths.

  12. Not only does keiths fail to proffer an argument, he consistently refuses to answer questions. He’s no coward, so what is he afraid of?

  13. Yes, Keiths argument that you quoted then ignored was:

    Mung: keiths: With exemplars like Mung and fifth, who wouldn’t want to be a Christian?

    YOU ARE A BAD ADVERT FOR CHRISTIANITY.

    Hence my bible reference. You mistaken your repeated inability to understand simple things with a lack of an argument.

  14. Richardthughes: YOU ARE A BAD ADVERT FOR CHRISTIANITY.

    Is that his conclusion? Because it doesn’t follow from any premises.

    I said the Bible condones slavery. Does keiths say I am wrong, that the Bible does not in fact condone slavery? Or does he say I am a bad advert for Christianity because I speak the truth?

  15. Richardthughes: His statement is a self contained argument. Poor mung.

    All self-contained arguments are self-contained arguments is a self-contained argument. You’re racking up positive points for “skepticism” at an alarming rate. Keep up the good work.

  16. fifthmonarchyman:

    Because that’s the only form of slavery that is evil.

    Do you think every form of slavery is evil?

    I believe that all of the forms sanctioned by your bible are evil. You, on the other hand, consider them merely “temporary and local.” Your religion causes you to make vile statements like that.

  17. Mung:
    . . .

    Yes, the Bible condones slavery.
    . . . .

    fifthmonarchyman, another person who self-identifies as a Christian, disagrees with you. How would the two of you decide who is correct?

  18. Patrick: fifthmonarchyman, another person who self-identifies as a Christian, disagrees with you. How would the two of you decide who is correct?

    Like any good empiricist we’d throw lots.

  19. Patrick, you missed the point though. keiths asked the question of whether the bible condones slavery, and i said it did. So far absolutely nothing has followed from that. So why did he ask the question?

    Are you ready to talk objective empirical facts about slavery yet, or are you more comfortable avoiding uncomfortable facts?

  20. Mung:
    Patrick, you missed the point though. keiths asked the question of whether the bible condones slavery, and i said it did. So far absolutely nothing has followed from that. So why did he ask the question?

    Are you ready to talk objective empirical facts about slavery yet, or are you more comfortable avoiding uncomfortable facts?

    I’m not sure what you’d like to discuss. I’m curious to hear what fifthmonarchyman thinks of another Christian who recognizes what the bible says about slavery. How would either of you convince the other of your position?

  21. Patrick: I’m curious to hear what fifthmonarchyman thinks of another Christian who recognizes what the bible says about slavery.

    Mung and I are in general agreement as far as I can tell.

    We both believe that the Bible does not condone slavery as it is defined defined by most people (ie race based chattel slavery as it was experienced in the U.S.).

    He and I might quibble about obscure types of slavery like indentured servitude to alleviate debt in ancient Israel but I would guess that even those minor disagreements would evaporate over a cool lemonade on the front porch 😉

    peace

  22. fifthmonarchyman:

    I’m curious to hear what fifthmonarchyman thinks of another Christian who recognizes what the bible says about slavery.

    Mung and I are in general agreement as far as I can tell.

    Incorrect. Mung recognizes that your bible condones slavery. You refuse to recognize the clear passages that do so.

    We both believe that the Bible does not condone slavery as it is defined defined by most people (ie race based chattel slavery as it was experienced in the U.S.).

    That is for Mung to say. However, your bible does sanction chattel slavery in Leviticus:

    25:44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
    25:45 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.
    25:46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor.

    But since that’s “temporary and local” it’s just fine by you.

  23. Patrick: That is for Mung to say.

    He already said that the Bible does not condone (race based chattel slavery as it was experienced in the U.S.) and implied that you were equivocating over the meaning of the term slavery.

    Perhaps you missed it

    peace

  24. Patrick: I’m not sure what you’d like to discuss.

    Objective empirical facts. Do you have any?

    An objective empirical definition of slavery. Do you have one?

  25. Patrick: I believe that all of the forms [of slavery] sanctioned by your bible are evil.

    All forms of slavery not sanctioned by the Bible are not evil.

    Why are atheist conceptions of right and wrong, good and evil, tied to the Bible?

  26. Mung:

    I’m not sure what you’d like to discuss.

    Objective empirical facts. Do you have any?

    An objective empirical definition of slavery. Do you have one?

    I think the dictionary definition combined with the instructions for acquiring and treating slaves provided in the bible should suffice. You’ve already agreed that the bible condones slavery — what’s your point?

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