Slavery in the Old and New Testament

What's New
Escaping the Cults
Current Trends
Bible Doctrines
Bible Explanations
 To Discern - selah
Emergent church
Latter Rain
Law Keepers
Word Faith
Popular Teachers
Pentecostal  Issues
Trinity / Deity
World  Religions
New Age  Movement
Book Reviews
Tracts for witnessing
DVD Video
Web Search
 Persecuted Church

up               to date Religious News                       What is happening throughout the World



Slavery in the Old and New Testament

Slavery was commonplace in Old Testament times, all nations had slaves. Israel as a nation were slaves for over 400 years;' they were a nation of newly emancipated slaves. When they were freed from Egypt God gave them laws for slaves that was not the same as the other nations. The slaves had rights in Israel’s social system, unlike other nations. When we think of slavery it conjures up the image of racial prejudice, but this was not the case. They did not treat them as non - human or animals but as men made in the image of God.

Israel had the majority of their slaves from among themselves. Some sold themselves into slavery (Leviticus 25:39; Deuteronomy 15:12-17); others were sold to pay debts (2 Kings 4; Nehemiah 5:1-8).

They would also purchase from foreign slave dealers (Lev. 25:44–45); these foreigners were in this state either by poverty or by crime.

The majority of non-Hebrew slaves were captives taken in war, or there children were born in the house of the master, remained slaves, being the class described as “born in the house” (Gen. 14:14; 17:12;

The penalty for stealing or making merchandise of a human being, whether one was an Israelite (Deut. 24:7) or foreigner (Ex. 21:61) the punishment was death  A distinction was made between those who were of their brethren and those who were foreigners.

Slavery was considered more an occupation, servanthood with rights.

Jewish slaves could not be held for more than six years and were given a choice to leave (Exod.21:2). they could voluntarily choose to remain: (Exod.21:5-6).  Those who came into slavery with a wife and children could take them when they left. Jewish slaves could not be held for more than six years and were given a choice to leave (Exod.21:2) and receive their freedom at the Jubilee (Lev. 25:10); They could voluntarily choose to remain: (Exod.21:5-6). The Hebrew slave was freed at the Sabbatical year (including his wife and children), having  unless he formally consented to remain in continuous servitude (21:1–6; Deut. 15:12–18) .

Slaves who were abused by their masters were to be set free (Exod.21:26-27). “If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Lev. 24:19–22). This law applied also to the beasts. To both the Israelite and the stranger, provision was made for the protection of his person (Lev. 24:17, 22; Ex. 21:20). If the master struck out an eye or destroyed it, blinding the slave with a blow, or struck out a tooth, he was to be compensated by giving the servant his liberty (Exod. 21:26–27). He was to let him go free, for the loss of the member of his body he cause. The willful murder of a slave was followed by capital punishment. Imprisonment was not allowed as mode of punishment in Moses' law. “They put him in custody” (Lev. 24:12)  the offender was secured until a just decision had been made.

Slaves also enjoyed certain civil rights

The murder of a slave brought punishment (Exodus 21:20)

Foreign slaves seeking asylum in Israel were to be protected: (Deut23:15-16) Foreigners and slaves were allowed to eat the Passover if circumcised (Ex. 12:44, 48–49). Their religious rights. such as enjoying the Sabbath rest, were also protected: (Exod.2:10)

Slaves had economic rights, including the right to own their own slaves (2 Samuel 9:9-10)

Whether one was an Israelite or stranger, provisions were in place for their protection (Lev. 24:17,22; Exod. 21:20). A minor personal injury, such as the loss of an eye or a tooth, were to be compensated by giving the servant his liberty (21:26-27). Slaves were redeemable, at a price, the average value was thirty shekels (Ex. 21:32).

The nation of Israel even had state slaves, similar to civil service employees: Overall the idea of slavery from the Bible does not equate to what is known as abject slavery from the 16-1800’s, or what is taking place today. The abuses came from the evil hearts of men, which had nothing to do with the laws God gave Israel to abide under as a theocracy:

The majority of non-Hebrew slaves were war captives, either of the Canaanites who had survived the general extermination of their race under Joshua, or such as were conquered from the other surrounding nations <Num. 31:26-28>. Besides these, many were obtained by purchase from foreign slave dealers <Lev. 25:44-45>; and others may have been resident foreigners who were reduced to this state either by poverty or crime. The children of slaves remained slaves, being the class described as "born in the house" <Gen. 14:14; 17:12; Eccles. 2:7>, and hence the number was likely to increase as time went on. The average value of a slave appears to have been thirty shekels <Exo. 21:32> (from New Unger's Bible Dictionary)

In the New Testament Jesus did not free the slaves but gave instructions on how they were to continue

Paul speaks of all being baptized into Christ which makes us united, God sees us as equals. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28) No one is greater than the other if he is their master or has greater wealth or authority.

Eph 6:5-7: “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men

A bondservant was one who willing to be a slave (servant) and did his work because he loved his master.

Eph. 6:9 “And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him

Masters of slaves were to be aware that they too had a master in heaven.

Eph. 6:8-9 “knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him

1 Pet. 2:18: “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.” God is over the master and he will deal with them if they are abusive.

Col. 3:22-23: “Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Paul made sure they understood their service was to God and not man.

1 Tim. 6:2 “And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things

In other words they still have this boss employee relationship, it did not end because they were both believers.

1 Cor. 7:20-23: Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord's freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.”

Know that whether they were a slave or master, when they were saved God is master over both, he is the one they are all to serve.


Copyright (c) 2021 The material on our website can be copied and used in its original format Portions lifted from articles can be reproduced for ones personal use for witnessing or for teaching and apologetics.  Any other use, such as posting is to have the permission of Let Us Reason ministries. 

If you have trouble printing an article please copy the web page. Highlight the text first - then click copy -  then paste the article into a word program on your computer.



We would like to hear from you. Please send us  an e-mail and let us know how we can be of any help.   Our time is just as valuable as yours.  Please keep in mind, that we only have time to answer sincere inquiries.   We will use discretion in answering any letters.