by Kenneth Samples
Slavery is defined as the state of involuntary (forced) servitude. This practice was an entrenched institution in much of the ancient world. Since slavery is today considered a great moral evil, some wonder why the biblical authors didn’t categorically condemn the practice. Others even insist that the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) actually condones slavery.
It is true that the Bible does not formally and explicitly condemn slavery as an institution. So how do we account for this? Two important factors bear careful consideration.
First, it is possible that certain moderate forms of “servitude”—for example, indentured (voluntary) servitude—were considered morally beneficial before God under certain circumstances in the Old Testament. Examples of this are seen in voluntary indenturement in order to earn a living or to learn a trade. It may also have included the indenturement of a criminal in order for the offender to render restitution. But in none of these kinds of cases would the so-called slave be viewed as a mere piece of property without human rights. Nor would the time of servitude be constituted as a life term of bondage. Therefore it is clear that some forms of servitude practiced in biblical times bear little resemblance to the tyrannical types of slavery found in many parts of the ancient and modern world…
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