How the Southern Slaveholder Violated the Word of God

“He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 21:16)

Diagram showing how ships were loaded with African slaves to be carried through the "Middle Passage" between Africa and the Americas.
Diagram showing how ships were loaded with African slaves to be carried through the “Middle Passage” between Africa and the Americas.

” . . . realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.”    (1 Tim. 1:9-10)

The southern slaveholder violated these two verses–one found in the Old Testament, and one found in the New Testament.

Southern slavery was not endorsed by the God of the Bible.  It wasn’t God who forced the Africans to traverse the Middle Passage. It was the disobedience of man towards the Word of God.

Instead, this is the heart of our Lord Jesus:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,  and recovery of sight to the blind, to SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED.


  1. Umm

    According to The Fount Of All Knowledge:

    The Hebrew Bible contains two sets of rules governing slaves: one set for Hebrew slaves (Lev 25:39-43) and a second set for Canaanite slaves (Lev 25:45-46). The main source of non-Hebrew slaves were prisoners of war. Hebrew slaves, in contrast to non-Hebrew slaves, became slaves either because of extreme poverty (in which case they could sell themselves to an Israelite owner) or because of inability to pay a debt. According to the Hebrew Bible, non-Hebrew slaves were drawn primarily from the neighboring Canaanite nations, and religious justification was provided for the enslavement of these neighbors: the rules governing Canaanites was based on a curse aimed at Canaan, a son of Ham, but in later eras the Canaanite slavery laws were stretched to apply to all non-Hebrew slaves.

    The laws governing non-Hebrew slaves were more harsh than those governing Hebrew slaves: non-Hebrew slaves could be owned permanently, and bequeathed to the owner’s children, whereas Hebrew slaves were treated as servants, and were released after 7 years of service. One scholar suggests that the distinction was due to the fact that non-Hebrew slaves were subject to the curse of Canaan, whereas God did not want Jews to be slaves because he freed them from Egyptian enslavement.

    I’d have to look up the differences between the Hebrew and Christian versions of the OT, since Exodus isn’t even mentioned in the wiki page, but it’s obvious that slaves who were non-Israelites were subject to different, and more onerous, laws than those who were Israelites.

    If you want to check out some relevant verses, this video on the subject includes them as annotations.


    1. I saw that video, and this article was a direct attempt to show that the Bible never condoned taking people against their will . . .

      Remember the plea of Moses to Pharaoh? “Let my people go.” Yet Pharaoh wouldn’t let the Hebrews go. They were held as captives.


      1. That’s the point though. The Bible does say what you say it says—but only when applied to Israelites being made slaves. Non-Israelite slaves of Israelites were to be treated more like the Southern-U.S. version.


  2. No. The law against kidnapping was universal, so there could never have been slaves in America if the southerners had obeyed the Bible since they kidnapped their slaves from Africa.

    “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:16)

    The Fugitive Slave Act would never have been allowed under biblical law either.

    “If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.” (Deuteronomy 23:15-16)

    The Bible doesn’t condone cruelty towards foreigners, either.

    ‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)


  3. Leviticus 25: “45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.”


    1. They could do this because the “servants/slaves” will be willing to become your bondservants. This means they will love you and devote themselves to you.

      “If the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life” (Exodus 21:5-6)

      This is the only way this scripture makes sense because keeping a person against their will is forbidden. It’s also forbidden to deal cruelly with a foreigner.

      Abraham had many bondservants. At one time he was going to give his inheritance to one of them because he didn’t have a child. His bondservants had weapons and went into battle on his behalf. They could have attacked him if they were held against their will.

      The scriptures teach that we can become bondservants to Christ. We can love him and devote ourselves to him for all our lives.


      1. And you’re doing what the God-character in that video did. I speak of laws specifically allowing crueller treatment of non-Israelites, and you quote laws decreeing the better-treatment of Israelites.


  4. I explained that the only way a non-Israelite slave/servant could be made a slave for life is if the slave loved his master and wanted to devote his life to him. He couldn’t be taken against his will. He had to choose to serve his master. And the master had to treat the slave/servant well. This ruled applied to foreigners.

    The law also said that foreigners must be treated the same as the native-born and that a person (universally) couldn’t be kidnapped and sold as a slave. It said that a slave couldn’t be oppressed or held against his/her will. Cities of refuge were set up to protect slaves who ran away.

    What law did I mention that is only referring to the special treatment of the Israelites?


    1. “What law did I mention that is only referring to the special treatment of the Israelites?”

      You very carefully chose Exodus 21:5-6. Take a look at the previous paragraph, Exodus 21:2-4:

      “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.”

      I’m saying you’re quoting laws pertaining specifically to Israelite slaves, because they say they pertain only to Israelite slaves.

