In the discussion of this question we endeavor to bring together all the ancient information together with the best results of modern examination.
I. Terms Employed to Designate this Condition. — The word "slavery" does not occur in the English Bible, and the word "slave" is but rarely used, once (in italics) to supply a noun to the adj. phrase ילַיד בֵּית, yelia beyth, "home-born" (Jer 2:14, "servant" having been already used in the former clause); once (Re 18:13) by way of paraphrase for the peculiar use of σῶμα, body, i.e. person; and four times in the Apocrypha (Judith 5:11; 14:13, 18; 1 Macc. 3:41) for δοῦλος, which is then appropriate classical word. The Hebrew and Greek terms designating servitude are, for the male, עֶבֶד, ebed, δοῦλος; for the female, אָמָה, amah, or שַׁפחָה, shiphkah, δούλη, usually rendered "bondman," "servant, etc., which our translators have instinctively felt were more euphonious and appropriate words. Indeed, the regular term for bondman in the Hebrew tongue, עֶבֶד (ebed), is used in a far greater variety of applications than our word slave; and collateral circumstances are always needed to determine the nature and extent of the service which it denotes. The term is used to describe individuals viewed as the servants of God, as when David and Daniel, speaking of themselves in prayer to the Most High, say, "Put not away thy servant in anger" (Ps 27:9); "Now, therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant" (Da 9:17). It is also applied to the relation of men to one another who occupied high positions, as to Eliezer, who had a place in Abraham's household something similar to that of a prime minister at court (Ge 15:2; Ge 24:2), and to Jacob with reference to his brother Esau (Ge 33:5). See the Bibl. Sac.. 12, 740-743; Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 978, 979.
It thus appears that the term slavery, though frequently applied to the Jewish system of servitude, is not wholly appropriate. Among the Greeks and Romans it properly expressed the legal condition of captives taken in war, or the victims of the existing slave trade and the offspring of female slaves. Those slaves were held to be the absolute property of their masters, and their slavery was regarded as perpetual and hereditary. Nor does Jewish servitude bear any resemblance to modern slavery, which, however it may differ from the Greek and Roman in some of its minor incidents, resembles it in its essential principles. If under the Roman law slaves were held "pro nullis, pro mortuis, pro quadrupedibus," so, until lately, under the laws of several of the United States, they were adjudged to be chattels personal in the hand of their owners, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever; and their slavery, like that of the ancient Romans, was, as a necessary consequence, perpetual and hereditary.
In the heat of modern controversy, indeed, some writers have been led to deny that the Hebrew and Greek words noticed above necessarily, or in point of fact ever do, designate a condition of absolute bondage; but whatever may be said of עֶבֶד, it is certain that δοῦλος, both from its etymological signification (from δέω, to bind), and its, classical usage, is the prevalent and appropriate word for slave in the current acceptation of the term. SEE SERVITUDE.
II. Forms of Scriptural Slavery. — It is difficult to trace the origin of slavery. It may have existed before the Deluge, when violence filled the earth, and drew upon it the vengeance of God. But the first direct reference to slavery, or rather slave trading, in the Bible is found in the history of Joseph, who was sold by his brethren to the Ishmaelites (Ge 37:27-28). In Eze 12:13 we find a reference to the slave trade carried on with Tyre by Javan, Tubal, and Meshech. In the Apocalypse we find enumerated in the merchandise of pagan Rome (the mystic Babylon) slaves (σώματα) and the souls of men (Re 18:13). The sacred historians refer to various kinds of bondage:
1. Patriarchal Servitude. — The exact nature of this service cannot be defined there can be no doubt, however, that it was regulated by principles of justice, equity, and kindness. The servants of the patriarchs were of two kinds, those "born in the house" and those "bought with money" (Ge 17:13). Abraham appears to have had a large number of servants. At one time he armed three hundred and eighteen young men, "born in his own house," with whom he pursued the kings who had taken "Lot and his goods, and the women also, and the people," and recaptured them (Ge 14:16). The servants born in the house were, perhaps, entitled to greater privileges than the others. Eliezer of Damascus, a home born servant, was Abraham's steward, and, in default of issue, would have been his heir (Ge 15:2-4). This class of servants was honored with the most intimate confidence of the masters. and was employed in the most important services. An instance of this kind will be found in Ge 24:1-9, where the eldest or chief servant of Abraham's house, who ruled over all that he had, was sent to Mesopotamia to select a wife for Isaac, though then forty years of age. The authority of Abraham was that of a prince or chief over his patriarchate or family, and was regulated by usage and the general consent of his dependents. It could not have been otherwise in his circumstances; nor, from the knowledge which the Scriptures give of his character, would he have taken advantage of any circumstances to oppress or degrade them: "For I know him," saith the Lord, "that he will command his children and his household after him and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him" (Ge 18:19), The servants of Abraham were admitted to the same religious privileges with their master, and received the seal of the covenant (Ge 17:9,14,24,27).
