Sunday, January 25, 2015

Slavery & the Bible

Recently on "Answers in Genesis",  the question of slavery and the Bible was brought up.  We have already briefly alluded to Slavery in the Bible when dealing with the question of morality, God, and wars in the Old Testament, dealing with such difficult issues as why God would command the Israelites marching to Canaan to fight against and destroy whole cities of Philistines and others who inhabited the wilderness terrain on their way to the promised land. (See Questions About the Violent Old Testament:

Slavery proves to be just as difficult a topic for the modern mind when confronting the Old Testament as does the idea of a God-commanded war.   The AIG site,  while dealing with the differences between bondservants and slaves,  fails to address one critical factor:  the difference between the prescription of God and the description of the Word.   AIG explores the fundamental issues of the cultural difference of the economy of Israel back then vs. now, but there are several points that need to be made additionally.   The same Bible, as they point out,  decries to the point of capital punishment 'menstealers', 'kidnappers' and those who buy and sell human beings.  The Bible also gave rise to the beliefs and actions of Abolitionists against the slave trade in the 17 and 1800s,  yet at the same time, the bible PRESCRIBES the right treatment or sometimes very severe treatment of those taken in actual slavery in war.

Agreeing with AIG that the great majority of instances regarding the words 'bondservant, servant, maid, slave etc' have to do with a voluntary arrangement of debt payment  (we still have some forms of that today), the nitty-gritty of dealing with the times in Scripture when God commanded roles, designated punishments and sometimes even cruel dealings still must be addressed.   As a former college professor,  I used to use this argument against believers, and heard many of my colleagues and students do the same:  how could the God of Love in I John,  command the taking of young unmarried women in war but killing their families,  and still stay true to his nature?  Consider the following passages:

[Deu 20:14-16 KJV] 14 But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, [even] all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee. 15 Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities [which are] very far off from thee, which [are] not of the cities of these nations. 16 But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee [for] an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: [blb-kjv]

In the instructions to the men of Israel who war against the nations far off, they are to keep the spoil and the women and children, but kill the men, but of  the local, and very brutal nations which threaten Israel, they were to literally decimate the city.  Because we are taught first and foremost in the Old and New Testament to love God first, and others second, and that better than ourselves, the notion of totally annihilating villages, cities and towns by people who name God's name, and then to hear that it is commanded by the God of love seems utterly contradictory:  it becomes impossible for natural reasoning to reconcile.   The reasoning of the Lord though differs from our insufficient minds, and the Bible more than adequately states that the ways of God are not our ways:

more to follow....

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