Atheists love to pull the slavery card, and so few Christians are equipped to properly deal with it, so the point always seems to fall on their side. But perhaps not anymore.
Skeptics would claim that since God allows slavery, He must approve of it. First off, no, that is not the case, but there are so many videos and articles that explain the difference between what is permissible in His sight and what is good, that I find it would be rather useless to repeat the same talking points as my peers. So I will try and offer a new perspective. The idea that, contrary to mainstream thought, God did not even permit slavery in the Old Testament.
This is an argument from the Law of Moses only. We know that the people did not hold to the Law so there probably was forced labor sometime, somewhere in Israel. But this argument is that the Law forbid this practice.
I came to this conclusion by studying the laws of Moses that relate to slavery. When Moses “permitted” slavery, he created a very specific loophole, that when properly exploited, completely demolishes the whole practice of slavery in Israel.
The definition of a slave is “a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.” Now keep that last phrase “and is forced to obey them” in mind. It is a surprise tool that will help us later.
Deuteronomy 23:15-16 says that if a slave runs away from their master and shows up at your door, there are three things that you must do.
- You must give him shelter
- Not only that, but you must give him whatever choice of shelter he wants from your land
- Not only that too, but you can not return him to his original boss
Moses tricked the people of Israel. He said that you are not allowed to return slaves to their masters. So what happens when a slave runs away? Nothing. The owner has no claim to that slave. If the owner shows up on your door the day after you took the slave in, you have no obligation to turn that slave over to him. You could set that slave free right there in front of his previous master and there is nothing that the master could do about it.
No man can claim that slave’s life, except for the slave.
Another skeptical claim: “But, that doesn’t make sense, because now that the slave has shown up to your door, you have ownership of that slave.”
This is not true, because the slave can just run away again and you would have no authority over him anymore. “But now someone new would,” I can hear the skeptics screech, “It’s just an endless cycle that the slave can never escape from.”
The slave does not have to show up to anyone’s house. The slave can just walk away and no one has any “ownership” of that slave. And any slave could do this, it was not a right that was reserved for Hebrew slaves and denied to the others. And it applied to any slave at any time. Any slave could run away whenever they want. And that is why forced labor has never been legal in the nation of Israel since the time of Moses.
Now some may say that the Law allowed some form of slavery because in a few verses Moses refers to the slaves as the property of the people. But I would argue that Moses said this for effect only, so that the Israelites would be more comfortable with the Law because it “allowed” them to keep their slaves.
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