There is a clear distinction made between the "servants" of Abraham and the things which constituted his property or wealth. Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold (Ge 13:2,5). But when the patriarch's power or greatness is spoken of, then servants are spoken of as well as the objects which constituted his riches (Ge 24:34-35). It is said of Isaac, "And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great, for he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants" (Ge 26:13-14,16,26,28-29). When Hamor and Shechem speak to the Hivites of the riches of Jacob and his sons, they say, "Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours?" (Ge 34:23). Jacob's wives say to him, "All the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours and our children's." Then follows an inventory of property: "all his cattle," "all his gods," "the cattle of his getting." His numerous servants are not included with his property (comp. Ge 31:43, and also ver. 16, 18). When Jacob sent messengers to Esau, wishing to impress him with an idea of his state and sway, he bade them tell him not only of his riches, but of his greatness, and that he had oxen and asses and flocks, and men servants and maid servants (Ge 32:4-5). Yet in the present which.he sent there were no servants, though he manifestly selected the most valuable kinds of property (ver. 14, 15; see also Ge 34:23; Ge 36:6-7). In no single instance do we find that the patriarchs either gave away or sold their servants, or purchased them of third persons. Abraham had servants "bought with money." It has been assumed that they were bought of third parties, whereas there is no proof that this was the case. The probability is that they sold themselves to the patriarch for an equivalent; that is to say, they entered into voluntary engagements to serve him for longer or shorter period of time, in return for the money advanced them. It is a fallacy to suppose that whatever costs money is money or property. The children of Israel were required to purchase their firstborn (Nu 18:15-16; Nu 3:45,51; Ex 13:13; Ex 34:20). They were, moreover, required to pay money for their own souls; and when they set themselves or their children apart by vow unto the Lord, the price of release was fixed by statute (Le 27:2-8). Boaz bought Ruth (Ru 4:10). Hosea bought his wife (Ho 3:2). Jacob bought his wives Rachel and Leah, and, not having money, paid for them in labor, seven years apiece (Ge 29:16-23). That the purchase of wives, either with money or by service, was the general practice is plain from such passages as Ex 22:17 and 1Sa 18:25. But the idea of property does not appear in any of these purchases. For the various ways in which the terms "bought," "buy," and "bought with money" are used, consult Ne 5:8; Ge 47:18-26, etc. In Le 25:47 will be found the case of the Israelite who became the servant of the stranger. The words are, "If he sell himself unto the stranger." Yet the 51st verse says that this servant was "bought," and, that the price of the purchase was paid to himself. For a further clue to Scripture usage, the reader is referred to 1Ki 21:20,25; 2Ki 17:17; Isa 55:1; Isa 52:3; see also Jer 34:14; Ro 6:16; Ro 7:14; Joh 8:34. Probably Job had more servants than either of the patriarchs to whom reference has been made (Job 1:2-3). In what light he regarded, and how he treated, his servants, may be gathered from Job 31:13-23. That Abraham acted in the same spirit we have the divine testimony in Jer 22:15-17, where his conduct is placed in direct contrast with that of some of his descendants, who used their neighbor's service without wages, and gave him not for his work (ver. 13).
2. Egyptian Bondage. — The Israelites were frequently reminded, after their exode from Egypt, of the oppressions they endured in that "house of bondage," from which they had been delivered by the direct interposition of God. The design of these admonitions was to teach them justice and kindness towards their servants when they should have become settled in Canaan (De 5:15; De 8:14; De 10:19; De 15:15; De 23:7, etc.), as well as to impress them with gratitude towards their great deliverer. The Egyptians had domestic servants, who may have been slaves (Ex 9:14,20-21; Ex 11:5). But the Israelites were not dispersed among the families of Egypt; they formed a special community (Ge 46:34; Ex 2:9; Ex 4:29; Ex 6:14; Ex 8:22,24; Ex 9:26; Ex 10:23; Ex 11:7; Ex 16:22; Ex 17:5). They had exclusive possession of the land of Goshen, "the best part of the land of Egypt." They lived in permanent dwellings, their own houses, and not in tents (12:22). Each family seems to have had its own house (ver. 4; comp. Ac 7:20); and, judging from the regulations about eating the Passover. the houses could scarcely have been small ones (Exodus 12, etc.). The Israelites appear to have been well clothed (ver. 11). They owned "flocks and herds, and very much cattle" (ver. 4, 6, 32, 37, 38). They had their own form of government, and although occupying a province of Egypt and tributary to it, they preserved their tribes and family divisions, and their internal organization throughout (Ex 2:1; Ex 3:16,18; Ex 5:19; Ex 6:14,25; Ex 12:19,21). They had to a considerable degree the disposal of their own time (Ex 2:9; Ex 3; Ex 16; Ex 18; Ex 4:27,29,31; Ex 12:6). They were not unacquainted with the fine arts (Ex 32:4; Ex 35:22,35). They were all armed (Ex 32:27). The women seem to have known something of domestic refinement. They were familiar with instruments of music, and skilled in the working of fine fabrics (15:20; 35:25, 26); and both males and females were able to read and write (De 11:18,20; De 17:19; De 27:3). Their food was abundant and of great variety (Ex 16:3; Nu 11:4-5; Nu 20:5). The service required from the Israelites by their taskmasters seems to have been exacted from males only, and apparently a portion only of the people were compelled to labor at any one time. As tributaries, they probably supplied levies of men, from which the wealthy appear to have been exempted (Ex 3:16; Ex 4:29; Ex 5; Ex 20). The poor were the oppressed, "and all the service wherewith they made them serve was with rigor" (1:11-14). But Jehovah saw their "afflictions and heard their groanings," and delivered them after having inflicted the most terrible plagues on their oppressors,
