Slavery in the Bible

Slavery in the Bible


This came up lately and I'm not certain how to handle this issue....slavery in the Bible. What can you tell me about that.

The Bible has instructions about slavery because slavery was an accepted practice throughout the history of man. The Bible does not condone it and 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, Ex. 21:16. Concerning His people Israel, the Israelites themselves were not allowed to enslave one another, Lev. 25:42.

Even those in the land who were bondservants were to be returned to their own tribal families on the year of Jubilee, Lev. 25:10. You could be an indentured servant, e.g. someone who sold themselves into bond service to another family; however, this too was limited and could not be permanent unless the servant wanted it to be, Deut. 15:16.

The historical facts are that it was Bible believing Christians who fought against the forced enslavement of blacks. Those who ran the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves were mostly devoted Christians. John Newton, the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace” and the man most responsible for the discipleship of William Wilberforce who was used of God to put an end to slavery in England, was himself a slave trader before he was saved and transformed from a sinner into a saint.

I suggest you rent the movie “Amazing Grace” that is available at Netflix today. It tells the story of William Wilberforce’s gallant fight against slavery. Another important point is the truth that all men are slaves to sin and God provides the solution in the gospel.

Even in the New Testament Paul shows that the human institution of slavery, as horrible as it was, could be destroyed by the good news. 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 of the truth of the liberating power of the gospel to change people from the inside out.

Pastor Steve Rowitt, Th.M., Ph.D. (c)
Chief Technical Advisor