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Biblical Accounts of Slavery

The issue of slavery is certainly no stranger to the Bible Unfortunately, in the King James Version, the less repugnant word "servant" most frequently stands in place of the root words (Hebrew: `ebed; Greek: doulos) which more correctly require a translation of "slave" or "bondservant." Most modern translations (Revised Standard Version, New International Version, New American Standard Bible, and others) are more faithful to the original languages. Nevertheless, slavery has been a part of human history for more than 5,000 years.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, instances of slavery could be either a voluntary or an involuntary condition. A person indebted to another could offer himself as a slave for a period of up to six years in order to satisfy the debt. Similarly, such individuals could be sold from one household to another. In the seventh year, however, Hebrew slaves owned by Hebrews were required to be released according to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 15:12-18. Upon his release, the former slave was to be furnished with food and drink as a remembrance of the blessings which have been bestowed by God during the period of servitude, as well as a reminder that the children of Israel were also once slaves in Egypt and providentially released through the activity of God.

But according to this passage, if the servant loved his owner and desired to remain in his household, he or she could voluntarily be made a permanent slave. In all cases, servants were required to be treated humanely--fed, clothed, housed--lest God would bring havoc on the owner.

Later in the biblical history of the Hebrew nation, due in large part to its failure to honor God, the people were forcibly taken captive by the Babylonians, and became slaves once again. During this period of captivity, God saw to it that the Babylonians were favorably disposed toward the Hebrews, and they were ultimately released to return to their Palestinian home...

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Biblical Accounts of Slavery. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:57, June 15, 2019, from