3. Jewish Slavery. — The institution of slavery was recognized, though not established, by the Mosaic law with a view to mitigate its hardships and to secure to every man his ordinary rights. Repugnant as the notion of slavery is to our minds, it is difficult to see how it can be dispensed with in certain phases of society without, at all events, entailing severer evils than those which it produces. Exclusiveness of race is an instinct that gains strength in proportion as social order is weak, and the rights of citizenship are regarded with peculiar jealousy in communities which are exposed to contact with aliens. In the case of war carried on for conquest or revenge, there were but two modes of dealing with the captives, viz. putting them to death or reducing them to slavery. The same may be said in regard to such acts and outrages as disqualified a person for the society of his fellow citizens. Again, as citizenship involved the condition of freedom and independence, it was almost necessary to offer the alternative of disfranchisement to all who through poverty or any other contingency were unable to support themselves in independence. In all these cases slavery was the mildest of the alternatives that offered, and may hence be regarded as a blessing rather than a curse. It should further be noticed that a laboring class, in our sense of the term, was almost unknown to the nations of antiquity. Hired service was regarded as incompatible with freedom; and hence the slave in many cases occupied the same social position as the servant or laborer of modern times, though differing from him in regard to political status. The Hebrew designation of the slave shows that service was the salient feature of his condition; for the term ebed, usually applied to him, is derived from a verb signifying, "to work," and the very same term is used in reference to offices of high trust held by free men. In short, service and slavery would have been to the ear of the Hebrew equivalent terms, though he fully recognized grades of servitude, according as the servant was a Hebrew or a non-Hebrew, and, if the latter, according as he was bought with money (Ge 17:12; Ex 12:44) or born in the house (Ge 14:14; Ge 15:3; Ge 17:23). We shall proceed to describe the condition of these classes, as regards their original reduction to slavery, the methods by which it might be terminated, and their treatment while in that state.
(I.) Hebrew Slaves. —
(1.) The circumstances under which a Hebrew might be reduced to servitude were (a) poverty; (b) the commission of theft; and (c) the exercise of paternal authority. In the first case, a man who had mortgaged his property, and was unable to support his family, might sell himself to another Hebrew, with a view both to obtain maintenance and perchance a surplus sufficient to redeem his property (Le 25:25,39). It has been debated whether, under this law, a creditor could seize his debtor and sell him as a slave. The words do not warrant such an inference for the poor man is said in Le 25:39 to sell himself (not as in the A.V., "be sold;" see Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 787); in other words, to enter into voluntary servitude, and this under the pressure, not of debt, but of poverty. The instances of seizing the children of debtors in 2Ki 4:1
and Ne 5:5 were not warranted by law, and must be regarded as the outrages of lawless times, while the case depicted in the parable of the unmerciful servant is probably borrowed from Roman usages (Mt 18:25). The words in Isa 1:1, "Which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you?" have a prima facie bearing upon the question, but in reality apply to one already in the condition of slavery. The commission of theft rendered a person liable to servitude, whenever restitution could not be made on the scale prescribed by the law (Ex 22:1,3). The thief was bound to work out the value of his restitution money in the service of him on whom the theft had been committed (for, according to Josephus, Ant. 16, 1, 1, there was no power of selling the person of a thief to a foreigner); when this had been effected he would be free, as implied in the expression "sold for his theft," i.e. for the amount of his theft. This law contrasts favorably with that of the Romans, under which a thief became the actual property of his master. The exercise of paternal authority was limited to the sale of a daughter of tender age to be a maid servant, with the ulterior view of her becoming a concubine of the purchaser (Ex 21:7). Such a case can perhaps hardly be regarded as implying servitude in the ordinary sense of the term.
(2.) The servitude of a Hebrew might be terminated in three ways: (a) by the satisfaction or the remission of all claims against him; (b) by the recurrence of the year of Jubilee (Le 25:40), which might arrive at any period of his servitude; and (c), failing either of these, the expiration of six years from the time that his servitude commenced (Ex 21:2; De 15:12). There can be no doubt that this last regulation applied equally to the cases of poverty and theft, though Rabbinical writers have endeavored to restrict it to the former. The period of seven years has reference to the sabbatical principle in general, but not to the sabbatical year, for no regulation is laid down in reference to the manumission of servants in that year (Le 25:1 sq.; De 15:1 sq.). We have a single instance, indeed, of the sabbatical year being celebrated by a general manumission of Hebrew slaves, but this was in consequence of the neglect of the law relating to such cases (Jer 34:14). To the above modes of obtaining liberty the Rabbinists added, as a fourth, the death of a master without leaving a son, there being no power of claiming the slave on the part of any heir except a son (Maimonides, Abad. 2, § 12).
