Does God Condone Slavery

Slavery in the Bible


Does God Condone Slavery

 


Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the Kingdom is familiar with the questions that the unsaved ask concerning the Bible and the Christian faith. Sometimes these questions are the result of an honest enquiry, but more often than not they are intended to ridicule people of faith.  

Sometimes people ask legitimate questions, e.g. where did the sons of Adam and Eve find their wives? Often the questions seem both intriguing and somewhat comical, e.g. did Adam have a belly button? One question that is intended to ridicule and disparage those who place their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is why does God condone slavery?

In this obviously loaded question, we have the matter framed so that the Bible believer is immediately put on the defensive. It is no different than the prosecutor asking the defendant, “So when did you stop beating your wife?” Like all ill-conceived attacks on the Person and integrity of the God of Israel, this question is rooted in evil lies that are constantly being circulated by the world, the flesh and the Devil. Falsehoods that are intended to impugn the righteousness of God our Creator, and thereby turn people off to the truth of Scripture and the message of the gospel of our Lord and Savior.

What exactly is the biblical record concerning slavery? The Bible does contain instructions about slavery because slavery was an accepted practice throughout the history of man. The Bible is a completely accurate document, God-breathed, inerrant and completely trustworthy. In reality, the Bible does not condone slavery at all. In fact, the slavery that was practiced during the 15th to the 19th centuries, e.g. the kidnapping of people and selling them into slavery, was strictly forbidden by God. The practice of betrayal, kidnapping and enslavement of other human beings was a capital crime in ancient Israel, “Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death, Ex. 21:16. Concerning God’s covenant people Israel, the Israelites themselves were not allowed to enslave one another, “Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves, Lev. 25:42.

Even those in the land who were bondservants, who willingly sold themselves into servitude, were to be returned to their own tribal families in the year of Jubilee, Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan, Lev. 25:10. If you were an indentured servant, e.g. someone who sold themselves into bond service to another family; this too was limited and could not be permanent unless the servant wanted it to be, But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your maidservant, Deut. 15:16-17.

The historical record surrounding the abolition of this evil practice shows it was Christians who fought against the forced enslavement of Africans. Those who ran the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves were mostly devoted Bible believing men and women. John Newton, the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace” was himself a slave trader before the Lord’s grace changed him into a servant of God. Newton was the man most responsible for the discipleship of William Wilberforce, who was himself used of God to put an end to the practice of slavery in Great Britain.  

I suggest that those unfamiliar with the true influence Bible believing Christians had on the abolition of slavery rent the movie “Amazing Grace.” It tells the story of William Wilberforce and his gallant fight against the slave trade. Without belittling the horrors of trafficking in human flesh, it is important for us to proclaim the truth that all men are in bondage and are slaves to sin. Only faith in the risen Savior can cleanse us from our unrighteousness and secure for us everlasting life.  

Even in the New Testament the Apostle Paul shows that the human institution of slavery, as horrible as it was, could be not withstand the power of the gospel. When a slave holder became a believer and his slave became a believer, they became brothers in the Lord. Read the letter to Philemon in the New Testament. It is a real life example concerning the truth of the liberating power of the gospel to change people from the inside out and transform them from sinners into saints by the glory of God’s redeeming grace.

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth, Psalm 145:17-18.

Submitted by Steven Rowitt, Th.M., Ph.D.(c)