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  • « The Key to Resolving All Social Ills | Main | The Numbers Game »

    Slavery & Racism in the Bible

    Comment: God allowed Israel to take slaves from other nations. This is immoral and racist. So if Christians were consistent they would also reinstate slavery and institutionalized racism.

    Response: We must remember, the removal of the Canaanite peoples was a judicial ruling by God. Consider, in the USA we give people rights. But those rights can be taken away if people commit a crime. Its called prison. Is that hypocrisy to say people have rights (out of one side of our mouth) but then put them into prison (out of the other)?

    No, because those persons gave up their rights when they committed a crime. There were no prisons in Canaan. As a judicial ruling, God told Israel to dispossess the people in the land. They were either to kill them or in some cases enslave them. The Canaanites had already lost all of their rights and were under God's just judgment. There was no justification for arbitrary chattel slavery in the Bible -- (the kind which we knew in antebellum times) ... in fact the slavery which kidnapped people and sold them as property was punishable by death (Exodus 21:16) .

    No, they were ONLY to kill or enslave under God's direct verbal orders. Remember, He is God so His judicial ruling is more just than any human court has ever been since He knows all of our crimes perfectly. So when Israel killed people they were simply acting as God's hand, speeding up the death sentence we all justly deserve.

    You think this racist because it targets foreigners? Think again. God also warned the Israelites that they were not immune from the Canaanites' judgment: "But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.' "(Numbers 33:55-56).

    So not only were foreigners made slaves ... when the Israelites disobeyed God - REMEMBER - they were carried off in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. So God is not partial or racist.

    Again, the Israelites deserved judgment just like the others, whether Egyptian or Canaanite. This should serve to remind us that we may not assume that those who suffer unique or catastrophic calamities in this life are any worse than we ourselves, since it is only the grace of God in Jesus Christ which makes us to differ from anyone (see Luke 13:1-5; 1 Cor. 4:7).

    Also Christians, being consistent with the scripture and understanding this, would never enslave people. God has commanded us to set all men free with the gospel. The time between Christ's coming and His return is a time of forbearance. But the time is coming when God's patience will end and justice will be carried out in full measure. So it is important to differentiate what God commands as a way of life for us and his judicial rulings. The confusing of them causes college professors to misrepresent the beliefs of both Jews and Christians, and many atheists, who are ignorant of the fullness of what the Bible says, take this up and make unfortunate misrepresentations of the Bible in public. But at least it gives us an opportunity to bring the truth to light. So for this I thank you.

    Lesson: We must learn to distinguish God's judicial pronouncements from his commands about a way of life for us so as not to mix apples and oranges.

    Posted by John on July 15, 2013 12:47 PM


    As per your other comment: "God is Immoral?" May I ask, whose standard are you appealing to? In order to call someone else's views immoral you have to appeal to an objective standard that is true for everyone. Otherwise your declaration that someone else's view is wrong or "immoral" is frankly unintelligible. If you believe morality is relative then by definition, no one's view is better than anyone elses. What authority for right and wrong are you appealing to? How do you know its the right one?

    Leviticus 25:44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. 25:45 Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. 25:46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour.

    James thanks for adding the quote.

    The Israelites were not immune from being taken as slaves from other nations if they likewise disobeyed. And this indeed occurred when God had the Assyrians and Babylonians cart them off in slavery because of their disobedience. God said if they disobeyed, "I will do to you what I plan to do to them.' "(Numbers 33:55-56). i.e. Israel was also subject to God's judicial displeasure. Which is precisely what happened. So God is no respecter of persons. He will have mercy on whom he will and harden whom he will (Rom 9:15) --- some get mercy and some get justice but no one gets injustice since we all deserve worse. But if were for God's mercy none would have hope, least of all me.

    Am I right in saying that slaves in biblical times were treated much better than slaves of the 18th and 19th century, especially here in America. In biblical times if a slave owner hurt a slave it was punishable by death. Also, slaves were treated as part of the family, not as animals. People would sell themselves into slavery to pay back a debt. After the debt was paid they were released.

    Walter, you may be interested in the following:

    "...the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,[menstealers] liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine." 1 Timothy 1:9-10
    So alongside of murders, those who profane god and liars is listed “menstealers” or “slave traders. In other words, any slave trader, master or participant in the chattel slavery, which was done wholly on the basis of kidnapping, would have no justification for their sin in the Bible and was punishable by death (Exodus 21:16) .

    ‘A [chattel] slave was property. The slaveowner’s rights over his slave-property were total, covering the person as well as the labor of the slave. The slave was kinless, stripped of his or her old social identity in the process of capture, sale and deracination, and denied the capacity to forge new bonds of kinship through marriage alliance. These are the three basic components of [chattel] slavery.’
    Peter Garnsey, ‘Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine’, 1996, p. 1.

    In the Bible, there was no chattel slavery. Even for foreign slaves, who were criminals and prisoners of war and so lost total rights, but they were to still have a significant number of civil rights and liberty even though the Canaanites had already been judicially sentenced by God. On the subject of Biblical slavery and rights:

    "Chattel slavery did not exist under the Law of Moses. There was no form of servitude under the Law of Moses which placed them in the legal position of chattel slaves. Legislation maintained kinship rights (Exodus 21:3, 9, Leviticus 25:41, 47-49, 54, providing for Hebrew indentured servants), marriage rights (Exodus 21:4, 10-11), providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage, personal legal rights relating to physical protection and protection from breach of contract (Exodus 21:8, providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage, Exodus 21:20-21, 26-27, providing for Hebrew or foreign servants of any kind, and Leviticus 25:39-41, providing for Hebrew indentured servants), freedom of movement, and access to liberty (Exodus 21:8, 11, providing for a Hebrew daughter contracted into a marriage, Leviticus 25:40-45, 48, 54, providing for Hebrew indentured servants, and Deuteronomy 15:1, 12; 23:15, providing for Hebrew or foreign servants of any kind)." (source:

    Some of the comments on this subject are the reasons that African American Christians have difficulty with those who espouse so-called "Reformed" theology. I say "so-called" because I am in the reformed camp myself.

    It is a deficient theology that believes that chattel slavery is authorized in the Bible. It is also a sad state of affairs that one who would think of his salvation being in Christ would not realize that all believers include "every tribe, tongue, kindred and nation...".

    Sad, sad misunderstood persons.


    As I noted in the article I linked to, Chattel slavery was punishable by death in the OT.

    Exodus 21:16:

    "He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.

    Therefore I am not sure how these comments could even come close to approaching an endorsement of chattel slavery or give anyone that impression. God's command to drive out the Canaanites as a judgment of them was a one-time direct command of God to Israel for their sin. If the Canaanites resisted, God had direct commands about what to do with them. Anyone who tries to imply this could apply to slavery at any other time or place are condemning themselves.

    There are a significant number of African Americans who are frequent visitors of and supporters of this ministry ... and it seems to me that the interest in Reformed theology among this group is fast growing. I have only encountered positive feedback from them regarding our posts on slavery in the OT.

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