If a servant did not desire to avail himself of the opportunity of leaving his service, he was to signify his intention in a formal manner before the judges (or, more exactly, at the place of judgment), and then the master was to take him to the door post, and to bore his ear through with an awl (Ex 21:6), driving the awl into or "unto the door," as stated in De 15:17, and thus fixing the servant to it. Whether the door was that of the master's house, or the door of the sanctuary, as Ewald (Alterth. p. 245) infers from the expression el ha-elohim, to which attention is drawn above, is not stated; but the significance of the action is enhanced by the former view; for thus a connection is established between the servant and the house in which he was to serve. The boring of the ear was probably a token of subjection, the ear being the organ through which commands were received (Ps 40:6). A similar custom prevailed among the Mesopotamians (Juvenal, 1, 104), the Lydians (Xenophon, Anab. 3, 1, 31), and other ancient nations. A servant who had submitted to this operation remained, according to the words of the law, a servant "forever" (Ex 21:6). These words are, however, interpreted by Josephus (Ant. 4, 8, 28) and by the Rabbinists as meaning until the year of Jubilee, partly from the universality of the freedom that was then proclaimed, and partly perhaps because it was necessary for the servant then to resume the cultivation of his recovered inheritance. The latter point no doubt presents a difficulty, but the interpretation of the word "forever" in any other than its obvious sense presents still greater difficulties.
(3.) The condition of a Hebrew servant was by no means intolerable. His master was admonished to treat him, not "as a bond servant, but as a hired servant and as a sojourner;" and again, "not to rule over him with rigor" (Le 25:39-40,43). The Rabbinists specified a variety of duties as coming under these general precepts for instance, compensation for personal injury, exemption from menial duties, such as unbinding. the master's sandals or carrying him in a litter; the use of gentle language on the part of the master; and the maintenance of the servant's wife and children, though the master was not allowed to exact work from them (Mielziner, Sklaven bei den Hebr. p. 31). At the termination of his servitude the master was enjoined not to "let him go away empty," but to remunerate him liberally out of his flock, his floor, and his wine press (De 15:13-14). Such a custom would stimulate the servant to faithful service, inasmuch as the amount of the gift was left to the master's discretion; and it would also provide him with means wherewith to start in the world afresh.
In the event of a Hebrew becoming the servant of a "stranger," meaning a non-Hebrew, the servitude could be terminated only in two ways, viz. by the arrival of the year of Jubilee, or by the repayment to the master of the purchase money paid for the servant, after deducting a sum for the value of his services proportioned to the length of his servitude (Le 25:47-55). The servant might be redeemed either by himself or by one of his relations, and the object of this regulation appears to have been to impose upon relations the obligation of effecting the redemption, and thus putting an end to a state which must have been peculiarly galling to the Hebrew.
A Hebrew woman might enter into voluntary servitude on the score of poverty, and in this case she was entitled to her freedom after six years' service, together with the usual gratuity at leaving, just as in the case of a man (De 15:12-13). According to Rabbinical tradition, a woman could not be condemned to servitude for theft; neither could she bind herself to perpetual servitude by having her ear bored (Mielziner, p. 43).
Thus far we have seen little that is objectionable in the condition of Hebrew servants. In respect to marriage, there were some peculiarities which, to our ideas, would be regarded as hardships. A master might, for instance, give a wife to a Hebrew servant for the time of his servitude, the wife being in this case, it must be remarked, not only a slave, but a non- Hebrew. Should he leave when his term had expired, his wife and children would remain the absolute property of the, master (Ex 21:4-5). The reason for this regulation is, evidently, that the children of a female heathen slave mere slaves; they inherited the mother's disqualification. Such a condition of marrying a slave would be regarded as an axiom by a Hebrew, and the case is only incidentally noticed. Again, a father might sell his young daughter to a Hebrew, with a view either of the latter's marrying her himself or of his giving her to his son (ver. 7-9). It diminishes the apparent harshness of this proceeding if we look on the purchase money as in the light of a dowry given, as was not unusual, to the parents of the bride; still more, if we accept the Rabbinical view (which, however, we consider very doubtful) that the consent of the maid was required before the marriage could take place. But even if this consent were not obtained, the paternal authority would not appear to be violently strained; for among ancient nations that authority was generally held to extend even to the life of a child, much more to the giving of a daughter in marriage. The female slave was in this case termed אָמָה, as distinct from שַׁפחָה, applied to the ordinary household slave. The distinction is marked in regard to Hagar, who is described by the latter term before the birth of Ishmael, and by the former after that event (comp. Ge 16:1; Ge 21:10). The relative value of the terms is expressed in Abigail's address, "Let thine handmaid (amah) be a servant (shiphkah) to wash," etc. (1Sa 25:41). The position of a maiden thus sold by her father was subject to the following regulations:
 She could not "go out as the men servants do;" i.e. she could not leave at the termination of six years, or in the year of Jubilee, if (as the regulation assumes) her master was willing to fulfil the object for which he had purchased her.
 Should he not wish to marry her, he should call upon her friends to procure her release by the repayment of the purchase money (perhaps, as in other cases, with a deduction for the value of her services),
 If he betrothed her to his son, he was bound to make such provision for her as he would for one of his own daughters.
