In this article I would like to confront those who believe that the Bible accepts and promotes slavery, especially the form of slavery that was seen in the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries among the Africans. The word slave or slavery is found in the Bible because slavery has existed all throughout human history due to the fact people are sinful. If sin were removed from the picture then slavery would never have existed. The Bible presents reality as it is. Since people have always been sinners (since sin entered into the world) the Bible does not gloss over the fact, even when presenting the people of God.
In Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible, we find the word slave and slavery among the Israelites.
If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him out free from you, you shall not let him go away empty. You shall richly bestow on him from your flock, and from your grain floor, and from your winepress; with what Jehovah your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah your God redeemed you. Therefore I command you this thing today. And if he says to you, I will not go away from you, because he loves you and your house, because it has been good for him with you; then you shall take an awl and put it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. And also to your slave-girl you shall do so. It shall not seem hard to you when you send him away from you free, for he has been worth a double hired servant in serving you six years. And Jehovah your God shall bless you in all that you do. (Deu 15:12-18)
In order to understand the passage we need to understand some cultural context. First of all the only way a Hebrew could even become a slave is if he got to the point where he was in such debt that he could not survive and instead of dying of hunger he would sell himself as a slave or servant. The Hebrew who purchased the servant saved his life. Deut 15 explains that the servant fares much better with the man who saved his life because he has a roof over his head, cloths on his back, food to eat, and love from the man’s family. He had none of these things before. After 7 years of service (which he is well paid for doing) he is to be released and given more money liberally. If he wants to stay with the man he has served then he is free to stay and will fare well for the rest of his life, he and his family. A question: In the history of slavery in the world, where do you see slaves having the chance to be redeemed? That is unheard of in the world but look at what God does here, He allows people to be saved from their bad choices, taken care of, and offered freedom.
When you think of the slave trades of Africa and slavery in the American hemisphere, or even the Roman or Grecian slaves then you see a real picture of the cruelty of slavery. These forms of slavery do not compare to what was happening in Israel. But since we do not pay attention to the details of the text (the context) many times we make false conclusions. This explanation covers all of the so called proof that the Bible promotes slavery. The pagan slaves who found their way to Israel were treaded just as well as the Hebrews who caused their own slavery. They were taken into the household as a member of the family and fared well, even better than they did before.
This is what the Old Testament has to say on the subject. Now let us change gears and look at the New Testament. Many people say that the Apostle Paul promotes slavery in his writings but let us take a look at one passage that shows his true feelings about slavery:
But we know that the law is good if a man uses it lawfully, knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous one, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for homosexuals, for slave-traders, for liars, for perjurers, and anything else that is contrary to sound doctrine, (1Timothy 1:8-10)
Paul puts slave traders together with murderers, fornicators, liars, and the lawless ones. Paul is against slavery just as God was in the Old Testament. When Paul addresses the problem in other epistles of his, he gives practical advice for slaves of the Roman Empire, how to live in peace while being a Christian, and how to preach Christ to their masters.
Have you bought the lies that many are spreading about God and the Bible, especially when they say that the Bible promotes slavery? Do you know what the Bible says on the subjects? Do you study the Word of God so that you will not buy the lies that evil people promote? I would recommend that you get your hands on a Bible and study It systematically. The Inductive Bible study method is a great tool for studying the Scriptures systematically.