      [Aside: the block-quotes on this layout… Ugh!]


      1. You’re right that the bondservant application is for the Israelites, but the other scriptures about forbidding kidnapping and selling, and treating foreigners with kindness, aren’t just for the Israelites. These two scriptures alone would have made southern slavery impossible.

        Hebrew slavery/service was actually a kind form of provision for hopeless people.

        The people from the surrounding nations lived in cruel conditions. They practiced human sacrifice and the strong ruled over the weak. They all practiced slavery.

        The Israelites provided a place of safety for people of the surrounding nations.

        Often foreigners would glean from the fields, since the Israelites were commanded to leave behind crops in the field for the poor, foreigners, widows, and orphans. This was a form of welfare. Ruth was an example of a person coming to Israel for refuge:

        “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”

        As I’ve said in a previous article, slavery was a form of employment or trade (for repayment of debt). The exception would be if it was a spoil of war. The existence of slavery didn’t make Israel, or their God, evil. They had laws governing relations between people. Servant/slave (the Hebrew word is “ebed” and is interchangeable) was a form of employer/employee relationship.


      2. Slavery of Israelites by Israelites was a form of employment, yes; I get that. I also get that some verses say that foreigners should be treated with kindness. But some say that its perfectly okay to enslave foreigners for life.

        That’s the problem, when you say that the Southern slave-holders were disobeying the Bible. Sure, they were disobeying some bits that you like, but they were directly obeying contradictory bits that you don’t like. It is, after all, impossible to obey both; so you’re both right, and you’re both wrong.

        Only when you make a moral judgement based on something outside the Bible (“empathy: harmful-to-human-beings = morally wrong” or “self-interest: slaves-make-me-rich = “morally right”), can you break this contradiction. You choose empathy, the slave-holders chose self-interest.


      3. Ephesians 4:32:

        Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

        Galatians 6:2:

        Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

        Colossians 3:12:

        Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

        Matthew 7:12:

        “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

        Galatians 5:22-23:

        But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

        The slave owners broke all the laws of God. As you can see, these are just a few of the scriptures that command us to be empathetic. They didn’t obey God’s Word if they took a slave against his/her will and treated them badly.

        Didn’t Jesus have a heart of love and compassion? John 1 says that Jesus was “the Word become flesh,” and Jesus said he came to set the captives free.

        These were some of the arguments used by the abolitionists.

        The false church carries the name of God, yet doesn’t obey God. This is why he will say to them, “Depart from me, for I never knew you, you workers of iniquity” (Matthew 7:23) even though they called him Lord.


      4. The false church would be… those who disagree with your favoured interpretation of the verses you choose to follow? They quite probably say the same of you: with equal sincerity, and with just as many verses to back them up.

        And you both stick to tiny little out-of context snippets, like the above one that I gave correct context to, merely be quoting the sentences which immediately precede it.

        But okay, let’s argue in verse. And talking of Biblical interpretations, here’s what you all of you look like, to an outside observer. One of my own:

        What’s that mote in your eye? Come close, let me look.
        There’s a log in mine too? No no, you’re mistook.
        Your reading of scripture is wrong, look you here;
        I’ll give chapter and verse, listen close; I’ll make clear.

        This line makes it clear—you’re dabbling in sin!
        Repent right away, and He’ll let you back in.
        You say that I’m wrong, how could I be so?
        My reading’s correct, yours is wrong. Now be told!

        I’m supported by John, I’m backed up by Luke;
        They match up so closely, it can’t be a fluke.
        You say Matthew says dif’rent, in verse umpty-dee?
        But the Bible’s inerrant! Give it here; let me see.

        Ah, there is your problem—it’s simple to see;
        Mine are meant lit’ral, yours as simile.
        How do I know that it’s not t’other way?
        God bless you, it’s simple: I prefer it my way.


      5. Christians are under a new covenant. This is found in the New Testament. Can you show me a scripture in the New Testament where Christians are encouraged to be hateful or cruel?

        Jesus changed the Old Testament standard:

        “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

        He also said we are to love our enemies:

        “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

        The southern slaveholder was often cruel, holding men and women in chains against their will. This was not the will of God in any way.

        As I see it, the only way they could have justified their actions was if they were “scientific” Christians who believed the polygenist theory that the darker races were less human. They blended the latest scientific truth in with their Christian views and came up with a justification for treating the Africans like they were sub-humans or animals.

        The willingness of the church to accept other truths as being equal with scripture is what caused the southern church to become corrupt. They ADDED to the scriptures, thinking they would seem more intelligent.

        But where is the scripture in the New Testament (the authority that all Christians are under) that would give the southern slaveholder the justification for tormenting another human being and holding him against his will?

        (AWESOME POEM!)


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