 If either he or his son, having married her, took a second wife, it should not be to the prejudice of the first.
 If neither of the three above specified alternatives took place, the maid was entitled to immediate and gratuitous liberty (Ex 21:7-11).
The custom of reducing Hebrews to servitude appears to have fallen into disuse subsequently to the Babylonian captivity. The attempt to enforce it in Nehemiah's time met with decided resistance (Ne 5:5), and Herod's enactment that thieves should be sold to foreigners roused the greatest animosity (Josephus, Ant. 16, 1, 1). Vast numbers of Hebrews were reduced to slavery as war captives at different periods by the Phoenicians (Joe 3:16), the Philistines (ibid.; Am 1:6), the Syrians (1 Macc. 3:41; 2 Macc. 8:11), the Egyptians (Josephus, Ant. 12, 2, 3), and, above all by the Romans (War, 6, 9, 3). We may form some idea of the numbers reduced to slavery by war from the single fact that Nicanor calculated on realizing 2000 talents in one campaign by the sale of captives at the rate of ninety for a talent (2 Macc. 8:10, 11), the number required to fetch the sum being 180,000. The Phoenicians were the most active slave dealers of ancient times, purchasing of the Philistines (Am 1:9), of the Syrians (2 Macc. 8:21), and even of the tribes on the shores of the Euxine Sea (Eze 27:13), and selling them wherever they could find a market about the shores of the Mediterranean, and particularly in Joel's time to the people of Javan (Joe 3:6), it being uncertain whether that name represents a people in South Arabia or the Greeks of Asia Minor and the peninsula. It was probably through the Tyrians that Jews were transported in Obadiah's time to Sepharad, or Sardis (Ob 1:20). At Rome vast numbers of Jews emerged from the state of slavery and became freedmen. The price at which the slaves were offered by Nicanor was considerably below the ordinary value either in Palestine or Greece. In the former country it stood at thirty shekels (=about $18), as stated below; in the latter at about one and a quarter mina (=about $20), this being the mean between the extremes stated by Xenophon (Mem. 2, 5, 2) as the ordinary price at Athens. The price at which Nicanor offered them was only about $12 a head. Occasionally slaves were sold as high as a talent (about $1058) each (Xenophon, loc. cit.; Josephus, Ant. 12, 4, 9).
(II.) Non-Hebrew Slaves. —
(1.) The majority of non-Hebrew slaves were war captives, either the Canaanites who had survived the general extermination of their race under Joshua, or such as were conquered from the other surrounding nations (Nu 31:26 sq.). Besides these, many were obtained by purchase from foreign slave dealers (Le 25:44-45); and others may have been resident foreigners who were reduced to this state either by poverty or crime. The Rabbinists further deemed that any person who performed the services of a slave became ipso facto a slave (Mishna, Kedush. 1, 3). The children of slaves remained slaves, being the class described, as "born in the house" (Ge 14:14; Ge 17:12; Ec 2:7), and hence the number was likely to increase as time went on. The only statement as to their number applies to the post-Babylonian period, when they amounted to 7337, or about one to six of the free population (Ezr 2:65). We have reason to believe that the number diminished subsequently to this period, the Pharisees in particular being opposed to the system. The average value of a slave appears to have been thirty shekels (Ex 21:32), varying, of course, according to age, sex, and capabilities. The estimation of persons given in Le 27:2-8 probably applies to war captives who had been dedicated to the Lord, and the price of their redemption would in that case represent the ordinary value of such slaves.
(2.) That the slave might be manumitted appears from Ex 21:26-27; Le 19:20. As to the methods by which this might be effected, we are told nothing in the Bible; but the Rabbinists specify the following four methods:
 redemption by a money payment;  a bill or ticket of freedom;  testamentary disposition; or  any act that implied manumission, such as making a slave one's heir (Mielziner, p. 65, 66).
(3.) The slave is described as the "possession" of his master, apparently with a special reference to the power which the latter had of disposing of him to his heirs as he would any other article of personal property (Le 25:45-46); the slave is also described as his master's "money" (Ex 21:21), i.e. as representing a certain money value. Such expressions show that he was regarded very much in the light of a mancipium, or chattel. But, on the other hand, provision was made for the protection of his person wilful murder of a slave entailed the same punishment as in the case of a free man (Le 24:17,22). So, again, if a master inflicted so severe a punishment as to cause the death of his servant he was liable to a penalty, the amount of which probably depended on the circumstances of the case; for the Rabbinical view that the words "he shall be surely punished," or, more correctly, "it is to be avenged," imply a sentence of death, is wholly untenable (Ex 21:20). No punishment at all was imposed if the slave survived the punishment for a day or two (ver. 21), the loss of the slave being regarded as a sufficient punishment in that case. There is an apparent disproportion between this and the following regulation, arising probably out of the different circumstances under which the injury was effected. In this case the law is speaking of legitimate punishment "with a rod;" in the next, of a violent assault. A minor personal injury, such as the loss of an eye or a tooth, was to be recompensed by giving the servant his liberty (ver. 26, 27). The general treatment of slaves appears to have been gentle --occasionally too gentle, as we infer from Solomon's advice (Pr 29:19,21), nor do we hear more than twice of a slave running away from his master (1Sa 25:10; 1Ki 2:39). The slave was considered by a conscientious master as entitled to justice (Job 31:13-15) and honorable treatment (Pr 30:10). A slave, according to the Rabbinists, had no power of acquiring property for himself; whatever he might become entitled to, even by way of compensation for personal injury, reverted to his master (Mielziner, p. 55). On the other hand, the master might constitute him his heir either wholly (Ge 15:3), or jointly with his children (Pr 17:2); or, again, he might give him his daughter in marriage (1Ch 2:35).
