Why did the Old Testament give so many rules for “slaves” in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy? Doesn’t this show that God approved of slavery?
This link leads to an article written by the great abolitionist, Theodore Dwight Weld, called “The Bible Against Slavery.” Weld was a disciple of the great evangelist of the Second Great Awakening, Charles Finney, and was the editor of the abolitionist newspaper called The Emancipator.
It goes into great detail to explain that God never condoned slavery in the Old Testament. He claims instead that the Bible is referring to a system where men would hire themselves out in a type of employment agreement. According to the link:
“Rev. Weld rebuts pro-slavery “eisegesis” (imposing a predetermined meaning on words) as opposed to “exegesis” (deducing word meaning from context) with respect to the Bible. Pro-slavers did “eisegesis,” i.e., imposed their pre-determined ‘minds-made-up-in-advance’ pro-slavery views on the Bible.”
If southern type slavery was condoned by God, Weld argued, it makes no sense that He would say this in Exodus:
“HE THAT STEALETH A MAN AND SELLETH HIM, OR IF HE BE FOUND IN HIS HAND, HE SHALL SURELY BE PUT TO DEATH. (Exodus 21:16)
And if a person wanted to be released from his obligation to his employer, this was the rule:
“THOU SHALT NOT DELIVER UNTO HIS MASTER THE SERVANT WHICH IS ESCAPED FROM HIS MASTER UNTO THEE; HE SHALL DWELL WITH THEE, EVEN AMONG YOU, IN THAT PLACE WHICH HE SHALL CHOOSE IN ONE OF THY GATES WHERE IT LIKETH HIM BEST: THOU SHALL NOT OPPRESS HIM.” (Deuteronomy 23:15-16)
There would be no “Fugitive Slave Act” in ancient Israel.
Rather than writing out a detailed article on the subject, I thought I would just post this link. Perhaps this will kill two birds with one stone since I know of an atheist who claims that abolitionists (or any other of the great Christian heroes) were inspired by secular concerns when they did their great feats, not the Bible–since the Bible is supposedly an evil book encouraging slavery, stoning, genocide, and the like. Hopefully this will at least prove to him that the abolitionists were inspired to oppose slavery by what they read in the Bible. The abolitionists had a desire to defend God and to make sure the Bible was read in a consistent way, by “rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) The southern slaveholder cherry-picked the scriptures, using those verses that appeared to support their cause, but not looking at the Bible as a whole.
After all, how could the God that delivered the Israelites from the “bondage of Egypt” (Exodus 20:2) now turn around and condone taking others into bondage? How could Jesus claim that he “came to set the captives free” (Luke 4:18) and then turn around and encourage captivity? How could Paul ask Philemon to set Onesimus free (Philemon 1:16) and then encourage men to become slavemasters? There have to be answers if we are to defend the Christian faith–and there are . . . as this article by Weld shows.
There are many more abolitionists who used the Bible as their source for encouraging freedom and equality. In fact, Christianity is even the main reason that slavery in the ancient world was abolished.
Surely these words of Jesus were true – “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed!” (John 8:36)