Q&A on Old Testament Slavery

by Patrick Collins

I recently was asked by a student a difficult question about sexual slavery in the Bible.  This is a very unusual question, and a sensitive topic; however, we don’t need to shy away from it. CAUTION: Mature Theme

The next verses I am going to cover touch on both the mistreatment of women and slavery. Exodus 21:7-11. ” And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt with her deceitfully. And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.”  So according to these verses, it is okay to sell your daughters as sex slaves, and if she doesn’t sexually pleasure her master, he can just kick her out, no compensation for taking her virginity. And he has the right to give her to his son too. So basically you are saying it is allright to pimp women out.

This is a complicated topic. First, the Mosaic Law is the “constitution” for the Nation of Israel. For the most part, it does not apply to Christians. That’s a different topic, though. Just wanted to put that out there.

The wording isn’t clear to us, but slaves/servants/maids/etc had a very different meaning to them than we think of thanks to American slavery.

Any good commentary will tell you the following about this passage: “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave” – this refers to the engagement process where a man gives a dowry for a wife. The next line shows there is a distinction from women to man-servants, though culturally they had about the same social status (another side issue I’ll skip for now).

“If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed.” This is a protection for the woman. She’s married (betrothed can refer to married or engaged, but context shows she’s married given the outlawing of adultery) to him now. “Please her master” means the husband desires to have sex with her. In other words, this line is saying that if the man marries her, but decides not to have sex with her, he has not performed his duty as a husband, the marriage is not consummated, and the girl can go back (“redeemed”) to her family…


Q&A on Old Testament Slavery | Ratio Christi