The position of the slave in regard to religious privileges was favorable. He was to be circumcised (Ge 17:12), and hence was entitled to partake of the Paschal sacrifice (Ex 12:44) as well as of the other religious festivals (De 12:12,18; De 16:11,14). It is implied that every slave must have been previously brought to the knowledge of the true God, and to a willing acceptance of the tenets of Judaism. This would naturally be the case with regard to all who were "born in the house," and who were to be circumcised at the usual age of eight days; but it is difficult to understand how those who were "bought with money," as adults, could always be induced to change their creed, or how they could be circumcised without having changed it. The Mosaic law certainly presupposes a universal acknowledgment of Jehovah within the limits of the promised land, and would therefore enforce the dismissal or extermination of slaves who persisted in heathenism.
The occupations of slaves were of a menial character, as implied in Le 25:39, consisting partly in the work of the house and partly in personal attendance on the master. Female slaves, for instance, ground the corn in the handmill (Ex 11:5; Job 31:10; Isa 47:2), or gleaned in the harvest field (Ru 2:8). They also baked, washed, cooked, and nursed the children (Mishna, Kethub. 5, 5). The occupations of the men are not specified; the most trustworthy held confidential posts, such as that of steward or major-domo (Ge 15:2; Ge 24:2), of tutors to sons (Pr 17:2), and of tenants to persons of large estate; for such appears to have been the position of Ziba (2Sa 9:2,10).
In Mohammedan Asia the slaves termed "houseborn" are regarded with peculiar esteem. They form part of their master's family, and their welfare is an object of his peculiar care. They are the most attached of his adherents, and often inherit a large share of his wealth. It is sometimes the practice of childless persons to adopt a favorite slave of this class as their own child and heir, or sometimes they purchase promising boys when young; and, after having brought them up in theia own faith, formally adopt them as their children.
4. Gibeonitish Servitude. — The condition of the inhabitants of Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim, under the Hebrew commonwealth, was not that of slavery; it was voluntary (Jos 9:8-11). They were not employed in the families of the Israelites, but resided in their own cities, tended their own flocks and herds, and exercised the functions of a distinct, though not independent, community (Jos 10:6-18). The injuries inflicted on them by Saul were avenged by the Almighty on his descendants (2Sa 21:1-9). They appear to have been devoted exclusively to the service of the "house of God," or the Tabernacle; and only a few of them, comparatively, could have been engaged at any one time. The rest dwelt in their cities, one of which was a great city, as one of the royal cities. The service they rendered may be regarded as a natural tribute for the privilege of protection. No service seems to have been required of their wives and daughters. On the return from the Babylonian captivity they dwelt at Ophel (Ne 3:26; see also 1Ch 9:2; Ezr 2:43; Ne 7:24; Ne 8:17; Ne 10:28; Ne 11:21). SEE NETHINIM.
5. Roman Slavery. — Our limits will not allow us to enter into detail on the only kind of slavery referred to in the New Test., for there is no indication that the Jews possessed any slaves in the time of Christ. Suffice it, therefore, to say that, in addition to the fact that Roman slavery was perpetual and hereditary, the slave had no protection whatever against the avarice, rage, or lust of his master. The bondman was viewed less as a human being, subject to arbitrary dominion, than as an inferior animal, dependent wholly on the will of his owner. The master possessed the uncontrolled power of life and death over his slave — a power which continued, at least, to the time of the emperor Hadrian. He might, and frequently did, kill, mutilate, and torture his slaves, for any or for no offense, so that slaves were sometimes crucified from mere caprice. He might force them to become prostitutes or gladiators; and, instead of the perpetual obligation of the marriage tie, their temporary unions (contubernia) were formed and dissolved at his command, families and friends were separated, and no obligation existed to provide for their wants in sickness or in health. But, notwithstanding all the barbarous cruelties of Roman slavery, it had one decided advantage over that which was introduced in modern times into European colonies — both law and custom being decidedly favorable to the freedom of the slave (Blair, Inquiry into the State of Slavery among the Romans ). The Mohammedan law, also, in this respect, contrasts favorably with those of the European settlements. Although the condition of the Roman slaves was no doubt improved under the emperors, the early effects of Christian principles were manifest in mitigating the horrors, and bringing about the gradual abolition, of slavery. Onesimus, according to the concurrent testimony of antiquity, was liberated by Philemon (ver. 21); and in addition to the testimonies cited in Wright's Slavery (ut infra, p. 60), see the preface of Euthalius to this epistle. The servile condition formed no obstacle to attaining the highest dignities of the Christian priesthood. Our space will not allow us to pursue this subject. "It was," says M. Guizot, "by putting an end to the cruel institution of slavery that Christianity extended its mild influence to the practice of war; and that barbarous art, softened by its humane spirit, ceased to be so destructive" (Milman's Gibbon, 1, 61). "It is not," says Robertson, "the authority of any single detached precept in the Gospel, but the spirit and genius of the Christian religion, more powerful than any particular command, which has abolished the practice of slavery throughout the world." Although, even in the most corrupt times of the Church, the operation of Christian principles tended to this benevolent object, they unfortunately did not prevent the revival of slavery in the European settlements in the 16th and 17th centuries, together with that nefarious traffic the suppression of which has rendered the name of Wilberforce forever illustrious. Modern servitude had all the characteristic evils of the Roman, except, perhaps, the uncontrolled power of life and death, while it was destitute of that redeeming quality to which we have referred, its tendency being to perpetuate the condition of slavery. It has also been supposed to have introduced the unfortunate prejudice of color, which was unknown to the ancients (Linstant, Essai ). It was the benevolent wish of the philosophic Herder (History of Man ) that the time might come" when we shall look back with as much compassion on our inhuman traffic in Negroes as on the ancient Roman slavery or Spartan helots." This is now legally, if not actually, the case in all civilized countries. SEE SLAVERY, MODERN.
