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Yes, the Bible condones slavery... but not the type of modern slavery that most people are aware of. Most people think of a slave as a person who's being controlled and treated horribly by his master. But to be a slave of God is very different. God’s Word says that a Christian can choose to be a slave to a loving Master. At Romans 12:11, when the apostle Paul encouraged Christians to “serve the Lord,” he was telling them to serve God because they love Him. God’s Law to the ancient Israelites helps us to understand what's required to be a slave of Yahweh. A Hebrew slave was normally given his freedom in the seventh year of service to his master. (Exodus 21:2) But if the slave really loved his master and didn't want to leave him, he could stay. God's Law made this possible. The master would bring the slave up against the door or doorpost and pierce the slaves ear. (Exodus 21:5, 6) Why would he do that? In the original Hebrew language, the idea of obedience is related to hearing and listening. So... by a slave having his ear pierced, he would show that he wanted to continue to serve as an obedient slave to his master. Can you see how this relates to our dedication as Christians? When we dedicate ourselves to God, we are saying, in effect, that we are willing to obey him, not because of a fear of punishment or reprisal, but because we love him. Hope this sheds some light on the subject for you. Thanks for the question! :-)
There are two catagories of worker found in the Law that generally get translated as slave. God's law (as dictated to Moses on the mountain) makes a very distinct separation between these two categories, but in actual practice Israel seldom did and the world generally has not either. These categories are most clearly defined in the discussion of redemption law and the Jubilee in Leviticus 25. Various translators use various terms for these, and there is no real consistency in the terminology used. The first category is the bond servant. This was a person who ran into hard times or stole more than he could repay immediately when restitution was demanded. All his property, would then be sold to pay his debt. If there was not enough non-land property his land would then be taken and sold. If that still did not cover his debt the court would create a bond and sell him and his family as labor to the highest bidder to repay his debt. He would then work for his redeemer (the bond holder) until the bond was repaid. A person could sell himself as contract labor if he did not have the skills to produce a living for himself and his family on the plot that was his inheritance in the land or by other trades and crafts. This type of labor is discussed in Leviticus 25:39-43. Essentially this is indentured servitude; however, even this was abused quite regularly (and still is where it is allowed) which is why it was outlawed in the US along with slavery in the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution. Most Bible translators call this a bond servant, but some use that term for a slave and use some other term here. The slave is discussed in Leviticus 25:44-46. These people were property and could be inherited from the father's estate when he died. No Israelite could lawfully be taken as such a slave, only foreigners could be held in this manner. Still, they had many rights guaranteed by God's law which man has seldom, if ever, granted to slaves. One of these was that depending on where they came from originally they could obtain all the rights of citizens (including freedom from slavery) in the third generation, the tenth generation or possibly waiting as long as to the twelveth generation. I do not recall the texts for this off the top of my head, nor is it clearly stated anywhere that a slave has such rights as are given to those who live in Israel voluntarily. The only conditions I have seen in the law for obtaining such slaves is through war, as seen in the laws of warfare in Deuteronomy 20. Marriage to these war captives was also allowed, which would have presumably changed their status from that of a slave to bondwife, having citizenship rights, but not full freeman rights. A foreigner living voluntarily in the nation of Israel would be protected from such slavery by the law found in Numbers 15:29, "One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether a native-born Israelite or a foreigner residing among you." Perhaps a foreign slave could be purchased in a foreign market and brought to Israel as property, but the law is silent on this matter to my knowledge. Since God's law has not been followed by man even in Christian countries God eventually took slavery away from us because we had perverted it to a means of oppressing our fellow man and stealing his labor instead of as a means of restoring him and bringing him into a covenant relationship with God which was always God's intent in both these forms of forced labor. Many of the forms of punishment seen in the US during slavery would have been cause for terminating the bond of a bond servant, setting him free, and were never to be allowed to be used against a slave either, although it appears it would not have been cause for his freedom. There were also a number of other protections in the law for both slaves and servants which man has seldom respected. In the New Testament there seems to be no distinction between the two types, but that is a cultural issue.
First John 4:7, 8, 16 all say 'God is love'. I take this statement to be crucial in determining how He feels about the way He would prefer His children to interact with each other. 1Sam 16:7 says that man looks at the outer appearance of another man, but God looks at the man's heart. The question then is 'what does the heart of a slave trader, buyer, or owner look like to God'? Is it a picture of love, or does it look like something self-serving? I don't believe anyone asking this question in this era is asking about the slavery that existed in the biblical era. I believe the question is based on slavery in its worst form, the kind that was practiced in the western world, for example. I realize that it happened in other places also, but I prefer to use this example. Was it done out of love or some other Godly virtue? The bible is the word of God, it's what God says to us about us and about Himself. From the creation of man to man's fall from fellowship in the garden, God hasn't changed, man has. The renewed relationship is now littered with compromise on the part of God. Those compromises are called mercy and grace. There's no way to rationalize the sin of mankind's heart, his ungodly intentions.
I command that you LOVE ONE ANOTHER, is the final COMMANDMENT! If we know God and his love of being set free, (whom I set free is free indeed) then would the Holy Spirit living inside us really allow us to enslave another human being? If we Love Jesus, we will obey his commandments and Love one another, not enslave one another. Jesus stated that all the law hung on two commandments: "Love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul and love your neighbor as yourself." God told Moses that, "Israel should never oppress anyone because they where oppressed in Egypt." Slavery in the Old Testament was more of a contract between two parties, with compassion for the slave. Otherwise, if oppression in the form of slavery was okay with God the Israelites would not have had to been freed from Pharaoh!
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