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« The abolition of slavery in Leviticus 25 | Main | Slavery according to the law collections of the Hebrew Bible »

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Michael Lyons

re: "It cannot be taken for granted that the abolition of slavery among Israelites required in Lev 25 was ever put into practice on a regular basis in ancient Israel."

We can go even farther than this. According to Ezek 34 the "shepherds of Israel" were most decidedly not observing H's stance on slavery!

The locution rdh bprk, "rule with harshness," is found only in H (Lev 25:43, 46, 53) and Ezek 34:4. Ezekiel transforms the prohibition into an accusation and glosses the rare word prk "harshness" with the more common word xzqh "force" (an indication that Ezek is the borrowing text). Ezekiel also borrows the locution "do not take interest and accrued interest" from Lev 25:36 and transforms this prohibition in some interesting ways (Ezek 18:8, 13, 17; 22:12).

This is a good series, John--keep it up!

Michael

JohnFH

Michael,

Thank you for so many salient observations.

J. K. Gayle

John,
As you know, I think this is the best post of your series. In a post here, I say why. There, we also hear from Madeline McLenney-Sadler: "There is no twenty-first-century feel-good response that can make Lev. 25:44 spiritually comprehensible for a spiritual people seeking deliverance in the Africana Diaspora."

(And thanks for letting me know -- surely others will want to know too -- that if posting comments here doesn't work, then we can email you to put it in. "It's a typepad issue, apparently." Now, I'm hitting "Post" today to see if this works.)

Kurk

JohnFH

Just remember, typepad is located in San Francisco. On their bad hair days, they take it out on you "don't mess with Texas" folks.

Breaker Morant 2

I really like this entry, it is easy to read and follow and very interesting. It seems like the Israelites treated their slaves fairly decent for them being slaves. I do however find it interesting that in the history of America we had slaves that were very badly mistreated by people that probably read the bible. I think it is also interesting that in India there are still slaves today. I think this series on slavery posts is really interesting and I am really enjoying them.

True Grit 2

Like in India and other places in the world, people will find loop holes in the system and find ways around laws in order to get what they want which is usually more money. I have always worked hard for what I have received so I don’t believe in taking advantage of other people. I like that the entry talks about not harming their slaves but the idea of calling them your property still bothers me.

- True Grit 2

Pulp Fiction 1

Is the bible referring to slaves as property? I guess I do not understand if slavery is such a harsh thing, why does the bible say its okay? Does one gain freedom after serving to his owner for a certain amount of time? What a life that would be to live in India paying of your debts to society by spending your life working. I guess it is is eye opener on how good we have it here in America. You should always be thankful for what you have because there are people out there who live very hard lives. I guess the type of conditions people live under in India were things that happened it the past, its a surprise to me to see it is happening still in this modern day and age.

True Grit 3

I would have to agree with Pulp Fiction 1, when they ask if the bible is saying that slaves are considered property. I don’t think they should be, because no matter who they are, they are still a human being and not something you can own and call them your property. And to know that this is still happening in other countries around the world, doesn’t come as a shock to me, but I think everybody wishes it wasn’t happening.

Nell 4

Clearly, slavery is in the Bible. So does that mean God is okay with slavery?

Slaves in my opinion should never be considered property. I know many others agree with me on that. Each person is a human being and should definitely be treated and respected like one no matter what the situation is.

Chariots of Fire 1

One thing that I think people are sometimes blind to is present day slavery. It still exists in many countries in a couple different forms: working slaves (like the India example) and sex slaves. The sex slave trade is all over, even in the United States, but a lot of people don’t know about it or choose to not pay attention to it, especially Americans. We are in this state of mind that we are no longer affected by slavery, but we are: not just by the sex slave trade, but also by the effects of the slavery of the Africans years and years ago. The effects of slavery linger still.

Breaker Morant 2

Slavery is prevalent in today's society. I believe that it has always existed, even when attempts to stop it are put into place. The perfect is example, as JohnFH as stated before is India. The thing that is interesting for me is how many people are against slavery and abolishing it completely and completely ignoring the plain sight of slavery in other countries and other worlds. At the same time, who is America to tell someone to knock off the slavery and maltreatment of the slaves or servants.

What disturbs me the most is how people can use the Bible to justify keeping slaves. Before the Civil War, there was the 3/5 law in the Constitution, manipulated by the southern states so they could get credit for all the people they had (without the slaves, they would have less people then the northern states) but not give them the rights that they as human beings deserved. We hear all the stories of how the slaves were treated, so apparently they missed that passage in the Bible when going over it in Church. I have always wondered how people can misinterpret something that plainly states treat slaves with kindness, or the asylum laws about letting the slave go.

Shawshank 4

Breaker Morant 2,
A question about the topic of your second paragraph was posed, I believe in class this morning, asking how slavery could have been justified by people who probably participated in reading the bible. In using the passage from this post, I respond to said question with one word: interpretation. It is clearly stated here-in my translation-you may purchase foreigners or aliens as your property, and they may be your slave, and you may treat them harshly. Let’s disregard, for a moment, the part about enslaving your own kind. So now, let’s look some years later at the slave trade. They purchased foreigners from overseas to become their property-their slaves-and they treated them quite harshly. There is no clarification of boundaries set, and seemingly their actions follow in accordance with the concept described in the Leviticus passage.
Most of the time, for most people it takes one form of agreement to feel justified in a behavior; therefore, a slave owner could read this one, small section of the bible and interpret their involvement in slavery to be entirely justified by God. It may be outlandish and slightly far-fetched but this argument really could have been enough justification for some people. Don’t get me wrong, my father was born in 1946 Jackson, Mississippi and by no means, whatsoever, am I making my own attempt to justify slavery back then, or now. It is strictly for the sake of argument that I say I find it plausible that this passage (Lev 25:43-46) may have been enough. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if, and only if, this is the case, is the slavery in which our country partook justified in the bible?

JohnFH

Hi Shawshank 4,

Interpretation is the issue, but there is such a thing as unwarranted interpretation. Leviticus 25 speaks of slavery as a cruel practice, and abolishes the practice of slavery among fellow Israelites.

Still, Jews first and then Christians found ways to interpret this passage to conform to actual practice, in which Jews kept fellow Jews and Christians kept fellow Christians as domestic servants. Harsh treatment of servants was forbidden, which is not the same thing as saying that it didn't happen.

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