III. Ethical Considerations. — These have been incidentally touched upon in the foregoing discussion; but their importance in connection with the occurrence of slavery in the Bible requires a fuller notice, especially as it has been boldly claimed that the above facts justify the detention of human beings in menial servitude.
1. The circumstances of patriarchal slavery were so very different from those of modern times that no argument in this regard can fairly be drawn from a comparison of the two. It is obvious, for example, that if Abraham's "servants" had chosen to run away, there was no power by which they could have been compelled to return. But even if there had been, and if their state could be proved to be ever so severe, there is no evidence that this condition of society had the approval, much less the authority, of God, either in its institution or its continuance. There were many social usages in those days which were only tolerated for a time, until a better economy should supervene.
2. This last consideration likewise applies, in part, to the whole system of Jewish slavery. But we are not left to this mode of vindicating Mosaism on the point in question. The moral law is a revelation of great principles. It requires supreme love to God and universal love among men; and whatever is incompatible with the exercise of that love is strictly forbidden and condemned. Hence, immediately after the giving of the law at Sinai, as if to guard against all slavery and slavetrading on the part of the Israelites, God promulgated this ordinance: "He that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hands, he shall surely be put to death" (Ex 21:16; De 21:7). The crime is stated in its threefold form-- man-stealing, selling, and holding the penalty for either of which was death. The law punished the stealing of mere property by enforcing restitution; in some cases twofold, in others fivefold (Ex 22:14). When property was stolen the legal penalty was compensation to the person injured; but when a man was stolen no property compensation was allowed: death was inflicted, and the guilty offender paid the forfeit of his life for his transgression, God thereby declaring the infinite dignity and worth of man and the inviolability of his person. The reason of this may be found in the great fact that God created man in his own image (Ge 1:26-28)--a high distinction, more than once repeated with great solemnity (5:1; 9:6). Such was the operation of this law, and the obedience paid to it, that we have not the remotest hint that the sale and purchase of slaves ever occurred among the Israelites. The cities of Judea were not, like the cities of Greece and Rome, slave markets, nor were there found throughout all its coasts either helots or slaves.
3. It has been made a question whether servitude, even of the modified kind described in the Old Test., existed in Palestine in the days of our Lord. There is some reason to believe that after the return from Babylon the system gradually lost ground and disappeared. Certainly there is nothing in the Gospel history to indicate the existence of what could with any propriety be called slavery. It admits of no doubt, however, that slavery of the most obnoxious type did prevail in Italy and Greece and Asia Minor; and it has been argued that since the apostles did not everywhere openly denounce it, therefore it cannot be viewed as inconsistent with the principles of the Gospel. But there is a wide, unbridged interval here between the premises and the conclusion. The whole spirit and precepts of Christianity are quite opposed to the idea of the subjugation of one man to the arbitrary will of another. The mutual love which it enjoins, the brotherhood of believers which it establishes, the golden rule of doing to other's as we would have them do to us, the model of self-sacrificing love exhibited by the blessed Savior himself, are all utterly repugnant to the practice of stealing men, buying and selling them, and holding them to enforced labor; and accordingly it has ever been found that just in proportion to the footing which the Gospel has obtained in any country the system of slavery has declined and in the end died out. This unjust system has its root in the evil passions of depraved human nature, and in certain states of society it flourishes but the moral and spiritual renovation effected by the merciful religion of Jesus gradually brings a withering blight upon it which ultimately quite destroys it.
