How do we make sense of laws given to Israel that seem unjust, harsh and sometimes contradictory to other things God has said?

For example: Exodus 21: 2 - 4 says that a male slave must be set free after serving 6 years but, if he had been given a wife by his master when serving him, she and their children would remain the property of the master and not go free. But we know God said that when a man and woman marry they become one flesh and Jesus said, "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:6)

Exodus 21:2 - 4

ESV - 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him.

Clarify Share Report Asked January 27 2016 Mini Anonymous

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
I think that the key to this particular issue lies in verse 4, which speaks of the Hebrew slave's wife being given to him by the slave's master. This would imply that the wife is also a slave, and as much the master's "property" as the slave himself.

If a husband and wife were to enter into slavery to a particular master as a couple, but then both of them would be set free, the master would have the same number of slaves as he did before they came.

But if the master would have given an unmarried slave a wife (who, I take it, would also have been one of the master's other slaves), and the two of them should then be set free together, the master would be left with fewer slaves than he had before the (formerly) unmarried slave came. (I am in no way personally condoning either slavery itself or the viewing of slaves as property, but just commenting on the premises under which society at that time operated.) 

I agree that the Bible speaks of a husband and wife as being one flesh, and that Jesus confirmed that. However, we are dealing here with the Law that God gave to Israel, which contained provisions that were included (as Jesus also noted) as concessions to the hardness and sinfulness of the human heart (Matthew 19:3-9). In my opinion, this would include both divorce and provisions such as the one you cite pertaining to slaves (although, as Paul said in Galatians 3:28, in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female).

January 28 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Add your Answer

All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.

What makes a good answer? ▼

A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.

  1. Adhere to the eBible Statement of Faith.
  2. Your answer should be complete and stand-alone.
  3. Include supporting arguments, and scripture references if possible. Seek to answer the "why".
  4. Adhere to a proper tone and spirit of love and understanding.
  5. For more info see The Complete Guide to eBible
  1. 4000 characters remaining