Why, then, it may be asked, did not the apostles place themselves in more direct and obvious opposition to it while visiting the cities and countries of heathen nations? Why did they not everywhere denounce it and command the whole world to relinquish it? Now such questions betray a total ignorance of the whole circumstances of the case. Who were the apostles in the estimation of mankind in that age? They were men of no worldly influence, few, and poor, and despised, strangers wherever they appeared; and the effect of their entering into a hand-to-hand fight with any of the institutions of society would have been to throw an insuperable barrier in the way of the progress of the Gospel. This course, moreover, would have manifested the folly of expecting to reap before the seed was sown. First of all, it was indispensable that men's moral notions should be rectified; that the principles of love and universal brotherhood should be inculcated upon them; that they should discover in the one sacrifice of Christ for rich and poor, for bond and free, for men of all colors and climes, that God looked upon them all with equal favor; and not until these ideas were embraced by multitudes, and, in fact, permeated the great mass of society, was it possible that a system so rooted as slavery could be plucked up or even much changed.
The laws which the great Deliverer and Redeemer of mankind gave for the government of his kingdom were those of universal justice and benevolence, and as such were subversive of every system of tyranny and oppression. To suppose, therefore, as has been rashly asserted, that Jesus or his apostles gave their sanction to the existing systems of slavery among the Greeks and Romans is to dishonor them. That the reciprocal duties of masters and servants (δοῦλοι) were inculcated admits, indeed, of no doubt (Col 3:22; Col 4:1; Tit 2:9; 1Pe 2:18; Eph 6:5-9). But the performance of these duties on the part of the masters, supposing them to have been slave masters, would have been tantamount to the utter subversion of the relation. There can be no doubt either that "servants under the yoke," or the slaves of heathens, are exhorted to yield obedience to their masters (1Ti 6:1). But this argues no approval of the relation; for
(1) Jesus, in an analogous case, appeals to the paramount law of nature as superseding such temporary regulations as the "hardness of men's hearts" had rendered necessary (see Wright [Rev. W.], Slavery at the Cape of Good Hope , p. 58); and
(2) Paul, while counselling the duties of contentment and submission under inevitable bondage, inculcates at the same time on the slave the duty of adopting all legitimate means of obtaining his freedom. (1Co 7:18-20). We are aware that the application of this passage has been denied by Chrysostom, Photius, Theodoret, and Theophylact, who maintain that it is the state of slavery which Paul here recommends the slave to prefer. But although this interpretation is indeed rendered admissible by the context, yet the more received meaning, or that which counsels freedom, is both more easily connected with the preceding phrase, "if thou mayest he made free, use it rather," and is, as Neander observes, "more in accordance with the liberal views of the free-minded Paul" (Bilroth, Commentary on Corinthians, in Bib. Cab.). Besides, the character of the existing slavery to which we now refer was utterly inconsistent with the entire tenor of the moral and humane principles of the precepts of Jesus.
But it has been alleged that as Paul sent back Onesimus to Philemon, he thus not only testified his approbation of slavery, but even countenanced the principles of modern fugitive-slave law. This is one of the weakest arguments that could well be employed. Did Paul send back Onesimus against his will, bound hand and foot, and labelled as a piece of property? On the contrary, he sent him as one brother to another — a convert, like his master, to Christianity; and the whole epistle implies that Onesimus returned with his own free consent, because persuaded that he would now be more happy with Philemon than anywhere else. What countenance is there here for a fugitive-slave law to enforce the restoration of runaways? Can we imagine that Paul would have spontaneously acted upon the principle of such a law when it was in direct contradiction to the religion he had been reared in, which expressly forbade that any servant who had fled from his master should be sent back to him? This would have been not only to ignore the benign spirit of the Gospel, but even to fall below the lower platform of the preparatory dispensation. This would have been to follow the advice of the foolish counsellors of Rehoboam, and to exchange the whip of Solomon's gentle reign for the scorpion of intolerable oppression. The return of Onesimus to Philemon was the return of one friend to another with the congratulations of a common friend who was unspeakably dear to both. Slavery finds no support at all in the Word of God, and the attempt to deduce its principles from Scripture does the utmost dishonor to the benign and merciful spirit of the Gospel.
IV. Literature. — A calm and complete view of Hebrew servitude is given in the above-mentioned treatise of:Mielzin.er, Die Verhaltnisse der Sklaven bei den alten Hebrlern, nach biblischen und talmudischen Quellen dargestellt (Copenhag. and Leips. 1859), which. was translated by Prof. Schmidt in the (Gettysburg) Evangelical Review, Jan. 1862, p. 311-355. Older treatises are those of Abicht, De Servis Hebr. (Lips. 1704); Mieg, Constitutiones Servi Heb. ex Script. et. Rabbin. (Herb. 1785). See also Barnes, Scriptural Views of Slavery (Phila. 1846); Raphall, Bible View of Slavery (N.Y. 1861); Tour. Sac. Lit. Oct. 1859; Jan. 1860; New Englander, May, 1860; Amer. Theol. Rev. April, 1861; Amer. Presb. Rev. July, 1861; Bibliotheca Sacra, Jan. and July, 1862; Row, Bampton Lectures for 1878, p. 147. Comp. the numerous earlier controversial articles cited by Poole, Index, s.v. See also the two articles immediately following.